Anchorman, The Legend of Ron Burgundy

While everybody in the TV industry is getting ready for a few laughs from the new Will Ferrell movie, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, I think it’s important to look at the fallout from such a parody. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “infantile humor but funny” and offers this observation:
If Ferrell’s recent screen successes — “Elf” and “Old School” — mean anything, this broadly played (to put it mildly) antic comedy should become a hit with the young crowd.
This is the same young crowd that avoids local news already and sees through much of the nonsense the film is sure to mock. The St. Louis Post Dispatch recently surveyed their readers about what they don’t like about local TV news. They listed self promotion, news “lite,” too little meat, bragging, teases, pointless live shots, fake banter, bad news and too many weather warnings. This is exactly the stuff we see exploited in films that feature a television newsroom, and I’m sure some of it will find its way into the Ferrell movie.

The point is we’ve dug the hole that now is collapsing around us. Take a look at recent headlines that offer a daily dose of doom and gloom for local TV.

Online Advertising Poised For Double-Digit Growth Over Next Five Years
Internet advertising will continue its torrid pace over the next five years, more than doubling its market share to a projected $11.4 billion in 2008, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. link

TV ad spending to plunge, top ad exec says
The head of the biggest U.S. advertising agency expects to see a staggering decline in spending on network television commercials, even worse than most of the negative expectations for the medium. link

Commercial Data Zaps ‘Effective Frequency,’ Supports ‘Recency’
New research on the commercial zapping habits of TV viewers, especially those equipped with digital video recorders (DVR), reveals that a common element of most campaigns–advertising frequency–may be the biggest anathema to advertising exposure. link

Watching TV on the PC
More computers used to view, record TV thanks to improved technology. link

And these headlines come from just the last two days!

But, Terry, what does this have to do with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy? Plenty, I think, because the industry itself has become a parody of its former self. We don’t listen to people anymore. We listen to consultants. Our emphasis isn’t on the news anymore. We’re obsessed with marketing. We don’t let the news take us where IT wants to go anymore. We pat ourselves on the back, because we’re so good at managing audience flow. And in Fargo, North Dakota, of all places, a young TV reporter faces felony trespassing charges for climbing an 8-foot chain link fence to do an investigative piece on security at the airport. That’s the Fargo airport! Did he want such a story for his resume tape, the formulaic escape from small markets like Fargo? We’re so stuck in our little world that we’re missing what’s really happening.

And now Hollywood is giving the world another insider look at what we’re all about. You may think that’s ridiculous, but those young people the Hollywood Reporter references don’t. After all, they get their news from the Comedy Channel anyway.

Comments

  1. I love a good comedy, but I won’t be seeing this one. The last movie I saw that commented on TV news was “Life or Something Like It,” starring Angelina Jolie as a reporter moving up in the TV news ranks. It was badly written and inane to the point of insulting the viewer’s intelligence. At one point, her voice supposedly turns high-pitched and squeaky because her cameraman does something to her microphone. HELLO!! Her voice COMING OUT OF HER MOUTH would be normal, and would sound normal to those around her! He could make it sound like a chipmunk on tape via whatever he did, but not coming out of her mouth right there on the sidewalk! Then she does a big interview in New York with a character who’s, like, the movie version of Barbara Walters, and the anchor on THAT news show welcomed all the West Coast viewers, implying that they were getting up at 4AM to see — WHAT? An interview with a JOURNALIST? I don’t know many people who’ d get up at 4AM to hear the President of the Untied States, much less a JOURNALIST interviewing another JOURNALIST.

    The self-importance of the whole thing was nauseating. No more movies about TV news for me. Not a chance.

  2. Whoah there Holly… there have been a number of good movies set in newsrooms… more newspapers than broadcast, but newspapers have been around longer.

    Citizen Kane, Deadline USA, All the President’s Men, Continental Divide, The Network, The Insider, Up Close & Personal, Mad City, and Broadcast News were all watchable (if not enjoyable)

    If I ruled out moives because they take place in an environment I’m familiar, I’d never see another movie after Wayne Knight (Newman) ran Jurasic Park from a 60MHz Apple Quarda, Jeff Goldblum wirelessly networked his PowerBook to an alien ship in Independence Day, or Giovanni Ribisi copied an entire C: drive to a floppy in Boiler Room.

    Anchor Man is a comedy. I don’t think anyone is going to see it under the impression that it is an accurate portrayal of a news room in the 70’s.

    We are going to be entertained and if the trailers are any indication, we will be :)

    If you want to see a movie that accurately depicts TV newsrooms, I suggest Control Room (a documentary about Al Jazeera’s coverage of the invasion of Iraq) or maybe Fahrenheit 9/11 (if you agree with Moore’s politics).

  3. I’m probably going to go see F 9/11. All the President’s Men was a great book — maybe I’ll rent the movie.

    I am probably painting too broadly about movies about journalists. Life or Something Like It just left such a horrible taste in my mouth. What made me so sick about the Jolie film was how much it acted like journalists were important people. Important enough for people in LA to get up at 4AM to see an interview with one live instead of watching it replayed when they get up at 7AM. LOL.

    Maybe I run in an unusual group, but among me and my friends, “journalist,” and “politician,” and “televangelist,” are all code words for roughly the same thing. Know what I mean?

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