Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Dream Job Week 4 Update

OK...so I got a comment from a reader who didn't think I wrote enough about this week's Dream Job episode. The sad thing is, he's right.

So if there is one thing that I strive to accompish with this blog, it is to be responsive to the few readers and commenters that I have.

Let me preface this week's review by saying that it was tough to pay as close attention as I would have liked as I was a) at the in-laws b) watching it on a 13-inch TV from across the kitchen and 4) trying to play spades at the same time.

Nevertheless, I feel I am up to the challenge.

Before I dive into the recap though, let me say at the outset that based on earlier performances, I was convinced that Maggie Haskins and Chet Anekwe would be the casualties of this week's show. Neither one of them had impressed me so far and doubted they could outshine the other six that were left.

Now, on to the show.

This week's competition once again featured teams, but really it was for the sole purpose of being able to get through two contestants' stories at once. There was really not that much interaction between the individuals on set.

The focus of this week's episode was to test the contestants' reporting, interviewing and editing skills. Everyone was sent on location earlier in the week to spring training at various Florida locations. Kelly Milligan and Zach Selwyn were paired up and covered the Florida Marlins camp. Chet Anekwe and Casey Stern (I keep wanting to say Casey McCall like the SportsNight character) were sent to the Cardinals camp. Aaron Levine and Nick Stevens covered the Houston Astros Grapefruit League activity. And Mike Hall and Maggie Haskins were reporting from the spring training home of the Cleveland Indians.

As you could tell from the opening footage and sound bites from the contestants before they did their stories, these guys were almost as popular as the players were when they made their spring training appearances. Several of them were asked to sign autographs themselves, which had to be more than just a little surreal for them.

Apparently, though, it wasn't too surreal for Zach as he made himself a focus of his story. I couldn't hear his whole piece, but as I was watching it, I knew he was going to get ripped, at least by Al Jaffe, for trying to make himself the story instead of reporting the story. He was far too prominent in the video (B-roll as it's called) when, in my opinion, the only time a reporter should be on camera is if it's showing him asking a question, reacting to an interviewee's response or doing a stand-up in the middle of the piece.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still very impressed with Zach's writing style and delivery. It's just that I think he's really hurting himself in the eyes of the judges and still hasn't convinced them or me that this really is his "dream job."

Kelly, along with Zach, opened up the show, which makes it the third time (out of three) that Kelly has lead off. I'm not sure if that has any significance, except it allows people more time to respond to his performance (and possibly vote negatively) than they have to respond to the group going last.

Anyway, Kelly's piece was strong and well-reported. He got some criticism for appearing too tense during his stand-up in the middle of the piece, but overall I think he came across as far more relaxed this week than he did last week. He still doesn't look as comfortable and relaxed as he did during the casting special that aired on Monday night. But then...the pressure's a lot greater now than it was back then too. It's easy for me to say how these guys need to relax more on camera.

Bottom line: After Kelly and Zach had their turn, I was confident that both of them would make it through to the round of six.

Next up were Nick Stevens and Aaron Levine. Now, I've thought that these were going to be two of Kelly's toughest competitors since Day One (along with Casey and Zach). For some reason, though, the judges have not been kind to Nick. I, personally, like his style, but Kornheiser thinks he's smug and has made a big deal about said "smug factor." If that's the case, then this week he was the Anti-Nick. He seemed so self-conscious about appearing smug in his story that he was almost excruciatingly bland. He came across a little flat, which is something I never thought I'd see coming from Nick.

Aaron's another tough competitor for Kelly. He's VERY smooth in front of the camera. He's even got the subtle, understated hand gestures down pat as he's talking about a story. The only possible negative I see from him is his babyface and how young he is. I know that shouldn't matter, but he looks like he could still be in high school at times.

