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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., May 5)

Women's work Monday for Deborah Ferguson and Nerissa Knight.

Ah, cellulite. It's the mother's milk on way too many nights for newscasts looking to court and keep the interest of 25-to-54-year-old women viewers.

CBS11 struck again Monday, and this time Nerissa Knight drew the short straw after a prominent station tease that showcased a shapely pair of apparently cellulite-free glama-gams.

"Zapping away cellulite. The pioneering North Texas procedure that can give you smoother legs that last," trilled news anchor Doug Dunbar.

That's as far as it usually goes for the males of the species on late night D-FW newscasts. Such stories otherwise are considered women's work, even if the telegenic females who present them are in little if any need of the myriad diets, skin-smoothers, blemish-removers, fat-suckers and other cosmetic remedies coming at you like chocolates on a Lucy-Ethel assembly line.

Over on NBC5 Monday night, early morning co-anchor Deborah Ferguson made a rare cameo appearance to report on what anchor Jane McGarry termed "yogurt's powerful promises" for women looking to stay slim and healthy.

WFAA8 medical reporter Janet St. James generally has pithier stories to tell. But she's also a veteran purveyor of the poop on various goops that supposedly can keep women from prematurely resembling Granny Clampett.

St. James' Monday contribution helpfully showed ways to get free health care via clinical research studies. Her case study, not surprisingly, was a young, attractive woman who's been getting gratis treatment for her "crippling rheumatoid arthritis." Male patients and their maladies just aren't as saleable, thank you very much.

That leaves Fox4's late night newscasts as the only ones that rarely resort to heavily teased stories aimed directly at those "desirable" 25-to-54-year-old women viewers. Maybe that's in large part because the Fox network long has had a larger percentage of prime-time series with high male appeal, ranging from 24 to its Sunday night cartoon lineup.

There's method to rival stations' madness. As often noted in these spaces, 25-to-54-year-olds are the main advertiser target audience for news programming. And there's definitely a gender gap when it comes to that audience's appetite for D-FW newscasts. On the Big Three 10 p.m. shows -- NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 -- here's how it broke down Monday night among 25-to-54-year-olds:

First 15 minutes (93,299) women; second 15 minutes (53,939 women)
First 15 minutes (46,088 men); second 15 minutes (28,247 men)

First 15 minutes (91,841 women); second 15 minutes (78,721 women)
First 15 minutes (59,468 men); second 15 minutes (62,441 men)

First 15 minutes (61,228 women); second 15 minutes (68,517 women)
First 15 minutes (14,867 men); second 15 minutes (22,301 men)

So yes, it's a fact of newscast life. Substantially more women in a key demographic are watching the news, even if their numbers in large part taper off during those traditional second-half onslaughts of cellulite stories and their many kindred offspring.

Women, of course, could be much better served by stories that don't continually assault their body images while holding hope for quick cures.

But maybe men aren't watching in nearly the same numbers because we're grossly underserved when it comes to stories about basic, banal, skin-deep needs. Just once, wouldn't you like to see some of these following stories with male reporters required to slog through every last one of 'em?

***Jock itch -- a clear and present danger. Only NBC5's Grant Stinchfield has the balls to show you how to fight this potentially fatal disease.

***Battling unwanted back hair -- a dramatic new treatment can have your lady purring like a Cheshire cat at a tuna factory. CBS11's Jay Gormley shows how you, too, can be a smooth operator.

***Nose-picking seems harmless enough, right? But WFAA8 investigator Brett Shipp shows how some frequent North Texas practitioners could be sealing their death warrants.

***You've seen the ads -- Cialis vs. Viagra. Now get the performance breakdown you've been looking for. Veteran reporter Ken Kalthoff personally test-drives both products in a special extended report you'll see only on NBC5. We're calling it "Tent pole or Swizzle Stick?"

***Breaking wind can be a gas, gas, gas when you're with your beer-drinking buddies. But CBS11's Chris Salcedo tells how some flatulent North Texans may be getting more than they bargained for -- including possible death by asphyxiation.

***Sports bars usually are a great place for guys to gather and watch their favorite teams on big-screen TVs in high-definition. WFAA8's Gary Reaves finds something else, though -- contaminated beer nut residue that if swallowed could leave you letting loose with a whole lot more than "Go Stars!!!"

***Rating North Texas' best beer guts. CBS11 reporter J.D. Miles shows how you can get in the game with just the right brews.

***"Hey there, baby. I seem to have misplaced my Congressional Medal of Honor somewhere." Is that old standby getting a little stale? NBC5's Randy McIlwain tries out what experts say are the latest sure-fire come-ons during his tour of North Texas' hottest singles bars.

***It's prime grilling season again, but don't let your bratwurst down. WFAA8's Jim Douglas tells you how to kick up that barbecue IQ a notch while also making yourself a charcoal Casanova when the pretty ladies line up to sample your meat.

There, that should be enough to get things started.


***All four sports anchors led their Monday night segments with full-blown stories on the Dallas Stars' home win against the San Jose Sharks in Sunday's marathon Stanley Cup playoff game. It's been a long, long time since hockey's been such a marquee player.

***Fox4 investigator Paul Adrian weighed in for the first time during the May "sweeps" with an undercover expose on doctors who seem to be letting non-M.Ds. write out prescriptions on pads bearing their names. Offending storefront medical clinics in McKinney and Grand Prairie quickly shuttered their doors when Adrian began asking questions. First, the station's hidden cameras caught two unlicensed practitioners in the act.

One doctor, later confronted at a gas station, tried to drive off while a gas pump remained in his tank. Adrian, whose work again seemed solid, warned him about this oversight. He then pumped the doc with more unanswered questions before he finally was able to motor away.

***Intrepid reporter Jason Overstreet, who's leaving Fox4 at the end of the May sweeps for a non-TV news job, interviewed a McKinney woman and her nine-year-old son after their home had been burglarized by a gang of 12-to-14-year-olds who since have been caught by police.

The mother said she felt violated. Meanwhile, her video game-loving son talked to Overstreet while playing his "favorite" -- Grand Theft Auto. Sorry, but it's hard to feel tons of sympathy for a parent who lets her nine-year-old boy play an ultra-violent video game that's supposed to be for "teen to mature" users. The kid said he'll now lock up his Grand Theft Auto game to keep it safe. Its players delight in pretending they're hardened criminals.

***CBS11 gumshoe Bennett Cunningham resumed pounding away at the North Texas Tollway Authority and its board's alleged unconscionable spending of taxpayer money on lunches, dinners and other creature comforts. His first "sweeps" report on this subject aired last Wednesday.

The NTTA's still relatively new executive director, Jorge Figueredo, again promised to make major changes, some of which already are in effect, Cunningham said.

"It makes me angry to hear these things and to talk about them," Figueredo said.

Cunningham might want to back off now and give Figueredo a shot at making good on his promises. He's made his points, as has Figueredo. Yet another sweeps-induced installment might well dilute the effectiveness of what so far has been an eye-opening investigation.

Twelve nights to go.