Collection

Top 40 NZ TV Classics

Curated by NZ On Screen team

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.

Series

It's in the Bag

Television, 1973–1992

Roving quiz show It’s in the Bag got its first screen incarnation in 1973, after Selwyn Toogood campaigned to bring his popular radio series to television. Competitors answered three questions before picking a bag, hoping it contained treasure. Several of Toogood's catchphrases won enduring fame, including "by hokey!” and ”what’ll it be customers, the money or the bag?”. His co-hosts included Heather Eggleton and Tineke Bouchier. After Toogood retired in 1986, John Hawkesby took over, then Nick Tansley. Māori Television relaunched the show in 2009 (also viewable on NZ On Screen).

Mastermind - 1990 Final

Television, 1990 (Full Length Episode)

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.

Series

Mastermind

Television, 1976–1991, 2016

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.

University Challenge - 1987 Final

Television, 1987 (Full Length Episode)

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.

Series

The Chair

Television, 2002

The concept behind this game show is that contenders can't hide their nerves. They're wired up to a heart-rate monitor and given a "redline rate" that is 70% above their resting heart rate. If their heartrate goes over the line the contestant starts losing money and can't answer questions until their heart slows down again. Hosted by ex-rugby and league player Matthew Ridge, The Chair was a big-budget, big-event format that was made first in New Zealand and proved a significant export success for Touchdown (now Warner Bros.) selling to 29 territories.

Series

University Challenge

Television, 1976–1989

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.

University Challenge - 28 Nov 1981

Television, 1981 (Full Length Episode)

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.

University Challenge - 1988 Final

Television, 1988 (Full Length Episode)

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.

It's Academic - 1983 Regional Final

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

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.