Sweeps Unchained

Rad Berky got armed and dangerous. Carmel Cafiero got Joe Gersten. Ike Seamans got a heart attack. And we watched it all.

Finally, our committee of one tabulated the results to determine the best-overall sweeps expose from the November ratings book.

Seamans, regrettably, did not win. (We urge our friends at Channel 6 to break it to him gently.) Our judge threw out his story when it was suggested that the reporter's insatiable need to broadcast his medical history may be a rare variation of Munchhausen syndrome by TelePrompTer. Rather than exacerbate this harmful disease, we are awarding him only our sincere get-well wishes.

To everyone else we present an accurate ranking of the best stories that aired during sweeps. Call it the New Times Nielsens.

Title: "Power, Pleasure, and Pain"
Station: Channel 7
Reporter: Belkys Nerey
Date: November 7

"You know the phrase 'pain is pleasure,'" chirps the perky Nerey as the screen fills with images of whip-wielding nymphomaniacs in leather underwear. "Well, these people are living proof. Domination is the motivation in the world of the dominatrix, where clients -- referred to as 'slaves' and 'submissives' -- answer to masters known as 'doms' or 'dominatrixes.'"

Nerey interviews two doms and a slave, who explain that their fetishes are "not just about pain. It's sensual."

Hidden camera: 0
Ambush: 0
Sex: Well, yeah. +25
Reporter participation: No. -40
Howard Finkelstein: 0

Competition from other stations: Channel 4 ran a piece titled "South Florida Fetishes." -20

Unintentional irony: The seedy Rick Sanchez's intro: "You may have wondered why professionals would get involved in something that seems ... gonna call it what it is ... seedy." -10

Intangibles: We don't know the phrase "pain is pleasure." -5
Belkys Bonus: +10
Total score: 10

Title: "Carnival Convicts"
Station: Channel 10
Reporter: Jennifer Snell
Date: November 21

The vagrants and transients who work at carnivals are sometimes less than upstanding citizens. Snell reveals that Dominic Divola, president of a traveling carnival, does not screen his day laborers for histories of drug and alcohol abuse or run criminal background checks that might uncover murderers or child molesters in his midst. This despite the fact that a man who worked for a different carnival upstate may have molested some girls.

"If you open at 6:00, someone comes looking for a job at 5:30 -- that really doesn't give you much time for a check," Divola protests politely, adding that his permanent employees are checked. "If they're employed on the ride for three hours and if they stay on the ride and work for three hours and we pay them and they go home, I don't have any idea when they would have time to molest anybody."

Alliterative title: +10
Sex: 0
Hidden camera: 0
Live, local, or late-breaking: Local. -10
Intangibles: Credible defense by the accused. -20
Snell a member of the "Eye Team." +10
Where else are these guys supposed to work? -15
Total score: 25

Title: "Valet Vandals"
Station: Channel 4
Reporter: Al Sunshine
Date: October 30

"Shame on You" investigative reporter Sunshine proves that one valet at one condo is a bad driver. "Angry resident" Jodie Feldman gave her car to a valet at Intracoastal Towers in Miami. That man, whose driver's license had expired, drove her car into a construction pit, causing $1300 in damage to the car's underbody.

Sunshine ambushes Gold Star Parking Systems president Arthur Schultz, who appears very contrite and apologetic. "I had no way of knowing that in the course of the last two months the courts suspended his license," Schultz stammers. "I saw his license physically -- and he had a license. It's very unfortunate."

Schultz reimbursed Feldman for the repairs to her car, but she still isn't satisfied. "Shame on you, Gold Star Valet!" she cries, misstating the company's name.

Ambush: +10
Alliterative title: +10
Hidden camera: 0

Competition from other stations: Channel 6's Steve Daniels reported on dangerous valets last year, and he used a hidden camera. -30

Intangibles: "Shame on You" theme music. +5.
The valet wasn't so much a vandal as he was simply stupid. -20
Total score: 25

Title: "Men Who Like Little Boys"
Station: Channel 4
Reporter: John Deutzman
Date: November 2-4

"The News 4 Problem Solvers go undercover to interview the operator of a Website devoted to the appreciation of young men, to expose a secret, frightening world where grown men are sexually attracted to young boys," Deutzman practically vomits. "The very thought of it can start a violent reaction."

Faced with an apparent dearth of pedophiles in South Florida, Deutzman travels to New York City to secretly videotape Jim Finn III, a well-spoken young adult who admits on hidden camera that he's attracted to males between the ages of eight and eighteen.

Ambushing Finn a day later, Deutzman asks what he would say to parents who think that boy-lovers pose a danger to their children. "I would say if you don't allow people like us to communicate and deal with our feelings, then there will be a lot more dangerous people out there," Finn responds quite reasonably.

Anchor comment: "Disgusting." +5
Talking head: Don Ryce, father of slain nine-year-old Jimmy Ryce. +5
Hidden camera: +10
Ambush: +10
Alliterative title: 0
Gay bashing: Um ... yes. -20
Intangibles: The creepy questions this story raises about John Deutzman. -25
Total score: 35

Title: "Truth Phone"
Station: Channel 10
Reporter: Jennifer Snell
Date: November 7

Snell uses Barbara Walters's interview of Marv Albert to test the truth phone, a $2500 gadget that's supposed to be able to detect stress in a person's voice.

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