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Dream Flop

Two articles. That's the extent of my writing for the last 8 months. And it's flat out unacceptable. I've cranked out five pages about Jonathan Swift, yet I haven't even gotten around to making fun of Cold Pizza on my site yet. I've written more about King Lear than the NCAA Tournament. That's just silly.

And when you don't write, people start to talk. "He's past his prime." "The 'Golf Shots' article was a fluke." "You know, he really isn't that funny." "I hate that kid." The National Enquirer published reports that I hadn't been able to write due to a heroine addiction. Tony Kornheiser even compared the summer of 2002 (when I banged out 8 articles) to the season where Brady Anderson 'roided up and hit 50 homeruns.

Well, it's time to put the rumors to an end. It's time for a new article. It's time for me to make fun of Dream Job and earn back my credibility. So let's roll.

It's not that it's THAT bad. But for me, it has to be the most underachieving show in recent memory. Cold Pizza is far worse, but that show was probably the worst idea since the Flowbee. On paper, Dream Job seemed like a great idea, especially appealing to aspiring sportscasters like me.

Since anchors on Sportscenter are encouraged to be humorous and eccentric, I expected the finalists on Dream Job to be some genuinely funny people. I quickly found this to be far from the truth. In the second episode (the first that I watched), the "Wendy's Wild Card" Alvin Williams provided undoubtedly the most awkward Sportscenter Top 10 in the storied history of Top 10's. Note to Alvin: saying "What a play" in monotone does not count as a catch phrase. Nice enough guy, but at the same time the worst announcer ever. And that's not even really debatable.

But he was the "Wendy's Wild Card," (which apparently means they didn't have enough people before the first show, so they ran out and grabbed one more person off the street) so I had reason to believe the other 11 contestants would be at least mildly entertaining. Unfortunately, many of the rest were nearly as dull as Alvin, just 100 times less awkward and intimidated. Recently eliminated was Kelly Milligan, whose biggest compliment from the judges was "you do look like an anchor," meaning he was slightly overweight with a nondescript face and parted, unmovable hair, and of course, no personality in sight. And then there's Michael Quigley ("Quigs"), who survived the first round only because, as Michael Wilbon explained on PTI, they always cut the black guy first. Look, Quigs, if your voice makes it sound like you're busy dropping a deuce, you better have something more creative to say than "he puts it in the pasta in right."

To me, only two of the twelve contestants, Zachariah Selwyn and Casey Stern, seemed capable of anchoring Sportscenter without completely embarrassing the network. Casey actually looked like he knew what he was doing, but then last episode he decided that Xavier should be pronounced "Exavier." First of all, anyone with a job on the most watched sports program in history should know how to pronounce a team that nearly made the final four. And secondly, even if you had never heard of Xavier, wouldn't you still pronounce it "Zavier?" Do you see many people playing "Exylophones?" Admittedly, Zach did seem fairly comfortable and would almost certainly be competent enough to work Sportscenter. But the guy was wearing a suit with dragons on it just five weeks ago. Dragons.

Maybe you can't blame ESPN for the contestants, but you certainly can blame them for the judges. I'll admit, Tony Kornheiser works well as a judge, but that's because he's the man. You can't go wrong with Kornheiser. But you can't go right with someone from Cold Pizza, especially Kit Hoover, who is only remotely famous because she was on Real World. In the American Idol-style setup that ESPN was so obviously trying to rip off, she fits perfectly into the Paula Abdul mold, the woman who is far too nice to give any meaningful insight but not quite hot enough to draw any extra viewers.

I still haven't figured out the idea behind using Lavar Arrington as the Randy Jackson character. True, he's black. But last time I checked there are plenty of other black guys who actually have credentials to judge a show like this. How about John Saunders? How about Stephen A. Smith? And you know John Salley was available.

And then there's Al Jaffe, whose horrified look of "I can't believe one of these people is actually going to be ON the air" may have been the most consistently entertaining portion of the show. Of course he's supposed to be Simon Cowell, the tough, intimidating judge, but you just aren't going to scare people off with lines like "Here's a warning: mispronunciations are not acceptable." Yeah, and the next time it happens you're going to Timeout. For FIFTEEN minutes.

And on top of that, they cut the wrong people. And the reason they cut the wrong people is because the fan vote accounted for far too little of the total vote. During regular episodes, the fans got only two votes out of the ten total votes. You're telling me Lavar Arrington's and Kit Hoover's opinions are worth the same as America's vote? Casey didn't even make the final show despite dominating the first three episodes, while Maggie Haskins, whose boyish voice and overeager attitude forced my roommate to declare, "I hate you!" every time she came on screen, was selected as one of the four best. Maggie hosting Sportscenter would be like Magic Johnson hosting a late night talk show. What? That actually happened?!

But even with all these problems, the show still had a chance to succeed in its ultimate goal of finding a fresh, talented personality to work Sportscenter. Zach seemed to be cruising through the final show flawlessly, even holding his own with Kornheiser in a mock PTI episode. But when it came time to cut two of the four contestants, Dream Job dropped the ball for the final time. The judges, who were solely responsible for cutting the field down to two, inexplicably cut Zach, who was far and away the people's choice for the job. Out of 10,000 people who tried out for Dream Job, ESPN managed to cut the only two who were actually qualified to do the job. And they didn't even cut Zach because of the Dragons. Al Jaffe claimed that he "looks more like a field reporter." Maybe so, Al, but the two guys you have left look like they couldn't carry a Wake News broadcast.

So in the end, ESPN picked unqualified judges, found a painfully uninteresting field of 12 contestants, and finally decided to hire a guy who used "yippee" as a catch phrase. So why did this seem like a good idea, again?

Oh yeah - because idiots like me still watched it every week.

Anders Larson Archive