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Glass menagerie: Anchors at a loss in Daybreak's new Victory Park digs

Looking fetchingly lonely in the pitch dark of another early Dallas morn, Belo8's shimmering new Victory Park studios entered Week 4 Monday.

Its resident glimmer twins, Justin Farmer and Jackie Hyland, seemed happily under glass, bantering with almost shocking ineptitude on a remixed Daybreak that actually looks as though it's going to be a ratings gamer during the fast-approaching February "sweeps."

Watching the full two hours, from 5 to 7 a.m., can leave one bothered and bewildered, but certainly not bewitched.

Holdover weatherman Greg Fields clearly has been ordered to serve himself sunny side up. He used to be acceptably agreeable, but now he's almost Tickle Me Elmo. Incumbent traffic stopper Alexa Conomos likewise is in heavy makeover mode, a Belo babe in the grand tradition of -- well, that didn't use to matter.

Both are capable, though, and neither is the problem. It's the relative newcomers, Farmer and Hyland, who make one wonder whether the show's new transparent surroundings are accentuating their glaring transparencies. Or maybe it's just a consultant telling them to dumb it down a bit 'cause that's what works in the age of YouTube and Kevin Federline Super Bowl commercials.

OK, it was just one day, although it seemed all too indicative of the two anchors' everyday approach. Early on came a story about brave Perky the female duck, who battled back from gunshot wounds and being pronounced dead.

"He's a cute little guy, too," opined Hyland, who at least might have been expected to get the gender right, but didn't. "Really cute little ducky."

She and Farmer were only warming up. Hyland dutifully touted all the Screen Actors Guild awards her home network, ABC, had won Sunday night, including an acting trophy for Chandra Wilson of Grey's Anatomy. She had the line of the night during her acceptance speech, telling the nation, "It's about those 10 cast members sittin' over there, and the one in rehab."

She referred to Grey's regular Isaiah Washington's "recent homophobic outburst," Hyland said a little too cheerily. Then Farmer plowed in with a very odd query that made him appear to be either brain-dead -- or brain-dead.

"So they keep mentioning this guy," he told Hyland. "Do you think that they're just trying to make fun of this show, that it's really not that big of a deal? Or are they sort of just putting him out there alone?"

Say what? Hyland, not the sharpest tack at her very best, responded with a studied, "I'm not sure."

"How do you read that?" Farmer pressed.

"I don't know. I really can't, I can't get a good grasp on that one."

Farmer tried to get a grip. "As long as people keep watching it, right?"

Hyland knew how to answer that one, all right. "Exactly," she said. "It's a great show, that's for sure."

The Daybreak show itself was very light on staff-generated reporting Monday. Cynthia Vega, the only correspondent out and about, reported live three times from the construction-hampered Wycliff toll plaza, where motorists will be allowed to drive through without a toll tag and be billed later.

Synergy also was in full swing, with six different references to Sunday's "exclusive" report on DISD credit card misuses in the Belo-owned Dallas Morning News. Shill better here.

A story on mandatory downtown parking lot beautification ended with Farmer twitting Hyland for being "excited" when she first heard about the project.

"Why not?" she lamely riffed back. "Ya know, it's nice to hang out in the parking lot. Are you . . .?"

While Hyland threw up her hands, Farmer ad libbed another wiffle ball. "No, I'm serious," he said. "You can't have a concrete town, can you, Leslie?"

Um, it's Alexa.

Former Daybreak co-anchor Debbie Denmon, bounced in favor of Hyland, then had a little smidgen of a story on longtime KKDA (104.5 FM) morning drive personality Nanette Lee, who "has been silenced about her departure -- until now," Farmer intoned.

Lee hardly spilled the beans, telling Denmon that KKDA had decided to go "in a different direction." Viewers then were told to get the rest of the story on Belo8's website.

(We pause briefly to note that Belo8 admonishing a station for not letting someone say goodbye is the height of hypocrisy at a corporation that squelched former DMN book critic Jerome Weeks' very civil, non-accusatory farewell column on grounds that were never explained. Many of us didn't bother trying, knowing that management wouldn't tolerate anything within shouting distance of the real truth.)

OK, back to the center ring attraction, where things really got screwy during Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts' live promotional segment on Monday's stories. At the end of it, Farmer volunteered, "I had a dream recently. Jackie and I were in separate beds, of course. But we had our own beds in the newsroom. And our boss was saying, 'You guys can't be that comfortable. Get out of bed!' "

Roberts literally didn't know what to say, stammering for a good five seconds before Farmer added, "Don't turn it into something it's not."

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no," Roberts managed. "But you need the nap. Or something."

Maybe a sedative.

We'll put this column to bed with Farmer's viewer advisory near show's end, when he touted free samples of "the Colonel's crispy 'streeps.' "

"Mmm, sounds good," Hyland chirped on cue before Farmer peeped, "Chicken strips, all right?"

Daybreak otherwise is served scrambled.