Remember the days before Netflix, ShowMax and DStv – when we would all crowd around a TV at 8pm on the dot to catch our favourite shows? Back then, watching TV together was a family bonding experience in itself.

From game shows where we would compete with each other to get to the answer first, to dramatic soapies that had us clutching our chests in shock, we always had something to look forward to in the evenings.

South African television has experienced a great rebranding in recent years, with shows like Netflix’s Blood and Water and Queen Sono reaching international acclaim. However, their predecessors will always live in our hearts.

Here are some of the iconic shows that have graced South African television over the decades.

Noot vir Noot

The best show to flex your musical knowledge, Noot vir Noot made Johan Stemmet a household name. Contestants were tasked with identifying songs and artists based on a short snippet, a lyric or a warped image. This SABC show also gave many local artists a stage.

Since Stemmet left the show in 2018, Emo Adams has taken over hosting duties.

7de Laan

Ok, so while this show is still on air today, it is nothing like its early 2000s glory. It seemed like everyone had an opinion on this top SABC2 soapie, back in the days when Matrone and Hilda were competing for the affections of Oubaas, and Charmaine didn’t have an evil twin. It made us laugh, it made us cry, and it definitely angered us with some of the storylines over the years.

Treasure Hunt/ Skattejag

The afrikaans show Skattejag featured action hero Scot Scott who jumped from helicopters, clambered over mountains and dived into rivers to win prizes. Scott would receive information from contestants back at the Skattejag studio, who were tasked with decoding the clues. It was action-packed and everyone got involved!

In the english version, Treasure Hunt, host Melanie Walker was the intrepid explorer searched for prizes aboard a helicopter.


Before Tinder was thing, people would go on television shows to find love. Cupid, hosted by the iconic late Les Franken, was a blind date game show on TV4. Back in the 1980s, it was the show with the second highest viewership in South Africa, only trumped by the primetime soap Dynasty.

Jam Alley

Jam Alley, famous for its catchy theme song, was a multi-lingual youth and music show featuring local music genres and local dance styles. Hosted by the late Vinolia (V-Mash) Mashego, Nimrod (Sheriff) Nkosi and Samantha (Baby Sam) Adams, it put South African culture on the map.

Telly Fun Quiz

Saturday nights in the 1990s were all about Telly Fun Quiz, a weekly show on SABC. Hosted by Martin Baillie and Eddie Eckstein, teams had to answer general knowledge questions to stand the chance of win big prizes. The famous Telly Quack was a prize for the contenders who didn’t get through. 

Pumpkin Patch

Let’s take a trip to the 1980s to revisit Pumpkin Patch. This children’s series set in the sunny town of Pumpkin Patch featured characters like the mayor, Uncle Bill, Woofles the watchdog, puppet cousins Freckles and Speckles and friendly presenter Laurel. It was also one of the first productions on TV1 to include a non-white actor.


Egoli: Place of Gold was a bilingual South African MNet soap opera popular in the 1990s and early 2000s. It was South African television’s first daily soap opera, and in 1999 became the first South African television program in any genre to reach 2000 episodes.

Honourable mention: KTV

Not a TV show, but the KTV network on MNet was like the South African version of Nickelodeon for kids in the early 2000s. Children growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s fondly remember waking up early on a Saturday morning, Coco Pops at the ready, to catch the live broadcast and their favourite TV shows on KTV.  Actress and presenter Roxy Burger began her career as a presenter on this network.

Picture: Facebook / Noot vir Noot

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