Saturday night at home in the company of King Arthur (TV One), Cars, followed by Lethal Weapon 4, on TV2, Planet of the Apes on 3 or Midsomer Murders on Prime. Enough to drive you out, really. Where are we living? Anywhere but here, according to the TV schedules most nights.

We have scant local primetime content aside from the news, some rather lightweight current affairs, reality and makeover shows, and dear old Police Ten 7. A pretty murky reflection of our lives.

So this attitude of ignoring what's going on in our own land was quite apposite to Saturday's episode of The Good Word on TV7 (channel 97 on Sky), a debate on whether or not "We Still Need the Great New Zealand Novel", which could be extended to so many subjects, including New Zealand television.

Filmed in St Matthew-in-the-City, two teams of three were led by writer Emily Perkins for the yays and journalist Finlay Macdonald for the nays. MC was Te Radar, who captured the zeitgeist (a word used throughout the night) by stating the debate was a "celebration of the joys of niche broadcasting", boasting a lineup of the "best talent TV7 could afford".

The result was uniformly benign. Macdonald argued that the idea of the great NZ novel, with its emphasis on the "the", was a conceit, arguing that Kiwis were more focused on gazing at our navels. Roger Hall, for the yays, delivered an amusing attack on our obsession with all things black, and outlined an absurd plot for a bleak novel, so dark it had already been snapped up the Film Commission, to be directed by Vincent Ward.

Selina Tusitala Marsh, for the nays, recited a poem listing NZ writers who have based themselves abroad, like "Duff who has had enough and headed off to France".

Steve Braunias, for the nays, did what he usually does and talked about himself, although he paid tribute to Te Radar as the thinking man's Jason Gunn.

Perkins, in her summing up, pointed out that Braunias was writing a novel, so had no credibility, while Macdonald claimed the notion of The Great NZ Novel was just part of this "ceaseless pretence that we punch above our weight ... a tiresome adolescent boastfulness". Which is perfectly true when you think about our sports teams and The Lord of the Rings.

Totally in keeping with our national character, the negatives won. But it was such a relief to watch a New Zealand programme featuring people who read books and weren't obsessed with makeovers, celebrity or sport.

Speaking of good local telly, I retract some of my opening-statement whingeing thanks to Birdland, on TV One on Saturday nights. Jeremy Wells' encounter with Joe, the 40-year-old kea who lived in a Takaka pub and drank beer from a glass using a straw, was highly entertaining, as was Wells volunteering for an electric shock, followed by some heartfelt @#*@!!!!! Some nights, I feel exactly the same way myself.