We all rely on the wisdom of others at some time in our lives, and well-known TV agony aunts have had their role to play. Featuring everyone from Marcus Lush to Charlotte Dawson, this Spotlight brings together a range of TV advice shows spanning the decades. From the perennial ‘where do babies come from?’ question in the 1000th episode of Beauty and the Beast, to Paul Henry dishing out straight-to-the-point advice in How’s Life?, these TV agony aunts have it covered.
In 1993, advice show Dilemmas introduced a new host to replace Australian GP Kerryn Phelps. With Marcus Lush at the helm, this episode features panelists Ginette McDonald, Alice Worsley and George Balani. Among the troubles the group deal with are an anonymous phone call about an affair, and a self-professed "nice guy" who can’t hold a date. Lush gets briefly distracted by an abundance of pens on his desk, before the team touch on problem smoking in the office and George Balani, resplendent in novelty Bugs Bunny tie, suggests calling in the Mongrel Mob.
This 2007 Christmas special was the final swansong of Ask Your Auntie, Māori Television’s top-rating agony aunt show. The series gained a solid reputation for dishing out no-nonsense advice from its spirited panellists, as can be sampled in the montage of clips and quips in this hour long special. As one might expect from a Christmas edition, this show eschews the tough and gritty for more uplifting subjects, including what to feed your Christmas guests. Musical entertainment is provided by the Tama Waipara Band and singer Ringiringi Manawaiti.
For nearly a decade, Selwyn Toogood and his panel of beauties helped solve life’s tricky problems every weekday afternoon. In this special 1000th episode, the problems range from a nine-year-old’s unaffectionate grandparents, to being caught between feuding neighbours. Making a special appearance is loyal viewer Ruth Flashoff, who is flown from Havelock North to Dunedin's Regent Theatre for the show. Toogood also gives praise to those behind the scenes, meets his old boss Christopher Bourn, and reels off an impressive list of statistics about the camera team.
Hosted by Charlotte Dawson, How’s Life? saw a rotating panel of guests responding to letters from viewers in an effort to help them navigate their day to day struggles. In this episode, the panel is made up of Paul Henry, Suzanne Paul, a pre-Outrageous Fortune Robyn Malcolm and ex Department of Work and Income boss Christine Rankin. The issues under discussion include a difficult five-year-old, strangers sneezing on your food, and a teenager who doesn't approve of their ex's new boyfriend. There is also meningococcal awareness advice from Auckland District Health Board.
Presented by broadcasting legend Selwyn Toogood, this panel show screened on weekday afternoons from 1976 to 1985. Toogood and four female panellists answered viewers' letters, and took on "every problem, be it incest, love or tatting", as panelist Liz Grant says in a poetry reading. This 1982 Christmas Day special drops the advice to concentrate on entertainment from a super team of 12 panelists, including regulars Shona McFarlane, Heather Eggleton, and Catherine Saunders. Johnny Frisbie attempts to teach Toogood a hula, and Toogood sings Yes! We Have No Bananas.
Advice show Dilemmas saw a doctor and a panel of guests responding to letters from viewers on a range of issues. In this episode, Australian GP Kerryn Phelps and guest panelists Jude Dobson, Philip Alpers and Liane Clarke deal with everything from a neighbour using a chainsaw at 6:30am on a Sunday, to violence in a relationship. The question of smacking kids as a disciplinary measure is given a children’s perspective, and Liane Clarke suggests a humorous way to deal with catcalling. Phelps went on to become the first woman elected to head the Australian Medical Association.