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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., May 20)

Nothing prompts a bigger onslaught of "amateur" videos and stills than just about any form of severe storm.

But NBC5 clearly had D-FW's Best of Show Thursday. It's the above video of a funnel cloud being seen through a front windshield while an eye witness exclaims, "Dude, that is a flippin' tornado starting right in front of our eyes!"

That sounds like a great sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine. And NBC5 wasn't about to let the day or night pass without showing it again and again.

Co-anchor Brian Curtis set the 10 p.m. table by noting, "NBC5 viewers turned storm trackers today, sending us more than 150 images of the severe weather as it moved across North Texas. Here are just a few of our favorites."

Actually it was more than a few. Curtis presented 12 still pictures, naming the viewer behind each of them, before getting to the money shot.

"But by far our favorite viewer video of the day came from two guys who were on the road when they spotted the twister," he said.

The two guys were Brian Abbott and Brian Massey. Their now fairly famous short film was shot via videophone while they motored through Midlothian, the only site of a confirmed tornado touchdown Thursday.

Reporter Omar Villafranca interviewed Abbott, who described Massey's perfectly executed "dude" declamation as "totally unscripted, but it was very sincere. He's an actor and writer so (it was) very dramatic, which showed on the video."

Abbott, a filmmaker, told Villafranca that his only regret was not having better equipment with him. But in fact that might have ruined the overall unvarnished effect.

After Villafranca finished, Curtis deadpanned, "All right, thanks, dude." He no doubt had been saving that one up. But it worked.

Rival stations likewise loaded up on viewer pictures and videos, with WFAA8 displaying its opening collection to the tune of chainsaw rock. But none of them could touch what NBC5 had. The Peacock also presented the night's only footage of a drenched reporter, via videotape of Grant Stinchfield in Corsicana. He also reported live and dry from a becalmed Midlothian.

There was other news, too.

Fox4's dogged Becky Oliver, who's having her strongest sweeps month in recent memory, weighed in with her third lengthy investigation. This time she looked at an oft-costly, taxpayer-funded "No Child Left Behind" tutoring program, in which private companies charge between $75 and $92 an hour for questionable services.

In return, middle and high school students get workbooks, computers and in some cases some very elementary lessons. Such as learning the definitions of "nice" and "chair."

"What infuriates the state's teachers' union is that it's a time when teaching jobs and salaries are being cut while the feds to continue to pour billions into tutoring," Oliver told viewers.

Tutors With Computers defended its service, which includes incentives such as iphones, in a series of statements. Oliver said at the end of her report that she had sought an on-camera interview for the past 10 days, and finally was promised one for next Thursday.

Officials at DFW Airport likewise wouldn't talk to WFAA8 reporter Brett Shipp for his third sweeps report on allegedly outdated locks that could make it easy for a would-be terrorist to gain access to a plane. Airport spokesman David Magana did talk to him previously, with Shipp then telling viewers that some changes were made as a result of his investigation.

His go-to source is an anonymous "top security official" whose voice is being disguised. In Shipp's two previous reports he sounded like Alvin the Chipmunk. For Thursday's installment, he was affixed with a deep baritone.

The airport's printed rebuttal, which Shipp read, said that "DFW employs multiple layers of security and collaborates with multiple federal agencies in protecting the airport. Any discussion of the particulars . . . only serves to degrade public safety."

That last sentence makes for a pretty strong argument. Generally I'd take Shipp over any other local TV investigator. But all three of Oliver's stories this month have been stronger than Shipp's by now rather redundant efforts to portray DFW Airport as lamentably lax on security.

CBS11 also had a featured investigation, with reporter Jack Fink looking at a supposed increase in cell phone spying. His principal expert was Los Angeles-based computer forensics expert Eric Robi, although there was no visual evidence that Fink actually made a trip to interview him.

A similar story on cell phone spying, with Robi again a featured player, popped up a year ago during the May 2009 sweeps on Fox11 in Los Angeles. Much more recently, CBS-owned WFOR-TV in Miami had a cell phone spying story during the first week of the ongoing May sweeps. But WFOR didn't include Robi in its lengthy story. Coincidentally or not, new CBS11 news director Adrienne Roark joined the station in March from WFOR-TV.

Fink did localize his story, interviewing an anonymous spying victim named Jamie and a UT Dallas professor who teaches a cyber security class. But unlike the efforts by Oliver and Shipp, this was a topic that already has made the rounds.

Later in the newscast, sports anchor Babe Laufenberg dished out another tasty tidbit from his face-to-face interview with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who seldom does sit-downs.

"I want to run naked with the (NBA championship) trophy and give Commissioner (David) Stern a smack on the lips," Cuban said.

Laufenberg wondered just how he meant that.

"I'll let you decide if it's tongue or knuckles," Cuban said, laughing. The full interview will air on Laufenberg's The Score program Sunday night.

NBC5 sports anchor Newy Scruggs also dropped Cuban's name, wondering aloud if he might be fined for a CNN website interview in which he talked about the possibility of LeBron James coming to Dallas. The NBA might consider that a violation of its "tampering" policy, Scruggs said.

Cuban said much the same thing to Laufenberg in a Wednesday night morsel from their interview. But Scruggs isn't about to mention a rival station by name. They're all like that, as WFAA8 anchor Dale Hansen more or less joked after Pete Delkus' Thursday night weather segment.

The funnel clouds shown in viewer videos and still shots "look like the V ship from The Visitors," Hansen said. "That is an ABC show, isn't it? We don't ever talk about it unless it's on ABC."

Yes, it's an ABC show.

WFAA8 also offered the sweeps' first miracle diet story, with Debbie Denmon reporting on the Sadkhin treatment after co-anchor John McCaa teased, "Can these tiny balls help with your bulge?"

Hmm. Anyway, the tiny balls are silver. And they're taped to the skin at various "hunger points" to supposedly curb appetites.

Denmon talked to a highly enthusiastic hairstylist who'd dropped 50 or so pounds. But maybe this has more to do with the eating regimen than with where those balls wind up. The companion diet is fruit, vegetables and lots of milk. Nothing else.

"Yeah, whatever works," McCaa said at story's end. "I guess, you know, that's a good thing."

Not really. But let's just leave it at that.

Four nights to go.