STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Now, tomorrow night, the satirical newspaper and Web site The Onion arrives in cable TV sports news. The Onion has turned its already popular online sports site into a half-hour show on Comedy Central, which spoofs the kind of coverage seen on ESPN.
Here's NPR's Mike Pesca.
MIKE PESCA: Good times are the enemy of good satire. Some despair over high unemployment, political vitriol, an entertainment culture that rewards louts and loons and birds falling from the sky. The Onion takes it as something of an apocalypta-atunity(ph).
(Soundbite of TV show "The Onion SportsDome")
Unidentified Man #1: Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick has thrown acid in the face of his star quarterback, Tom Brady, apparently out of jealousy that Brady was handsome and loved, while he himself was a hideous monster.
PESCA: This is The Onion's "SportsDome," an offshoot of the satirical newspaper The Onion. The DNA of ESPN's "Sports Center" is so infused in the visual grammar of the "SportsDome" that you could picture disoriented ESPN anchor John Buccigross wandering onto the wrong set one day and hosting the fake broadcast by mistake.
The "SportsDome" takes down not only the ridiculous excesses of the sports world, but the specific high energy, high-fiving, high decibel techno-beat underscoring highlight packages that ESPN traffics in.
Now, the "SportsDome's" take is not for the easily offended, or even the moderately offended. Look, you're going to be offended. For instance, the premiere episode is scheduled to have a segment that's in terrible taste, given recent events.
(Soundbite of "The Onion SportsDome")
Unidentified Man #2: Let's go to the Kill Down. Major League Baseball: Still a ton of productive players who can't find jobs, and we're hearing cries of collusion.
Doc, who do you kill?
Unidentified Man #3. I kill Bud Selig, ex-owner, loves to watch the players get screwed high and low.
PESCA: But the joke isn't wouldn't it be funny to kill Bud Selig or the entire line of the Oakland Raiders, which also is proposed. It's the hyperbolic lack of perspective that characterizes the sports media.
The sports talk radio show I listen to, for instance, poses hypotheticals this way: Gun to your head, who do you want as quarterback, Hasselbeck or Whitehurst? As if it would be impossible to consider the Seahawks' depth chart without an invitation to bodily harm.
A lot of the "SportsDome's" jokes go immediately to the very dark. And coupled with the energy of the production, I wonder if they'll be able to carve out the right space for a version of those great slice-of-life Onion stories, like "Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own a Television."
But the show excels in nailing the details. Take this clip, where St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is offered a key to the city - a literal key which would unlock the doors to every residence and business.
(Soundbite of TV show, "The Onion SportsDome")
Unidentified Woman: Full, unlimited access to St. Louis, no questions asked.
(Soundbite of a roadway)
Unidentified Man #4: 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.
PESCA: The clip was supposedly taken from an outdoor press conference. Did you notice how the mic sounded different from the studio anchor who introduced the clip, and how the public official's mic picked up the sound of traffic?
I don't know if The Onion "SportsDome" will find an audience which rests in the shared area of the Venn diagram containing sports and black comedy. But I predict that the day after "SportsDome" airs, it will be the talk of ESPN, with the consensus opinion being they've got us down pretty good, followed by: And has anyone seen John Buccigross?
Mike Pesca, NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.