My column in this week’s TIME looks at The Onion’s effort to translate its Web, print and online-video empire to TV with Onion News Network on IFC channel (as well as Onion SportsDome on Comedy Central):
The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are both personality-driven; Stewart is our exasperated guide through the excesses of hype and politics, while Colbert performs as a recognizably comic fake pundit. Both shows rely on a personal connection that is as assuring as it is acerbic: the world may be crazy, they say, but at least someone else sees it too.
ONN is darker and more deadpan, an immersive satire that, much like the Onion’s Web and print editions, skewers the medium’s form above all. It’s like a technically impeccable music-parody band: there’s almost no distinguishing it from the original until you listen to the lyrics…
The problem with both the news and sports versions is that the strength of The Onion is in its headlines; stretched out to full reports, the spoof stories usually lead to diminishing returns. But at minimum, ONN (which debuts tonight) is worth seeing as proof of how fine the line between comedy and cable news is.