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Scott D. Pierce: 'The Onion SportsDome' skewers 'SportsCenter'
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Pasadena, Calif. • ESPN is not just the self-proclaimed "worldwide leader in sports," it's the proverbial 800-pound gorilla of TV sports.

Of course, being all-powerful doesn't mean you're unassailable.

Which is where "The Onion SportsDome" comes in.

The new Comedy Central series, which premieres Tuesday, Jan. 11, at 11:30 p.m., skewers ESPN in general and "SportsCenter" specifically — with the same sort of whiz-bang graphics, bright colors, outrageous clips and myriad sports clichés that you'll find on the real show.

"In bars when your sound is down, you won't be able to tell" it's not a real sports show, said Matt Walton, who plays "SportsDome" co-anchor Alex Reiser. "But once you hear what we are saying, you will know. There's a big difference."

Yeah, this is intentionally hilarious.

"We really feel like part of our duty in making this show is bringing some attention to the long-neglected world of sports," executive producer Will Graham deadpanned. "People just don't know enough about Major League Baseball, or the NFL, or any of those things."

"And ESPN also, they need to get more of a presence out there in the sports world," said co-executive producer Jack Kukoda.

"SportsDome" is anchored by Reiser and Mark Shepard (Matt Oberg), who are sort of anchor-bots.

They're clueless and obnoxious.

Any resemblance to real "SportsCenter" anchors is not all that coincidental.

Even their inappropriate behavior. Because there's a growing list of ESPN personalities who have been suspended or fired for something they've said or done.

From Sean Salisbury showing pictures of his private parts to Ron Franklin making sexist remarks; from Steve Phillips' messy affair with a production assistant to Steve Lyons' "racially insensitive" comments, the list continues to grow.

"I think the thing that is really inspiring about ESPN as a kind of taking-off point is their faceless army of rotating anchors that just kind of seemingly get switched out and inserted into chairs like robots," Graham said.

But they have some empathy for those anchors. Sort of.

"Those poor 'SportsCenter' guys have so many hours of show to fill up. They're on for, like, five hours in a row and they just seem sort of tired and beleaguered the whole time," Graham said.

"One thing that was fun was just that inane banter that winds up being 25 minutes of every hour on 'SportsCenter' — getting a chance to make fun of that."

Scott D. Pierce's column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Mix. He can be reached at spierce@sltrib.com or 801-257-8603.

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