By Dan Shanoff
Special to Page 3

Yes, yes, it's a lot easier to mock Dream Job contestants from the comfort of my couch than to step up and recognize the level of difficulty involved in pulling off a live, nationally televised audition to be a SportsCenter anchor. But, hey, they put themselves out there ...

Dream Job 2
Anchors away!
This week's episode: Highlights, and the criteria includes Writing, Creativity and Delivery -- and apparently Cliches, Avoiding Looking at the Camera and Bad Info.

The biggest change from last year: Two new judges, who will be nothing but entertaining -- Woody Paige and Stephen A. Smith (SAS). Back, of course, is My Main Man, Al Jaffe. Will we find another season of thinking alike? Let's find out.

On the stage tonight: Half the 12 finalists (the other six next week).

First up: GRANT
Intro: Grant is an actor, which apparently means he can fake enthusiasm. After an interminable lead-in to his highlights, give me an Emmy for faking my enthusiasm.

The Good: Delivery was smooth. But the guy's an actor; undervalued in this competition is rating people relative to the skills they bring to the table.

The Bad: Low-key delivery is a Kenny Mayne rip-off. The lead-in was absolutely brutal.

The Ugh-ly: Hey, Olivier, it's not dinner theater, so chill with the Master Class on cheesy inflections and hand-movement-for-the-sake-of-hand-movement.

The Judges: Woody was bored. Kit critiqued him on his body position. SAS wasn't excited by anything. And My Man Al had the line of the segment: "The first act of Antigone wasn't that long." It's early and Al's already on.

My verdict: Delivery ends up having an outsized impact, and he was smooth enough to make it to Week Two. But he's got "Booted" written all over him.

Next: KC
Intro: I like his vibe; he's a real guy, just trying his best and bringing some passion.

The Good: Well, for starters, he doesn't come across like an actor. That already is a breath of fresh air.

The Bad: The writing was unexciting and not particularly informative, but he's in sales, not a writer, so see it relatively.

The Ugh-ly: Look at the teleprompter, man!

The Judges: Woody pointed out an inaccurate fact (unacceptable). Kit liked his voice. SAS said he looked too nervous. Al offers his first bit of Wisdom That We All Should Learn From: "Be yourself."

My verdict: Rough, but full of life. A long-term non-contender, but depending on the others, perhaps making it through to the next round.

Dream Job 2
Right now, Anish (top right) is above the rest.
Next: ANISH
Intro: Syracuse U. bends over and Anish puckers up.

The Good: Awesome voice. Phenomenal delivery.

The Bad: Stumbled on his closing joke, which meant it was (a) bad and (b) forced.

The Ugh-ly: Oh my god. For the first time in my Couch Judge career, I might not have anything Ugh-ly to say.

The Judges: Unanimous approval. Al sums up: "Not much to improve on."

My verdict: Not only the best out-of-the-box performance of either this season or last -- but, quite possibly, the best performance I've seen on this show, period (including last year's finale between the two quote-unquote "best").

Next: HALFTIME
Where host Stuart Scott pairs up the players, then gives them a sports issue. Each one has to pick a side and defend it, then the other has to take the other side, no matter how they feel about it.

Suffice to say, they all made pretty paltry arguments. (Hint: Simply repeating the claim three times over 20 seconds does not an argument make.)

Got some clarity on the judging, however: Two of the players we had yet to see stood out -- Valerie won unanimous praise; Brian got crushed. The guy has one foot out the door -- and he hasn't even done his highlight yet!

Next: JOE
Intro: Apparently, his career in Chinese food delivery prepared him for a marathon AND fatherhood. Pretty good gig, I'd say. He may need to return to it after tonight ... heh.

The Good: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Dude's as good as gone.

The Bad: I don't want to pile on, but his intro was boring and he missed the prompter looks.

The Ugh-ly: His voice. Something about it. My notes say that it was "too slow" and "too eager," with "not definitive enough," which would be nice in a sports anchor.

The Judges: A tepid reaction to meet his tepid delivery. Woody chided him on clichés; Kit chided his monotone; SAS said "the only thing missing was a bag of chips and a pillow ... too boring." Al just said it needed more energy.

My verdict: What's too bad is that he seems like a nice enough guy, who just happened to bring the nice to the table. Nice is a no-no.

Dream Job 2
C'mon guys, at least look like you're having fun.
Next: VALERIE
The Intro: Admitted to having a crush on Thurmon Munson, which would be severely dated if it wasn't so outright creepy.

The Good: Well, she killed in the Halftime event, so forget managing expectations. As a management consultant, she should know better. Plus, maybe she'll make us a Power Point presentation later.

The Bad: Grating voice; abrupt finish. Look at the prompter! No, I mean Look! At! The! Prompter!

The Ugh-ly: Used the catch-phrase simile "more suspect than a mushroom cloud over North Korea." Three words: Know your audience.

The Judges: Woody said she needed a lot of work; Kit called her out for being "too cutesy"; SAS called it a "disappointment"; Al gave her the business for mispronouncing "Terrell" in "Terrell Owens."

My verdict: If you read nothing else, finish this paragraph: Something the judges couldn't catch, but I caught after not one but TWO DVR replays: After being dressed down by the judges, she walked off-camera, heading back to the seating area ... and her lapel mike picked up her saying "Terrible!" No, Val, THAT'S terrible.

Next: BRIAN
Intro: After his awful Halftime showing, I was looking forward to a true train-wreck of a performance.

The Good: Well, at least he was better than he was at Halftime.

The Bad: Writing is a really, really hard skill.

The Ugh-ly: Why is everyone so catch-phrase happy?

The Judges: Woody called it "brutal"; SAS thought it wasn't as bad as that; Al agrees with me that his cliches were lame.

My verdict: I'm voting him off, but maybe he managed expectations so well during Halftime that he actually ends looking better even though he didn't do a great job.

The Judgments
Fans: Brian (just like me!)
Woody: Joe (no passion)
Kit: KC
SAS: Joe
Al: Joe

Bye-bye: Joe, in a minor upset. Me and the Fans disliked Brian, who's as good as gone in a few weeks anyway. But the others liked his enthusiasm, which I can get behind. Joe was missing that. The Doogie Howser-like lesson for the week: Enthusiasm is like the zit cream on the face of a pimply-faced sports-anchor wannabe.

Ranking Tuesday's six contenders:

1. Anish
2. Grant
3. Val
4. KC
5. Joe
6. Brian

But, honestly: Aside from Anish, all of them were weak in their own way. I'll be shocked if any aside from him get to the final two.

Next week: The Second Six! For now, Anish has set the bar high for everyone else to follow. But who else is intrigued by that little fellow in the second six?







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