The third duo was Mike Hall from Mizzou (who just lost to Michigan in the NIT by the way...sorry had to get that in there) and Maggie Haskins. I thought this gave Mike a potential advantage in the evening's competition as he really had a chance to shine in comparison to Maggie who I thought was almost as bad as Chet. Unfortunately, he just didn't do anything to impress me or the judges this week. He wasn't terrible, but he just didn't get me to care about the story.

Maggie? What can I say about Maggie? Well...she bugs my wife because she doesn't think Maggie has an upper lip. For me? She is just too damned fidgety! To quote Dan Shanoff (link to come later), she's "The Bobblehead Anchor." I can't come up with anything better, so let's leave it at that. She just doesn't appear confident, and as a result, credible, on camera, whether it be at the anchor desk or in the field reporting.

This brings us to Chet Anekwe and Casey Stern. I'm going to save Chet for last because, hey, it'll just be more fun.

Casey is another guy who I think is incredibly smooth and sharp with his writing and delivery. Or at least he had been up to this point. This week he didn't seem to bring his A-game to the reporting part of the competition. The judges were pretty brutal on him considering he's been one of the stars of the show to this point. He's also very young and definitely was rattled by the criticism he received. (Again, I'm sure I'd have been rattled too, but these anchors have to be poised and handle whatever comes at them.)

(Gee...can you tell I've been blasted for being a critic without having the guts to go try this myself?)

And then there was Chet. I've been waiting all week for him to blow up. How Tony Kornheiser can sit there and say that Nick has an annoying "smug factor" but not say a word about Chet's smugness still continues to amaze me. Since I first saw him, I liked his first reference of "The right way...the Anekwe." But it's been all downhill from there. He just seems so cocky and has always been tough for me to understand.

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), I was very pleased to see him do a poor to mediocre job at best with his story.

Based on what I'd seen in those pieces, I was confident that my pre-show prediction of Maggie and Chet getting the boot was going to be right on.

As a side note, they did break up the reporting pieces with another group of one-on-one discussions about the just-released NCAA Tournament. As usual, Nick and Maggie both rambled and had "time" called on them. (Man, that's just gotta hurt.) Kelly's lawyerly side helped him out here again as he was compelling and to the point. Casey and Aaron did fine here as did Zach. Chet and Mike however were less than brilliant. (And I'm being kind to Chet on this one.)

This, of course, brings us to the (flawed) voting portion of the show.

First, they revealed America's vote, and my earlier suspicions were confirmed as Chet and Maggie were voted out. Next up, Tony Kornheiser, same result. (Man, I'm brilliant!)

Batting third, Kit Hoover. (How they chose the judges for this show is going to be the subject of an ENTIRELY different post.) Kit also cut Chet, but threw in the surprise vote against Nick.

Then, there's LaVar Arrington (that my wife (who I love dearly) called Levar Burton (blind guy from Star Trek and non-blind guy from Reading Rainbow)). He and Kit will be the primary focus of the previously mentioned future post on the judges. Now, I can understand why someone could vote for Nick this week or possibly Casey. Hell, after TK voted for Kelly last week, anything is possible. But how someone could even possibly vote for BOTH of them and NOT vote for Chet??? You've got to be kidding me!!!

Al rounded out the group by cutting Chet and Nick. I know the judges didn't like Nick, but I'm still not comprehending why they think Maggie is better than him.

So the final tally had Nick and Chet getting cut. (Is it in bad taste for me to say "Yay!" about Chet again?)

Now, I don't want to get all four of my female readers mad at me, but I can't think of any other logical explanation for keeping her on other than the fact that she's the only woman left. (Before you get mad at me, promise me you'll watch either a re-run of this week's show or just watch next week's episode...you'll see what I mean.)

Well...that's all I've got and I promise to pay more attention to next week's show where they'll cut to the final four. (I wonder how many search engine hits that'll get me this week.) What they'll do in the final week to get it down to the winner, I have no idea.

If you want to read a review by someone who paid more attention and is paid to do so, you can head over and check out ESPN.com's Dan Shanoff's review for this week.