Which channel wore their returning 7 o’clock show best? 

Last night marked the return of several key shows to the coveted 7 pm time slot, so we deployed our television moles to watch and report back. 

Toby Manhire watched Extreme Cake Makers on TVNZ1

With Seven Sharp on an epic, host-switching hiatus, filling the 7pm slot on TVNZ1 is the similarly hard-hitting Extreme Cake Makers, a programme about people who make extreme cakes. Tonight there are three extreme cake makers making three extreme cakes.

One is a “gruesome gothic wedding cake” for a happy couple in west Wales, featuring “pumpkins, skulls and a scroll carrying a wedding message written in edible blood.” Another is a surprise cake for an 11-year-old who is off to Nigeria on an exchange – a multi-tiered “London to Lagos” sugar landscape festooned with scale-model flags and clothing and skylines.

The third is a “pouting lips cake”. A mushy great novelty cushion. A mouth cake. Crucially, as its Essex-based creator explains, it sports “a hole in the middle of the mouth, and we’re going to somehow fix a pump to it … that fires these tiny edible hearts in the air”. The organisers of the press launch profess to be delighted with the result. The press launch is for a dentist. The mouth cake doesn’t have any visible teeth. But it would be churlish to quibble about that when the miracle of cake-engineering is pumping tiny hearts into the air.

Extreme Cake Makers delivers on extreme cakes, but it’s crying out for a Mary Berry or a Paul Hollywood to disparage the ganache. And, look, the cakes are good, there’s no questioning their extremeness, but the makers just sort of make them, without having to overcome anything. At one point Nastassja’s sponges don’t rise as she’d hoped, but that’s it. No actual drama? No problem: there’s effusive music and an effusive narrator who says everything three times over.

The best bit of all, though, was a glimpse at the next episode, which boasts a giant, and clearly delicious, pie cake. / Toby Manhire

Tara Ward watched Shortland Street on TVNZ2

It was the dawning of a new year in Shortland Street. The sun rose again, the dark shadows of the month-long Christmas hiatus disappeared, and Chris Warner’s life spiralled out of control faster than Virginia’s hospital hair situation.

We last left our sweet prince in 2017, sleeping soundly under his soft pink duvet, three sheets to the wind and dreaming of Drew’s bald head. Alas, when our hero awoke in last night’s return episode, he found an unconscious colleague at the foot of his stairs and every other person in Ferndale either near death or covered in vomit.

Ah, Shortland Street, how we’ve missed you.

Shortland Street’s 2018 return was a whirling dervish of emotions, filled with more angst than the time Damo began to lactate. It was 60 tense minutes of life-saving operations, hangovers, trifle confessions, arrests, declarations of love, broken hearts, and a religious cult humming its way to spiritual enlightenment.

Dr Warner could have done with a relaxing hum circle, for he was an angry, angry man. Framed for assaulting Virginia and with Sass still missing at sea, Chris was so mad his nostrils flared and he cried tears of pure venom.  Frank tried to fix everything, but Dr Love couldn’t be soothed. “Jesus, Frank!” Chris spluttered. “I’ve been shitting myself all day!” Frank replied.  

Say no more, Frank. Say no more.

Thankfully, it’s a well-known fact that a Warner never dies, they just accidentally upload their dick pics to their father’s iPad. Will Sass become this generation’s Lionel Skeggins, floating out of our lives for 25 years before returning in 2042 to point out the vomit on Chris’s shoes? Like Damo’s chocolate mousse and coleslaw concoction, stranger things have happened. / Tara Ward

Alex Casey watched The Project on Three

The year is 2018 and Jacinda Ardern is talking to Jimmy Carr about his recent quad biking accident with Russell Crowe, live on the television. And you know what? I don’t bloody mind it in the slightest. The return of The Project last night was an excellent example of how well the format works when you get the right blend of hosts, special guests and jokes about flounder falling from the sky.

Also: where else on TV would you get a lineup as weird as this?

“It’s nice here in New Zealand that the prime minister has a second job” Carr remarked, before calling her “the opposite of Trump.” They joked with the rest of the panel about sneaking into the Royal Wedding, Kiwis saying “yeah, nah” and how to avoid heckling in the debating chamber. Just minutes later, Ardern delved into her government’s plans to investigate abuse in state care, eradicate child poverty, and champion New Zealand’s stance against nuclear weaponry.   

It’s this delicate balance between squishy old banter and rock hard news that The Project aspires to get right every night (and doesn’t always nail). There were experts discussing how to survive in a rip and the importance of bringing back bilingual learning, just as there was a VIRAL video from the INTERNET of a businessman slipping over repeatedly on a large patch of ice. I’ll admit I smiled, but I didn’t feel great about it – those parts always feel a bit Ice Makes You Laugh Out Loud Volume 73.

What else? Anchors Kanoa Lloyd and Jesse Mulligan remain a perfectly calm and pleasant double act driving the show through its frenetic bulletin, and Josh Thomson continues to be the funniest freak ever allowed on live television (last night he was in bright orange boardies). Finally: I didn’t watch anything else on broadcast TV last night, but I’m certain this is the only show playing ‘Welcome Back’ by Mase when coming back from the ad break. Five stars. / Alex Casey

Don Rowe watched The Crowd Goes Wild on Prime

The lads are back, and with nary a Holt Bolt to be seen! So what’s on the agenda? What’s new in sport? Well, Joe Parker is off to Cardiff, provincial cricket is cranking and something happened in the NFL but who knows what because my watch-again service crashed four times in the 20-odd minutes that TCGW runs for.

So Anthony Joshua has ‘agreed to go on a date’ with JP, and the heavyweights will slug each other in the dome sometime in March. Muls is stoked, and well impressed with the 12 schmillion dollars Parker is likely to pull while James McOnie rates Parker’s roid sledging from last week.

The boys like the promotion strategy and are excited that heavyweight boxing finally has some momentum, even if top contenders like Luis Ortiz occasionally pop for diuretics. “Finally something is happening”, says Mulligan. We’re back for a bit of ODI chat, India spanking ‘Straya’ and onwards into the tennis where Bernard Tomic has made a right dick of himself, losing a qualifying match before declaring he was off home to count his millions.

“It’s a bit like how Mark Richardson left us for Mediaworks,” quips Mulligan. Apparently, Holt’s departure was a bit more like Djokovic’s, who handed out pastries to the assembled media before his press conference.

There’s an obit for Chalky, some more cricket chat and another delightful crash before we take a look at the ‘gentlemanly sport’ of around the world sailing where one Alex Gough has been washed overboard. His boat Scallywag is a lot like The Crowd Goes Wild ship – “people washed overboard at the start of every year.”

The show finishes up with some dudes backflipping off a trampoline into a pair of pants and a final plea for Hayley Holt to return to the show “for James’ sake.” / Don Rowe


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