Monday, January 31, 2011

The Onion Double Dose

     For fans of the newspaper The Onion, which originally began as a college project, the brand has been expanding these past few years. With editions in several cities, online videos and audio clips, books, and even a movie, there is no shortage of The Onion's distinct type of humor. This month, The Onion also launched two television shows: Onion SportsDome on Comedy Central and The Onion News Network on IFC.

     As a fan of the video and audio clips, but not one of sports, I was initially disappointed at Comedy Central's announced series. Because the sports-themed clips released online frequently had nothing to do with actual sports stories, but rather parodies of the genre of sports reporting, I found them entertaining. But I assumed a full half hour would have to take its source material from current events. Not necessarily the case. In the first few episodes, SportsDome plays more to the stereotypes and trends in the industry, rather than specifics. The hosts, Mark Shepard (Matt Oberg, Ugly Americans) and Alex Reiser (Matt Walton, One Life to Live), are incredibly funny, and get plenty of barbs in on each other. Even for the non-sports fan, the program is worth checking out.

     The Onion News Network is slightly different, in that the jokes are not about sports, and it stars only one host, sharp tongued Brooke Alvarez (Suzanne Sena). She is joined by a number of other 'reporters' and 'commentators', including some like Duncan Birch (Brian Huskey, Free Radio) and Lauralee Hickock (Julie Brister) who appeared in the online video clips. Some of the previous clip segments continue, such as my favorite, "Today Now!", so that the series feels like a longer version of the shorter videos released on the web.

     ONN tackles specific stories, though not necessarily real ones. For instance, in recent episodes, a judge decided to try a young, white girl as a black man in a court case, and assassins from the future came back in time to kill Suri Cruise. It's goofy humor, a mix of reality spoofs and commentary on what is wrong with our society. 
     Both shows pretend to be on a 24 hour network of their topic, such as CNN and ESPN. I'm glad they don't attempt more than 30 minutes a week, though, as I have a feeling the jokes could get old real fast. However, I was skeptical that either show could keep a consistently funny weekly half hour, but am glad to be proven wrong.

     Onion SportsDome airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central, and Onion News Network runs Friday nights at 10 p.m. on IFC. Give them a try!

Article first published as TV Review: The Onion Double Dose on Blogcritics.

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