Will May Ever End?

When Channel 2 broke the sweeps-month story recently that Houston drivers sometimes exceed the speed limit, we thought, "Well, at least they're not covering the strip clubs again."

We spoke too soon.

In the 1,435th installment of the story that is to sweeps month what It's a Wonderful Life is to Christmas, KPRC somehow summoned up the courage to yet again show viewers what it called "The Naked Truth About Strip Clubs." We'd like to say that, in the station's defense, the piece was a sober talking-heads discussion of libertarianism versus community morality, with no jiggling butts or pole-grinding gratuity. And that Dominique Sachse then introduced an instant Web poll on whether viewers thought the current surge of the left-wing candidate in Brazil's upcoming presidential election was a mere temporary blip.

But, sadly, the KPRC piece was right off the strip-club template. We look forward to seeing it again when another sweeps month hits.

That fanatical coverage of titty bars does not mean, by the way, that KPRC has lost all sense of what's news. On May 16, KHOU's 10 p.m. news led off with the resignations of key executives at Reliant ("Enron? What's Enron?") Resources. KTRK led with the aftermath of a chemical leak at Galena Park.

And Channel 2 led with what it, as always, introduced as "The Big Story" -- accompanied by an in-your-face graphic screaming that we were about to be told "The Big Story" of the night.

The Big Story that night? A mom was upset about a billboard.

No, the billboard didn't feature a shot taken from a news station's investigation into "The Naked Truth About Strip Clubs." Instead the billboard was for KLOL-FM's no-doubt-zany morning team -- we're sure they're probably called a "crew" -- and it said, "Hey all you virgins -- thanks for nothing."

This so upset a local woman that she consented to interviews with Channels 2 and 13 (at least).

Channel 13, however, didn't lead with the damn thing. Then again, it was busy introducing a four-part series on the new Houston Texans cheerleaders.

As you might have been told a thousand times if you watch it, Channel 13 is "Your Official Texans Station," even though the team's regular-season games will be shown elsewhere. The station's Web site even offers "an exclusive interview with David Carr," which is about as much of an exclusive interview as a chat with Alan Dershowitz.

KTRK's intrepid Cynthia Hunt investigated the cheerleaders, an effort that somehow involved lots of gyrating derrieres and mammaries. Texans owner Bob McNair insisted on "a first-class operation," we were told, so the gals were checked for criminal records and whether they had ever applied for a sexually oriented-business dance license (one wide-eyed naïf took time out from shaking her barely covered self to tell Hunt that she had never even heard of an SOB license before the team asked her about it).

The initial report only scratched the surface, apparently. Hunt ended it by plugging the three future installments.

Watch Over Me

If KPRC really wanted to do a billboard story, they could have checked out the Fox studios on the Southwest Freeway. Usually the billboard there advertises that station, but they decided not to renew it. Channel 39, the rival who has helped itself to lots of Fox staffers since it started up two years ago, quickly jumped in.

Now everyone at Fox can pull into the employee parking lot under the watchful eye of WB anchors Alan Hemberger and Sherry Williams, a Fox alumna.

Talk Back Live

Archconservative radio talk-show host Dan Patrick is mad.

Well, that's not that unusual -- the born-again head of KSEV-AM is always barking about something, usually godless liberals. But he's currently mad, he says, because he's being dissed by Bill Maher, the soon-to-be-ex host of ABC's Politically Incorrect.

Maher's show was not renewed, although ABC isn't saying the ax fell because of controversy over Maher's well-known post-9/11 comments criticizing the American government.

Patrick was among the first to call for boycotts of PI's sponsors, and in interviews ever since, Maher has been blaming his troubles on "a disc jockey in Texas."

"I'm getting pretty tired of Bill Maher pointing fingers at me without naming me or allowing me to respond, either by coming on my show or letting me on Politically Incorrect," says Patrick, who somehow envisions a world where Maher would provide him a national platform.

In his inimitable style, Patrick says Maher was fired for low ratings and "because ABC finally realized he was an angry host who hates families, hates Christians and hates America."

Still, Patrick says he takes no credit for ending the show. "If I have enough power to have him fired," Patrick says, "I should get a raise."

Insert Headline Here

Writing catchy headlines is one of the more underrated journalistic skills. It's tough trying to be clever and informative in very few words.

Still, you should make an effort.

With the imminent arrival of Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones occupying press attention (and pilotless drones in the Afghanistan war, and cloning in labs), The New York Times devoted a column in its May 12 Week in Review section to the "endless paraphrasing" of the Stephen Sondheim song "Send In the Clowns" in media headlines.

"Is imitation the sincerest form of hackery?" the reporter asked Sondheim, who said it was actually flattering.

The Times then offered a mere sampling of recent headlines: "Lucas Sends In the Clones," from the Sydney, Australia, Sunday Telegraph, "Send In the Clones!" from the Edmonton Sun, "Hollywood Sends In the Clones" from Time (and, yes, "Send In the Clones" from its own paper).

Fair warning, we thought. By the time our very own Houston Chronicle got around to publishing its Star Wars review four days later, its headline writers will have had plenty of time to rack their brains.

Apparently they don't read the Times, though. There it was that Thursday, in huge type: "Send In the 'Clones.' "

Don't bother, they're here.

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