The Media Learning Curve: Dec. 31-Jan. 7

Spinning off more about the quasi-ESPN “SportsCenter” spoof-off called “SportsDome,” presented by The Onion, that debuts Tuesday on Comedy Central (linked here):

== While “SportsDome” is a TV concept that was hatched more than a year ago, the writers and producers at The Onion have had the time to let it stew with more than three years of creating “SportsCenter”-type videos for its website.

The two entities remain separate — the TV show isn’t simply a compilation of bits created on the website and transfered over, like HBO did recently with FunnyOrDie.com (which returns for a second season starting Friday, Jan. 14).

So all the things you’ve seen in the past on The Onion Sports Network (linked here) are complimentary appetisers to this new main course. Some of the clips now on the site, such as the “Top 10 countdown of the best athletes named Stan,” are from the pilot that The Onion staff created to sell to Comedy Central back in 2009.

“We’re going to continue the web videos,” said Will Graham, one of the “SportsDome” executive producers, “but we’re just happy with a bigger palate to play with. Now we hve 22 minutes as opposed to just two-to-five minutes to make more fun stuff.”

== The comedy, granted, can get a little sophomoric. Consider the audience. Then take, for example, the ongoing piece in Episode 2 that deals with a 13-year-old kid from Ojai trying to set the record for most times masterbating in one day.

The “SportsDome” crew follows the story in each segment with one of those jazzy graphics, “Road to 32,” with coverage of press conferences, interviews with the boy’s father and updates throughout the show.

“I didn’t think there’d be a problem” getting that on the air, said head writer Jack Kukoda. “Using the graphic, it was to me like how ESPN would do a countdown to a Barry Bonds home-run chase or something like that.”

In other words, ESPN would be shooting its wad on another overblown angle.

Which plays right into the “SportsDome” strategy.

The other thing that Kukoda says he finds perpetually humorous is the way ESPN rotates its anchors in — all non-descript.

“You’re watching a show, and then they put up the graphic of who the person is, and you say, ‘I thought that was the other guy’,” said Kukoda. “The set is really the star of the show, with all the bells firing off.”

Adds Graham: “I think the thing that is really inspiring about ESPN as a kind of taking-off point was their kind of faceless army of rotating anchors, that just kind of seemingly get like switched out and inserted into chairs like robots, or something like that. You’re like, ‘Oh, that’s that guy,’ or ‘That other – those other four guys.’ ”

== Maybe a better description of “SportsDome” comes from the Comedy Central comedy writers/media relations staff who write up the press releases. Like this one:

“Sports are finally about to get the attention they deserve, courtesy of The Onion, America’s most trusted news source …. ‘SportsDome’ is a 30-minute rundown of the finest in sports news, analysis, scores, highlights, rumor-mongering and petty personal attacks … the signature show of the Onion Sports Network, which has grown from a humble UHF channel purchased as a tax dodge and a way to profit from The Onion’s vast footage library of women’s beach volleyball, into the undisputed global sports leader it is today.

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‘ “SportsDome” is now the number one destination for fans seeking game reports, insight from former players and theme music heavy on bell tones and bendy guitar riffs. With its total access to the inside of sports and pulse-pounding coverage, it has become impossible to be a sports fan without being a fan of the ‘Dome.’

“The show is co-anchored by Mark Shepard and Alex Reiser. Reiser earned a seat at the ‘SportsDome’ desk in 1995 after working his way up from the mailroom, showing the persistence needed to repeatedly knock on the office door of the VP of OSN programming and shout highlights from the night before at the top of his lungs. Mark Shepard has been with ‘SportsDome’ since 2005, when he parlayed the suicide of a World Backgammon Championships commentator into his first on-air appearance, impressing producers enough to install him behind the storied ‘SportsDome’ anchor desk.

“Shepard and Reiser are joined by the venerable ‘Dome’ crew, including Senior sports insider Reggie Greengrass, who needs nine Blackberries to hold the phone numbers of all the athletes he knows; update anchor Melissa Wells, who holds more journalism degrees than the rest of her colleagues put together; “Wish Zone” host Jay Woodworth, who makes terminally-ill children’s dreams come true as long as they are sports-related; analyst Doc Webb, who holds the SportsDome record for the number of athletes he’s referred to as ‘overpaid garbage,’ and investigative reporter Marc Howell, who, mines sports’ most tragic elements for awards and ratings gold.”

And as for the rest of the stuff that wouldn’t fit into the print edition:

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== Welcome to Steve Buckley’s coming out party.

