- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

NEW YORK | For nearly a quarter-century, the Onion has skewered the media with its satirical newspaper and then, starting in 1996, its website and, as of four years ago, the Onion News Network’s online videos.

Now it’s poised to make a two-fisted assault from within the most fitting of targets: television.

On Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. EST on Comedy Central, “Onion SportsDome” will begin its weekly swipe at TV sports coverage and commentary. Then, on Jan. 21 at 10 p.m. EST on the IFC, “Onion News Network” launches its spitting-image TV version of cable-news excesses.

Two Onion series on two networks debuting the same month.

“We’d like to say that it was part of an effort toward global domination by the Onion,” says executive producer Julie Smith. “But it was just coincidence.”

Even so, warns executive producer Will Graham, “Our Onion fake-media empire is slowly taking over real media. Eventually, we’ll have 36 shows on different networks.”

As fans of Onion videos know, this self-proclaimed “America’s Finest News Source” has a pitch-perfect knack for replicating real-life TV “journalism” with only a dash of telltale mockery.

As the Peabody Awards declared in honoring the Onion News Network website in 2009, its ersatz news “has a worrisome ring of truth” presented “so deftly that viewers may find themselves doing a double take.”

Both “SportsDome” and the TV “Onion News Network” have a nose for identifying media shortcomings that most of us dismiss as the natural odor. They fire a witty but cringe-inducing jolt of recognition. They tread fearlessly close to what passes for truth, exposing how little is there.

“SportsDome” is a wicked homage to ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” complete with blaring theme music, explosive graphics and a pair of glib, good-looking showboaters named Mark Shepard and Alex Reiser co-hosting. As on the videos, the names of the actors who play the Onion’s on-camera personalities are never disclosed, thus helping preserve the guise of a parallel reality.

Cut to IFC’s “Onion News Network.” Its flagship show is “FactZone,” anchored by Brooke Alvarez, a leggy blonde complete with miniskirt, spike heels and runway-model stance.

Among her “news without mercy” is a report that after high-level negotiations, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has agreed to suspend his country’s nuclear program in exchange for the lead role in the next “Batman” movie.

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