'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
BREAKING NEWS FROM YOUR TOWN!
I love watching local TV news. It’s the best comedy on television. There are few things funnier than people who take themselves far too seriously.
Every story is reported with a sense of earth-shattering urgency. “Breaking news from East Granby!” the news anchor declares, using a tone of voice more appropriate for announcing the start of World War III. “A cat is stuck in a tree on Elm Street! Emergency crews are rushing to the scene. We will have a live report later in this newscast!”
Another humorous aspect of local TV news reporting is the fact that they are all identical. No, I don’t mean that each station has the obligatory team of cute blonde female field reporters. This stopped being interesting years ago when Congress passed the “Blondes in Broadcasting Equal-Time Equity Act of 1978.”
I mean, all the broadcasts are identical. They each begin at the same time; they each present the same top story (“Breaking news from Naugatuck! A dog on Cedar Lane dug up a bone in the back yard! State Police forensic experts are rushing to the scene. We will have a live report later in this newscast!”); they each run their commercials at the exact same time; they each present the exact same weather report at the exact same time; and they each show the exact same sports video clips at the exact same time.
It’s fun to click back and forth with the TV remote during a newscast—from channel 3 to 8 to 30 to 3 to 30 to 8, etc.—and see a particular news story being reported seamlessly. Although each sentence is spoken from a different face with a different voice, the net result is a single, coherent presentation. It’s as if the TV stations are training for a new Olympic sport: Synchronized Broadcasting.
All local TV news stations nowadays emphasize their mobile capabilities. Each station owns high-tech satellite trucks that can whisk reporting crews right to the scene of a news event and beam a live report back to the studio. The satellite truck and the news crew usually arrive about 30 minutes after the news event in question officially concluded. As a result—regardless of whether the story is about a shooting, a car crash, a fire, or a cat stuck in a tree—every live news report follows the same 4-part format.
Part 1: The blonde field reporter, desperately trying to keep the wind from ruining her $400 hairdo, looks into the camera and says, “Dennis, we are at the site of breaking news. It happened a little while ago. If we were here then, we could show you actual video of the breaking news, but we weren’t. But I can say that we are here now, right where the breaking news occurred, and we will remain here for as long as it takes.”
Part 2: The camera pans away from the reporter and zooms in on the building where the breaking news happened. It is either a suburban home, looking no different than millions of other suburban homes across the country, or it is an apartment building in a city, looking no different than thousands of other apartment buildings across the country.
Part 3: The camera pans back to the field reporter, who is now standing next to a middle-aged person. It is time for the “neighbor interview.” The neighbor explains, “This is such a quiet street. I can’t believe breaking news actually happened here. They seemed like nice people.”
Part 4: Finally, there is the all-important statement from a law enforcement official, who solemnly says, “We can’t release any details at this time because of the ongoing investigation. Thank you.”
What a laugh riot! I’m glad local TV news is on early in the evening. Leno and Letterman come on way too late, so without local news, I wouldn’t see any comedy on TV at all.
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