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! ♦