Fox 4's Shawn Edwards isn't just a blurb whore 

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Shocking, maybe, but also much more careful than that Crossroads review. Notice that, for all those superlatives, he doesn't actually promise that you'll like Cyrus.


On a Thursday morning in February, Fox 4's morning show bustles with cuteness. A family of viewers models pajamas, and Kathy Quinn, reporting on the latest in a tainted-pet-food scare, actually files her pieces holding a puppy.

Leading into most stories, the anchors stress the pronoun you, making each individual viewer the focus of everything. (The Fox 4 Web site, which archives "The Screening Room," is called MyFoxKC.com.)

One story's bigger than you. It's about us.

"Many of us look to Martin Lawrence for a good laugh," Quinn says.

Paul Herdtner takes it up. "In this morning's 'Screening Room,' Fox 4 film critic Shawn Edwards talks to the star of Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins about what makes him laugh."

What follows is typical of one of Edwards' interview pieces. Cut to about 30 seconds of clips from Lawrence's movie, then to Edwards and Lawrence in Los Angeles. Both are stylish but casual, sitting in a stone-block room decorated only with a pot of flowers and a Roscoe Jenkins poster. The movie features Lawrence as a TV host spending significant time with his family for the first time in years. Edwards' first question is both gently personal and on-point with the film: "What's the difference between going home now and when you first got started in Do the Right Thing and House Party?"

Lawrence says there's always love.

More clips from the film, and then Edwards is back: "What's the one black comedy you find yourself watching time and time again that really makes you laugh?"

Lawrence chooses Richard Pryor's Which Way Is Up.

A quick follow-up from Edwards, then a clip of Lawrence being sprayed by a skunk and tumbling down a staircase. Then it's time for the wrap-up: "You've been making people laugh for a long time," Edwards says. "What makes Martin Lawrence laugh?"

Lawrence: "Stuff that's funny. I could laugh at anything if it's funny and in good taste."

There are at least three wheels spinning at once here. Lawrence's movie is getting free promotion — just over a full minute of clips in a piece clocking in at two minutes, 12 seconds. Fox 4 gets a star whose appearance it can tease all morning long. Edwards gets both a clip and a plug for his documentary.

And you, the Fox viewer — you get to know that Martin Lawrence laughs at stuff that's funny.

The cost: whatever the studio ponies up for room, board and a round-trip ticket to Los Angeles.

By his estimate, Edwards has been to Hollywood more than 300 times since he started reviewing movies for Channel 4 in 2000. During a busy month, either Edwards or Simmons might fly out every week. Edwards' online critics point to this junketeering as a conflict of interest, but Edwards says being set up in a hotel by a studio doesn't compromise his reviews. "I'm not going to risk my integrity for free food and T-shirts."

Simmons concurs: "Look at the ratings and you'll see that the junkets have absolutely no bearing on the reviews. The studios have never tried to influence us to give a good review on anything."

Edwards loves the interviews. "People ask me all the time, who have you talked to, who have you met?" Edwards says. "It's easier for me to say who I haven't. I've interviewed every major star except Jack Nicholson. He won't even talk to Mike Wallace."

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