Telecastation — The Evening News


Snappy dialogue is no stand-in for substance, a fact that remains elusive to the so-called masterminds behind The Evening News, airing nightly at 5:30pm on ABC. It doesn't take a crippling fear of the outdoors to see that things don't add up in the hyper-stylized world of interacting people that the show's writers present. But for this shut-in viewer, it certainly doesn't hurt.

Set in small-town Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the Channel 7 nightly news is a lumpy sofa with one arm torn off: hard to sit through and with no end in sight. Range Dockweiler plays the strong male lead, opposite Rosslyn Compacho, a fiery brunette of unknown heritage who favors drab pantsuits and large gold necklaces. Together, they are the Action News team, set with the ostensible task of bringing global dramatics into the rickety, trash-filled home of this and every other nightly viewer.

Dockweiler provides an air of strength to the screen, frequently shooting off smiles and coy nods to the disheveled audience. He is, however, an imperfect leading man. The crisp attempts at witty desk banter come off as banal, self-assured nonsense, only occasionally punctuated by the nasally, hollow laugh of Compacho. Having shied away from human interaction for nearly six years, it's still hard to imagine that this drivel is what passes for conversation in the world beyond the cluttered living room.

For her part, Compacho relies too heavily on make-up and not enough on emotional dialogue, often drowning out the dirty viewer and his cats with a barrage of facts when a few moments of innuendo would more than suffice. If this viewer wanted nothing but facts, maybe they'd open the front door once in a while. No thanks!

As this season drags on, the unanswered question seems to be: will they or won't they? Dockweiler's arresting good looks make him an obvious candidate for Compacho's bedroom eyes, but every time things begin to turn towards what the viewer must assume human contact to be like, a cutaway or screen graphic breaks the affair to pieces. And if you're waiting for these moments to add up to something substantially more, you're likely to be sorely disappointed. After 270 consecutive episodes of the evening news, the most arousing moment for this viewer came during a PSA for a cat shelter. Meow, indeed.

Beyond the brokedown romance, what's left is a series of ever-changing cutaways to field reporters in terrifyingly open spaces, and video pieces that highlight the sort of moving traffic / shopping experiences / public discussions that no audience in their right mind could connect with. Precious few are the moments back at the news desk, safe in an office chair and with all the world's newsy moments at a comfortable distance. Only the opening visuals — a sweeping mélange of gold and navy-blue shapes that haphazardly shoot towards the frightened and largely immobile viewer, before magically forming the number 7 inside of a circle — seem to be a hit with the feral cat crowd, whose screen-pawing and occasional urinations show off their satisfacation. This is just about the only highlight to the evening's viewing experience.

It's a shame that Channel 7 and the figureheads surrounding The Evening News can't seem to put together a relevant television program, instead relying on outlandish tales of war, crime and other social detritus that is enough to scare common citizens into a world of outright fear at what's beyond the front door. What's more, there are pitiful few moments of realism that would allow the viewer to connect with the show. Where is the struggle to find a clean spoon with which to eat cold oatmeal? Or the joys of discovering an old box of Christmas ornaments in the damp basement? Any mention of the thrill of discovering a throw blanket that perfectly covers the living room window? Sadly, there are none.

Until major overhauls are given to this long-running series, it's as impossible as unlocking the front door to give The Evening News a passing grade. From concept to execution, the Action News team needs an overhaul. Until then, this viewer might just channel surf a bit. Now, to find the remote under all of these mannequin parts! ♦