TV Preview

'Anchorwoman': Talking Airhead

A story with legs: Lauren Jones, center, stars as a model turned journalist in
A story with legs: Lauren Jones, center, stars as a model turned journalist in "Anchorwoman." (By Joe Viles -- Fox)
By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Anchorwoman" is the sort of trailer-park television you wouldn't mark your calendar to watch each week, but if you channel-surfed across it, you couldn't help but watch.

Here's your "Green Acres" premise for this "comedy-reality hybrid" debuting tonight on Fox: Glamorous New York swimsuit model tootles down to Texas to host a local television station's evening newscast.

Lauren Jones, a former Miss New York USA semifinalist and former "Barker's Beauty" on "The Price Is Right," is the buxom babe in heels, and KYTX Channel 19 in Tyler, Tex., is small-town 'Murca.

We regret to inform you that some people, namely journalists, have taken this seriously.

"Despicable," the national president of the Society of Professional Journalists told one publication. "Sold their integrity," a competing Texas station told a trade magazine. "A swimsuit model fills in Annalisa Petralia's shoes?" Annalisa Petralia, the none-too-amused demoted KYTX anchor, says on the show. "Is that what we're telling our viewers? That I'm a swimsuit model, too?"

Actually, based on the available video evidence, no. But to be fair, let's say that Jones and Petralia are both better off in their respective callings. At least Jones has a sense of humor in this show, a pixie-cute wink at the camera that befits a former World Wrestling Entertainment hostess, and she's about as serious as any viewer should be. Which is to say, not at all.

In the initial episode, Jones gets the news in Los Angeles that KYTX, the CBS affiliate in a tiny East Texas market, has decided to hire her to see what happens when a model is given a slot on the 5 p.m. news. (Notice the station didn't go completely crazy, giving her the more highly viewed broadcasts later in the evening.) "I can't wait to get down there and meet a hot cowboy," she tells a friend.

"The ideal outcome from Lauren being here would be that our ratings begin to move upward," says the station's general manager, Phil Hurley, who is struggling to reach double figures in viewership.

Jones is good fun, plopping miniskirts and stilettos into the trunk of her fire-engine-red BMW convertible and showing up for work her first day revealing more of her gams than Beyoncé. Of course she's not trying to be a serious journalist -- the pay cut, for heaven's sake! -- and of course the station management isn't serious about keeping her on.

It falls to Dan Delgado, the station's news director, to manage an unhappy staff, try to coax a solid performance from Jones on-camera and keep the station's credibility somewhere above the cleavage. "Can we get out of here with our journalistic standards intact?" is his question for Jones's first show.

Delgado comes off as a good sport, but you have to wonder, as in all these reality shows, how much people are serious and how much they're mugging. Is Jones that much of a ditz, or is she playing the part? Petralia has a pretty good reason to be unhappy, but does she really go around telling co-workers to check her résumé if they doubt her journalistic background?

You'll have to watch to find out -- but, somehow, all we could think about was Don Henley's sarcastic take on local television news from years ago, "Dirty Laundry":

We got the bubble-headed bleach-blonde

Who comes on at 5.

She can tell you about the plane crash

With a gleam in her eye.

Don, buddy, you should tune in now.

Anchorwoman (30 minutes) has its one-hour premiere tonight at 8 on Fox.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company