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'Dog Bites Man' goesfor laughs below the belt

The TV news business has been the object of ferocious satire (``Network" ), sitcom farce (``Murphy Brown" ), and romantic comedy (``Broadcast News" ). Tonight, Comedy Central's ``Dog Bites Man" strips Edward R. Murrow's once-revered craft down to its skivvies for some jeering lampoon.

This disappointing new series operates by one rule alone: When all else fails, refer to genitalia.

Comedy Central has become a great little Irony Corner with its scathing approaches to the straight news. ``The Daily Show," ``The Colbert Report," and David Spade's ``The Showbiz Show" all work hard to disassemble political and entertainment information as we know it. (If the network could devise a solid way to upend Internet fakery and bloated bloggery, its coverage would be complete.)

But ``Dog Bites Man," which premieres at 10:30 p.m., has none of the cleverness of the other series. It's an improvised comedy made to look like a documentary, as the performers banter and mug within scene setups. But while the loose form of ``The Office" and ``Reno 911!" brings them closer to brilliance, the noodling on ``Dog Bites Man" only brings it closer to slackness and redundancy.

``Dog Bites Man" follows an idiotic morning-show crew in Spokane, Wash. All the employees are as stupid and inept as they are politically incorrect. Most of the action occurs between a dopey reporter named Kevin (Matt Walsh ) and an amateurish producer named Tillie (Andrea Savage ).

Years ago, when Tillie was an intern, she and Kevin had an affair. Now, their exchanges are laden with professional competition and sexual references, as he desperately tries to get her interested again. At one point, Kevin tries to make Tillie jealous by simulating sexual noises in his hotel room, which is next to hers. He is assisted in this clichéd effort by a goony techie named Marty (A.D. Miles ).

Also tonight, the crew is on location for a feature on bodybuilding. When Kevin sits down with a muscle-bound man at the gym, he badgers him about steroids, bisexuality, and the size of the guy's testicles; the result is as amusing as one of the skits ``Saturday Night Live" might run as filler at the end of the show.

Another bit, which broadly ridicules a sexual-harassment seminar at work, also relies too heavily on private parts. References to TV taboos can be funny, but only when they're done selectively, and with some subtlety. The same sexual-harassment setup was enacted on ``The Office," but with a sly wit and indirectness that is sorely lacking here.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

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