Parody newspaper the Onion is set to launch two half-hour comedies this year, the first of which premiered last night on Comedy Central. Onion Sports Dome is a show which mocks both sports and sports media.
Onion Sports Dome drops you into the middle of an hours long Sports Center type broadcast that includes some fake sports stories, a mock "Inside the Lines" bit, and lots of colorful banter. A lot of the show's segments are timeless sports stories, jokes about Eli Manning taking a ballroom dance class with his mom or Albert Pujols being offered complete dominion over everyone in St. Louis so he won't sign with anyone else work basically all the time. Lead stories about escaped NFL retirees who suffer from dementia and the Miami Heat's Big 3 changing the rules to benefit them touch on large general interest sports stories that fringe on seriousness (at least the NFL story does) and make sense to be included. When the show has to start filling more time, however, it begins to get stretched a little thin. This bit, based on any of a thousand different ESPN elements from their many "yelling heads" shows to the Budweiser Hot Seat or the Coors Light Cold Hard Six Pack of Questions (or whatever) bits they run during Sports Center, exemplifies both the strengths and weaknesses of this exercise:
The strength here is that it does a great job of mocking the ridiculousness of sports media and all the yelling and hyperbole it entails. The rapid fire, completely inane yapping, the graphics, even the wildly inappropriate sponsorship are spot on. The weakness, however is pretty glaring: they are talking about nothing useful whatsoever. The Raiders Offensive Line and Mike Shanahan are NFL talking points? Only in a world where we're not in the middle of the playoffs and it's been a really slow day. It really seems like the show is going to suffer if it maintains trying to be general all the time. If they treat it more topically, like a sports-themed version of the Daily Show or the Colbert Report, they may have an easier time of filling their show with things that have some meaning for the people watching it.
Onion Sports Dome is really at its best when it stays with the co-hosts. The show does well at hinting at the backstory, which hopefully will get developed a little more each week. The co-hosts have great chemistry together. It really seems like the show will be most successful when it lets them play off each other, as if it were Aaron Sorkin's short-lived sitcom Sports Night without all the annoying backstage elements.