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Lineup shifts create chance to experiment

Reshuffle the deck, whaddaya get?

Deep breath, now:

“Cool in Vegas,” an advertiser hustle disguised as a lifestyle show that plunged KTNV-TV, Channel 13 into a ratings deep-freeze weeknights at 7 since its debut last September, exits after Friday, tipping dominoes at two stations.

Celeb-swooning “Access Hollywood,” now at 12:30 weekdays on KSNV-TV, Channel 3, leaps to Channel 13 at 7 p.m. with another run at 4:30 p.m. beginning April 25. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” double-playing at 4:30 and 7:30, gets its afternoon edition moved up to 3:30, eliminating one of the back-to-back “America’s Court” episodes. Bridging Channel 13’s 7 p.m. gap until “Access” arrives will be additional newscasts beginning Monday.

Minus “Access,” News-3 will reinstall news at 12:30 for a noon to 1 p.m. block, not seen since ex-anchor Mitch Truswell’s 2009 stint. While the Wagners remain on noon duty, new hire Michelle Velez, from KYMA in Yuma, Ariz., slides into the 12:30 anchor desk from her weekend slot that’s filled by newbie Krystal Allan, imported from Mississippi’s WLOX (as in BiLOXi, not smoked salmon).

Time-slot tangos or … an opportunity?

“Cool in Vegas,” though sleekly gussied up with easy-on-the-peepers host Molly Sullivan, is gratefully gone, its raison d’etre to peddle airtime to advertisers and pass off mini-infomercials as legit local feature stories. (The practice still exists on “Morning Blend.”)

Beyond misleading viewers who may not catch on that they’re being snake-oiled, these pay-for-play concoctions can convince advertisers they can also buy time on regular newscasts and turn them into their own video billboards.

“Access Hollywood”? If that’s your thing, stargaze to your heart’s delight. Yet a potentially numbing, 90-minute news drone from 6 to 7:30 p.m. looms for two weeks, unless, perhaps, Channel 13 dares to experiment in that fleeting 7 to 7:30 window.

Credit Channel 13 for throwing a format change-up in 2009 when “Action News Live at 9” replaced “Live with Regis and Kelly.” Problem: It tried to be both hard-nosed “Action News” and Vegas-y “Good Morning America,” nailing neither.

Repetition afflicts the 6 and 6:30 newscasts, both of them largely redundant of the 4 and 5 p.m. broadcasts (as on other stations too). Suggestion: Use the 7 p.m. temp slot to test alternative formats that could then revamp the 6:30 p.m. newscast into something that would break Channel 13 out of its monotonous mold.

Dump the stream of screaming headlines that amounts to news diarrhea. In short: Go long. Expand “You Ask/We Investigate” by giving investigative ace Darcy Spears extra elbow room so it grows from just a newscast element into a special brand of its own, a la “Dateline.”

Devote time to high-school teams, the 51s, Rebels and other local sports without whispering anything about the pros. Turn the camera on culture via art galleries, ballet, the Philharmonic and local theater. Take viewer polls. Conduct people-on-the-street interviews. Institute interactive segments in which anchors, reporters and newsmakers chat with viewers via phone, Facebook and Twitter.

Deviations from the norm are often dismissed — until one busts through the same ol’ sameness, creating a new norm.

Reshuffle the deck, see what ya get.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

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