"Anchorwoman" Serves Up Fraudulent Fun

First things first: The existence of a reality show that follows a bikini model in her new job as a news anchor at a tiny, low-rated Texas TV station desperate for ratings is obviously a craven, calculated move that has nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with garnering attention.

Is "Anchorwoman" a travesty for journalism? Probably, but that also gives it too much credit. It is happening in market No. 111, where the station mascot is Stormy the Weather Dog, and the purpose of installing 24-year-old Lauren Jones, a former WWE diva, in the KYTX newsroom has as much to do with boosting the station's ratings as it does creating cheap prime-time programming for Fox.

"Now we just need to make sure we get out of here with our journalistic integrity intact," says news director Dan Delgado.

"Good luck with that," says another staffer.

Setting aside the hand-wringing and taking "Anchorwoman" purely as entertainment, the first half-hour of the one-hour premiere is a breezy diversion. It's train-wreck TV that often seems less real and more contrived, but it's kind of a hoot anyway.

Jones, a blond bombshell and former Barker's Beauty on "The Price Is Right," claims to have always dreamed of becoming a newscaster, but she knows nothing about the job, chirping, "I'm so opinionated and this is a good opportunity for me to voice my opinions about, I don't know, maybe terrorism." Let me guess: She thinks it's bad!

A rehearsal sequence shows Jones ad-libbing inappropriately and blowing kisses at the camera, much to the dismay of the KYTX staff.

Last month at Fox's portion of the Television Critics Association summer press tour, KYTX general manager Phil Hurley said some employees at the CBS affiliate expressed skepticism about inviting Jones into the newsroom. He also noted, accurately, that small-town Texas stations are often a training ground for reporters with no on- air experience.

Hurley said he had some concerns about how the Jones experiment would affect the station's image, but the controversial hiring appears to have helped the ratings, based on an early report of Jones' first 30 days. With production of "Anchorwoman" complete, she's now deciding whether to return to the station or try to find a TV job in a larger market.

Jones acknowledged that she's gotten some criticism for being unprepared for the job, but said she takes the job seriously and doesn't intend to make a mockery of broadcast journalism. But she also says, "It's not rocket science. You're writing a news block."

She also says part of anchoring is acting, and she's learned that giving your opinion is a no-no: "You have to put on a certain persona. You can't have opinions; you have to play an anchor."

"Anchorwoman" sets up an "All About Eve" scenario that pits Jones against another anchor, Annalisa Petralia, who claims she's worried that throwing Jones on the air without enough preparation will be "a disservice to Lauren." Petralia is unamused when a cameraman reminds her she had no experience when she started.

"Anchorwoman" editors also cut together footage of Petralia talking about her "journalistic credibility" with clips from actual newscasts, including her saying, "That's why boys have cooties."

That may be the real statement "Anchorwoman" has to make about the state of local news: You can't really corrupt something that was already bankrupt before Hollywood came to town.

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