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‘Nightline’ nonsense spreads to ’20/20′

ABC News is going to announce a spinoff edition of newsmagazine “20/20” that will run in three successive two-hour editions on Sunday nights beginning Aug. 21 from 9-11 p.m. 20_20

It’s called “20/20: The Sixth Sense,” but a more appropriate name might be “20/20: Nonsense.”

An ABC News spokeswoman has declined repeatedly to specify what the series is about but the rep did share the spinoff’s promotional tagline: “When nothing adds up…And a gut feeling’s all you have…Forget about your five senses…What you really need – is The Sixth Sense.”

What exactly that means is anybody’s guess but it’s hard not to suspect ABC plans on taking the same paranormal-themed pap it has been peddling all summer in a primetime edition of “Nightline” called “Nightline Primetime: Beyond Belief.”

If you missed it, “Nightline” spent five weeks on hard-hitting subjects like demonic possession, Virgin Mary sightings, and not one but two explorations of psychic phenomena from clairvoyant pets to “twin-tuition.”

Were Ted Koppel dead, he’d be spinning in his grave.

As The Los Angeles Times observed, “The real tragedy is that the credibility of the “Nightline” franchise, which once set the standard for serious journalism on television, has been reduced to the level of hocus pocus and cold readings.”

Now with just three episodes scheduled, it’s possible to dismiss “Sense” as just some primetime padding being put in place before ABC’s fall schedule kicks in later in September. But devoting this much time to subjects this pointless seems a shameful waste given all the more substantive stories playing out right now on the global stage just begging for deeper coverage. Take your pick, from the turbulent domestic financial markets to the crisis in Somalia. 

Under the new leadership of ABC News president Ben Sherwood, the division seemed to be headed in the right direction around the time of the Casey Anthony verdict by voicing its public opposition to paying for interviews. But it’s hard to square such a high-minded position with a lowest-common-denominator-feeding move to have the network’s newsmagazines repeatedly traffic in such hogwash. Maybe it’s because demons are happy to go on air without compensation?

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