Home News Spy: Inside the TV music war between TVNZ and Three

Spy: Inside the TV music war between TVNZ and Three


First look at the iconic Kiwi talent show that first hit screens in 1999. Video / TVNZ

TVNZ and Three are going head-to-head with two reality TV music shows.

TVNZ2 began its Popstars roll-out while Three started pushing The Masked Singer.
On Wednesday, ZM’s Bree Tomasel hosted a VIP night to watch the Popstars’ finalists perform at their Muriwai mansion.

Guests included musicians Kings, and Louis Baker with comedians Chris Parker and Laura Daniel. As the night was being filmed, all guests were sworn to secrecy on competition details.

Thursday night was showtime for the series’ panellists at the official launch of the show at TVNZ headquarters. Nathan King and Vince Harder performed while Kimbra has jetted back to New York for work commitments. Spy understands she’ll be back for the live final. The show starts tomorrow night.

Popstars launch party Vince Harder, Erika Takacs, Megan Alitini and Nathan King.
Popstars launch party Vince Harder, Erika Takacs, Megan Alitini and Nathan King.

Some of the contestants have already rubbed shoulders with superstar musicians during their careers, having previously performed with the likes of Stan Walker, Jess B, and Blake Shelton.

Two of the original Popstars, Megan Alatini and Erika Takacs of TrueBliss, were at the launch and are among a line-up of industry A-Listers who will be mentoring contestants. TrueBliss’ No.1 single Tonight from 1999 has been covered by the new generation of Popstars’ hopefuls.

“I pretty much bawled my eyes out during the renditions,” Takacs tells Spy. “It was mind-blowing. The artists had so little time and created such different and emotional interpretations.”

Takacs says she and her bandmates Ioved being able to offer encouragement to the extremely talented young individuals.

“We went into this industry so green and to have the opportunity to at least offer some insight into what may lie ahead and how to be more prepared for that, almost lifted a weight off my shoulders, though I think they are pretty clued up and this is a much more slick operation,” she says.

Tuatara is on Three's music show The Masked Singer New Zealand.
Tuatara is on Three’s music show The Masked Singer New Zealand.

This week, Three’s The Masked Singer introduced host, radio presenter Clinton Randell – and the first costume – a fabulous tuatara.

Audiences familiar with the US show will know the costumes are next level and hide the celebrity singing underneath. Because the masks need to be related to the celebs that are concealed beneath them, they’ve all been made locally by an incredibly talented costume design team.

“The costumes are of course one of the most important parts of the show and arguably, alongside celebs belting out some amazing songs,” says Randell.

He says the celebs could be anyone from singers to comedians to actors, TV personalities or even sports stars.

“They don’t have to be the best singers in the world, but they do have to perform live in front of the guessing panel and audience, once they’re unmasked. So it’s fair to say, for their sake and ours, they need to be able to hold a tune.”

Spy hears that some celebrities have had voice training and others have costumes that muffle their voices, so the performers have to pre-record some of their numbers.

The hugely successful format, which started in South Korea, has been reproduced all over the world.

In the US, panellists who guess the singer include pop stars Robin Thicke, Nicole Scherzinger, and comedians Jenny McCarthy and Ken Jeong. Pop superstar Rita Ora is on the UK panel.

The NZ panel has yet to be announced, but Randall revealed:

“One is a close friend of mine and another is a hilarious man I want to be friends with. The third is NZ music royalty and the other, luckily, had a gap in their busy Hollywood schedule,” he says.

As for the contestants, Randall is happy to not know who they are right now.

“I honestly have no idea who they are – and I prefer to keep it that way until the last possible moment. The last thing I want is to be the guy who accidentally calls them by their real name on stage. In fact, security is so tight, that all the masked singers are kept separated so they don’t even know who else is on the show.”

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