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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., May 1)

Maybe all resistance is futile.

NBC5 put on its usual newscast for dummies Tuesday night at 10, except that this time you had to be really stupid to play along. Pound-for-pound it was one of the more ridiculous TV broadcasts of the year. Yet the Peacock won the ratings battle across the board, finishing first in total homes and with advertiser-favored viewers aged 25-to-54 and 18-to-49.

So are lots of people watching just to goof on NBC5's nightly displays of yeller journalism? Or are there really that many Ma and Pa Braindeads in the latenight audience pool?

Then again, what do TV critics know? They're the bane of the consulting firms that coach and poach on local newscasts, telling them what to do and how to do it, but never when to stop. Journalism? Whazzat? With Tracy Rowlett out of the way, the longest-lasting Walter Cronkite of our burg is NBC5 anchor Mike Snyder. But instead of "That's the way it is," his tagline is "Go there, woncha?" That's Snyder's nightly plug for his station's web site.

You'll notice we have a fish pictured above. It's because Snyder and co-anchor Jane McGarry had a near-obsession with seafood Tuesday night.

He first teased a "very fishy situation" in Grapevine, where a man and a woman tried to rob a grocery store. He "stuffed fish down his pants," said Snyder, while his accomplice stuck shrimp in her purse. They were apprehended with $60 worth of seafood in what was deemed D-FW's fifth most important story Tuesday.

NBC5 happily pictured the two goobers, who looked a lot like the station's basic viewer profile. "Lookee here, Selma Sue, there's us right there on the teevee. Quick, call Uncle Festus and cousin Pinhead."

McGarry later sounded the nightly siren call for NBC5's health and beauty segment. But this time was special. Verbatim, here's her pre-commercial pitch:

"OK, zap the fat in one treatment. See the cellulite cure that will fix your flab just in time for swimsuit season. Also, a serious health alert tonight for women. A deadly disease that doctors have trouble detecting. Not even regular tests pick it up. Call your mother, your sister, your best friend. Every woman needs to see this story. It airs in one minute."

Not that it matters, but the "zap the fat" infomercial from Brian Curtis dealt with a new "smart lipo" treatment that costs $3,000 "per area."

"This is going to be the gold standard," said the doctor who performs it. Translation: You've got to be filthy rich to put money in his pocket.

Yawn, the story that every woman had to see was Meredith Land's mini-piece on a woman whose arm numbness initially was diagnosed as a pinched nerve. Instead she had a serious heart ailment, but doctors supposedly often miss this diagnosis with women, Land said. Sorry, just not buying it based on one example. Also, consider the source -- NBC5.

OK, back to the fish motif.

Night ranger Scott Gordon tried to unravel "a fishy mystery in Denton tonight," as Snyder put it. Or as Gordon chimed in, "a whopper."

Amazingly, a man found six dead fish on his lawn while mowing it. But he doesn't live near a body of water, so could last week's heavy winds somehow have blown them onto his lawn?

"He admits he just doesn't know, and may never know," Gordon concluded. Damn, the mystery of the Loch Ness monster and now this, too. Back to you, Jane.

"That's an odd one, Scott," she said. "Or as Mike would say, 'Sounds fishy'."

Snyder wasn't about to let McGarry steal his act. Nor was sports anchor Newy Scruggs. Following his nightly mini-cast, Scruggs said of the Dallas Mavericks' ongoing playoff game: "It's win or go home and go fishing."

"I can just hear the reels spinning," said the wizened Snyder.

The table was set for all of this by Mistress of the Dark Susan Risdon's opening report on a "disgusting shock" for a woman shopping at a Dallas Wal-Mart. While still in the parking lot, she was visually harassed by a "half-naked" man who had pulled his pants down.

He supposedly remained in that state when police arrested him. "Just relieving anxiety," the man supposedly said. Yes, this was NBC5's lead story Tuesday night.

We pause now for just a brief note on the market's latter day NBC5 wannabe, CBS11. On Monday night, the station led its newscast with reporter J.D. Miles' report on a "missing toxic truck" with a van full of hazardous sodium hydroxide. Viewers weren't discouraged from being gripped by fear.

Well, the van was recovered by police Tuesday, which Belo8 duly reported after also playing the "toxic truck" story prominently on Monday's late night newscast. But CBS11's 10 p.m. news came and went without any followup at all. Miles instead reported live from an auto pound, where thieves were breaking into cars.

To illustrate, he opened and closed a car door. CBS11 reporters are newly trained to do something "visual" and pro-active during their live shots. This is supposed to communicate a real "involvement" in the story. It's a shame to see some topflight reporters turned into marionettes.

Good work by Belo8's Dan Ronan and Fox4's Becky Oliver

Some solid reporting also crept in Tuesday night, even if most newscast consultants say that's yesterday's news.

Belo8's sturdy Dan Ronan reported on alleged discrimination at the Plano Day Labor Center, whose director is under fire for supposedly giving the most and best daily jobs to Hispanics while blacks and whites are left wanting.

Ronan had videotape of the director, Lourdes Ignacio, saying, "Most Orientals don't like blacks. They don't like blacks because they're afraid of them."

Representatives of the center say they're only reacting to the marketplace, and that many contractors prefer Hispanic labor. But the Plano city manager has promised to investigate further, as they all do, of course. This story begs for an eventual followup.

Belo8's Craig Civale had a touching followup report on a man whose brother was shot and killed in March by a tailgater. The pain is still very real, and the assailant remains at large.

On Fox4, spicily seasoned Becky Oliver, who's been the station's featured gumshoe since 1991, had a lengthy expose on abuses in state-run mental health facilities.

It seems that conditions never really change for the better at many of these places, but that doesn't lessen the need for dogged reporting and records-digging. Oliver is one of D-FW's best at this, even though her voice now seems to be gripped in a permanent rasp.

Fox4's Jason Overstreet had another informative report, this time on the pros and cons of a push to require seatbelts on all school bus seats. And trusty Jeff Crilley gave viewers the best historical perspective on Tuesday's immigrant reform march in Oak Cliff.

These kinds of reports seem to be falling out of favor, though. Well-prepared "packages" requiring time and legwork are fighting for air. And detailed spot reporting of substantive news events increasingly is being supplanted by brief anchor narratives garnished with a sprig of video.

Viewers indeed will be poorer for this, but many may not care any more or know any better. For too many stations -- including NBC5 and now CBS11 -- happiness is a warm police scanner. And a decrepit-looking thief stuffing fish down his pants is simply irresistible..