It's not often that I laugh out loud while watching a local newscast. There is, after all, little cosmic comedy in the parade of crime and disaster stories that often dominate the news.
That is, until I flip over to KCPQ-TV's News@10. It's a program so bumbling that I'm practically in tears by the time my clock strikes 11.
The fun often starts with lead anchor Leslie Miller, a five-year veteran of the newscast. It's not uncommon for the prototypical news Barbie to read her script so quickly that she stumbles over her lines like a high-school thespian. Then there's her mispronunciation of common utterances such as "Saddam." All the same, Miller looks great (something her male colleagues actively mention on the air), a perfect match for co-anchor Peter Alexander, who, you guessed it, resembles a Ken doll. Alexander isn't exactly hitting any high notes himself: Last week he did a phone interview with a Las Vegas sports bookie about the odds in last weekend's Mike Tyson bout.
Someone, I kid you not, decided this was news.
But then, they have a strange definition of news over at the Q. Most local news programs focus on giving viewers news that actually happened in their time zone; it's a religion KING, KIRO, and KOMO cling to. The Q, on the other hand, has a rather elastic sense of local news. You're as likely to see a Laci Peterson update (live from Modesto, no less) and flaming hotels in Las Vegas as you are a robbery in Seattle. One recent night, the first 15 minutes of the news was dominated (83 percent to 16 percent) by out-of-town newsand the only real big news from outside Seattle on that day was the arson fire in a South Korean subway. (By comparison, on the same night, only 31 percent of KIRO's stories were nonlocal.)
What's more, there are nights when I swear the Q, a FOX affiliate, is a PG-13 Spice Channel. Recently, there was a story claiming that soap can cause cancer; typically, you'd expect interviews with a few serious-minded medical researchers. The Q used the opportunity to repeatedly show images of male and female hotties lathering up in the shower. The next night was even better: Throughout the newscast, the station kept teasing a story that promised to unwrap an underground sex scene in an unnamed city. When the two-minute story aired, it turned out that the scene in question was in Los Angeles, and that it amounted to little more than your basic crowd of free lovers getting together for an orgy. But it was a fine chance for the station to air darkened video of people coupling and people standing around watching others do the nasty (someone can be heard off-camera asking for a sex toy).
I could go onthere are the graphics right out of 1985, the awkward stage banter, the stories that are thinly veiled promos for FOXbut that'd be a bit like beating a three-legged dog.
Sure, the Q has an entire hour to fill, and they've got to fill it with something. Still, that hasn't stopped some other FOX affiliates, working with that same 10 to 11 p.m. slot, from realizing that they are freed from the rush-rush constraints of half-hour news shows and can take a swing at doing good, incisive journalism. In fact, KTVU-TV in the San Francisco Bay Area is consistently rated the No. 1 newscast in the country. Yep, it's a FOX station.
It's beyond me why the Q doesn't try to do something similar. Certainly, its current formula isn't doing the station any favorsQ13 was mired in last place after last fall's sweeps. To judge from its performance during this month's sweeps, that's not likely to change.