NZ's worst ever reality TV shows

Spy News,
Publish Date
Friday, 6 May 2016, 10:49AM

We first ran this story last year, ahead of the debut of The Bachelor NZ. At the time, we were anxious that the reality romance was destined to join the Kiwi reality hall of shame.

How wrong we were!

So as we gear up towards The Real Housewives of Auckland, we're prepared to be less circumspect. It could just be the breakout hit of 2016.

In the meantime, cast your mind back over these televisual atrocities.




Sing Like a Superstar, TV3 (2005)


Simon Barnett and Petra Bagust hosted Sing Like a Superstar

We'd forgotten all about this televisual travesty until Jono and Ben dug it out for TV3's 25th anniversary special last year.

There's no trace or excerpt of it available anywhere online; YouTube and Wikipedia deny its very existence.

But for a brief moment in time - a painful few weeks in the spring of 2005 - it was real.

Sing Like a Superstar was a festering turd of a reality show. A lesson in all that is unholy about reality television.

It was hosted by Petra Bagust and Simon Barnett and featured a line up of so-called-celebs so dubious, even Google struggles to recognise them. Except of course, Mike Puru, who now returns to the reality fold as the host of The Bachelor.

- Joanna Hunkin


The Player (2004)


Nicky Watson starred in the short-lived Sky series, The Player. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

In April of 2004 filming commenced on Sky's first ever reality TV show. Entitled The Player, it starred the newly single Nicky Watson as a both host and some kind of weird prize, and was astoundingly lecherous in both concept and execution.

10 men would live in a central city penthouse equipped with 'state of the art' cameras (read: cameras) while attempting to romance any and all of Auckland's womankind. Watson would give them a series of lurid challenges, and would cast one from the flock each week for not being enough of a creep.

The show predates YouTube and is frustratingly difficult to research. This is very annoying, because there are few shows on this earth I think about more than The Player.

Multiple calls to its production house, Touchdown, have never been returned. Tellingly the show is not listed among the dozens of productions on their website, which makes me wonder if it the whole television community would prefer to pretend the whole sordid episode never happened. I can understand that - it was an affront to humanity - but man, was it ever entertaining.

The one scene which sticks in my mind concerned a challenge to build a dream date for Watson. The competitors would then pitch their scenario to her, and she'd pick the least disgusting. The budget - $30 - tells you all you need to know about the show's dazzling production values.

Read the rest of Duncan's probably libelous post about The Player on The Spinoff.

- Duncan Greive, The Spinoff


Internet Island (2001)


Internet Island debuted on TV2 in February 2001

Despite the suggestion of that oh-so-naughties title, Internet Island wasn't actually set on an island - the show set up camp in an incredibly boring white-washed Auckland house, probably somewhere in the bowels of Grey Lynn.

Completely empty, the premise of the show was simple: complete strangers with incredible haircuts get locked up together, given a very small fistful of cash and a computer connected to the internet (this was a big, big deal back then) ,and told to get by using only what they could buy online. Yes, they had to stick to a tight weekly budget.

Sound appalling? It was - the equivalent of sitting through an interminable flat meeting debating whether the budget will extend to two or three-ply toilet paper.

They ordered pizza, and bickered, ordered more pizza, and bickered some where. From memory, someone walked out early because they were so bored/needed a haircut. And that was about it. No wonder it only lasted one season. (Our memories failing us or did Mark Ferguson host this one? What happened to that guy?)

- Chris Schulz


Living the Dream (2004)


The cast of the TV show Living the Dream with Mark Fergusson.

The premise of this completely fake 2004 reality show stuck has with me. Sure, I was 12 at the time that it aired, but it's scientifically proven that this is the peak age of insisting that you are the star of The Truman Show after you watch it one rainy lunchtime at intermediate.

I was utterly convinced that my teachers were actors, our smoke alarms at home were cameras and my cat was wearing a wire. Living the Dream took this paranoia and made it very real. A NZ take on The Joe Schmo Show, the concept was to take one ordinary kiwi bloke, and throw him into a reality show full of ridiculous challenges and larger-than-life housemates.

The twist? Everyone is acting, even the host.

Sam Chambers was our national Truman, a vineyard worker from Hawkes Bay with a shy smile and a charming yet derivative catchphrase ("crikey!"). In the house he was joined by a group of hellish characters, all pitch perfect parodies of the reality archetypes we know and love: The Virgin; The Best Mate; The Rich Bitch; The Former Soldier. As well as being an endurance performance piece for the actors (the likes of which have gone on either star in Shortland Street, or at least marry Shortland Street stars), it was an incredible social experiment.

As an observant reality fan, Sam Chambers wavered in faith a few times throughout the series (the rigged games in his favour were all too convenient), but continued to buy into the world of the show despite his better judgement.

In a world where Jono and Ben are hiding with cameras around every corner and reality shows are wall to wall three night a week extravaganzas, you would never get away with anything like this now. Living the Dream was a one off, never to be repeated format, and crikey it was good, bad TV.

- Alex Casey, The Spinoff


Flat Mates (1997)


It was New Zealand's answer to MTV's generation-defining Real World - except without all the sex, drama and hysterical screaming.

Featuring three students, a banker, a Miss Howick contestant and a cameraman, Flat Mates highlights a recurring issue for reality television in New Zealand - Kiwis just aren't that interesting.

Take Geoffrey, the banker, who introduced himself in these riveting terms: "I've got a wide circle of friends, go to the gym. Play the odd game of tennis on a Saturday, when I'm not too hungover."


- Joanna Hunkin


Miss Popularity, TV2 (2005)


They thought they were entering a beauty pageant, instead they were sent to the Outback to make friends with the locals. Our memories of this particular reality turd are blurry - but recall it involved a lot of bikinis, high heels and paddocks. An attempt to revisit the series lasted 12 seconds before we were too offended on behalf of all woman-kind to keep watching.

- Joanna Hunkin


The Mole (2000)


Mark Ferguson hosted The Mole.

Remember The Mole? It was like Big Brother meets Top Town meets board game Cluedo. Contestants worked together in team events to earn money, which, after many rounds of elimination, someone would win.

The kicker? Someone in the show had been planted by producers to subtly sabotage their efforts. Based on a Belgian show that was remade in 40 different countries, the Kiwi version was fronted by Mark Ferguson's eyebrows, which he'd aim at the camera and arch every time a supposedly dubious comment or action was made by a potential 'mole'.

As Herald reviewer Fiona Rae reported at the time, it was also a "sadistic social experiment". But the real mole was the show itself - it only lasted one season. Phew.

-Chris Schulz

• Do you remember these shows? Which was the worst? Or was there something even more diabolical, we've forgotten? Join the conversation below.