KJZZ broadcast its first University of Utah football game Saturday night, and Ch. 14 had a better night than the Utes did.
Oh, there were a few breakdowns, but considerably fewer than there were by the home team, which lost to Oregon, 27-20.And KJZZ's quarterback, Steve Brown, had a much, much better night than did Ute quarterback Brandon Jones.
Brown, Ch. 14's play-by-play man, was professional, personable and undoubtedly the MVP for KJZZ. The former KTVX-Ch. 4 sportscaster did an excellent job in the booth.
KJZZ's technical crew was also superior. Its cameramen managed to keep the action on the screen throughout the game, even capturing the evening's most unexpected play - Ute punter Dan Pulsipher's long run for a touchdown.
Back on the Utes' former home, KUTV-Ch. 2, catching the action on camera was a consistent problem. Ch. 14's camera work on Saturday night was actually superior to what ESPN did with the BYU-Air Force game earlier in the day.
(Of course, Ch. 14 didn't have a wishbone offense to deal with.)
Oh, there were a few technical glitches. While the graphics were sharp and professional, there were a few problems within them - most glaringly when they declared that Utah's Pulsipher completed a touchdown pass for Oregon.
Where KJZZ had its greatest problems was in the color commentary. Mike Norseth was adequate, but it did take him nearly the entire first half to pronounce the Oregon quarterback's name correctly. And - although he certainly isn't alone in the football broadcasting world in this - he sounded the same notes over and over again.
His greatest failing came when he referred to the Utes as "we." And when he said things like "hopefully" Utah would convert an extra-point attempt.
But his slips of the tongue were almost completely overshadowed by Frank Layden, the other color commentator, who consistently referred to the Utes as "we" and "us" throughout the evening.
If you want to tag your broadcast as provincial and amateur, that's the surest way to do it.
And one might have hoped that that sort of behavior might have ended when KUTV lost the Ute contract and Neil Hancey lost his place in the broadcast booth.
(Sideline reporter Sharrieff Shah has toned down his boosterism from last year on Ch. 2, but if he can't keep his free hand still while he's on camera maybe he ought to stick it in his pocket.)
Apparently, Layden is unaware that not everyone watching a Ute football game is a Utah fan. That, in order for KJZZ to make a go of this, the game broadcasts have got to attract viewers who are not die-hard Utah fans.
Exactly why Layden is in the booth is somewhat of a mystery. Two color commentators is at least one too many, regardless of who's doing that commentary.
Layden began the evening as a buffoon, putting a piece of astro-turf on his head and making a bad joke about the Hair Club for men. He went long stretches during the game without saying anything at all - his best moments.
If he's there for as comic relief, then he failed miserably. Comments about his mother-in-law as the "Nowhere Man" and how a pass was so catchable Lance Ito could have made the reception were just dumb.
And what a broadcast does not need is a cheerleader/Pollyanna, which is what Layden turned into as the game wound down.
Not to mention that despite the fact there were two guys in the booth who were supposed to be analyzing the game, no one seemed to notice that the Ute offense scored only six points - two field goals - and only stayed in the game because of touchdowns scored by the defense and the special teams.
Brown was great. So was the video portion of KJZZ's broadcast
The color commentary needs some work.
PAYING THE BILLS: Reports have floated for weeks that KJZZ was having trouble selling advertising time for Utah football games.
Saturday's games clearly indicated those reports are true.
Commercials aren't much fun for the viewers, but they are how TV stations pay the bills. And there weren't a whole lot of commercials in Saturday's broadcast.
It was amazing how many times changes of possession and time-outs went by without KJZZ going to commercial. And how short many of their commercial breaks were. Many were one minute - and that included promotional spots.
Some breaks were nothing but promotional spots for upcoming shows on Ch. 14. And that's not even counting the Larry H. Miller car dealership spots, which amount to Miller taking money out of one pocket and putting it into the other.
None of which could have helped Ch. 14's bottom line.
NOTHING NEW: KJZZ's "Ute Sunday with Ron McBride" proves one thing.
If there's a way to re-invent the coach's show, it hasn't been discovered yet.
Which is not, in and of itself, a criticism of "Ute Sunday." But it doesn't look any different that the old coach's show that aired on KUED-Ch. 7 (as part of KUTV-Ch. 2's contract with Utah). Nor does it look any different than KSL-Ch. 5's "The LaVell Edwards Show" or any number of similar programs across the country.
Coach sits in chair. Next to sportscaster. Helmet on table. Clips of game shown. Coach and sportscaster talk about clips. Maybe talk to a football player.
KJZZ even brought back Bill Marcroft to chat it up with the coach. (Which isn't easy the day after a loss, as McBride clearly demonstrated Sunday.)
Again, it's not that "Ute Sunday" is any worse than any of the other coach's shows - but it's also not any better.
ANOTHER IFFY PROJECT: UPN premieres its third (and final) new show of the fall season tonight, and "Deadly Games" has at least one thing in common with "Nowhere Man," which debuted last week.
It doesn't have much of anywhere to go after the pilot.
"Games" (7 p.m., Ch. 14) is no exercise in intellectualism. It's frothy, silly and violent - but it does have some appeal as a mindless romp through fantasy.
A young scientist named Gus (James Calvert) accidentally brings his video game to life - thus unleashing the evil Jackal (Christopher Lloyd) upon the world.
In the first episode, Jackal is assisted by a limping football player who melts in water (played by Oakland Raider Tom Rathman) in a plot to kidnap Gus' ex-wife (Cynthia Gibb) and drop an atomic bomb on a football stadium. Future episodes will feature various other villains assisting Jackal.
If you utterly suspend disbelief, it's somewhat amusing in a brainless sort of way. But weak after weak of brainlessness could get rather tiring indeed.
The show isn't played campy enough to be really funny or straight enough to be exciting. It's caught between the two and is thus doubly disappointing.
Despite the fact that Leonard Nimoy is one of the show's executive producers, "Deadly Games" has nothing in common with "Star Trek." And despite the fact that this is sci-fi, it's pretty low-tech - relying on squirt guns and car chases rather than special effects.
UPN can be given some credit for trying something different.
But not much.