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Comedy central: WFAA8's Cowboys Kickoff Special strives to be laughing matter

Dale Hansen "interviews" fake Jerry Jones, voiced by Gordon Keith, during Tuesday night's Cowboys Kickoff Special. Photo: Ed Bark

And now for the comedy sports, with apologies for a serious-minded, mid-show report on NFL concussions.

WFAA8's Tuesday evening Cowboys Kickoff Special, which teamed sometimes slap-happy sports anchor Dale Hansen with "Ticket" court jester Gordon Keith, looked pretty close to what CW33 plans to do with its prime-time newscast by re-making it in the image of the station's early morning Eye Opener.

Except that WFAA8's effort might prove to be even goofier.

Hansen, who's always known how to have fun, may have jumped the carnival midway shark by "interviewing" mockups of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett. Both were voiced in Clutch Cargo style by Keith, who also was borrowing a page from the fake moving mouth interviews that regularly popped up on early editions of NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

"I'll just do exactly what Jerry tells me, and then I'll shut up," Garrett said during his brief session with Hansen, who for some reason failed to wear one of his Hawaiian shirts. "Garrett" later referenced his "robot brain."

Fake Jerry had more time for Hansen. Still lazing about in Arkansas, he obligingly brought up his "face work" before quickly acknowledging, "I look like death with dentures."

Jerry also bragged about building a football palace "where Cowboy fans can watch mediocrity in high definition while buying $25 dollar nachos."

Hansen chortled, at times a bit robotically. But Jerry was happy to "clear the air" while also noting the aroma being emitted by the heavy-eating Hansen, who's also been known to enjoy a cocktail or 10.

"It smells like you ate a whole burrito and wolfed it down with a gallon of gin," Jerry observed before cackling. Hansen summoned a non-plussed look before throwing it to a commercial break that included one of those deadly serious WFAA8 spots for its award-winning investigative team of Byron Harris and Brett Shipp. Together they have a "power other stations can only try to emulate," said the voice-over pitchman.

It wasn't the best of transitions -- from a sports anchor supposedly stinking of gin and burritos to a spot for the station's crusading wrong-rigthers. Kind of like going from South Park to Christiane Amanpour.

The half-hour special also included reporter George Riba's report on the long-term ramifications of NFL head-banging and Joe Trahan's boilerplate dispatch from New Jersey on the Cowboys' readiness to play the New York Giants Wednesday night.

"What is your best defense for self doubt?" Trahan asked Cowboys QB Tony Romo in a previously taped interview.

"I don't even know what that question means," Romo replied.

Otherwise it was the comedy store, with Hansen and Keith happily recycling Jones' evocative "I want me some glory hole" comment from training camp and Keith topping things off with another of his "Man on the Street" segments spotlighting an array of befuddled Dallas denizens. They still work pretty well.

Reporter Ted Mann also kept matters light by twitting Hansen about his lack of tweeting after Hansen asked rhetorically, "How did we survive before Twitter? Quite well, actually. But Ted Madden's our guy for that."

"Yeah, I'm the guy for it because you won't do it," Madden retorted before his report on the Cowboys' top tweeters and non-tweeters. The latter group includes Romo.

So what's the takeaway? Well, I enjoy Keith's humor more often than not, although by a relatively slim margin. And Hansen's willingness to speak his mind and try just about anything have generally been plusses for him.

That doesn't mean that this particular effort worked very well, though. Grading on the curve, I'd give it perhaps a C+. And that's mainly because the station continues to experiment with different forms of local programming while its rivals seldom do much of anything beyond their regularly appointed newscasts.

There is the risk, of course, of tarnishing the bread-and-butter news "brand." WFAA8 increasingly is the D-FW market's comedy central, whether it's the series of promotions for early morning anchor Ron Corning; Texas Rangers pitcher Derek Holland goofing his way through a weather segment or forecaster Pete Delkus jabbing at Hansen -- and vice-versa -- during virtually every newscast.

The Cowboys Kickoff Special opened with Delkus serving as Hansen's valet, applying makeup and hairspray while Keith barged in to suggest story ideas. How about "Joe Trahan in a Speedo having a hot dog eating contest on a unicycle," he asked.

Hansen liked that idea. But lo and behold, it didn't make the cut. Not this time anyway.