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Cuban on the Mark with 'GooTube'

Mark Cuban has just posted a terrific commentary on the perils and pitfalls of YouTube, which he prefers to call GooTube in honor of Google's $1.65 billion purchase. He's been bashing away for quite a while, but this is very interesting and well-researched. Shockingly, it's even self-deprecatory in a spot or two. By all means, go here to check it out. Cuban makes a lot of good points, and he's absolutely right about all the fake porn come-ons and network-originated "commercials" that increasingly are populating the site's front page.
Ed Bark

Merry Christmas from our Homer to yours

It's time to call it a wrap for a few days. Merry Christmas to all from unclebarky.com, and we'll see you next Wednesday. In the meantime, if you'd like to spread a little holiday jeer, there's video of the warm, fuzzy Rosie O'Donnell/Donald Trump feud on the Network News & Reviews page. Otherwise, happy, happy everyone!
Ed Bark

Katie Couric in Dallas: A woman's touch pays off

Katie Couric and Karen James on Thursday's CBS Evening News

The CBS Evening News indeed is a different animal with Katie Couric in charge. Her in-and-out visit to Dallas Thursday underscored what the program never was or could be under traditionalists Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer.

Couric devoted the entire second half of the program to her exclusive interview with Karen James, widow of Mt. Hood climber Kelly James. They sat before a fireplace in her Dallas home, with the family Christmas tree very much in evidence whenever the camera caught Karen in extreme closeup. She constantly fought back tears in talking about her husband's love of life and untimely death. They last talked on his cell phone from the snow cave that became his tomb.

"It's the kind of call that you would never want to receive," she told Couric. "And so we both were acting, and it was like there was nothing wrong. And I could tell by his voice that he was in trouble. And I told him I just decorated the Christmas tree and that he needed to come home and see it. He said he would. And I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me. And I told him to stay warm and stay awake."

Woman to woman it was, with an empathetic Couric slowly, surely and gently getting the goods. (You can see her in action and read a transcript of the interview here.)

Competing anchors Brian Williams of NBC's Nightly News and Charles Gibson of ABC's World News couldn't have managed this very well. Nor would they have given half of their newscasts over to what in blunt terms is a sob story. Harrumph, that's not their style.

But Couric pulled it off because it's in her blood and, in no small part, her gender. That's not meant to be chauvinistic. A history-making woman flying solo on a network newscast should bring something more to the dinner table than remarked-upon wardrobe changes.

Couric's playing to what she deems her strengths. On camera she appears to be a good listener and/or confidante. So tell her more. It's not pure coincidence that most of TV's "Big Get" interviews are gotten by women. Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and for a while, Connie Chung, have had the market all but cornered. Couric can play in their league, even if her playing field is still a cathedral compared to the likes of 20/20, Prime Time Live and Dateline, where confronting child predators is still a man's job.

What Couric did with Karen James can't be done every night on the Evening News, or probably even every week. But it's OK to pick your spots and air them out, as Couric also did with Michael J. Fox after he drew fire for his campaign spots in support of stem cell research.

Unfortunately, Couric wasn't available to be interviewed about any of this. She hastily flew back to New York, making time only for CBS11's Doug Dunbar, who dutifully promoted the Karen James interview on the station's 5 p.m. newscast.

That's the way the game's usually played. So nothing's changed there.

Double their pleasure, double their fun

On the left is David Letterman. On the right is not David Letterman.

The Dallas Morning News got held up to ridicule twice late Monday night, which is nice work if you can get it.

The paper somehow managed to identify a picture of Jay Leno as David Letterman. Dave thought it was dumb enough to include in Late Show's "Small Town News" segment, in which he named the DMN. Tonight host Leno displayed and chortled at the mislabeled mug on his "Headlines" segment, but did not name the DMN.

Unclebarky.com is thinking of trying the same mistaken identity gambit with pictures of Ray Liotta and DMN editor Bob Mong. In fact, let's do it.

On the left is Ray Liotta. On the right is not Ray Liotta.

