As Heartbreak Island ends and another series of The Block gets underway, NZ On Screen’s Zara Potts takes a look at some of the best (and worst) reality shows to ever grace our screens.

Reality TV. Love it or loathe it, there's no denying that it spells ratings gold for television networks.

Some say that the blame for reality TV can squarely be placed on Australia.

For those of you not long enough in the tooth to remember – Australian TV was responsible for introducing viewers to the chaotic Baker/Donaher family who lived in the waterside Sydney suburb of Sylvania Waters. It was truly fly-on-the-wall television and it was as potent as Noeline Baker's ever-present cigarette; once you watched one awful episode, you were hooked.

But while Australia may have started the trend, New Zealand was certainly in a rush to follow it. Throughout the late 90s and 2000s, reality TV hit our shores with a vengeance.



Manufactured bands were all the rage in the late 90s and one of our most successful reality shows took this idea and ran with it – all the way to the top of the charts. Popstars was a frontrunner for an explosion of reality TV talent quests such as American Idol and Pop Idol – and Kiwis can be proud of the fact that we did it here first.

The show took five ordinary women who could sing and turned them into a pop band called True Bliss.

Watch the first episode here:


Singing skills were optional on New Zealand television's answer to Survivor; Celebrity Treasure Island.

Viewers watched breathless as Cocksy dug a hole. They gasped as Sally tried to catch a fish and they scratched their heads when the teams tried to figure out a cryptic text. Well, maybe they scratched their heads a few more times than that – but whether you loved it or hated it, the viewer numbers showed that the format worked.

Watch the celebs stranded on an island here:


OMG. The search was on to find the 'Ultamut Kiwi Chuck' in Miss Popularity.

OMG. No amount of mascara could save them from their fate. OMG. They dumped ten beauty queens in the Australian outback to be cruelly eliminated by the quaint townsfolk. OMG. They had to brand a calf. OMG. They had to navigate a hay bale challenge. OMG. Television would NEVAH be the same again.

Watch Miss Popularity here:


Oh dear, oh dear. This show would definitely not pass the PC test these days, or any other test with two letters in it.

Watch out ladies, these bachelors are on the make to gain the prestigious title of The Player. Hosted by former model Nicky Watson, the show asks all the big questions like, "What do women really want in a man?" Well, according to this show – they want something to do with phallic shaped fruit.

Watch the first episode of The Player here:


Oh, to be young again and experiencing the joys of flatting with six other people. This reality show puts six 20-somethings under the microscope and observes their behaviour as they share a house for three months.

There's four students, a beauty queen, a financial consultant and a cameraman. All the great flattie moments are captured including out of control parties, communal shopping trips and fighting over the best bedrooms.

Watch the first episode of Flatmates here:


Not strictly a reality show – but surely it was a precursor to the growth of the genre? This 1980s dating game hosted by smooth talkin' Dave Jamieson and a spiral-permed Suzi Aiken, had looking-for-love singles trying to make a match with three hidden wannabes who answered the questions and hoped to spark the romance with the (corny) answers.

Part time actress and model Natalie Crosby is looking for love in this episode. Suzanne Paul is looking for a man with a 'well-built wallet'. Leather jackets, thin ties, sexy sax music and awkwardness abound.

Watch Blind Date here: