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TV Review: Comedy Central’s Onion SportsDome

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

I say “knock knock,” then you say “who’s there,” then I say “banana,” then you say “banana who,” then I say “knock knock” again, then we repeat it all a few times, then I finally answer “who’s there” with “orange,” and then you say “orange who” then I say “orange you glad I didn’t say banana.”

Comedy Central’s new Onion SportsDome is a lot like that old kid’s joke. You might chuckle a bit in the end, but it’s awfully repetitive.

Onion SportsDome debuts January 11 at 10:30 p.m., and is a joint venture of Comedy Central and parody-newspaper-turned-parody-website The Onion.

The premise: the half-hour program skewers the inanity of cable sports news with The Onion’s trademarked deadpanned delivery of utterly absurd content. It’s The Onion, so it should be funny, and it is, even if it is sometimes a little cheap and easy. For example, the story about a teenage boy trying to break the single-day record for masturbation. See, it’s funny, because teenage boys like to masturbate. It’s also cheap and easy for the same reason. But it’s still funny. Is it funny enough to merit about three minutes of screen time? Maybe not, but they astutely break the joke up throughout the program rather than, umm, shoot their load all at once.

Maybe I crossed my own line into the land of the obvious and tasteless there, but it’s only appropriate as SportsDome makes its own forays into questionable taste. In one segment we are introduced to a disabled Iraqi vet who faces discrimination in his bid to become an MMA fighter, and in another to a little girl dying of cancer who is kept alive only by her hatred of a particular baseball player (“I hope he gets cancer like me”).

So, yes, at times obvious and tasteless. But it’s still funny.

The humor is also generally very accessible. One does not need to be a sports fan to get the joke when the anchors rush through several years of soccer coverage in a moment or two before abandoning the topic altogether (“Type MLS into Google and I’m sure you’ll find something”) or when crystal-meth-fueled hallucinations are covered like sporting events.

So, yes, at times obvious and tasteless. And accessible. And, most important, funny.

Unfortunately, it’s all so repetitive. Yes. We get it. It’s making fun of sports, sports news in particular. Well that joke really runs out of gas very quickly. Although the two screener episodes get more mileage out of the concept than they have any right to, both episodes still feel like SNL skits that ran on far too long.

The Onion online and in print makes for a great time killer. The Onion SportsDome may burn out the fastforward button on your DVR. Entertaining enough to check out, but this is a 50-yard dash run in marathon time.

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About Jon Judy

  • MYK

    Unfortunately, Onion SportsDome is a strikeout on just about every level. Why does it fail so miserably? Disguising a weak sketch comedy show inside an ESPN backdrop is fairly pathetic. As described above, the overall joke is one-note. And after viewing, a larger issue is that the “joke” is already being played out, on an hourly basis on ESPN itself. The SportsCenter anchors and writers do a pretty good job of skewering the sports news and themselves; at least to the extent that they will often add a wink and/or a snark to highlight footage–but it’s not always limited to that.

    The big mistake is not keeping SportsDome in the same vein as Comedy Central’s most notable programs The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which take actual news and footage and puts their own spin on it. [One would assume that the major sports organizations and media outlets (such as ESPN and FOX) have denied The Onion access to or priced their footage too high. Which begs the question, why not second or third tier sports like golf, tennis, lacrosse, steeplechase, water polo, anything? High school? Someone out there must want some free publicity!]

    They tried to cram too much in: The only (barely) passable sketch of the pilot was the “Who Should We Kill?” [possibly incorrect] segment, which pretty accurately portrayed the toss-offs to the anchor-seated-between-two-former-players-for-analysis routine. However, the insertion of the First Take style top story anchor girl doesn’t fit in this SportsCenter takeoff and really went nowhere, fast.

    Bottom line? SportsCenter knows its a cliche; it’s not something they try to hide. Have you seen their commercials? Parody of (light) parody rarely works. And in this case, SportsDome is ready to be placed on the PUP, IR and out-for-the-season list.

  • Jake

    Onion Sportsdome is funny. The guy above me has way too much time breaking it apart. I think that if you can turn it on, get a few laughs (and I laughed really hard) then the show is a success. Keep bringing it Onion!!!!

  • Mike

    First off, to MYK, did you watch the whole thing? The MMA fighter with metal hands was comedy gold. Langer snake sketch? Come on. Even the seemingly lazily done first sketch about O’Niel was great, especially the heart attack shot. I thought “Who Should We Kill” was ok, but 2 or 3 sketches were definitely better.

    The thing i REALLY like about this show was the pace. They deliver the jokes at about the pace of normal SportsCenter sportscasters delivering news. I think the two anchors were well casted, and they have a very good sportsy back and forth. I’ve read a few reviews of the show now(since I’ve watched that first episode all the way through, twice) and I’m surprised no one mentions the Meth skit with Langer fighting imaginary snakes. I was about to throw up after the 1 minute laugh fest. The best part is midway through when it transitions to “Day Two” they start it with “Start of the second half, langer charges up annnnnnd SNAKES”. Just the acting alone when you see him hallucinate the initial snake after taking a hit made my side hurt.

    I feel like the show kept good pace and moved between sketches fairly well, like any good sports show should. I do agree that many of these sketches have been diluted, which is one of my biggest peeves in comedy, particularly sketch and stand-up.

    Also, despite my love for strange, off-beat comedy I think the show needs some more high-brow sports-related jokes as well as actual sports coverage that have a more insane twist to it. Sure ESPN sweetens up it’s coverage with some jokes but I think the potential is far greater when the goal is comedy. They seem to have a good mix of clever sports jokes and funny-strange comedy, but I think they need just a LITTLE less of the latter and more REAL coverage.

    Probably my favorite thing about this show is the LOADS of potential it has to get even funnier. Between the writing, the acting, and the limitless amounts of potential sports satire becoming available every week I think this show will age like a fine wine

  • todd

    this show flat out sucked.. AND YES I DID WATCH THE WHOLE THING… regrettably. i kept waiting for it to be funny. i love spoofs and parodies and all that s*** but this was just awful. the snake part had to be the dumbest thing ive seen in a while.. honestly if this makes it more than 1 season id be extremely surprised.. true crap

  • Scott

    Reading these comments and reviews saddens me because I actually enjoyed the show to great heights! I thought the new rules for Basketball, NFL retirees escaping, MMA fighter with metal hands, and snake fight to be absolutely hysterical.

    I went in expecting nothing and came out having a great time. I don’t think it is intended to be a witty show but a fast paced show full of odd stories and weird twists (as theonion is known for).

    Maybe a re-watch is in order for some…

  • KP

    The show is pretty lousy.

    To the people who liked it…..if it was so good, why can’t you remember that the skit about the guy with metal hands was about boxing, not MMA?

  • Steve

    KP: Unless the UFC is suddenly a boxing league, the skit was about MMA, not boxing.

    They show the guy training MMA, they say he was denied a spot on the UFC roster, and just so ya know, MMA uses traditional rings too. Pride FC (which was bigger than UFC at its height), Affliction and Pancrase all used rings, and nowadays smaller promotions still use them.

    Anyway, I laughed at the former NFL player detention center, the Miami Heat’s new rules, and the ridiculous banter. Also, the second anchor is The Cablevision Guy, for anyone who lives in the NY area.