And this is the way it is: Amanda Congdon's new ABCNews.com video blog makes her an instant rising star


Most of ABC News' old-line star journalists now are either deceased (Peter Jennings), have left the building (Ted Koppel, Brit Hume), are little-used (Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts) or keep blabbing away on entertainment specials and The View (Barbara Walters).

So it's a perfect setup, on ABCNews.com at least, for comely, attitudinal Amanda Congdon. She didn't train in the traditional trenches and would probably give Walter Cronkite the willies -- to use a term he might use.

On her first blogcast for ABC, she initially talked about "how much JavaScript sucks." It occurred to her while she drove to work. The 5 minute, 38 second mini-cast, which premiered this week, then discoursed on Tori Spelling's made-for-TV garage sale for her new reality show; the continuing SPAM epidemic; Nintendo's new Wii as a potential in-home gym; and the popularity of designing "virtual snowflakes" online as part of a new, touchy-feely Red Cross campaign.

She didn't want to get too carried away on the latter, though. "I sound like a pansy," she fretted, a simple declarative sentence that stately ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson generally tries to stay away from. But as ABCNews.com says by way of introduction, "The rules are changing."

Congdon, 25 and a Northwestern University grad, wore a figure-flattering, green Steely Dan t-shirt for her first outing. She prepped for this role on Rocketboom, an independent webcast that made her a big enough Internet star to play herself last season on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Her new ABCNews.com gig doesn't necessarily mean the end of Western civilization. But Congdon's "as if" voice inflections and Valley High vocab -- "OK, this is weird" -- almost instantly make Katie Couric seem like Estelle Getty.

Couric makes history in what had been a man's world, with her every move scrutinized and dissected. Congdon breezes onto her new scene almost undetected, inviting viewers to "take a little break, a little trip with me." Imagine Couric trying to set sail with that one.

Somehow it works for Congdon, who's clearly no Cue Cat. She looks very good to go in a Max Headroom world come to roost. Couric struggled with how to sign off the CBS Evening News, and even asked for viewer submissions. Congdon unflinchingly says, "Thanks for hangin' out today" as an appetizer. Then she closes the deal with, "C'mon, speak. Risk it."

She's no longer even a risky proposition for ABCNews.com, where the aforementioned Donaldson once blazed a trail with the first network webcast. He now pops up once a month or so on ABC's still conventional This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

It's odd, isn't it? Donaldson was exiled to the Web because the tube didn't want him anymore. Now ABC sees him as too cob-webbed for the Web.

Amanda Congdon's the way it's gonna be. And with Amanda, says ABCNews.com, "you aren't just a viewer -- you are an active partner in creating content."

Let's just hope that NBCNews.com doesn't counter by hiring Nicole Richie. Congdon's quite enough for now, thank you.

Dancing star Emmitt Smith steps up for charity

Dancing with the Stars champ Emmitt Smith took a mike to the chops while wife Pat tried her hand at being an Extra correspondent during Tuesday night's well-heeled charity event in Dallas. Photos by Ed Bark

Emmitt Smith and Hall of Famers Marcus Allen and Ronnie Lott helped raise more than $100,000 for underprivileged kids at a swank Dallas event. For the story and more pictures, slide on over to the Dallas-Fort Worth TV page, where you'll also see who Tony Romo once had the hots for.
Ed Bark

Michaels, Madden make Cowboys listenable

John Madden, Al Michaels and friends met with TV critics in July.

Well, at least you got to hear a good game. And this time you didn't have to turn on the radio and turn down the TV sound.

NBC's Al Michaels and John Madden again carried the ball while the Cowboys dropped it Sunday night during a 42-17 pasting from the New Orleans Saints. Michaels remains the best play-by-play guy in the biz while Madden still dissects plays even better than he cuts into a steak.

The latter is easily parodied, particularly by impressionist Frank Caliendo. But when push comes to shove on a typical NFL play, it's Madden who usually knows precisely what happened and why. He had all the answers on the Saints' cleverly camouflaged first touchdown, scored by seldom-used fullback Mike Karney. And Madden perceptively noted in the first half that New Orleans coach Sean Payton had established the upper hand in offensive play-calling.

