Pick of the week:

Masterchef NZ

The format for this year's MasterChef New Zealand may be the same as the previous three seasons, but you can always count on meeting a good mix of oddballs, deluded wannabes and culinary over-achievers.

And this series there's a high-country farmer (who will remain nameless for now) whose wild cookery could rival shy and understated Cameron Petley from the second MasterChef.


"I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy eating," he says, by way of introducing himself. He also enjoyed going out on the town in Auckland the Saturday night before his audition - and not getting to bed until 7am. Not that it mattered; they breed them tough in the high country and he whipped up some venison (presumably shot by the man himself) that wowed the judges.

By the way, he doesn't cook chicken either because "it's ladies' meat, so it's like a vegetable". Still, he's pretty likeable.

Then there's the wannabe cook-cum-builder whose smoked snapper chowder with beer bread looked delicious, and a mum of two whose poached chicken with mushrooms, butternut puree and baby veges gets the "fanbloodytastic" mark of approval from judge Simon Gault.

But rest assured, there are also "travesties" - like the antipasto that leaves poor old judge Josh Emett "petrified".

The heaving plate of food is in stark contrast to Emett's philosophy on what makes good cooking - great produce and great technique.

"New Zealand has that great produce. This season we're looking for that great technique," he says.

And Simon Gault is searching for contestants "who can visualise and taste a dish in their heads, take an ingredient and transform it into something that will excite us".

The top chef wins the title of MasterChef - following in the footsteps of Brett McGregor, Nadia Lim and Chelsea Winter - and takes home more than $100,000 worth of prizes, including everything from a year's supply of plonk and designer kitchenware, to $20,000 worth of grocery vouchers and a new Skoda.

However, what stands in the contestants' way, apart from the ridiculously oversized dessert they have to make in the final cook-off, is a challenge to cook dinner for the largest number of guests so far on the show - that's 1800 passengers on cruise ship, the Dawn Princess.

While conjuring up everything from Mexican to Asian dishes in the MasterChef kitchen, they will also take part in challenges at Wither Hills Vineyard in Marlborough and Dolphin Island resort in Fiji, as well as attempting the perfect hangi.

Meanwhile, Australian home-cooking reality show My Kitchen Rules also starts back on TV2 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7.30pm from February 18. It pits 12 teams against each other as they turn their homes into first-class restaurants.

When: 7.30pm, Sunday
Where: TV One
What: Ready, steady, cook

Comedy pick: Sunny Skies

With many Outrageous Fortune stars already back on our screens, tomorrow night also sees the return of Tammy Davis (aka Munter) in six-part sitcom Sunny Skies.
Davis plays the likeable and laid-back Deano, who inherits a campground from his estranged father. The catch is, Deano must share it with Oscar (Oliver Driver), the brother he didn't know he had.

As Davis told TimeOut, the show is about two brothers looking for their place in the world, which is something everyone has to go through in life: "It's a basic yearning that all human beings have: who am I and where do I belong?"

The show also stars Morgana O'Reilly, as camp manager Nicki and potential love interest, and some hilarious antics from veteran actors Ian Mune and Mick Innes as the resident old codgers.

When: Friday, 8pm
Where: TV3
What: Camp comedy

Current affairs picks: 60 Minutes, Sunday

Two current affairs shows are back on this week. Now shifted from TV3 to Prime, 60 Minutes will still have local content despite Prime's scant news resources. In the first episode, reporter Belinda Henley will speak to Sir Peter Jackson and James Cameron (who has bought property in New Zealand) about the state of our film industry. Also, the director of the US anti-doping agency will shed further light on the Lance Armstrong case.

One's Sunday returns with a story about fitness-obsessed Kiwi women, and possible links between excessive exercise and infertility, crumbling bones and early menopause. That's followed by a profile on Simon O'Neill, former Ashburton freezing worker turned international opera star.

60 Minutes
When: Monday, 9.35pm
Where: Prime
What: Returning on a new channel

When: Sunday, 7pm
Where: TV One
What: Stories with a local touch

Drama pick: The Following

Kevin Bacon takes on his first major TV role in this new show from Vampire Diaries creator Kevin Williamson, playing FBI agent Ryan Hardy opposite charismatic serial killer Joe Carroll (British actor James Purefoy).

Having retired after putting Carroll away for the murder of 14 young women, Hardy is called back in when it's discovered Carroll has escaped and has built up a network of followers while in prison.

These men and women are obsessed with Carroll in a cult-like fashion, the same way he's obsessed with the gothic romanticism of death found in the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, and it's not long before the FBI realise that Carroll has unleashed a network of potential killers. As Carroll spins his web of death it's up to Hardy to get inside his head, while working out the difference between potential victims and potential murderers.

When: Monday, 9.30pm
Where: TV One
What: A charismatic new killer

Drama pick: The Hour

The second series of this well-received BBC drama begins this week, and continues to make a late 1950s newsroom seem like a much more exciting - and sexy - place than one might expect. It's now 1957, nearly a year since the programme The Hour was ditched for a controversial interview with Lord Elms, having made some less than welcome accusations about dodgy government dealings.

Passionate and forthright journalist Freddie (Ben Whishaw ) and producer Bel (Romola Garai) were fired for their part in the controversy but Bel has fought to stay on, grappling with the ratings and trying to keep news anchor Hector (Dominic West) from self-destructing as his celebrity status rises higher and higher.

Meanwhile, a canny and enigmatic new head of news (Peter Capaldi from The Thick of It) has been hired, and one of his first acts is to reinstate Freddie.

When: Monday, 8.30pm
Where: SoHo
What: The drama behind the news

- TimeOut