Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good Sports

Mark Shepard (Matt Oberg, left) and Alex Reiser (Matt Walton) are the anchors of the Onion SportsDome- and given the way Reiser treats his female co-workers, it's a miracle he still has a job.

Originally founded as the humor publication of a Wisconsin university, The Onion has- thanks mainly to its website- become perhaps one of the most well-known names in news satire, and for good reason. Their stories are consistently funny, and "America's Finest News Source" does a great job at making believable-sounding but still ludicrous headlines, as well as editorials, etc. Recently, The Onion branched out with video clips supposedly from the fictional Onion News Network, which do a great job of satirizing TV news shows. The production values are so good, in fact, that a number of people have been confused as to their authenticity. The Onion branches out later this month by bringing Onion News Network to the Independent Film Channel. Given that The Onion's reports can sometimes be hilariously profane, I can see why they decided to go to a network with no limitations, but given as a lot of people (including myself) don't get IFC, I kind of wish that they had picked a network that is more mainstream. I guess there's only room for two fake news shows on Comedy Central- but that doesn't mean there isn't room for fake sports.

The Onion's other original series, Onion SportsDome, premiered on Comedy Central last night. A parody of ESPN's SportsCenter and other rapid-fire sports highlight and discussion shows, the series does a good job of parodying its target while also featuring a good number of jokes that are just the right amount of typical Onion ludicrousness to amuse those who (like myself) may not be big sports buffs or only have casual knowledge.

Last night's debut episode brought the typical (well, typical for a normal sports show) combination of highlights- including Shaquille O'Neal playing as he normally does despite suffering multiple heart attacks during the game, highlights of Major League Soccer since the last time they bothered to check in, which was four years ago (one of the announcers suggests just Googling "MLS results" if you really care that much), and the latest Crystal Meth Hallucination League matchup between a methhead and the imaginary snakes his limbs turned into- headlines- including a running gag involving three escaped NFL retirees who had suffered from one too many concussions- and other features, some of the most amusing of which included an advertisement for a CSI-style drama about a baseball team that solves murders on the side, a segment in which the commentators discuss how they would murder various sports figures they dislike (perhaps a tad in poor taste after what occurred this week in Arizona, but still amusing due to the ludicrous premise), and one of those "overcoming" stories about a solider-turned-UFC fighter who was recently banned from the league- not because he lost his hands in Iraq, but because his replacement hands are made of metal, thus causing all of his opponents to be killed with a single punch, a fact both he and the commentators seem to overlook.

Like most comedy shows, Onion SportsDome is hit-or-miss, but when it hits, it hits hard. It'll probably end up lasting as long as, say, such past Comedy Central news spoofs as Crossballs, but while it lasts, it's an amusing enough diversion as a lead-in to the Stewart/Colbert power hour on Tuesday nights.

Photo by Brad Barket/Associated Press. No ownership intended or implied.

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