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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Fri., May 4)

CBS11's Robert Riggs, Tracy Rowlett and Ginger Allen

"The Investigators" -- remember them?

CBS11's new, "urgent" 10 p.m. newscasts so far have dealt out the station's three resident gumshoes -- Ginger Allen, Bennett Cunningham and Robert Riggs. They again were missing in action on Friday. In fact none of them has investigated anything in more than five weeks, according to the station's web site.

Click on The Investigators and you'll see that Riggs last made an appearance on March 28th. Allen hasn't been seen -- investigating at least -- since March 19th. And Cunningham, whose peeks at unsanitary restaurants used to be a "sweeps" staple, has been out of commission since March 14th.

Instead, anchor Tracy Rowlett's new Sunday night "Perspective" segments are being billed as investigations, too. These are meaty, well-researched and welcome additions to CBS11, but it's a stretch to make Rowlett a sleuth. His second commentary tackled illegal immigration reform.

In an April 24th interview with unclebarky.com, new news director Regent Ducas said, "When we get it all rolling together, investigations will be a major part of what we do."

He also said that Riggs would have an investigative piece on Monday, April 30th. But he didn't.

NBC5, which CBS11 seems intent on replicating, no longer has an investigative unit either. The station prefers to track down "Big Fat Savings," with reporter Brian Curtis regularly sniffing out infomercials for area merchants.

Belo8 still deploys old hands Byron Harris and Brett Shipp, each of whom has contributed two reports in the first seven weeknights of the May sweeps. And Fox4 has veteran Becky Oliver on the prowl. She's had one sweeps report so far.

CBS11's only extended report of any kind came on Monday, April 30th. That's when Mary Stewart produced a "stunning, shocking" expose on a Palo Pinto County constable who watched while a male companion offered a convenience store clerk oral sex if she would illegally sell them beer. It was all caught on the store's in-house surveillance camera.

Friday's CBS11 newscast began with Kimberly Ball's report on a puppy mill raid in Johnson County, where 30-some dogs were being badly treated.

Fox4 and reporter Fil Alvarado also gave heavy play to that story, following later in the newscast with the heartwarming saga of Sassy the pug. Stolen from her Garland owner's car, the dog later was found 30 miles away in Irving.

Who dog-napped her and why is still a mystery. The only eyewitness, who was with Sassy in the car, is unable to provide much information. Or as reporter Brandon Todd couldn't resist putting it, "So far this rat terrier has not been able to rat out the bad guys." G-r-r-r-r.

NBC5 was all over Sassy, too, and then ended Friday's 10 p.m. newscast with video of an albino squirrel who's supposed to be a symbol of good luck on the University of North Texas campus. But intrepid CBS11 got to that one a night earlier. On Friday, the station closed shop with video from China of a duck and a puppy who've become inseparable friends. CBS11 anchor Doug Dunbar then made a quacking sound.

Belo8 didn't have any animal stories Friday, instead settling for Harris's extended "Game of Chicken?" report on whether fowl advertised as "100% natural" is in fact really that.

Frankly this came off as pretty much a "So what?" story in which viewers learned that some chicken is legally injected with broth, water and seaweed to enhance flavor. Harris can and has done much better than this during a long and mostly distinguished career. But he lately seems to be in a slump.

The station led with reporter Darla Miles' far more compelling story on a grieving widower whose wife died at Harris Methodist Hospital Northwest while undergoing relatively minor surgery for nose cysts. Packing gauze apparently got caught in her throat, and she suffocated. No other station had this story. The hospital is promising the usual "thorough review."

NBC5's medical reporting isn't quite as substantive. Anchor Jane McGarry cued viewers to a "miracle pill" revelation in her nightly teases of medical stories that seldom if ever -- make that never -- measure up to their billing.

Reporter Curtis then brought news of an oral medication that could help smokers kick the habit. But it's "not a magic pill," cautioned a doctor, which apparently means it's not really a miracle pill either. NBC5 could care less -- as the station proves night after night.

CBS11 sports reporter Steve Dennis and Mavs owner Mark Cuban

Three of the four stations otherwise spent considerable time rehashing the Dallas Mavericks' stunning loss to Golden State. NBC5's Newy Scruggs wore a bright red "Gone Fishin' " hat, Belo8's Dale Hansen unplugged himself and CBS11 had the best quotes from Mavs owner Mark Cuban, courtesy of reporter Steve Dennis

Dennis asked Cuban whether it was especially tough losing to Warriors coach Don Nelson in light of the ongoing feud between the two.

"Not at all," said Cuban. "Some of my old girlfriends are dating guys I've known, married some of the guys I've known. Ya know, more power to them."

Nelson, who's suing Cuban for $6.6 million in alleged back pay, isn't a personal favorite of his, the Mavs owner said. But "Nellie the coach I have phenomenal respect for. He's a phenomenal coach."

Scruggs, whose sportscasts are short-sheeted by NBC5, gets far more to say on the station's Web site. But he at least made a visual statement Friday night in a fishing hat trimmmed with gold-colored lures. Acting friskier than usual, Scruggs even got a big hee-haw out of McGarry after saying his physique used to be just like those of boxers Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya.

Over on Belo8, Hansen said the Mavericks should resist all entreaties to blow up the team or trade Dirk Nowitzki.

"I'm not here to praise Nowitzki, but I'm not here to bury him either," Hansen said before offering a litany of other Dallas pro teams that had overreacted and then underachieved even more.

Belo8 then closed with another of those hokey, small-town news shots of "crowds" gathered outside the station's new studios in Victory Park. Perhaps 10 people were on the outside looking in, and they all got to be on TV for a few seconds.

Welcome to Dinkytown, USA.