Will Ferrell’s first “Anchorman” movie was silly, juvenile, unrealistic and implausible, and yet, its exaggerated portrayal of a local TV newsroom was truthful nonetheless.
Though they’re certainly not as bumbling as Ron Burgundy, real-life TV anchormen can be shallow, superficial, boastful and egotistical.
One of New York’s local TV anchormen once told me this about TV news anchors: “You know,” he said, “the secret to our industry is to be a mile wide and an inch deep.” He said he’d heard this description of a TV anchorman from another anchorman — Hugh Downs.
It’s not that they’re stupid necessarily; they’re not (though this point is sometimes debatable).
But with their carefully managed hair and deep voices, they are easily parodied by the likes of Ferrell and, just as famously, by the late, great Ted Knight, whose portrayal of Minneapolis anchorman Ted Baxter on the old “Mary Tyler Moore Show” remains the gold standard against which all such portrayals are judged.
In fact, the words “Ted Baxter” have been applied so often over the years to describe real-life anchormen that the words have become synonymous with a certain kind of newscaster (whether the comparison was fair or not).
And yet, we can recall no instance in which Ferrell has ever referred to Ted Baxter in interviews about either of his Ron Burgundy movies — the first one, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” or the new sequel, “Anchorman: The Legend Continues,” due to be released Dec. 18.
The two characters have a lot in common. Among other things, they are both local TV newsmen, as opposed to anchoring on the national-news level (although in the new sequel, Burgundy and his news team have apparently relocated to New York, in the early 1980s, where they take up jobs in a new all-news channel on cable TV).
And they are both creations of the 1970s. The Baxter character was seen during that decade, of course, and the Burgundy character was dreamed up years later as part of Ferrell’s apparent obsession with the ’70s, as reflected in the “Anchorman” movies and others in which he has starred (most notably, the basketball movie “Semi Pro”).
So how do these two legendary, fictional anchors compare? We invite you to judge for yourself by watching the two “Anchorman” trailers, above, and an episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” below, featuring the Ted Baxter character (and by the way, we’re partial to Ted Baxter in this battle since we’re always biased toward TV anyway).