Weekend Rewind - Before the Bachelor: NZ's original reality television

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Marking this week’s return of The Bachelor NZ, NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop revisits some of our early forays into reality shows.
The Bachelor NZ's 2016 Bachelor, Jordan Mauger.
The Bachelor NZ's 2016 Bachelor, Jordan Mauger.

To say that New Zealand punches above its weight in the reality TV stakes could be something of an understatement. The past decade has seen a flurry of franchises on international brands (NZ's Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, Masterchef, MKR), but we've also pioneered plenty of our own local content in the genre.

Broadcast in 1999, Kiwi-made series Popstars followed the creation of TrueBliss - an all-girl pop band - and the twists and turns on their path to stardom. The series format was a hit, selling in multiple overseas territories, and helping to inspire the giant Idol (and later X-Factor) brands. TrueBliss enjoyed a number one single and album in the wake of the show, but eventually disbanded, reforming most recently for a performance at last month's Pride Parade.

Watch the debut episode of Popstars here:



'Docu-soap' Flatmates was something of a Big Brother forerunner, placing six 20-somethings and a live-in cameraman in a rented house for three months (albeit without lockdown and annoying instructions via PA.) Housemates ranging from a finance consultant to a Miss Howick contestant ensured drama and lols a-plenty.

See episode one of Flatmates here:



Pre-dating Survivor, Fish out of Water saw a group of Kiwi teens marooned on Rakitu Island and left to fend for themselves for eight days. Among the contestants was Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye, who later argued she was meant to represent the "private school girl who couldn't survive without a hairdryer."

Watch an excerpt from Fish out of Water here:



Pioneer House saw a 21st century Kiwi family transported back in time to live in the style of the early 1900s. Placed in a Grey Lynn workers cottage, with all traces of modern living removed, the Feyens of Palmerston North initially warm to the challenge, before the realities of pioneer dress, housework, and long-drop toilets set in.

Watch the debut episode of Pioneer House here:



Giving our current crop of Bachelorettes a run for their money, Miss Popularity contestants did everything from baking cakes to meeting snakes in their quest to become "the ultimate Kiwi chick." The series placed 10 competing beauty queens in a small Australian outback town, among them future WAGs Casey Green and actress-singer Jessie Gurunathan.

See clips from Miss Popularity here:



- NZ Herald

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