‘Anchorman’s’ world

November 14, 2013

Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow better make room atop the Mount Rushmore of television news: America has another anchorman to celebrate.

He’s a man other men aspire to be. One with many leather-bound books, a love of scotch and names for both his biceps. He reads the news like no one else — and he looks damn good doing it.

He’s Ron Burgundy and he wants you to stay classy, America.

Now, as we await the next chapter of his ongoing adventures, the Newseum is making a case for Burgundy’s place within — or at least next to — journalism history.

“Anchorman: The Exhibit,” opening Thursday at the Penn Quarter museum, is a tribute to the mustached newsman and the 2004 movie that birthed him, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”

It’s also a way for the Newseum to have some fun with the TV news industry from the era the film so brilliantly satirized: the 1970s.

“We’ve got plenty of serious stories we tell, but museums can have a sense of humor, too,” says Cathy Trost, the Newseum’s vice president of exhibits and programs. “Laughter is sometimes the best way to learn.”

For those who haven’t seen the cult comedy dozens of times, “Anchorman” follows the triumphs of San Diego’s all-male Channel 4 news team and award-winning lead anchor Burgundy (Will Ferrell). When a woman, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), joins the ranks and earns a spot next to Burgundy at the news desk, the men don’t take it well. “It is anchorman, not anchorlady!” sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) shouts. “And that is a scientific fact!”

While the exhibit packs in plenty of “Anchorman” memorabilia — including costumes worn by Ferrell and the rest of the cast, iconic props and a re-creation of the Channel 4 news desk that visitors can sit at — it’s all juxtaposed by parallels from history.

“In any parody there’s some truth,” Trost says. “And in the 1970s, there really were eyewitness news teams that wore matching polyester blazers and had big hair. More importantly, the anchor chair was often for men only and women did have to fight sexism to get to the top.”

The exhibit arrives a month before “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” hits theaters, picking up the Burgundy story in the 1980s as he helms New York’s first 24-hour news network. A collection of items from the sequel will join the exhibit around the film’s Dec. 20 release.

“There’s room for pop culture in the museum,” Trost says. “The objects on display in ‘Anchorman’ are artifacts of pop culture, just like Dorothy’s slippers or Archie Bunker’s chair.”

Local Eyewitnesses

To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, local WJLA-TV film critic Arch Campbell and WRC-TV anchor Wendy Rieger will participate in an “Inside Media” event at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Newseum’s Knight TV Studio. The former, who began working in TV news in the ’70s, and the latter, who joined WRC in 1988, will discuss some of the real-life issues the film portrayed.

A Classy Read

“Written by” Ron Burgundy, the book “Let Me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life & Other Musings,” out Tuesday, gives a backstory to the Burgundy legend. Did you know, for example, that Burgundy is from a small coal-mining town in Iowa, or that he went hunting for jackalopes with Bobby Kennedy? Now you do. You’re welcome.

Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; through Aug. 31, 2014, free with museum admission ($13-$22); 888-639-7386. (Archives)

Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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Kristen Page-Kirby · November 14, 2013