Talent show goes live and shows the quest for something special has a long way to go.
So what is this X factor we're searching the nation for with seemingly no limits on time or taxpayer-assisted expense? Is it like the G Spot or the Lost City of Gold - a little hard to find?
A third of the way into The X Factor NZ, it seems so.
Last night (7pm, TV3), the talent franchise series went live a third of the way into its epic run, and the 13 contenders performed a song apiece before an amped-up audience and least reliable stars, the judges.
It is perhaps inevitable that the judges become hams. Some of them don't have many words, and Stan Walker's constant "so proud" - along with the occasional "so blessed" - became his virtual chorus last night.
But Stan's easy to like and it was one of the acts he mentored, soulful Maka Fiso in the over-25s, who looked most likely to win, last night at least.
Stan and fellow loveable local judge Ruby Frost, seemed energised by the X Factor live experience.
The hard-boiled Mel Blatt started the show looking slightly freaked and more than a little grouchy, though she settled into it, surfing the boos to the other end.
Daniel Bedingfield, on the other hand, is a stranger to cool, a prat in tartan, consistently inconsistent, grumpy under fire, diverting in a car-crash sort of way.
At times last night he looked in need of a hosing down. After Stan declared his love for yet another performer, Bedingfield grumped, "Is there no one you don't love?"
Stan came back, surprisingly seamlessly, "If you were a contestant, I wouldn't love you."
As to the talent, having survived audition, boot camp, mentoring, primping and arranging, it was almost a relief to see them back in front of an audience again.
But as they tackled other people's song with varying degrees of success, there wasn't a powerful sense that we were closing in on anything extraordinary among the finalists.
Running close behind Fiso, I'd have placed geeky singer/songwriter Benny Tipene and Anna Wilson, with a country-flecked version of Fleetwood Mac's Landslide.
But hey, there are an awful lot of episodes to come.