'SportsDome' Parodies The Crazier Aspects of Sports

Maybe it's not surprising that the head writer of Comedy Central's new sports show from satirical news group the Onion is a Buffalo Bills fan. Satire and the long-suffering, heart-breaking Bills would seem to be a good marriage.

"Being a Bills fan is not for the faint of heart," said Jack Kukoda, also an executive producer on the "Onion SportsDome."

While Kukoda may want to run skits tackling the Bills' decisions and leadership, he said the show's lampooning isn't looking to go nasty. Even on easy targets such as Dick Vitale's bombast, or LSU coach Les Miles' penchant for tasting the grass on the field. "We're not out to bash individuals," he said.

Among other things, "SportsDome" parodies the bizarre on- and off-the-field behavior of athletes, and the ludicrousness in the televised sports media landscape.

Bit wit and not vitriol is the preferred venue for laughter. That includes the targeting of ESPN's "SportsCenter," the culprit of overkill. "We're not just out to knock ESPN," he said.



Still, "SportsCenter" -- which is the town hall of the sports world -- is clearly "SportsDome's" inspiration.

"SportsDome" debuted Tuesday on the comedy channel. The format has a pair of high-energy "reporters" behind a desk, using the same type of over-the-top language "SportsCenter" anchors use.

At the start of the episode, there does appear to be an unalloyed poke at ESPN, when ESPN staffers have been asked to take some time off after questionable behavior. "Anchor" Alex Reiser has just returned from mandated time off, but says, "No suspension can keep me down."

The Onion began as a local paper in Wisconsin in the 1980s and added online video shorts several years ago. "SportsDome" is one of its two forays into longer TV shows this month.

Bearing an unmistakable resemblance to a smorgasbord of Fox News programming, the mocking news show "FactZone" launches on IFC on Jan. 21.

"SportsDome" will have an initial 10-episode run, with a show once a week. It is not a "Daily Show" for sports, grabbing clips from real-life TV and press conferences and having a Jon Stewart-type offer commentary. "It's less taking an actual event and then commenting on it," head writer Kukoda said. "It's more of we're sort of in this alternate universe and we create the whole story that is sort of parallel to that real-world thing ... that we make up completely out of whole cloth."

Like most comedy shows, Tuesday's "SportsDome" premiere had its hits and misses. Maybe the top bit mocked the concept of giving local heroes a key to the city.

"SportsDome" had the city of St. Louis giving baseball star Albert Pujols keys that literally unlock the whole place. "Our homes, our cars, our Internet access, our showers and whatever's in our fridge, all of it is yours Albert, the buffet is open," the mayor said as the city hoped Pujols won't move to another team.

Another bit playing off the sway the Miami Heat may hold in the NBA with its three star players was well-conceived. To keep the trio happy, Commissioner David Stern was willing to change 27 rules to benefit them, including alley-oops now being worth five points. But it was too quixotic to be uproarious.

Next week's episode opens with a tease poking fun at the miserable Los Angeles Clippers, saying "they want a do-over on the last 30 seasons." But the show disappointingly never returns to the topic, where needling the Clippers would be low-hanging and highly funny fruit.

A gambit about a 13-year-old trying to set a record for "most masturbation sessions in a single day" is worthlessly sophomoric - at least for an older portion of the 18-to-49 demographic -- and should have been dropped. The episode also ends with some other worldly, curious character predicting games. Way too long and also inane.

However, there is a neat bit poking fun at demanding tennis parents, who force their kids to keep playing despite their hunger to quit. A kid tries to leave the court mid-match multiple times during a match, only to have his parents redirect him. "Everyone wants to be allowed to watch movies, but sometimes you've to gut out your childhood" is a terrific line from one of the "anchors."

In that vein, the humor will work best when its sketches are firmly rooted in reality.

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