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August 29, 2015

'Onion SportsDome' Scores By Spoofing Not Just Sports But Sports News

by Danny Gallagher, posted Jan 12th 2011 10:00AM
Mark Shepard and Alex Reiser, hosts of Comedy Central's sweet-sassy-molassey-Bringing the awesome majesty of the Thurber award-winning humor empire The Onion to television seems like a bit of a no-brainer. The Onion and its various properties aren't just ripping the people in the headlines a new one. The people who read and write the headlines are also fair game.

That last target alone screams for an "Onion Show." The landscape of screaming heads and fast talkers across the cable news landscape has become a parody of itself that only The Onion could put in its corner and nail its feet to the floor.

Last night, Comedy Central gave the funny-ass folks at The Onion their first shot of television greatness with 'Onion SportsDome,' a show that takes a much needed shot at the high-octane, flashy grapics, superego-inflated world of sports reporting and punditry (It's a good year for The Onion, as IFC debuts 'The Onion News Network' on January 21).

The show picks up where its online counterpart leaves off by presenting a free-running sports broadcast in the middle of its non-existent broadcast, instead of cutting up the stories and serving them out in bite-size pieces like the website does. The first thing you'll notice is how fast it moves, just like your average episode of 'SportsCenter.' It squeezes as many teases and breaking news pieces as it can in the opening and just takes off from there, whether you're aboard or not.

Normally, a show that moves at the pace of a caffinated cheetah would make a regular TV viewing attention span disapate in the wind. Here, it's necessary to the spoof and really a big reason why it's so fun to watch. Funny teasers like "The Milwaukee Brewers have been repossesed in the middle of a game" jump out at you as the show goes into a break. A biased update (their stance on the MLS? they're against it) on the last five years of the MLS championships go by, literally, in the blink of an eye.

It's refreshing to finally have a show that you have to sit down and pay your full attention to. It doesn't try to reach for your attention by laying off every joke the way a late night show host does in an opening monologue or the way 'The Colbert Report' sometimes does in its reports. It's a show that you can't fully digest in one sitting because there is bound to be something you missed, making it TV's first "re-watchable" television show since 'Police Squad!'

It's also not necessary to possess the wealth of sports knowledge that a pasty fantasy football player needs to round out his roster in his basement computer room. It has some fun poking jabs at the celebrities of sports with segments like a creative play-by-play of a recent Shaquille O'Neal highlight reel that the hosts, Mark Shepard and Alex Reiser (Matt Oberg and Matt Walton, respectively), reported as an in-game heart attack. It finds ways to be funny by creating sports like the "National Crystal Meth League" in which a white trash tweaker attempts to fight a band of hallucingenic snakes or giving viewers a chance to "Get Hunted by Kevin Harvick" in a special promotional contest.

The real forces behind the comedy are, of course, the anchors and pundits spitting out words from a teleprompter. The spoof of sports media is complete because the anchors have the tone down to a science. They know how to throw out meaningless analogies that contain the word "dome" in their bumpers and teasers. The banter consists of witty back-and-forth discussions over an anchor's need to abbreviate every word in the English language so they can squeeze .014 more seconds of sports coverage into a broadcast. It looks and sounds real, but it's detailed layers make a comedy sheet cake that has missed and hidden jokes under every flaky layer.

If anything, it's really just one long satirical checklist for networks like ESPN and Fox Sports on how not to run a broadcast. Something tells me, however, that the self-parodying world of sports news and views won't pick up on those "deets."

'Onion SportsDome' airs Tuesdays at 10:30PM ET on Comedy Central.

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Yeah, the Smith & Wesson bit was sort of in poor taste, but mostly because of coincidental bad timing with the shooting in Tucson. There's not much the Onion could have done about that segment at that point. I'm not too worried about the show being too tasteless... it'll probably go the other way with Comedy Central not allowing the writing to pick on advertisers. Seriously, some of the funniest stuff around professional sports has to do with the lameness of corporate sponsorships.

They're willing to make fun of Smith & Wesson because that's not a company that would ever advertise with them. They should nut up and make fun of some of Comedy Central's advertisers also. What could possibly be funnier than a football segment where they show the "Taco Bell Extreme Runs of the Day!" That would be hilarious, but would they ever have the balls to do it? No way, because PepsiCo gives them too much money. Satire is only funny and effective if the satirists aren't afraid to do it well.

January 14 2011 at 4:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bah... Handled*

January 13 2011 at 12:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

sat·ire [sat-ahyuhr]
1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
3. a literary genre comprising such compositions.

—Synonyms 1. See irony1. 2, 3. burlesque, caricature, parody, travesty. Satire, lampoon refer to literary forms in which vices or follies are ridiculed. Satire, the general term, often emphasizes the weakness more than the weak person, and usually implies moral judgment and corrective purpose: Swift's satire of human pettiness and **********. Lampoon refers to a form of satire, often political or personal, characterized by the malice or virulence of its attack: lampoons of the leading political figures.

The show was clearly not saying that the teams should be killed or that it would be funny if Shaq really had a heart attack, merely pointing out the ridiculousness with which sports news is handelled.

January 13 2011 at 12:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That part about wanting a team killed was soooo tasteless. Bad timing for a mess like this.

January 12 2011 at 3:36 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Brett Alan

Wow--I'm amazed that you liked it. I thought it was spectacularly unfunny, even before the Shaquille "heart attack" gag which was not only unfunny, but incredibly tasteless as well. ("Funny as a heart attack" is sarcastic, you know!)

January 12 2011 at 12:20 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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