Making the Grades
If you saw the original Anchorman (also called Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), you may be wondering how Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) ever managed to keep his job at the San Diego television station. Well that question is answered at the start of this sequel when Mr. Burgundy, who is expecting a promotion to the network news desk, is instead declared by his boss (Harrison Ford) to be the worst anchor in the history of broadcast news. Adding insult to injury, his co-anchor—who also happens to be his wife (Christina Applegate)—gets offered the big gig. That leaves Burgundy’s ego with no choice but to pack up and leave… his job and his wife.
Month’s later the washed up journalist is living in a drunken stupor and working as an announcer at Sea World. But with the dawn of the 1980s, new opportunities are emerging. Burgundy’s phone inexplicably rings with an offer to anchor at the world’s first 24-hour news station. After a short road trip, his old news team is soon back together. This includes reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner).
Predictably our protagonist’s narcissism gets the best of him just moments after his arrival at GNN headquarters in Atlanta where he discovers he is king of the 2 AM newscast. Betting the equally cocky primetime anchor (played by James Marsden) that he can best him in the ratings, Burgundy places his team in a do or die situation. This leads to one insightful aspect of this movie: Just like much of the real industry’s desperate trend to get high viewer numbers, the movie’s overnight crew decides to ignore serious news and to go after more people-pleasing items like patriotic feel-good pieces, gossip tidbits, weather disasters and live helicopter coverage of car chases down freeways. Mixed in with these scenarios are coy references to actual stories from the decade involving white broncos, hurricanes and an infamous domestic dispute that resulted in a shocking male dismemberment.
Sadly this sarcastic commentary on the state of broadcast news is constantly punctuated with sexual innuendo within way-too-long scenes of Will Ferrell and his buddies hamming it up in undoubtedly unscripted gags. While the cast appears to be having a good time, you may grow tired of listening to their banter, which is reminiscent of grade school boys on a playground. Also expect a wide variety of profanities, a sexual expletive, some sexual situations (that go beyond dialogue), drug use in a comedic context and a few punches during heated confrontations. Another scene depicts a depressed character attempting suicide.
Having personally spent years in television stations during the period this movie portrays, I was laughing at the inside humor and was equally impressed with the historical accuracy. Television news has long been ripe for a good spoof and in that regard Anchorman: The Legend Continues hits its mark. However young audiences attracted to this film will likely miss the point of how egotism and ratings color decisions determining what is “real” news, and many will not get the jokes stemming from 1980s culture. Rather, they will see a cool, suave hero who drinks and snorts his way through life and rises to the top of popularity. And that message may not be good news for family viewers.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
In this film broadcast news is seen as having a greater priority on style and personality than on delivering the most important news. How true do you think this portrayal is? What role do ratings play in this equation? What kind of news are you most interested in?
Is news reporting important in a democracy? Do you feel journalism today is better or worse than it was in Ron Burgundy’s time (roughly 30 years ago)?