COMMENT:

Has there ever been a more hotly contended spot on the TV schedule than 7pm?

Once a home for daily current affairs, a change in viewing habits and competition from streaming services over the past five years has had networks grappling with new formats and new hosts as they look to cling on to their audience at that time of the day.

So, just how healthy are those 7pm offerings looking right now? I took the pulse of the four biggest shows in the much-coveted timeslot to find out.

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Monday: Seven Sharp

Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells host Seven Sharp.
Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells host Seven Sharp.

I begin my 7pm stocktake with Seven Sharp, although... am I watching Breakfast TV?
Reporter Lucas de Jong is broadcasting live from an empty fine food show, where he's about to undergo a Supermarket Sweep-type challenge, running around stalls and grabbing as much loot as he can in two minutes.

Hosts Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells rightly scoff at de Jong when he shoves fancy water and sardines in his cart. "Go for the hams," Wells suggests.

Other stories tonight include a font size scandal on the America's Cup trophy and reporter Tim Wilson murdering Bon Jovi's Livin' On A Prayer.

As the programme draws to a close, I can say I was (mostly) entertained. But informed? Well, I didn't know bubble wrap was trademarked until I watched Seven Sharp tonight, so I guess I learned something?

Tuesday: The Project

The Project, hosted by Jeremy Corbett, Jesse Mulligan and Kanoa Lloyd.
The Project, hosted by Jeremy Corbett, Jesse Mulligan and Kanoa Lloyd.

Kanoa Lloyd, Jesse Mulligan, Jeremy Corbett and guest presenter Mikey Havoc kick their show off with five mostly useless hacks for handling the cold weather, before conducting an in-studio interview with two members of New Zealand's Kabaddi team (a sport that's "a cross between bullrush and jelly wrestling").

US correspondent Kim Crossman also chats to Hollywood stars Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro about their latest film and it's actually quite charming, but, much like everything else on the show, it's cut very short to accommodate those eight-second attention spans we all have now.

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Meanwhile, the most animated debate of the evening is whether chocolate or lemon icing is best for banana cake. (Lemon, duh.)

Wednesday: Shortland Street

A rapist is stalking the streets of Ferndale on Shortland Street.
A rapist is stalking the streets of Ferndale on Shortland Street.

I confess. I haven't regularly watched Shortland Street for about 10 years.

But from what I can gather, things are looking grim for the women of Ferndale, with a serial rapist on the loose. Nurse Kate is still reeling from an assault, while the rest of the hospital staff are either fearfully watching their backs or comically trading self defence tips.

The episode finishes with our attacker, complete with creepy mask, lurking in the bushes by the hospital carpark. And to think we worry about what the kids might see at 7.30pm on Heartbreak Island!

But this show's always been good with a long-running whodunnit storyline. It's almost enough for me to take up the Shortland Street habit again.

Thursday: The Crowd Goes Wild

Andrew Mulligan and James McOnie from The Crowd Goes Wild.
Andrew Mulligan and James McOnie from The Crowd Goes Wild.

Every time I catch The Crowd Goes Wild, I always wonder why I don't watch it more often.
It might be a sports show, but anyone who's seen it knows there's not usually a lot of sport involved.

Tonight, for example, after hosts Andrew Mulligan and James McOnie enjoy a little schadenfreude over Germany's failure at the FIFA World Cup, we get a wrap of the day's football highlights accompanied by not one, but two, Lionel Richie classics.

We're also treated to a clip of Sonny Bill Williams doing the Carlton dance while his arm's in a sling, (proving there really is nothing this man can't do). I love it.

Friday:

I make like everyone else and catch up on one of the 500 shows I've got queued up across various streaming platforms.

As I reach the end of the week, I feel like I've well and truly overdosed on fluff. I'm starting to miss something, anything, with a bit of substance at 7pm. The most hard-hitting show this week was Shortland Street and it included a story arc about a couple painting their lounge.

We all know the major networks' move towards infotainment is a bid to survive a changing media landscape, yet it still doesn't seem right that a soap opera is airing the most serious content in that timeslot.

But with TVNZ snapping up John Campbell to work across their stable of shows, could it be the 7pm tide is turning ever so slightly back to giving us something meatier to discuss after dinner than bubble wrap or the best icing for banana cakes? I hope so.