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The Onion makes the move from web to TV

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The hosts of Onion News Network

The best thing about news-parody website The Onion has always been its headlines; the majority of the time, the entire joke is encapsulated in that single line, and the actual story mostly consists of the same bit repeated over and over. This doesn’t bode well for an entire half-hour TV series based on The Onion’s recent foray into online videos, let alone two different series on two different networks. And for the most part, Onion News Network and Onion Sportsdome fall prey to the same problems as regular Onion stories, along with the problems of TV shows adapted from online videos. Funny ideas for stories rarely have anywhere to go beyond their initial concepts, and what’s funny for two minutes is often belabored at 22 minutes.

Hosts of Onion Sportsdome

These shows are at least making an effort to be more than a series of short video segments strung together into a half-hour TV show, though. Unlike The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, the Onion shows aren’t making fun of actual news; they’re making up entirely fictional stories that sometimes incorporate real people or events, and the hosts and reporters are all actors playing characters. That means that even the most ridiculous bits are delivered with a straight face, and the Onion folks have the form and cadence of bombastic cable news and sports shows down pat. Suzanne Sena in particular is spot-on as News Network anchor Brooke Alvarez, a perfect combination of self-importance and inappropriate sex appeal.

The Details

Onion News Network
IFC, Fridays, 10 p.m.
Two and a half stars
Onion Sportsdome
Comedy Central, Tuesdays, 10:30 p.m.
Two stars

Matt Walton and Matt Oberg are a little blander as the hosts of Sportsdome, but that’s probably appropriate given the general square-jawed interchangeability of so many sports reporters. Both shows try for a bit of character development amid the fast-paced joke-delivery, indicating the possibility of a range of comedic styles rather than just a series of played-out parodies. That kind of go-for-broke weirdness (Sportsdome’s game-predicting swamp monster; News Network’s Suri Cruise-targeting freedom fighters from the future) hints at the shows’ abilities to stray from the Onion format into something more original and viable over the long term. At this point, though, there still isn’t much beyond the headlines.

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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