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Naked News Uncovered? New, nutty but not so naughty

There is one tired old cliché that should be killed off and put out of its misery. And it's this piece of advice given to those people unaccustomed to public speaking: "If you're nervous, just imagine the audience naked."

Rarely has anything so foolish become accepted wisdom. The very idea of imagining most people naked is a horrifying thought. It would put you off, not make you less nervous. Or maybe that's just me.

And speaking of me, I'm not in the habit of imagining that the lady news anchors are naked when I'm watching the news on TV. Obviously, that's just me. I'm an exception. And the truth of this assertion is found in the fact that the online service called Naked News has been succeeding since 1999. Doing quite well, thank you very much.

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Apparently a lot of men fantasize about the lady newsreader getting naked. I cannot say if, in turn, lady viewers fantasize about the male anchors being naked. Even weighing up that possibility unnerves me. Do women think about Pastor Mansbridge disrobing while he's jawing on about the price of Arctic patrol ships? Perish the thought.

Naked News Uncovered (Super Channel, 11 p.m.) is a new and nutty documentary series about the Naked News, which has been doing the same darn thing over and over on the Web for 14 years. That "thing" is comely women undressing while reading the day's news. (When Naked News first launched, there were also male reporters disrobing, but that programming was later dropped.) A simple concept in a crazily complex world, it just keeps going because it delivers what a bunch of men are fantasizing about when they the watch TV news.

There's a Naked News studio at a secret location somewhere in Toronto and that's where we're taken. The ostensible point of the eight-part series is to document potential changes to the Naked News recipe. The owner calls for revitalization and new ideas are tried. This is very much an "ostensible" reason, because there's not much you can do when you've a foolproof recipe.

A naked cooking show, perhaps? They already have one of those and we watch as a producer becomes a tad irritated with the naked hosts, Rachelle Wilde and Peyton Priestly, who have opened champagne, and are very tipsy during the shoot. (There is much struggling to pronounce the word "eviscerated.")

In general, though, the idea is that Naked News is a kooky, surreal place to work and deserving of attention. Thing is, it isn't surreal. No matter how many times the staff announce that it's totally wacky at Naked News, it actually looks boring. It's just that women take off their clothes all the time, and, like anything else, you can get used to that.

The only interesting character is Victoria Sinclair, 47, who has been with Naked News since the start. She seems to care deeply about the place and worries that the concept has become stale and the company might go under. A fuss is made about Sinclair's age, which seems a bit rude. One the bosses says, "How long she can stay naked in front of the camera is anyone's guess." Fact is, most of the other women aren't that interesting. They tell the camera they're kinda crazy or difficult, but Sinclair seems to be the only thoughtful, canny person in the company, and genuinely strange, too.

It's hard to figure out what's going with Naked News Uncovered. This isn't a faux documentary giving us fiction as fact. Or perhaps it is that, but not done well. And if it's a sincere look at Naked News, that's nice, but it becomes tedious. Sure, like Naked News itself, it's fun for a wee while, but eight half hours devoted to it seems excessive. Of course that might just be me – this column was written by a fully clothed columnist.

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Also airing tonight

The Blacklist(NBC, Global, 10 p.m.) is one of several new dramas arriving tonight. The main reason to watch is James Spader, in fine form as a long-missing master criminal who turns himself in to the FBI and offers to help catch terrorists on one condition: He only works with rookie agent Liz Keen (Megan Boone), who is mystified by his interest in her. Lots of action and suspense, with Spader clearly enjoying himself.

Hostages (CBS, CTV, 10 p.m.) is heavily promoted and meant to hook you instantly: A surgeon (Toni Collette) is about to operate on the U.S. president when her family is taken hostage by an ex-FBI agent (Dylan McDermott) with nefarious plans. Be warned – it starts with heavy-handed plotting and unsubtle acting.

All times ET. Check local listings.

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