Michaels had a beautiful run in the first half, part of it luck. The city of Dallas has gone "ga-ga over (Tony) Romo," he told viewers. But coach Bill Parcells, the grinch who stole ga-ga, should consider replacing Larry David on HBO because "if there's one guy that can curb your enthusiasm, it's Bill."

NBC then showed a clip of Parcells downplaying Romo's previously strong play: "We've got a ways to go here, so put the anointing oil away," he said.

On the very next play, Romo threw an interception that led to the Saints' go-ahead-for-good touchdown.

"So I guess we will put the anointing oil away, at least on this drive," Michaels quickly ad-libbed.

The guy still has a way with words. Viewers were told early in the game that Saints QB Drew Brees had won a high school football championship a decade ago in Texas Stadium with Austin's Westlake High School. When Brees eventually threw his fifth touchdown pass, Michaels said, "He's used to the Friday Night Lights. Tonight it is Sunday Night lights out."

He also had the balls to rip the Cowboys' pyrotechnic halftime show, which left Texas Stadium in a smoky haze as the third quarter began.

It's doubly stupid in indoor arenas," said Michaels, who then referred to it as "some garbage at halftime" and "a disaster waiting to happen."

Michaels likewise didn't miss a beat after Reggie Bush scored a touchdown on a spectacular catch-and-run. He immediately sent a sympathy card to fans of the Houston Texans, which bypassed the chance to take the Southern Cal star with pick No. 1 in last spring's draft.

"Every Texans fan has to be saying, 'What in the hell did we do?' " Michaels said.

It was all in a night's work for the dean of NFL broadcasters. He even found a way to niftily reverse field after opening Sunday Night Football with a figurative yahoo.

" 'How 'bout them Cowboys' is the rallying cry once again in North Texas," Michaels said.

By game's end, he duly paid homage to Saints fans who were loudly whooping it up in the belly of the beast.

The new rallying cry, he said, is, "Who dat gonna beat dem Saints?"

Dem guys, Michaels and Madden, are still pretty damned good.

Woo-hoo: Unclebarky.com hits the century mark

Fledgling unclebarky. com reached a milestone at mid-afternoon Friday, hitting the 100,000 mark in total page views. The site was launched from unclebarky HQ in Garland, TX on Sept. 17 of this year.

This is a mere pittance compared to the Goliaths of the etherworld, and might even qualify as a pimple on an elephant's behind when compared to other Dallas-based sites such as FrontBurner and Unfair Park. But I'm celebrating anyway. This has been a start-from-scratch operation without any bankrollers in tow. It depends solely on you, its faithful readers, to keep the faith. So take a deep bow. You know who you are.

A little extra advertising wouldn't hurt either, of course. But my very grateful thanks go out to The Lodge for buying into unclebarky.com in its early stages. OK, enough. Except to say that, in the end, only you can help the site to live long and prosper as an objective TV watchdog in the country's 6th largest market. So far so good. And your continued patronage is sincerely appreciated.
Ed Bark

There's just something about the name Simpson

A few basic questions on dumb belle Jessica Simpson's latest Daisy Mae day. Just what the hell was she doing at the Kennedy Center Honors anyway? How does that compute? Who invited her to perform in tribute to honoree Dolly Parton? Have the admission standards plunged all the way down to her level? Maybe she thought they were the KFC Honors, but the organizers should have known better.

For those who haven't heard yet, Simpson blew the lyrics to Nine to Five, even though cue cards were in place. Then she hustled off in tears after saying, "Dolly, you make me so nervous I can't even sing the words right."

Now the annual Kennedy Center Honors telecast, scheduled for Dec. 26 on CBS, will be sullied one or the way other. If Simpson hits the cutting room floor, critics will charge CBS with altering the reality of the ceremony. If she's included, then her performance becomes the Center's center-ring attraction, re-detracting from what's supposed to be one of the performing arts' classiest nights.

Simpson will never go to the head of anyone's class. Putting her in close proximity with honorees Parton, Steven Spielberg, Zubin Mehta, Smokey Robinson and Andrew Lloyd Webber was a dumber idea than even she could muster. What is this, Bozo's Circus?