The hunt goes on for something new in television current affairs, the latest search party being sent out just last night by TV3 in the shape of The Vote.

Describing itself as a "competitive" current affairs show, The Vote is a once-a-month stand-in for TV3's regular new primetime series 3rd Degree.

The Vote takes the regular show's under-used frontmen, Guyon Espiner and Duncan Garner, and puts them to proper work as team leaders in a loose debate format with broadcaster and lawyer Linda Clark as referee while they address a topic of national importance before a studio audience.

Last night the issue being argued was whether to tax junk food and it wasn't half bad television.


What could have been a neck-stiffening to-and-fro from this side and that swiftly became a great deal more fun as it morphed into an often-shouty courtroom drama, starring sharp-tongued Judge Linda, with Garner as the Crown prosecutor and the waspish Espiner as a wily and theatrical - sometimes hysterical - defence. Each had a team of two specialists and there was plenty of cross-examination, audience involvement, star guests, judicial exasperation, grandstanding and a good smattering of information - including the wish of the food police for a 20 per cent tax on junk food, starting with soft drinks.

This had Espiner - who seems to have a natural gift as a drama queen - wailing the dreadful figure over and over till Clark ordered him to "draw a breath". There was talk of a "diabetes zombie apocalypse" and several admissions of recent junk food consumption by participants and even their children.

In the end, with studio audience and viewer votes counted, that tax had only marginal support. But that hardly mattered when the exciting news about The Vote is that here's a show with a purpose and a good and entertaining way to deliver it. On the evidence of last night's courtroom drama - and in the hope that they'll come up with good contentious topics - The Vote gets mine.

What: The Vote
Where: TV3.