NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop heads back to the 90s, revisiting some classic Kiwi television, and tracking down some of the decade’s local stars.

It was the decade youth TV got 'edgy'. Where we became obsessed with what was growing in our backyards, where Ferndale got put on the map, and when we may well have (kind of) invented X-Factor. Ah, the 90s!

Romping on to screens in 1997, Havoc launched the TV careers of hosts Mikey Havoc and Jeremy 'Newsboy' Wells, both plucked from Auckland radio station 95bFM. Packed with irreverent humour, the debut episode sees plenty of quality banter exchanged with guests Angela Bloomfield, Bill Ralston and Darcy Clay. The pair would each go on to work on other TV projects, but have now both returned to their breakfast radio roots – Wells as co-host on Hauraki, and Havoc back in the bFM chair.

Watch the debut episode of Havoc here:

Launching in 1995, Ice TV was another popular youth series, running for six years, and hosted by Jon Bridges, Nathan Rarere and Petra Bagust. This 'best of' episode offers a taste of the show's wacky yet (mostly) family-friendly fun, including interviews with musicians Meatloaf and Hanson, a road-test of Elvis's diet (peanut butter and bacon deep fried sandwiches anyone?), and a trip to both the zoo and gym to discover why humans are the "sexiest primates alive". While all three presenters went on to further television careers, these days Rarere is Radio Sport's breakfast host, and Bridges can be found behind the camera, as a producer for Three's The Project, on which Bagust guest presents.

Watch The Best of Ice TV here:

Kiwi-made Popstars was a key forerunner of the late 1990's reality television explosion, and helped inspire the giant Idol (and later X-Factor) brands. The series followed the creation of all-girl pop band TrueBliss, making household names of members Carly Binding, Keri Harper, Joe Cotton, Megan Alatini and Erika Takacs along the way. Nearly 20 years on, the former musicians can be found in a wide variety of roles – Cotton as a More FM announcer, Alatini as an Air New Zealand flight attendant, and Takacs as a stunt coordinator. TrueBliss have also reformed to play a handful of dates in past couple of years, minus Binding, who left the band after their initial success to focus on a solo career.


Watch the debut episode of Popstars here:

90s television also saw a major boom, or rather bloom, in gardening shows. Maggie's Garden Show (originally Palmers Garden Show) was a popular local example, running on TV One from 1992 to 2003. The series featured 'bug man' Ruud Kleinpaste, gardening experts Bill Ward, Jack Hobbs, Gordon Collier and Professor John Walker, and of course, the nation's most beloved ginger gardener, host Maggie Barry. Barry has since traded her gardening gloves for politics, and is currently National Party MP for the North Shore electorate, and Spokesperson for Conservation.

Watch an episode of Maggie's Garden Show here:

Another of the decade's key events was the 1992 arrival of New Zealand's longest-running TV drama. Over 25 years, a truckload of local talent has passed through the catastrophe-prone doors of the Shortland Street clinic, with many going on to establish international careers. Of the foundation cast (seen in the debut episode below), Martin Henderson (Stuart Neilson) can now be found on US series Grey's Anatomy, Danielle Cormack (Alison Raynor) has received multiple Australian TV Award nods for her roles in Underbelly and Wentworth, and Temuera Morrison (Hone Ropata) has travelled to galaxies far, far away, with roles in Star Wars films and many more. Only Michael Galvin (Chris Warner) remains an original on-screen resident of Ferndale.

Watch the debut episode of Shortland Street here:

Sneaking into the end of the decade, The Tribe quickly became one of the most successful television shows shot on Kiwi soil. Set in a future where teen gangs control the streets, it became a global hit, selling to more than 120 territories. Among the cast was a young Antonia Prebble – soon to be known as Outrageous Fortune's Loretta, and later Westside's Rita West.

Watch an episode of The Tribe here:

You can see more great local TV moments from the 90s here, in NZ On Screen's Collection.