Weekend Rewind: Vintage NZ TV advice shows

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In these complicated times, it can be comforting to turn to a known and trusted face for reassurance. NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop decides it’s time to revisit some of our classic TV agony aunt shows.
A scene from How's Life featuring panelists Suzanne Paul, Paul Henry, Charlotte Dawson, Christine Rankin and Robyn Malcolm. Photo / NZ On Screen
A scene from How's Life featuring panelists Suzanne Paul, Paul Henry, Charlotte Dawson, Christine Rankin and Robyn Malcolm. Photo / NZ On Screen

Over the years, New Zealanders have been given many opportunities to turn on the television for answers to their quandaries. In the process, some unlikely celebrity agony aunts have shared the screen, among them Paul Henry, Christine Rankin, and Marcus Lush.

Our fine tradition of TV agony aunt shows began way back in the 1970s when broadcasting legend Selwyn Toogood (a 'rose of the day' pinned neatly on his lapel) hosted Beauty and the Beast on weekday afternoons from 1976 right through to 1985. Toogood, and a revolving cast of female panelists, answered viewers' letters, dispensing sage advice on a range of everyday, and occasionally not so everyday problems. This special Christmas episode from 1982 sees Toogood joined by a super team of 12 panelists for a festive themed variety special, with some advice thrown in. Toogood's rendition of 'Yes, We Have No Bananas' is not to be missed.

Watch Beauty and the Beast below:

Beauty and the Beast Xmas Special 1982

Our next foray into the world of TV advice shows was Dilemmas, in the early 1990s. Initially fronted by Australian GP Kerryn Phelps, the panel show introduced a new host in 1993, in the somewhat unlikely form of Marcus Lush. Lush was quick to build a following, and, as this episode illustrates, deftly handle issues from annoying neighbours to harassment and violence. Here he is supported by panelists Ginette McDonald, Alice Worsley and George Balani.

Watch Dilemmas here:



Hosted by the late Charlotte Dawson, How's Life? picked up where Beauty and the Beast and Dilemmas had left off, again responding to viewers' letters in an attempt to help them navigate their day-to-day struggles. In this 2002 episode, Dawson is joined by Paul Henry (a relative newcomer to TV at that time), Suzanne Paul, a pre-Outrageous Fortune Robyn Malcolm and ex WINZ boss Christine Rankin. 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.

Watch How's Life? here:



Made by the same production company as How's Life?, Greenstone Pictures, spin-off show Ask Your Auntie became a popular series for Māori Television, gaining a solid reputation for dishing out no-nonsense advice via its panel of wise wahine. This special episode includes a great montage of clips and quips, with numerous gems of wisdom, including "don't hook up with a musician."

Watch Ask Your Auntie here:



- NZ Herald

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