Formidable Smalley is proof that current affairs television can hold our attention.

There's little reason anyone should expect anything serious from mainstream television any more, but there is stuff out there and it is very serious indeed, though of course it screens at frivolous times.

In-depth, talky current affairs TV comes with the morning coffee on Saturdays and Sundays. On TV3 on Saturdays from 9.30am, there's a double feature of The Nation and Media3 and on TV One on Sundays at the even more unseemly 9am, there's Q+A followed by Marae Investigates.

The best of the bunch comes first with The Nation, which is fronted with glacial calm by the extraordinary Rachel Smalley. Last Saturday, with little warning, the athletic interviewer jumped straight into a lengthy studio interview with our formidable Justice Minister, Judith Collins.

The two scary blondes - eyebrows playing tennis across the screen - worked their way through a Top Twenty of topics, from victim support right through to whether Collins fancies being PM one day. Smalley asked her, "You're an ambitious woman?" and Collins came back, "Well, I didn't come here to eat my lunch."


With barely a break, Smalley was back to interview ex-Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley before chairing a shout out from a panel of Winston Peters, Don Brash and David Parker on what to do about our runaway exchange rate.

And Smalley stayed in the seat to the end for the Week in Politics chat with the ancient sage of political commentators, Colin James.

At 10.30 came Media3, revived and barely changed from its previous life as Media7 on the late TVNZ7. Good thing too. It's a smart show with a touch of the aggro liberal about it.

Front man Russell Brown still seems perplexed by the camera, but he does good interview while field guy Jose Barbosa does good light relief.

On Sunday morning TV One offers Q+A, which, temporarily without Paul Holmes, is a stodgy, personality-free zone. Presenter Greg Boyed is just too tense for that time of day.

Their key interview man, Shane Taurima, while solid, isn't a fancy enough fencer to hold your attention.

Though I had to feel for the guy on Sunday when they threw him at two immovable objects - first Paula Bennett and then Roger Douglas.

The stodge factor on Q+A comes with the panel of bores they wheel out after every interview to tell us what to think. On Sunday it was author/activist Nicky Hager, political scientist Raymond Miller and ex- National minister Paul East.

I woke up in time to catch Marae Investigates at 10am. Presented with an easy informative style by Scotty Morrison, here's a world of relative positivity where everyone seemed slightly on the same side, with the possible exception of Willie Jackson.

Serious-minded TV, available with your breakfast at the weekend, though best recorded and watched later. It does demand a little more of your brain than usual.

Weekend current affairs
Saturdays, TV3: The Nation (9.30am), Media3 (10.30am)
Sundays, TV One: Q+A (9am), Marae Investigates (10am)