The Boston Herald sports columnist has told the world in a column Thursday (linked heree) that he’s not only gay, but it’s something he wishes he’d come clean about years ago.

Or, mentioned it before the ninth paragraph.

“I guess I’ve kind of buried the lead here, which, I admit, has been a common complaint about my writing over the years. But what the heck: The headline has already given away the story, and, anyway, what happened that day seven years ago is central to why I am writing today.”

At last count, he had more than 600 people leave comments on his column. The first one, posted by “Snaglepuss,” read: “Good for you Steve, but I’m sure you just lost 90% of the Herald ‘readers’.”

Another post by “rightwingnut”: “GUARANTEE this helps Steve’s career as it will get him national attention and probably a spot on Around The Horn.”

We don’t wish him that indignity, although his column was mentioned by the Boston Globe’s Jackie MacMullan after her latest “victory” on the show Thursday.

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== Your NFL TV lineup as Weekend 1 of the playoffs:

Saturday:
= New Orleans at Seattle, 1:30 p.m., Channel 4 (with Tom Hammond, Mike Mayock and Alex Flanagan)
= N.Y. Jets at Indianapolis, 5 p.m., Channel 4 (with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Andrea Kremer).

Sunday:
= Baltimore at Kansas City, 10 a.m., Channel 2 (with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms)
= Green Bay at Philadelphia, 1 p.m., Channel 11 (with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman).

== The full effect of how ESPN has fared in taking over as the home of the entire Bowl Championship Series games won’t be determined until after Monday’s Oregon-Auburn championship contest. If preliminary numbers are any indication in showing how the Rose and Fiesta Bowls on New Year’s Day audience dipped below the 2010 marks, when the former was on ABC and the later on Fox, expect the trend to continue.

Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit call Monday’s BCS championship, with Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden on radio, and Joe Tessitore, Tim Brown and Todd Blackledge on ESPN 3D. Former Oregon coach Mike Belliotti, in his first year as an ESPN game analyst, will join the ESPN GameDay crew on site.

== Fox’s Kenny Albert and Darryl Johnston call tonight’s LSU-Texas A&M Cotton Bowl (5 p.m., Channel 11), the first time the game has been put in a prime-time TV slot. Pat Summerall is also part of the broadcast, doing the game intro and an interview with new Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame inductee Jim Brown.

== Bob Papa, Aaron Taylor, Lewis Johnson, Marty Snider and Tom Lemming are part of NBC’s broadcast of the annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl (Saurday, 10 a.m., Channel 4), featuring 90 of the nation’s top high school football players in an East-West format at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Several currently undecided players will also announce their college choices during the telecast. According to the official website (linked here), local athletes expected to play are Granada Hills High defensive back George Atkinson, Grant High defensive lineman Viliami Moala and defensive back James Sample, and Crenshaw High running back/defensive back (and USC enrollee) De’Anthony Thomas.

== KSPN-AM (710) announced the hiring of Scott McCarthy as its new general manager. McCarthy, a Harvard MBA graduate who grew up in Albuquerque, was Executive Vice President, ABC Radio Networks (2001-04) and Senior Vice President, ABC Broadcast Group (2000-01). Prior to that he led the development and launch of Radio Disney and was its first employee and first general manager (1996-99). Most recently, McCarthy founded and was managing partner of Alacon Ventures (2007-10), involved in growing digital media/entertainment and consumer interactive services.

== As the reminded us during the closing credits of the final installment of HBO’s “24/7″ on the NHL’s Winter Classic, all four episodes reair in order Saturday starting at 1:30 p.m. If you’ve missed any, TiVo the whole thing and save it. Classic stuff indeed. Especially the miked players.

= AND FINALLY:

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== Check out a 10-part series on the Golf Channel they’re calling a “docu-reality” show based on the recent plight of 53-year-old Mark Burk, an aspiring pro who recently ended up homeless and living in abandoned construction pipes in Palm Springs.

When the series starts Tuesday (6:30 p.m.), you’ll see how Burk grew up dreaming of being a pro golfer, played in some pro satellite tours around the world, and ended up a instructor and Hollywood movie consultant. He lived with girlfriend and supermodel Beverly Johnson, but in 2008, he was charged with alleged domestic violence and left penniless.

The series picks up Burk’s life as he tries to get his life back together on the golf course and make it to the Champions Tour qualifying school.

“Even through all of Mark’s personal and professional struggles, it’s been his passion and respect for the game of golf that has kept him alive,” said Keith Allo, Golf Channel vice president of programming and original productions.

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