Challenge was a series of six one-hour documentaries for Television One, exploring the theme of adventure. The challenges taken on by Kiwis included a pioneering hot air balloon flight over Aoraki-Mt Cook, an ascent of Kumbhakarna-Mt Jannu in Nepal led by Edmund Hillary and Graeme Dingle, a trek through Death Valley in Nevada, a transatlantic solo yacht race helmed by John Mansell, and a jet boat race in Mexico. The Mexican episode was directed by Challenge's executive producer, Peter Morritt. Other directors included Pamela Meekings-Stewart and Ian John.
Canterbury and Waikato compete in the 1988 final of TVNZ’s student quiz show, with host Peter Sinclair testing the breadth of a tertiary education (the Billy Joel lyrics round is a rare nod to pop culture). Writer Jolisa Gracewood captains Canterbury; her colleague Tony Smith is the show’s MVP (atoning for his cavalier attitude to shirt buttons); and retired Russian lecturer and PhD-student Alex Lojkine is the oldest competitor to be on the show (defying its unstated premise as an undergrad joust). The prize pack offers insight into domestic computing of the day.
This edition of the 1976 adventure series documents a pioneering attempt to fly over Aoraki-Mount Cook by hot air balloon. RNZAF squadron leader Roly Parsons had made the first balloon crossing of Cook Strait the previous year. Director Pamela Meekings-Stewart captures his preparations to take on perilous winds and high altitudes. A first attempt with newbie co-pilot Rolf Dennler sets an altitude record, but crashes near Fox Glacier township, before Parsons pulls on his gold flight jacket for a final attempt at the challenge. Julian Dickon (Pukemanu) wrote the script.
Future Labour MP Charles Chauvel joins the ‘academic-quiz-show-as-kindergarten-for-aspiring-politicians’ tradition (see: Lockwood Smith hosting W Three) in this 1987 University Challenge final. An ever youthful Peter Sinclair (C’mon, Mastermind) presides, with Waikato and Auckland universities competing for bragging rights (and 80s personal computers). Subjects cover the arts and sciences, with each correct starter earning bonus questions. Chauvel captains Auckland, and sagely stays away from undergraduate humour in his intro — unlike his fellow contestants.
TVNZ's long running quiz show pitted four-member teams from the country’s universities against each other for egghead bragging rights. Host Peter Sinclair (C'mon, Happen Inn) poses the "starter for 10" and presides over this second semifinal from the fifth series. Sinclair is typically sharp — "Lake Taupō. A very hesitant answer to what I thought was a very easy question" — as teams from Victoria and Canterbury (eventual series winners) compete for a finals place. Subjects range from The Decalogue to Dire Straits. Calculators and encyclopedia are at stake.
Comedian Billy T James presents an introduction to The America’s Cup as Team New Zealand challenges for The Auld Mug for the first time. Billy T visits Fremantle in Western Australia — where the Cup is being contested — and meets members of the NZ team including skipper Chris Dickson and backer Michael Fay. Rules and strategy are explained and there’s occasional product placement for sponsor Sony. Billy’s sense of humour is never too far away but this is a largely-factual exercise from a time before The America’s Cup was (briefly) “New Zealand’s Cup”.
TVNZ’s long running quiz show was based on the BBC series which pitted four-member teams from the country’s universities against each other. Otago lecturer Charles Higham was the initial quizmaster but veteran frontman Peter Sinclair (C’mon, Happen Inn) took over a year later and remained with the series until it ended in 1989. Otago produced the most champion teams — winning on six occasions (followed by Canterbury who won three times); and members of winning teams included musician Bruce Russell, writer Jolisa Gracewood and MP Charles Chauvel.
The second part of this 1982 series on the history of aviation in New Zealand hang glides to the 30s golden age where world famous flying feats (from the likes of Aussie Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and NZ aviatrix Jean Batten) inspired a surge in aero and gliding clubs and the beginning of commercial domestic flights and aerial mapping. War saw Kiwis flying for the RAF and modernised an ageing RNZAF, taking it from biplanes to jet aircraft. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, the series was made for TV by veteran director Conon Fraser and the National Film Unit.
Former Prime Minister John Key made regular appearances in the media, and was game for taking on more than political questions: from reading out the top ten list on America's Late Show with David Letterman, to participating in pranks on The Rock radio station. In July 2015 Key faced up to the '9-in-10' challenge on Paul Henry’s MediaWorks breakfast show — trying to provide nine correct answers to a general knowledge question, in ten seconds. The subject for the ex-stock market trader? International currencies. The prize was a Jeep Cherokee for Ronald McDonald House.
David de Lautour has had acting success in both NZ and the United States. He debuted with small roles in Xena: Warrior Princess before moving on to kidult shows Being Eve and The Amazing Extraordinary Friends. Now based in LA, de Lautour has been seen in a number of big US dramas such as NCIS and Once Upon a Time, plus sitcom What I Like about You. He has gone on to star in Outrageous Fortune prequel Westside, as family patriarch Ted West.