It's been a while since I've visited the 7pm timeslot on free-to-air telly.

At that point of the evening, I'm usually busy convincing my two young children that they do actually want to go to sleep, often without any success. It doesn't leave much time to enjoy the infotainment currently being offered up by traditional rivals, TVNZ 1 and Three.

But good old-fashioned curiosity saw me tune into both TVNZ's Seven Sharp and Three's The Project over the past week.

I initially wanted to see how The Project was faring now that the best thing about their original line-up, Josh Thomson, had left. I was also keen to see how potty-mouthed national treasure Anika Moa was handling her new gig covering for Seven Sharp's Jeremy Wells while he's on holiday.

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It was while I flicked between the two channels that I came to the realisation these 7pm contenders are in the midst of a role reversal.

Jeremy Corbett has replaced Josh Thomson on The Project, in a move that has reined in the chaos on Three.
Jeremy Corbett has replaced Josh Thomson on The Project, in a move that has reined in the chaos on Three.

Over at Seven Sharp, broadcasting wildcard Moa is currently occupying the seat that was Mike Hosking's less than six months ago. A move as bold as that seems very much like something producers at The Project would normally plump for.

The Project, meanwhile, has just replaced Thomson, the funniest, riskiest element of their panel, with 7 Days host Jeremy Corbett, a change that's made the supposedly younger, cooler show one that's older and stuffier in one fell swoop. They're stealing TVNZ's moves.

When The Project's line-up was first announced last year, co-host Jesse Mulligan was full of praise for his colleague Thomson's batty brilliance.

"Josh might be the funniest person in New Zealand," he told Newshub at the time. "But he's also pure chaos. I think 7pm could use some chaos."

That's clearly not a sentiment shared by The Project's producers anymore.

Corbett's promotion does not equal chaos. It's a safe option that's threatening to make the "fresh format" the show once promised look very stale indeed.

His appointment to a permanent spot on The Project also makes the contrast with what's happening over at the competition that much starker, with Seven Sharp deciding to embrace the chaos instead.

Just prepping for the show with my new BFF. #sevensharp

A post shared by Hilary Barry (@hilary.barry) on

Hiring Jeremy Wells as a co-host was already a gamble. Using Moa as his back-up is an even bigger one. This is the woman whose Anika Moa Unleashed series on TVNZ OnDemand features an expletive-filled interview with Sam Neill that's so outrageous, the flabbergasted actor is left asking the producer off-camera, "is any of that usable?"

Quite simply, her OnDemand series is television gold and TVNZ must be pinching themselves every day that they've also secured Moa's undeniable talents for one of their flagship shows.

She's managed to keep a lid on the swearing since beginning her Seven Sharp hosting duties, but even when she dials the outrageous right back (this is 7pm after all), Moa still has that famous impish grin in place as she keeps proceedings just a little bit naughty.

Moa might claim to be nervous as all hell behind the Seven Sharp desk each night, but it doesn't show. She looks at ease on set and appears happy to roll with the punches that come from such a high-profile gig. Her clap back at viewers offended by the sight of her many moko (tattoos) this week, for example, was perfect:

"If you hate tattoos, I've got some more bad news for you. I'm also a gay."

Moa's rapport with co-host Hilary Barry is also magic. It's a double act that's proving very, very funny (which is important now that we seem to have decided there's no longer a place for hard-nosed current affairs at 7pm).

The duo spent the better part of one episode on matching exercycles last week, as an experiment into how difficult it is for Commonwealth Games athletes to conduct interviews immediately following a race. The segment then morphed into an amusing re-enactment of the now infamous bad blood between New Zealand's mountain bikers at the Games.

"Oh, I've got a puncture! Are you going to stop for me?" Barry wailed at Moa.

"Nah, I'm gonna get gold, soz, bye," Moa replied as she furiously pedalled on her stationary bike.

Jeremy Wells should probably watch his back. The way Anika Moa's Seven Sharp hosting debut is going, he risks being left in her dust, too.