After a monumental 27 years on air, SABC 3’s flagship magazine show Top Billing is coming to an end. The series has continuously brought viewers a taste of the good life by showcasing some of South Africa’s grandest homes, explored a magnitude of breath-taking countries, brought South Africans closer to some of the biggest stars around the world, hung out with our local celebrities and witnessed many of them say ‘I Do’.
Mr David Makubyane, Acting Group Executive: Television stated “Top Billing has been one of SABC 3’s flagship programmes for over two decades. It has been a legacy title and from its introduction and within the first decade of its lifespan, set the benchmark for lifestyle magazine programming. Through it, the SABC pioneered entertainment television in South Africa in the early stages of our democracy and consciously put a different face and perspective to the South African narrative and perception.”
He further commented that “We would like to thank Tswelopele Productions for their commitment and dedication in producing a world-class property as well as our viewers and stakeholders for their loyalty throughout the years.”
Conceptualised by the dynamic duo that is Patience Stevens and Basetsana Kumalo, Top Billing has, for years, been a place where viewers stepped out of their world and into the glamorous world of entertainment, lifestyle, fashion, travel, décor and design, catapulting it to the forefront of South African television.
Premiering in October 1992, Top Billing is the longest-running entertainment and lifestyle television programme in South Africa. It’s very first show was filmed using just one camera in an edit suite at the SABC Henley studios. Hosted by Michelle Garforth and Neil McCarthy, the series quickly became a favourite with viewers. For a special Christmas episode, Top Billing filmed from a luxury home which became a moment that would define the series for decades to come.
Patience and Basetsana’s journey started not long after the series premiered. Bassie became a very powerful star on the show, and in the media industry. It was also the beginning of a very special friendship. The duo formed Tswelopele Productions in 1995 and have been together in business ever since. The new production company went on to produce Top Billing and has been doing so for the past 25 years.
“It’s been an exceptional 25 years of growth as a producer and co-owner of Tswelopele Productions. The privilege of producing a show that has captivated South Africans and international audiences is one that warms my heart every day – especially when I think of my very first day as a young presenter on Top Billing”, says Bassie.
Top Billing subsequently became instrumental in launching the careers of A-list presenters such as Dr. Michael Mol, Ursula Chikane, Jeannie D, Tumisho Masha, Lorna Maseko, Michelle Garforth, Janez Vermeiren and the late Simba Mhere. “Ursula made her debut on the show the same year as Bassie and added such a bubbly flair to the show,” Patience reminisces. “Dr. Michael Mol was recommended for the role of male presenter shortly after he won the Mr. South Africa pageant. I remember his audition as if it was yesterday. He came to audition when we were filming at the home of interior designer Stephen Falcke. Michael arrived fully prepared and both Bassie and I instantly knew we had found the ‘one’.”
Presenter Search on 3 went on to add an array of talented presenters to the Top Billing line-up and was instrumental in discovering presenters like Jonathan Boynton Lee, Jade Hubner and, last year, Harmony Katulondi, Ryle de Morny and Dr. Fez Mkhize, each bringing their own flavour to the show.
“We are very grateful to the SABC for the opportunities the show has given us to discover new talent and to grow new stars while celebrating excellence, recognising achievements and contributing to a positive vision of South Africa and its people,” says Patience. “We celebrate the legacy that Top Billing has created and the strength of the brand as a household name that defines the best of the good life and making dreams come true.”
Basetsana is just as proud of the role Top Billing has played and the impact it has made on the South African entertainment space. “This show exemplifies excellence and sophistication in arts, design, décor, fashion and broadcasting, creating countless jobs and building careers in its many years on air. It has been quite a ride and it is fitting that after 25 years we salute this season as our final one.
Basetsana adds that “Every show has a beginning and an end and reaching a quarter of a century for any production is one great feat. Patience and I marvel at how the show has grown and what it has done for our lives and careers. We’ve enjoyed many accolades with Top Billing – including a SAFTA award in the Best Magazine Show category. Experiencing its longevity and watching audiences embrace living the Top Billing life still gives us goose bumps every day. It is a wonderful chapter that neither of us will ever forget. We trust the show has served audiences by inspiring them to dream big, embrace their inner creative genius, and dare to live the life they deserve”
However, while one door closes, another is set to open. “Creating engaging content is something we are so passionate about and we are looking forward to continue working with SABC 3 to produce exciting new shows that deliver inspirational and exciting television for the viewer,” Patience says. “We look forward to a future of new opportunities to build, grow and make a difference. We would like to thank our Top Billing audience for being with us for so many years as well as the many entrepreneurs, artists, architects, interior decorators, musicians, influencers and achievers who have featured on the show – and helped us make something great.”
Basetsana concludes “From the presenters, producers, crew and the very dedicated and passionate team who work on the show, Top Billing wraps up this season finale that will hopefully open the door for new opportunities and encourage young creative talent to trust in creating concepts that stand the test of time.”
Viewers can tune into the finale episode of Top Billing, which will air on Saturday, 19 October 2019 at 18h00 on SABC 3. Viewers can enjoy repeats of special episodes of the show until March 2020. SABC 3 thanks its viewers and stakeholders for the support during the 27 years of “the good life” and as the channel embarks on a new strategic direction, they invite viewers to stay tuned for more exciting and new content on the channel. Announcements will be made in the near future in this regard.
Image Courtesy: Supplied