Anchors Eagerly Waiting To Sample New Burgundy

When Anchorman 2 premieres in theaters later this week, two factions of the population are guaranteed to queue up for the film: jazz flutists and local TV anchors. For the latter, fictional anchor Ron Burgundy’s blustery bumbling through the world of local news is a particularly tasty indulgence. After all, every anchor in local TV recalls working with a Ron Burgundy or two.

Anchors from three Des Moines stations said they will see the film together, as they did for the first Anchorman installment. Stephen Clark, WXYZ Detroit anchor, is hoping to line up for a midnight screening. “It’s hugely satirical, but everything is painfully rooted in the truth,” he said of Burgundy’s appeal.

Clark’s career started in San Diego in 1979—the same market and year the original Anchorman film was set. “It’s like a visit back home,” he added.

Burgundy to Bismarck

Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy has been promoting the heck out of the film, and in unconventional ways. Ron and his red threepiece suit have been touting Dodge Durango trucks. He was guest commentator for a curling championship in Canada, and famously delivered the news on KXMB in Bismarck, N.D., on Dec. 1.

The Ferrell camp’s first choice in Bismarck had been KFYR, where the young anchor A. J. Clemente delivered fateful curse words on the air seconds into his broadcast career last spring, leading to his dismissal. But the station turned Burgundy down.

While most in the business view KXMB’s decision to put Burgundy on for a 30-minute newscast as harmless fun, others question using news programming as a platform for movie promotion. One station group chief who requested anonymity wondered how KXMB might explain to a local car dealer why they don’t get the same plum promotion. “What does that say to your viewers about the role your newscast plays in their lives?” the senior VP said.

KXMB management received assurances that Ferrell would stick to the teleprompter, which he mostly did. “We did not want to devalue the product or the brand,” said Tammy Blumhagen, corporate sales manager.

His considerable charms aside, some in the anchor community prefer their Burgundy on the big screen. “I will go see it, but I will not let him sit on the set and anchor the news with me,” Amy Wood, WSPA Spartanburg (S.C.) anchor, said via email.

Lines from the first movie, which came out in 2004, still fly around TV station newsrooms. Anchors enjoy speculating who Burgundy is based on. Clark said Harold Greene, formerly of KGTV San Diego, was an inspiration for Burgundy’s distinctive look. Ferrell said he dreamed up Burgundy after watching longtime Detroit news anchor Mort Crim in a documentary about anchor Jessica Savitch.

While some cop to slight embarrassment in the way Anchorman portrays their industry, local TV players said Burgundy is a spoof of an earlier era when tanned, blow-dried, Voice of God anchors reigned. “There is nobody out there like him today,” says one veteran GM. “There was 25 years ago.”

Several say Anchorman is a good reminder not to take oneself too seriously. “I do think it’s a noble profession,” said Dennis House, anchor at WFSB Hartford. “We provide the viewer with information and we have fun doing it. If we can laugh at ourselves, great.”

Getting his wife, Kara Sundlun, on board for a “date night” engagement with Anchorman 2 was no problem, House said. After all, she’s an anchor too.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.