When I heard that The Onion would be airing a parody of “SportsCenter,” called “SportsDome,” I was skeptical for a number of reasons.
First of all, how well would they be able to mimic the many idiosyncrasies of “SportsCenter”? From the sometimes entertaining, sometimes idiotic back-and-forth of the anchors to the ridiculously over-the-top graphics, the imitation would have to be spot on for the show to succeed.
Additionally, since the show would be airing on Comedy Central, one would have to worry about The Onion changing their style to fit such a mainstream network. Would this be as clever as the rest of The Onion’s work?
Yet, after watching the first couple episodes of “SportsDome,” which first aired on Jan. 11, I am ashamed to have even momentarily doubted my favorite source of fake news. Aside from the occasional miss, the show creates a seamless marriage between classic Onion tongue-in-cheek comedy and a “SportsCenter” impersonation that’s so good it could pass for the actual show.
As with most of The Onion’s previous work, perhaps the most important aspect of “SportsDome” humor is how closely it emulates real sports broadcasting. What makes “SportsDome” different than other Onion news, however, is that its inspiration is already pretty absurd, so poking fun at it intrinsically puts the quality of the acting and production in he spotlight.
In terms of acting, interactions between the anchors Alex Reiser and Mark Shepard — played by Matt Walton and Matt Oberg respectively — are particularly entertaining, as they perfectly mimic the light-hearted bickering among “SportsCenter” anchors.The difference is that the “SportsDome” anchors make quips about how they’re either complete morons or lonely perverts. The Onion has always done a great job of attacking the absurdity of news media, but now they’re also showing their ability to attack the people who deliver it, making it pretty damn funny.
The production is also worth mentioning. The graphics, music and lighting make watching “SportsDome” feels like watching “SportsCenter,” which creates a great juxtaposition for when they whip out Onion-style humor and start talking about Shaq playing through heart attacks and being declared legally dead on the court before coming out to get double-digit rebounds in the second half.
All that being said, the writing of the show is still the focal point. If you’re a fan of The Onion the style of the jokes will definitely seem familiar. Extensive use of hyperbole based on grains of reality, funny fabricated quotations, and of course sarcasm are still present.
Because so much of the style of “SportsDome” is borrowed from classic Onion, however, some of the jokes encounter the same pitfalls all Onion comedy occasionally suffers — namely, over-development and repetition. Often, you can figure out the punch line just by reading the headline, yet it goes on for another three minutes, growing stale in the process.
Other times, the same joke is revisited too many times in a half hour show, such as a bit about mentally vacant, dangerous NFL retirees escaping their retirement home, which was referenced three times in the pilot episode.
On the whole, however, most of the quick jokes land very well, and the production alone makes the show hilarious. If you’re a fan of either The Onion or “SportsCenter,” there’s a lot to like here. Let’s just hope they can keep it this fresh for the rest of the season.
Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.