The new performers section of the NZBC’s TV talent quest concludes after 12 weeks of competition — with an incongruous line-up of finalists including two performing family acts, a soft rock group, a pub band, two cabaret singers and glam rockers Space Waltz competing for a $750 prize. It’s a reminder of the light entertainment industry that dominated TV music shows in the 1970s, but the real entertainment here is watching the judges (Phil Warren, Howard Morrison, Paddy O’Donnell and Nick Karavias) as they bicker, squabble and interrupt each other.
It's the first semi-final in the first series of this stand-up comedy talent quest presented by Jeremy and Nigel Corbett (who assert their edgy, early 90s credentials with a running gag about Nirvana). Judges Ian Harcourt, Theresa Healey and Strawpeople's Mark Tierney preside over a line-up comprising a very composed Michele A'Court, mildcore rappers Hip Hips, The Back Garden, Jo Randerson (in angry-ish feminist mode), a particularly hirsute Jon Bridges and eventual winner Late Night Mike (with Harcourt generating as many laughs as the contestants).
Hosted by Jason Gunn, this popular late 90s teen talent quest became a pop culture marker for young Kiwis of the era. In this 1999 grand final at Te Papa’s marae, judges King Kapisi and Stacey Daniels assess the year's finalists. They include 11-year-old Hayley Westenra performing ‘The Mists of Islay’, which Westenra would later record after finding global fame as a classical crossover singer. The international guest is another young prodigy: violinist Vanessa Mae. Future Sticky TV/C4 presenter Drew Neemia was one of the members of house troupe The Super Troopers.
Promoter Joe Brown’s Search for Stars was a popular nationwide talent quest, broadcast on radio by Selwyn Toogood. This 1970 report from Living in New Zealand sees future TV executive Ernie Leonard interviewing entrants, during rehearsals at Rotorua’s Summer Carnival (including a young Tom Sharplin). Then it’s the 12 January grand final at the city's Sportsdome. Second place getter is 16-year-old Bunny Walters (who would go on to television fame, and score hits with 'Brandy' and 'Take the Money and Run'). Tui Fox won first prize: $2,000, and a recording contract with Brown.
This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.
The meteoric career of one of NZ’s greatest entertainers is examined in this documentary. John Rowles went from a Kawerau childhood to stardom in London at 21; but, after headlining in Hawaii and Las Vegas, he saw it all slip away. Those roofing ads and near bankruptcy followed, but Rowles has retained his self belief and that voice. A stellar cast of interviewees analyse his strengths and weaknesses, including Sir Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Neil Finn and late promoter Phil Warren. Amongst the star cameos, John’s sister Cheryl Moana explains the downside of his best-known local hit.
Showcase was a popular mid 90s TVNZ talent quest, in which broadcaster Ian Fraser hosted a search "to find the very best" emerging musical talent. Filmed at Avalon Studios, this viewers' final from 1996 sees nine finalists compete for the public phone vote (there was a separate studio judges’ final). Songs range from Stevie Wonder and Sister Sledge covers to classical standards. Shona Laing, who got her break on a TV talent show, guest performs. Competitor Shaun Dixon went on to train under Pavarotti, and married another finalist from this episode, fellow opera singer Tania Brand.
The Grand Final of this 1996 musical talent quest series Showcase was hosted by Ian Fraser. The nine finalists perform songs from Mozart on guitar, to 'Everything’s Gonna Be Alright'. The opening act is Akustik Fungi: Jason Kerrison, one half of the duo, would later find fame as singer for chart-topping band Opshop, and return the favour as a judge on New Zealand’s Got Talent. The Showcase judges are Sir Howard Morrison, actor Rima Te Wiata, Dame Malvina Major (who performs) and Eddie Rayner (who got his break on TV talent show New Faces, while part of Split Enz).
New Zealand’s first global pop success story made one of its earliest screen appearances on this TV talent quest. The episodes are no longer preserved, but a family friend of the Finns pointed his Super 8 camera at the television screen. The clips are combined with the band’s memories from 2005 radio documentary Enzology. Split Ends (the ‘z’ came later) competed in the 18 November heat with ‘129’, and a week later in the final, miming ‘Sweet Talking Spoon Song’. They lost to Wellington's Bulldogs Allstar Goodtime Band, with a pre-Simon Cowell Phil Warren judging the lads “too clever”.
Fifteen wannabe comedians combat nerves and a tight deadline in this first episode of talent quest So You Think You're Funny. The first task for judges Jon Bridges, Raybon Kan and Paul Horan is to eliminate five contenders from the line-up. The contestants are given a few days to write and practise a short set, before performing it in front of a live audience at Queen Street's Classic Comedy Bar. This scenario would be terrifying for most, and it confirms a harsh truth that Horan offers early on: "If the audience hates you, there's not a lot we can do'. One hundred people originally auditioned.