The Graham Norton Show has that cheeseburger-like quality: a simple thing which cannot be improved.From left, 7 Days' Dai Henwood, Jeremy Corbett and Paul Ego, Graham Norton, Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce.
For a long time, One's Sunday night line-up was the most reliable and on-brand night in New Zealand television. You had your news, your magazine-style current affairs and your prestige drama. Everything you needed to feel like an informed and cultured New Zealander in a few slightly snobby hours.
Nowadays One has Our First Home in there - which seemingly exists so Boomers can assure themselves Auckland's housing market is perfectly accessible to young people, so long as their parents are willing to buy their first home freehold, quit their jobs and work for months to renovate it.
Sounds like a biting satire, but it's reality TV. In any case, it means the historic shape of the evening is all gone.
Its stable-and-reliable night title has been usurped by TV3's Friday line-up, which has now been running in some form or other for more than half a decade, an eternity in this panic-stricken era.
Due to a scheduling conflict of my own, I watched last Friday's on a Wednesday via their 3 Now service, which functioned reasonably well.
The night began with Jono and Ben, the one-time late-night larrikins now in their second year of adjusting to the demands and constraints of the more family friendly, 7.30pm slot. It's a hybrid of chat show; news satire and sketch show, all anchored by Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce's endless willingness to make fools of themselves.
The current affairs commentary works best: "the news has been cancelled after 27 years," they sadly informed us, an arrow straight at this newspaper's headline regarding the rebranding of 3 News as Newshub. Guy Williams' "Guy Time" segment is the best thing on the show. This week he ripped into the terrifying morons trying to retain N***** Hill as a place name. Fish in a barrel, sure, but expertly shot.
The humour is very broad, and some of the set pieces are starting to feel pretty tired. But there are enough flashes of intellect to put up with the cackling commercial radio-style stunts.
Graham Norton loves to cackle too. He's in his 18th season and is such an expert at pacing his show and managing his guests that The Graham Norton Show has that cheeseburger-like quality: a simple thing which cannot be improved.
Last week's episode was actually a bit of a dud. Ex Friends-ster Matthew Perry was dull and vaguely sanctimonious in that very specifically dull and vaguely sanctimonious style that ex-drinkers have when they're around people drinking.
He affected shock at the idea of another guest, the brilliant and too-old-to-care-anymore Miriam Margolyes, "creaming herself", then told a very racist story about mistaking an Indian maitre d' for M. Night Shyamalan.
But even on an off-week the show still works, thanks to Norton's charisma and the easy chemistry he generates among even the most difficult of on-screen talent.
7 Days is the bedrock of the whole evening, the smash hit which started the whole thing running. This week it had Eli Mathewson, a young dog among the old, who had the best joke of the night. A section on the Pride festival started pretty rough, with a visiting Australian comedian making a dumb and seemingly homophobic joke.
Mathewson rescued it, complaining that the event was overrun by parents with children: "What the hell is this?," he yelled. "I came for dick!" Comedy that was likely confrontational to the middle New Zealand audience, and therefore doing its job.
If 7 Days is where it all began, Fail Army is the pimply-faced newcomer. The show is an American import, a compilation of second-tier You Tube "fails" given a New Zealand makeover.
Sounds terrible, right? It is! The clips are abysmal, really low-grade stuff. But it's also maybe the most subversive local show going, as hosts Moore and Montgomery have taken this terrible assignment and consistently tested its boundaries. Finding them non-existent, they have built a fake world within the clip show, with fake wives, fake conscription letters and a fake lawyer, taking a fake class action against them. It's deeply weird and doesn't always work but there's a sense of young comedians given a bad assignment and trying to work it up into something not to be ashamed of.