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'Showbiz Show' needs a fresher edge

Talk about your easy targets. Hollywood is the national bull's-eye for comics, as it makes a daily spectacle of its brazenly superficial, morally bankrupt, rabidly promotional, and garishly bedazzled self. With Mary Hart and Bob Goen of ''Entertainment Tonight" as its robotic ambassadors and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as its Plastic First Couple du jour, American entertainment almost pleads to be mocked with no mercy. After all, any attention is good attention, right?

Of course, David Spade isn't the first to pounce, although his ''Hollywood Minute" segments from ''Saturday Night Live" in the early 1990s were notable for their ruthlessness. But his new Comedy Central series, ''The Showbiz Show With David Spade," is oddly old hat in a climate where everyone from Jay Leno to SNL's ''Weekend Update" to Kathy Griffin is forever poking holes in the star-maker machinery. The Spade show, on Comedy Central every Thursday at 10:30, isn't bad, but it's the sort of humor that has become so institutionalized it feels safe.

''The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" charges in every night with daring, since it goes further into the realm of irony and honesty than most news commentary shows. But ''The Showbiz Show" is just another example of stuffing People magazine through the meat grinder, as Spade goes at obvious subjects such as Britney Spears and her over-publicized baby, or Paris Hilton as the icon of dumb. Indeed, it's not hard to imagine Hilton herself participating in a self-satirizing skit about her own vapidity, if it would help her career. In some ways, Spade's ''Showbiz" is showbiz as usual.

Spade is the anchor who makes disbelieving faces at the news he's reporting. In one recent bit, he ridiculed an Oprah Winfrey interview with Jennifer Aniston. But it's not clever to point out the insipidity of softball questions about Aniston's favorite time of day or her favorite drink. By now, we all know just how flaky and flacky the industry is.

Some of the pre-taped sequences are a little sharper than Spade's newscasting, for instance a pair of reporters covering a direct-to-video Patrick Swayze release at the video store. There was a hilariously pathetic red-carpet sequence, featuring interviews with those innocently coming to the store for other rentals. And a goof of the trailer for ''The Man," dummied with bold voice-over about how the movie is ''everything you want in a generic buddy comedy," had its charms.

Another drawback to ''The Showbiz Show" is the fact that it's only a weekly series. So much ''Entertainment Tonight" cotton candy gets whipped up for us every single day, the Spade show can't truly stay up to date. It looks back over the past week, when we're already tired of the items, lacking the fresh edge of the breaking news. When Jolie adopts a new child, I want Spade all over it.

That said, this new series may need a few weeks to come up to speed, to relax and ride events with more originality and timeliness. Indeed, sometimes the snark machine needs a few adjustments -- and a little extra oil -- to run at its highest potential.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

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