By By Dan Shanoff
Special to Page 3

Yes, yes: It's a lot easier to mock Dream Job contestants from the comfort of my couch than to step up and recognize the level of difficulty involved in pulling off a live, nationally televised audition to be a SportsCenter anchor. But, hey, they put themselves out there....

This week's episode: Field Reporting (call it "Team Job"), where the 8 remaining finalists hit Spring Training to create news reports.

Dream Job, Chet Anekwe
Even from the couch it was clear ... Chet needed a kick to the curb.

Wait, wait: A free trip to Florida? From what most of them had to say, they were bigger celebs than the players themselves. So as far as I can tell, win or lose, this Dream Job thing has paid off for them. Sure, they may have the pop-culture staying power of the group from the first season of Real World (where are you now, Alabama girl?), but their reputations are secure. Just what those reps will become remains to be seen. Anyway...

First up: Kelly and Zach.

When we last saw them: Kelly was making factual errors; Zach had vaulted to the top of the pack, based on his new conservative look.

The Good: Both have a smooth delivery (then again, with taped pieces, the only surprise is if any of them would be stupid enough to allow unsmooth delivery to make the air).

The Bad: Zach went "high-risk, high-reward" with a zany piece on fans looking for spring training autographs.

The Ugh-ly: Kelly in a tight-fitting polo shirt. (Then again, this ain't "Atkins Job.")

The Judges: Tony called Zach "derivative" of Kenny Mayne (true, but what's wrong with that?); the other judges found it clever, but My Man Al Jaffe said Zach's piece was too much about himself, not enough about the news. Al said Kelly sounded like a reporter, which is good news (except he's trying to be an anchor, right?). Lavar correctly pointed out that when Kelly was on-screen interviewing athletes, he looked uncomfortable.

My verdict: Kelly and Zach are on a collision course for the finals. To see them paired here was interesting.

Next pair: Nick and Aaron

When we last saw them: Nick was still being hounded for his "smug" factor;Aaron was on cruise control.

The Good: Aaron took an interesting angle on rising stars in the Astros infield.

The Bad: Nick is reeling from the "smug" thing; he's ratcheted back his personality so much that his voice-over was a tryout for "Zombie Job" and his standup wasn't much more lively.

The Ugh-ly: Aaron used the phrase "Astro-nomical," which even in my running notes I underlined as lame (so how good did I feel when Al Jaffe pointed out the same thing? Go me!).

The Judges: Al picked on Nick's story choice and noted the lack of energy in his voice (dude can't do anything right); Lavar told Aaron "you sound right and you look like you should be there"; Kit said Nick didn't show a personality and Aaron had too much voiceover, which for Kit is a blitzkrieg of criticism. Tony ripped Nick for not talking about Pettitte and Clemens in a piece about Astros pitching; Tony said Aaron made him care about previously unknown young Astros starters.

My verdict: Aaron is smooth enough to be Final Four-worthy; there is no way in the world Nick makes it much further -- the judges just don't like him.

Halftime: The 8 contestants debate the NCAA Tournament bracket. Huge points for timely debate.

Chet, Maggie, Mike and Nick were terrible; Aaron, Zach, Kelly and Casey were solid. It's all about making a strong overall point with a few pieces of backup evidence... concisely. (Yes, Maggie, we're talking to you.)

Next pair: Maggie and Mike

When we last saw them: Maggie was being dragged down by since-exiled Lori; Mike was continuing his streak of not-great-not-terrible-not-going-to-win.

The Good: Not much for either of them.

The Bad: Mike missed the big story; in a profile of Omar Vizquel, he "buried the lead" (point to Al!) that Vizquel wants to be a manager.

The Ugh-ly: Maggie is officially "The Bobblehead Anchor." Vlade Divac doesn't flop around as much.

The Judges: Lavar said Maggied "nailed the story" and "helped" herself; Al said her ending was abrupt; Tony said the story choice left him feeling "cold." As long as we're handing out nicknames, how about "Milquetoast Mike"; you know Mike's in trouble, because all the judges are like "you did okay."

My Verdict: For both of them, it's either a boot this week or next week. If they survive, how will they come to the show next Sunday?

Next pair: Chet and Casey

When we last saw them: Chet was putting himself in the "Boot On-Deck Circle"; Casey was taking body shots from the judges -- and supplicating himself to look even smaller than he already is.

The Good: They were over quickly.

The Bad: As the judges pointed out, but any viewer would have noticed, neither guy introduced the players they were talking about.

The Ugh-ly: I'm sorry -- Chet has a "Babwa Wawa" problem that I can't get past in my sports anchor.

The Judges: Ouch. Brutal performance brings out the best in the judging panel. In the best line of the night, Tony called Casey's segment "a Slurpee piece," because he lathered on the praise for the Cards' Rolen and Renteria (maybe because Tony LaRussa snowed him over with some compliments?) Al said that Chet's voiceover sounded "like an actor in a play." Even Kit found his voice a little distracting.

My Verdict: Chet's booting has been a long time coming.

No pleas from contestants this time, just straight to the cutting:

The Judgments
Fans: Cut Maggie, Chet
Tony: Cuts Maggie, Chet
Kit: Cuts Nick, Chet
Lavar: Cuts Nick, Casey
Al: Cuts Chet, Nick

Bye-bye: Chet and Nick. Chet's no surprise, but you could tell Nick was stunned; this was the dude who was the spotlight of all those Dream Job commercials! His personality was, at least with the judges.

Ranking the remaining 6 contenders:

1. Zach
2. Aaron
3. Kelly
4. Mike
5. Casey
6. Maggie

Based on this week's voting, Maggie and Casey better not get too comfy.