New Zealand's Got Talent, the TV show, ' />

Judges, host and contestants more than entertaining enough to knock this doubter out of his cynic's chair.

New Zealand's got talent apparently and, I don't know why, but I'd expected very little of it would appear on New Zealand's Got Talent, the TV show, which began its heroic 13-week run on TV1 last night.

In its hunger for ratings and revenue, the channel provocatively sliced half an hour off its elderly primetime current affairs show Sunday so they could pop New Zealand's Got Talent in the juicy 7.30pm slot.

Which is the sort of thing that happens these days and the sooner we get used to it, the better. This is the age of popular television programmes about embarrassing bodies.

Television likes embarrassment and awfulness, but it turned out the only embarrassing thing about the first episode of NZ's Got Talent is that I have to say what a sweet, good-looking and likeable piece of TV it is. Pity the series is a bought-in concept.


I grew up thinking we invented the talent quest, but it turns out some customer called Simon Cowell did. Though the road-tested detail of the series' concept makes it shine. The only thing they could have screwed up for the local version, made with a boost of $1.6 million of taxpayer funding, is the little matter of on-screen talent.

But it seems they got that right. Tamati Coffey's smile is genuinely winning. He's the new Jason Gunn - but better looking and gay. And calmer. The perfect front, side and backstage man.

And the judges, I'm sorry to say, seem splendid - supermodel Rachel Hunter with her limited but surprisingly passionate vocabulary, local rock star Jason Kerrison, easing elegantly into the bad boy role and ex UB40 singer Ali Campbell, all down-home charm and winning accent as the wise old head.

The on-stage talent could have been a problem - but probably not after more than 5000 acts auditioned across the country. The first five episodes are auditions, Auckland to Dunedin.

I heard that in Dunedin, the only act turned away was a guy who said he could stand on his head and eat a pie. It turned out he couldn't.

Last night was Auckland and I fell right off my cynical chair when the first act came on - an elderly one-man band called Bill, twitching with percussion while blasting out the theme from Dad's Army on a trumpet.

He was followed by an electrician Elvis impersonator (out), belly dancers (out) and Tamaroa, a cute boy from Palmy who sang the old Rod Stewart hit I Don't Wanna Talk About It with such flirty charm that Rod's ex, Rachel, blubbed.

There were dancers and a 10-year-old called Ocean who yodelled perfectly. A big barefoot boy called Dane channelled Whitney Houston and Ali told one of the edgier acts, "I've got nothing but respect for sword swallowers".

And, of course, a 91-year-old sang I Could Have Danced All Night with perfect Julie Andrews pitch and diction before a dodgy bloke called Andre Vegas sawed a woman in half.

And Rach shook - and it must be said, ground - her booty onstage with a grateful 52-year-old breakdancer.

Even the losers were happy.

"Sweet as," one of them said with a smile.

Thirteen weeks might begin to feel like too many but, meantime, I too, I'm afraid, also say sweet as.