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Ricardo Baca is the Caller-Times media critic. He can be reached via email at bacar@caller.com.

Thursday, January 4, 2001

Cancelled 'Sports Night' comes back to life on Comedy Central

Also: A new year means new faces will be showing up to anchor your evening news

Although critics almost unanimously praised it, "Sports Night" quickly became TV Guide's "the best show you're not watching" and was cancelled by ABC after running from September 1998 to May 2000. Those who miss the fast-paced behind-the-scenes action can catch its reincarnation with back-to-back episodes on Comedy Central at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Thursdays.
   "Sports Night" is a smart and hip take on an ESPN "Sports Center"-like show put together by broadcasters, managers and producers each night. And "Sports Night" isn't a show that is so caught up in itself that it forgets to interest people who aren't into sports or broadcasting; it even reaches out to those who think Darryl Strawberry is a Ben & Jerry's flavor.
   The show is crafted in a dramatic way that drops the classification of sitcom and dodges any niche-pinning whatsoever. The writing is intelligent and the story structure in each episode is highly superior to that of most other half-hour shows on today.
   That can be attributed to the series' creator, Aaron Sorkin, who is currently reaping the awards and accolades for his most recent success, "The West Wing." Sorkin's critical success has given him the well-deserved reputation for putting out a smart, tight product that entertains as well as it teaches. A similar sense of confidence is found in the writing of both "Sports Night" and "The West Wing," but in this entertainment market, viewers chose politick cohorts over broadcast sports.
   Local TV notes
  

  • KIII: Former KIII 5 p.m. news anchor Lee Sausley has left the station and is working with a local production company.
       "I've been in (broadcast journalism) for 26 or 27 years," Sausley said after leaving the station in mid-December. "It's time for a fresh start, because it gets old after a while. A city hall story is just a city hall story. ... But I'm still working with words and pictures."
       Sausley is now employed with Quadrant Productions, a company that creates TV commercials and documentaries. He said while his new job is slightly similar to his former duties at KIII, he's going to enjoy the dissimilarities.
       "It'll be less stressful in the sense that I don't have daily deadlines. The emphasis here is on quality ... They're not clock-oriented. With the news business, it's down in 30, run it back, get it out and then it's off to the next thing. This is the kind of thing where I can polish a piece and do the best work I can do."
       Sausley's contract was up, said KIII assignment editor Dale Rankin.
       "We talked with him about renewing the contract," said Rankin, "but this is something he's been tinkering with for a while."
       KIII hasn't decided on a replacement, so for now Holly Ames is the solo host for KIII's 5 p.m. news.
       As far as KIII's reception problems, general manager Bob White said the transmission signal should be functioning by the time you read this. The station has been operating at half power since October and it isn't reaching some areas of the Coastal Bend.
       "We're battling the elements," White said. "On Saturday we got the antenna up and by the end of the day we had everything on top. On Sunday we were going to hook it up and put it online, but it was raining and you can't put the transmission line up in rain. I'm hoping to complete it today (Tuesday)."
       White was visiting his wife's family in Beeville over the holidays, and even his in-laws were bothering him to hurry things up.
      
  • KRIS: NBC affiliate KRIS is losing 5 p.m. anchor Laurie Salazar, who also hosted the 9 p.m. Fox newscast. Salazar worked at KRIS for a year and a half and is heading home to take a position with a Fox affiliate in McAllen.
       "I'm excited to go back to my hometown," said Salazar who, as anchor, will debut the FOX affiliate's
       9 p.m. newscast in the Rio Grande Valley. "They did surveys, and people are really looking forward to a 9 p.m. news."
       Going with her is KRIS reporter Brady Douglas, who is not only Salazar's co-worker but also her best friend.
       "It's neat because we've been really good friends for awhile," Salazar said. "When he heard I was going he was like: 'Take me with you!' He applied, got the job and now I'll be anchoring with one of my very good friends."
      
  • KZTV: CBS affiliate KZTV recently hired a few new reporters, including Houston transplant Tara Longred. New reporter Mary Pawley recently worked as a fundraiser for the Red Cross' national headquarters in Washington DC. She's a Red Cross volunteer in Corpus Christi, but her husband's work brought her to the Coastal Bend.
       "It's been an adjustment, but living on the beach is a plus," Pawley said.
       Reporter Natasha Barrett also started recently at KZTV, according to new executive producer/assignment editor/weekend anchor Jan Park, who is a recent transplant from KRIS, where she was the 6 and 10 p.m. news producer.
       KSIX-AM radio, owned by KZTV owner Vann Kennedy, has started carrying KZTV's 6p.m. newscast hosted by Walter Furley in place of the nationally syndicated CBS News.
       "Because there are a lot of people on the road in their vehicles at those hours, they will have the opportunity to hear the audio for the noon and the 6 (p.m. newscasts)," said station manager Jim Bixler. "It gives us another outlet for local news, and this one is on radio."
      
      

     



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