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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Wed., Nov. 15)

NBC5's Newy Scruggs, Belo8's Brad Hawkins and CBS11's Jack Fink: The guy on the left needs to get in the game. The other two stood out Wednesday night by going the extra miles on toll road increases.

Ten down, 10 to go. We're at the halfway point of the November "sweeps," with these two watery eyes still trained on the four 10 p.m. news combatants. Your comments are always welcome at the end of these tomes. Let me know what you're seeing and feeling, too. Are the featured newscasts in the No. 6 TV market making your grade? Or are they too often insulting your intelligence?

From this view, I'd like to see more of NBC5 sports anchor Newy Scruggs. His nightly segments are chopped in two by a big load of commercials, making Scruggs the equivalent of a running back who can't get any momentum going because he's not getting enough carries. The second part of his sportscast ran for just 30 seconds Wednesday night before Scruggs said, "That's sports, and we'll be right back with more news." That's pretty much the way it is every night. Really, why even bother?

Here's a guy with an ebullient personality and surely some strong opinions, too. But NBC5 is pretty much wasting those attributes. Where's the sense of play? What did Scruggs think of the recent Bob Knight incident? How does he feel about the Cowboys' ups and downs? Dunno. Or at least he's not telling us on NBC5's most-watched newscast of the day.

Scruggs anchors his segments apart from the rest of NBC5's anchor team before barely joining Mike Snyder, Jane McGarry and David Finfrock for the last five seconds or so of the show. He can't be entirely blamed for wanting to keep his distance from Snyder and whatever drivel he has to impart. But Scruggs seems too divorced from the proceedings. He needs to play more to his obvious strengths, and NBC5 needs to let him do his sportscast in one piece. In short, free Newy.

OK, moving right along to a story that got heavy play on all four stations -- upcoming rate hikes on two North Texas toll roads. CBS11's Jack Fink had the most interesting enterprise effort. He tracked down the area's biggest tollway deadbeat, Blair Williams. The guy has rolled up 2,441 violations that add up to a total of $62,000 in back fees when a $25 administrative charge is added to each offense.

Fink talked to both Williams and his attorney, who conceded his client is at least partly at fault. North Texas Tollway Authority spokeswoman Donna Huerta sealed the deal by telling Fink, "We don't want to harass anyone. We want people to know we're serious, though."

Belo8's Brad Hawkins tried a different tack to see if taking the tollway is necessarily faster than going to the same destination for free. He and a producer journeyed separately from Belo8's downtown Dallas offices to a parking lot in Collin County. In this instance, it took Hawkins 54 minutes to make the trip on pay roads while his producer paid nothing to get there three minutes faster. Hawkins noted that it was only a snapshot, and that times could vary. Still, it wasn't a bad way to make a point.

Fox4's Jeff Crilley and NBC5's Kristi Nelson covered the same story, but without any extra effort. NBC5's 10 p.m. format doesn't give its reporters much room to grow, though. The highest story count in D-FW demands a get-in, get-out approach from nightbeat correspondents in the field.

Whatever the story, NBC5 regularly implores viewers to either stay tuned or pay dearly. Anchor McGarry took even this standard tack to extremes by trumpeting "The miracle pill every woman wants to know about. Call your family and friends. Nobody should miss this one."

Your family and friends would have been pissed if you did. The "miracle pill" turned out to be a contraceptive laced with a new ingredient that might calm some of those nasty PMS mood swings. One woman said it's been "a lot easier to roll with the punches" since taking it.

"Especially when you're not rolled up in pain," reporter Carol Wang added -- painfully.

NBC5 was the only station to ignore what for many had to be the night's biggest development. Former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith's victory on ABC's Dancing With the Stars was witnessed by huge TV audiences nationally and locally. Even if it's not on your network it's a story, as both CBS11 and Fox4 understood. Not so NBC5, which did give viewers the scoop on a man arrested for alleged "overt sexual behavior" on a passenger flight and the latest dangers associated with sugary drinks.

Belo8, an ABC affiliate, of course made plenty of room for Emmitt's victory over Mario Lopez. Disheveled "Why Guy" Mike Castelluci reported live from Los Angeles for the third straight night. His wardrobe kept devolving, with Castelluci this time sporting a sub-nondescript western cut shirt that made him look like an outhouse on Rodeo Drive.

"And what have we learned here?" he asked anchor Gloria Campos. "We've learned that tough guys can dance. It's manly to do the mambo. Emmitt did it. Another MVP season."

Castelluci also learned that Emmitt lost 15 pounds during the 10-week competition. So clearly it was worth the trip.