TVNZ's lavish launch on Wednesday of its 2014 programming line-ups featured the magic-themed slogan, "Seeing is believing", with the hundreds of guests watching magicians ply their tricky trade before the event's start. Presiding over the presentation was none other than Steven Frayne (aka Dynamo of Magician Impossible fame), albeit as a spectral video figure on the vast screens that stretched across the wall of the auditorium rather than in the flesh.
Although it presumably wasn't the message TVNZ was trying to convey to the assembled members of the advertising industry, magic acts are, of course, all about smoke and mirrors, misdirection and illusion. Thus, on the alert for flimflammery, after the spectacular show I was left wondering whether the biggest announcement of the night was the one that wasn't made: at no point did anyone confirm monster hit New Zealand's Got Talent would be back next year.
It's not as though there wasn't the opportunity - host Tamati Coffey and judge Rachel Hunter were trotted out to underline how last year's season was the highest-rating show on NZ TV in a decade. They were followed by judge Jason Kerrison singing the series' praises and his colleague Cris Judd busting some dance moves. So, has TVNZ got New Zealand's Got Talent or not?
A morning-after email to the network elicited this response: "A third series of NZGT is of course contingent on funding and commercial support. But given viewers' love of the show and how fantastically it performs each week, TVNZ hopes another series will be in the works." In other words, watch this space, though if TVNZ is banking on NZ On Air loosening its purse strings once again it may well be disappointed.
Whether the talent show does return, there will be inarguable evidence of its title's proposition on both One and 2 in 2014, thanks to the presence of a number of local series, even if the list is short enough to make TVNZ Head of Commissioning Andrew Shaw's declaration that "we bleed for local content" ring a little hollow and one wonders where the "more than $100 million" worth of local programming Head of Television Jeff Latch talked about is hiding.
Needless to say, Shortland Street will be back at 7pm weekdays on 2 for an astonishing 22nd year. Other returning local series include Rapid Response, Border Security and Piha Rescue on One and Police Ten 7, Renters, Neighbours At War, Motorway Patrol, and Code 1 on 2.
Making a welcome reappearance on One is a second, 13-part season of Robyn Malcolm comedy vehicle Agent Anna, the first outing of which was "the most successful local comedy in nine years". The channel will also debut the local Coverband ("The Hangover meets The Blues Brothers", reckoned Shaw); meanwhile, new to 2 is Step Dave, a 13-part drama from the makers of Shortland Street summed up by Shaw as "she's too old for him, he's too young for her - but the sex is great!"
Short Poppies, in which Rhys Darby will play "seven extraordinarily ordinary New Zealand characters", is another new comedy for One, although it's old news as this time last year TVNZ said the series would screen in 2013.
Perhaps that recycled announcement is part of TVNZ's efforts to become a sustainable company, because there was also a sense of deja vu about 80 per cent of the prestige local one-off dramas that will screen under One's Sunday Theatre banner. These include Field Punishment No.1 (about WWI conscientious objectors), Pirates Of The Airwaves (the birth of Radio Hauraki), Nancy Wake's Story (Wellington-born heroine of the French Resistance), and Erebus: Operation Overdue (the 1979 Antarctica air disaster) were all touted at last year's launch. Only Project L (from the director and producer of Aramoana film Out of the Blue, it's based on best-selling book My Story by rape survivor Louise Nicholas) hadn't been previously promised for this year. Still, good things take time and, given the talented Kiwis involved, the wait should be worth it.
That said, there's stiff competition for that distinction from new international series. One also boasts UK dramas Broadchurch (whodunit starring David Tennant and Olivia Coleman) and Breathless (naughty nurses and doctors in swinging 60s London), as well as Oz series Secrets and Lies (suburban crime drama starring NZ's Martin Henderson), Rake, The Dr Blake Mysteries, and Upper Middle Bogan (with Robyn Malcolm).
Over on 2, viewers can look forward to US series Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D (The Avengers movie spin-off), Mom (Anna Faris as a young mum trying to clean up her act), Super Fun Night (Pitch Perfect's Rebel Wilson in outrageous form), and Almost Human (Kiwi Karl Urban as a 2048 cop who's teamed with a robot partner).
Have a look at the riches detailed at 2014tvnz.co.nz, and you, too, might just believe Latch's claim that "2014 is going to be a stand-out year".