The New Republic didn’t like seeing Ron Burgundy on a local newscast in Bismarck, North Dakota. Burgundy, of course, is the Will Ferrell character in Anchorman 2, a parody of the TV newsman who’s busy getting free media exposure of late to promote the Paramount Pictures film, due out later this month. By letting an in-character Burgundy co-anchor Saturday night’s newscast on KXMB TV, wrote TNR’s Laura Bennett, the station was “essentially yielding their newscast to Ferrell’s hijinks.”
The actor, charges Bennett, made a “mockery” of the station’s “daily professional existence.”
No way, says KXMB General Manager Tim Reiten.
In a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Reiten mounts a vigorous defense of the decision to mix show biz with news biz over the weekend. It rests on several points:
1) Comments on the station’s site, says Reiten, run in favor of the stunt. “Ninety-five percent of them are very complimentary,” says Reiten.
2) The station has become the “talk of the town” since Saturday night, according to Reiten.
3) Ron Burgundy performed well. Just to make sure that the newscast would come off properly with a comic in a co-anchor’s chair, the station pre-taped the newscast, according to Reiten. They did a practice run, too, during which Burgundy uttered the word “crap.” “He asked, ‘Can I do that for real,’ ” recalls Reiten. No, came the response. “And he agreed,” says Reiten. “Any of my fears” about Burgundy going nuts “turned out to be unfounded. He was professional. He didn’t do any hijinks,” says the general manager.
When asked whether KXMB scheduled Burgundy to make his appearance on a Saturday night because that’s a slow news time, Reiten said no — that was when Ferrell’s people were available. And on the matter of selling out the newscast to a satirist, Reiten notes that the station discussed that concern and decided to do the pre-recording just to be “on the safe side.” In advance of the Ferrell appearance, Reiten kept the whole thing a secret; only six people at the station knew that it was in the works. “I jokingly called it the Manhattan Project,” says Reiten.
“Everywhere I go now, everybody’s going up to me or my wife and saying that was such a great thing. It’s been really nothing but positive for us here,” says the general manager.
By Monday morning, the newscast had gotten 400,000 views, according to a station employee. A non-Burgundy iteration would have fetched between 10,000 and 30,000.