The cast of the premiere episode of TVNZ’s new game show Give Us A Clue (Photo: TVNZ)
The cast of the premiere episode of TVNZ’s new game show Give Us A Clue (Photo: TVNZ)

Pop CultureAugust 11, 2021

What the heck is going on with Give Us A Clue?

The cast of the premiere episode of TVNZ’s new game show Give Us A Clue (Photo: TVNZ)
The cast of the premiere episode of TVNZ’s new game show Give Us A Clue (Photo: TVNZ)

Tara Ward answers all your questions about TVNZ’s bewildering new game show.


So there’s a new show starting tonight that’s all about…charades. Have we travelled back in time to the last century?  

Funnily enough, 1999 is exactly when Give Us A Clue was last on our screens. GUAC migrated to New Zealand screens in the 1980s after being a hit in Britain, and the elderly among us may remember the TV3 series from the 1990s or the Marcus Lush-hosted TVNZ series from 1999. It’s the show that sees celebrities act out clues for points, and now the party game that refuses to die is back on TVNZ 1, a chaotic show for these chaotic times. 

But…why? Who asked for this? 

Two words: no one. GUAC is the latest nostalgic revival from days of TV yore, alongside reboots of Popstars, Celebrity Treasure Island and The Apprentice Aotearoa. Some things never go out of fashion, and it seems miming popular sayings on television is one of them.

Lily McManus and Paula Bennett prepare to play Give Us A Clue (Photo: TVNZ)

Give Us A Clue’s host is former National Party MP Paula Bennett. Is this what retired politicians do now, become light entertainment presenters? What next, Winston Peters reading out the faxes on a jaunty reboot of Good Morning? 

Look, I can’t say a former government minister responsible for leading a variety of controversial social welfare policy reforms that targeted vulnerable members of our society would be my first choice for this role. Or my last. 

But I’m merely a TV viewer who remembers the episode of Downton Abbey when they played charades because it was the only form of entertainment in 1912, so what do I know? Bennett is certainly bursting with enthusiasm for her new gig, getting more excited than the time she made “little poo” biscuits on Celebrity Kiwi Bake Off. 

Never forget the little poos, Aotearoa. Who else appears on this celebrity charadefest?

If charades is a mime war, then GUAC is the battle of the sexes. The show’s two teams are divided into male and female, head and heart, garage and kitchen. Journalist Hilary Barry captains the women and comedian Tom Sainsbury leads the blokes, with appearances from TVNZ faves like Lily McManus, Stacey Morrison, Art Green, Hayley Sproull, Toni Street, Matty McLean and…Heath Franklin’s Chopper? Sure, why not. 

The Top Twins’s Ken and Ken (Photo: TVNZ)

So what actually happens? Is it just a famous person’s game of charades?

Pretty much. A celeb gesticulates wildly at their teammates as they act out the titles of songs, TV shows, books and movies. Teams have two minutes to solve each puzzle, while the opposing team can steal the point if they know the answer. The celebs must do whatever it takes to inject excitement into this prolonged guessing game, solving answers like ‘You Must Always Blow On The Pie’ and ‘Jane the Virgin’ by shouting random words for two minutes and squabbling over the clues, and sometimes getting a bit smutty. Family show, TVNZ! I’ll never hear ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me’ the same way again. 

Most importantly, the contestant miming the answer must not speak, because talking will break the law and we will all be sent to pantomime prison. Spoiler alert: everyone talks.

Sure, but are you allowed to laugh? I thought this was a comedy. 

What is humour in the year of our Lorde 2021 anyway? Is it Ken from The Topp Twins thrusting his pelvis while he teaches us how to yodel, or angel Suzy Cato acting out the word ‘diarrhoea’? Only the ratings know the truth, but TVNZ OnDemand has categorised GUAC as “crack-up, fast-paced, Kiwi as”. It’s the holy trinity of TV reboots and I did feel my soul crack while I watched, so job done.  

Team captain Hilary Barry in action (Photo: TVNZ)

Is it any good? 

If anyone can make parlour games cool again, it’s our beloved Hils Baz, but she’s up against it here. While Barry and Sainsbury bring energy to the show and the celebrities are admirably committed to acting the clown, it’s hard to get past the fact TVNZ wants us to watch an hour of charades on primetime TV in 2021. The format feels dated and the jokes belong to another era, but that’s exactly why certain viewers will love it. This is how television used to be, they’ll say, and they’re correct. GUAC belongs to a time long ago, and probably should have stayed there. 

Wait, if Paula Bennett can become a TV presenter, how come Hilary Barry isn’t running the country? 

I don’t know, just like I don’t know how someone can mime ‘Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’ in under two minutes. You need at least three and a half, surely. 

Most importantly, how many “zip it, sweetie”s did we get in episode one?

None. What a shame. 

Give Us A Clue starts on August 11 at 7.30pm on TVNZ 1 and on TVNZ OnDemand.

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