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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., May 14)

Belo8 funsters John McCaa, Gloria Campos, Pete Delkus, Dale Hansen

A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.

Or you could have achieved roughly the same effect by watching Belo8's 10 p.m. newscast Monday.

OK, a little mirth certainly is permissible among the various anchor teams populating D-FW's late night airwaves. After all, they're "family," even if Belo8 now has two crazy uncles throwing jabs and counter-jabs while mom and dad (Gloria Campos, John McCaa) sort of try to keep them in line.

Monday's high-def telecast got uncommonly slap-happy, though. Stopwatch technology says that one minute, 13 seconds of it went the "happy talk" route. And that's not counting those recurring live shots of hyped-up Dallas Desperadoes fans gathered outside Belo8's Victory Park studios.

Rascally Pete Delkus is usually the instigator. This time he ended his weathercast by noting that sports anchor Dale Hansen earlier had asked him if he could borrow a hairbrush. Now why would a balding man need such a thing, particularly when he'd compared Pete's military cut to a Chia Pet's? At least that's what Pete wondered.

Gloria let loose with her patented sonic boom laugh while McCaa pretty much shied away for the moment. Iron John's gotten more playful, though, and his time would come.

Later, after the sportscast, Dale bantered a bit about how much he hated to put Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens in a positive light. Gloria then reminded Dale that at least the new coach, Wade Phillips, is talking to him. Yeah, but give it time, Dale rejoined.

This was all merely a warmup for the big finish. It came after a newscast closer on Mary Kay Ash Day in honor of the late Dallas cosmetics queen. All four family members pitched in. Let's go wild:

Pete -- "I'm wearing the Mary Kay hydrating freshener right now. I'm not kidding either. I use that stuff all the time. Hansen bummed some off me after he looked for the brush earlier tonight."

Gloria -- "And I've got the eyeshadow on if you're interested. But yes!"

Dale -- "O-h-h-h-h."

John -- "I don't know if I've got any pink on me. Well, actually, yeah, I do have a little pink on me (looking at his tie). Yeah, it works. Whaddya think?"

Dale: -- "Hurry up. Get him off. Get him off."

And so they went their merry way after a final glimpse at those nutty Desperadoes fans.

A little of this goes a long way, like a nice cool drag off a Slurpee. But you've got to know when to downshift, and Pecos Pete doesn't quite have the knack yet.

Imagine him as Walter Cronkite. He'd dutifully say, "And that's the way it is." But then he wouldn't be able to stop from adding, "Oh, and by the way, did you hear the one about the one-armed monkey who told his organ grinder to give him a hand?" Har-dee-hoo-hah.

Belo8 otherwise has the cure for what's ailing D-FW's late night newscasts. Rivals keep loading up at the top with live "breaking" crime, but the ABC station intentionally has minimized such reporting in favor of news that has some overall nutritional value.

So far it hasn't hurt. Belo8 remains locked in a very close 10 p.m. ratings fight with crime-loving, bait-and-switch NBC5, which still leads by a paper-thin margin among advertiser-coveted 25-to-54-year-olds.

Still, the best story of the night -- and of the entire May "sweeps" -- came from Fox4 investigator Becky Oliver. Playing off the recent heavy round of student TAKS test failures (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), she looked at the large numbers of public school teachers who routinely flunk their certification exams at least once.

High school students who came up short on TAKS aren't being allowed to graduate with their classmates this spring, Oliver noted. But teachers who fail their tests are allowed to take them over and over -- all while still teaching.

Oliver interviewed one teacher who had flunked a certification test 54 times in a 14-year period. Others wouldn't talk to her. A representative of the Dallas Independent School District said that the "bottom line" is persistence on the part of teachers who don't at first make the grade. DISD statistics show that an eye-opening 41 percent of them failed their certification test at least once.

It was a tough but fair-minded report that raised valid questions about the fitness of some teachers to prepare students for tests they themselves can't pass.

In contrast, CBS11 offered a Ginger Allen investigation rendered ridiculous by an abundance of intrusive sound effects and whiplash editing. It concerned a financial advisor -- and Catholic Church deacon -- whose alleged "mastermind" was a twice-convicted felon. An aggrieved elderly couple told Allen they were bilked out of their retirement funds.

Valid or not, the story couldn't overcome all of its silly artificial additives.

CBS11 also had "breaking news" on what anchor Doug Dunbar billed as a "prostitution sting taking place at this hour." Reporter Carol Cavazos then briefly reported live from Fort Worth on a police decoy whose efforts had netted a Class B misdemeanor arrest. Felt sorry for her -- Cavazos that is.

NBC5 went its usual route -- which is now being copied by CBS11. Wham-bam "scary" crime and tragedy for the first 10 minutes. Then another dollop of "medical breakthrough" stories and "health alerts" aimed at women viewers.

The Peacock also found room for a little Wal-Mart infomercial after unclebarky.com reported Monday on the station's recurring portrayals of the discount chain as a haven for crime and perverts. Viewers were told that Wal-Mart will be stocking a line of new products from a leading Internet communications company.

Now let's just hope that somebody doesn't try to steal them.