This collection of 40 classic Kiwi TV series offers up images spanning 50 years. The titles range from Gloss to Gliding On, from Olly Ohlson to Nice One Stu, from Ready to Roll to wrestlers. In this special backgrounder, Stuff's James Croot writes about favourite moments of Kiwi TV. The list is in rough chronological order of when each series debuted.
The W Three Show (aka 'W3') was a quiz show for intermediate school children that took its name from the first letter of the questions asked: What, Which, Who, Where or When. Lockwood Smith (future Speaker of the House) was the first quizmaster – he was completing his doctorate in Adelaide at the time and was flown over to do the show. NZ’s grand old man of quiz shows, Selwyn Toogood, and Peter Hawes took over from Smith from the fourth series, while original scorer Annie Whittle dropped out after the first and was replaced by radio broadcaster Relda Familton.
It's Academic was an 80s general knowledge quiz show for high school students. Like its intermediate school sibling The W Three Show (aka W3), It's Academic was hosted by Lockwood Smith. With his Cheshire cat's grin the future Speaker of the House pulls questions from the numbered pockets, as teams from Onslow, Wellington and Newlands colleges — seated in the distinctive triangular pod set — compete in the Wellington regional final. At stake are brainiac bragging rights, school pride ... and digital watches, Britannica encyclopedias and handheld calculators.
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.
In the grand final of the fifteenth and penultimate series of TVNZ's premier quiz show, host Peter Sinclair grills contestants on general knowledge and a specialist subject: the life and works of AA Milne and David Bowie, TV's Fawlty Towers and battleships since 1906. First prize is a 14-day trip to London and the coveted chair. Contestants include the year's youngest entrant: Wheel of Fortune winner and future film critic, sports historian and writer Hamish McDouall. The show's first champion, 1976 winner Patrick Bowles, presents the prizes.
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.
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.
Mastermind was big brother to W3 and University Challenge in the pantheon of TVNZ's 80s quiz shows. The format (based on its creator's experience of being interrogated by the Gestapo) was licensed from the BBC and an ice cold Peter Sinclair asked the questions (with none of the bonhomie he allowed himself on University Challenge). Contestants faced two minute rounds on general knowledge and an array of sometimes mind-boggling specialist subjects ranging from Shakespeare, opera and gastronomy, to Winnie the Pooh, tantric yoga and sulphuric acid production.
The pressure is on as contestants from Kirkwood, St Bernard’s and Remuera intermediate schools compete in the 1980 final of this children’s quiz show. Future MP, minister and Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith asks the questions, assisted by Relda Familton (a National Radio overnight host until her death in 1995). The finalists, competing for a state of the art colour TV, are quizzed on subjects including geometry, the years 6 BC to 30 AD, Shakespeare quotations, deserts, anatomy, historic England and, appropriately for the quizmaster, cabinet ministers.
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.