Top Billing turns 20

2012-11-20 15:31
Thinus Ferreira
Cape Town – Top Billing, South Africa's longest-running, uninterrupted TV show has turned 20 years old.

This is a phenomenal feat for television, and on Tuesday at 20:00 on SABC3 Top Billing will celebrate its achievement with a special, nostalgia-laden look-back episode going all the way back to 1992 when it all began.

Top Billing – produced by Tswelopele Productions and which has morphed with the styles and times over the past two decades as much as it has been moved from TV channel to channel and timeslot to timeslot – remains South African television's premiere lifestyle magazine show.

The programme introduced viewers to true escapism television, chronicling the high life and high society but from a local South African perspective. The show introduced the "glam-look" walk-and-talk TV presenting persona. Viewers don't just watch Top Billing presenters – they want to be them.

Top Billing, which started out on TV1, was then seen on SABC2, then moved to SABC3 and has been aired on almost every day of the week in almost every primetime slot imaginable the past 20 years, keeps adapting and molding its content. It's currently the most socially active and most social and cyber media attuned TV show in South Africa.

Constantly morphing

No other TV property – even more remarkable since Top Billing is on public television and not seen on pay-TV – loads more content onto YouTube, makes more use of on-screen hash-tagging, and is more in tune with viewers through mediums ranging from newsletters to Twitter, from fan experience events to presenter searches than this programme – constantly working at cultivating, sustaining and growing its viewers and TV presence.

Top Billing started out as the dream of Patience Stevens, after 20 years still the executive producer of the weekly show which manages to churn out an hour filled with glitz, glamour, decor, design, exotic cuisine and luxury travel week after week.

The show which started in 1992 with the premise of selling an aspirational lifestyle to South African viewers with presenters Michelle Garforth and Neil McCarthy, has made true household-name stars out of all the presenters since: Jeannie D, Michael Mol, Basetsana Kumalo, Jo-Ann Strauss, Janez Vermeiren, Simba Mhere and lately even Jonathan Boynton-Lee.

In Tuesday's episode Top Billing will be looking back at some of the talent it has discovered.

The show will also look at behind-the-scenes footage of the production and show viewers what it takes to produce a show which after 20 years has managed to not only remain on the SABC and be broadcast without any of the breaks which befell other longrunning magazine shows such as 50/50, but to remain a highly desirable TV property under advertisers, sponsors as well as viewers.


  • charlesdumbwin.dumbwin - 2012-11-20 15:46

    So when does Jeannie D turn 21?

      preshen.govender.12382 - 2012-11-20 16:30

      are her boobs real?

      charlesdumbwin.dumbwin - 2012-11-20 16:32

      Maybe, but the teenage, bubbly charisma is fake.

  • jo.vankatwijk - 2012-11-20 16:39

    Top Billing has become so boring and predictable.

  • ab.normal.961 - 2012-11-20 19:48

    With the money they spend on this show they could do a lot to up the quality of other shows on SABC. What a waste of money.

  • grant.logan.94 - 2012-11-22 08:54

    And getting more pretentious with every episode. I could never be friends with people who speak the way that these presenters do. Barbie and Ken appears more real.

  • pages:
  • 1