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Review: The 1/2 Hour News Hour (Fox News Channel)

Presenting President Limbaugh, circa 2009. Photo: Fox News Channel


Dig that crazy conservative humor.

But seriously, folks, punchlines from the right also have every right to be seen, heard and evaluated objectively. This brings us to The 1/2 Hour News Hour, the first of two specials developed by 24 executive producer Joel Surnow. He couldn't sell them to the Fox broadcasting network, but Fox News Channel probably is a better venue anyway. Show time is 9 p.m. (central time) on Sunday (Feb. 18), with a repeat at the same hour next Sunday. Episode 2 is scheduled for March 4th.

1/2 News Hour makes its political leanings known in a finger snap. It's Jan. 21, 2009, and Rush Limbaugh is the newly sworn-in president after defeating Howard Dean. The real-life Limbaugh does his own honors here, promising "four years or more of commander-in-chief excellence." After all, "the grownups are back in charge."

His vice president is another star conservative player, Ann Coulter. She also appears in the flesh, ordering all right-thinking Americans viewers to watch 1/2 Hour News Hour or else. "If you don't, we'll invade your countries, kill your leaders and convert you to Christianity."

That'd be funny if it weren't so uncomfortably chilling. But 1/2 Hour News Hour does have its moments, with fake news anchors Kurt McNally and Jennifer Lange (Kurt Long, Jenn Robertson) offering an amalgam of The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" segment and maybe even a smidgen of Real Time with Bill Maher.

Every joke is greeted warmly by what appears to be a mix of actual studio audience laughter and artificial canned additives. Among the targets: Air America, the ACLU (in two very heavy-handed fake commercials), actor/activist Ed Begley, Jr. (an announced guest who never makes it), liberal-leaning children's books and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The Obama segment is both juvenile and sometimes quite on the mark. His imagined new Barack Obama Magazine is shortened to BO in a mockery of Oprah Winfrey's self-important O monthly. Cover stories include "A Life in Politics: My 18-Month Journey." And if you subscribe now, you'll get a free "Don't Tell Mama, I'm for Obama" t-shirt.

The show also welcomes shifty t-shirt salesman "Lenny Varnadou," whose big seller is an image of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, with the slogan "No Fat Chicks." Thud, that's a reference to the millions facing starvation under his oppressive regime.

Faring better is phony "game show host/climatologist" Dr. Samuel Pinkner. He has a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon method of tying any social ill -- including Britney Spears without panties -- to global warming.

It all ends with a climactic, childish swipe at Begley, who's said to now be in prison and at the mercy of rival inmate gangs.

1/2 Hour News Hour is better than that at least some of the time. It's a safe bet that Al Gore and John Kerry won't be laughing. But it's easy to imagine Obama allowing himself a private grin or two. If so, good for him.

Grade: C+