Breaking news: The left hand at Fox apparently doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. So weeks before the network premieres “Back to You,” an expensive Kelsey Grammer-Patricia Heaton sitcom spoofing smaller-town TV news, the unscripted dept. invades the same turf, only with a former “WWE Diva” becoming an anchor in Tyler, Texas, the No. 111 U.S. TV market (out of 210).
Actually, this comedy-reality concept is rather quaint, beginning from the supposition that most local news isn’t a joke already and that newsies would be aghast at the thought of employing a model to juice ratings.
Whether blindingly blond Lauren Jones can make it after all and turn the world (or at least part of Texas) on with her smile is difficult to discern, mostly because the camera spends a lot of time zeroing in on her breasts and legs. Phil Hurley, the G.M. at KYTX Channel 19 (notably, a CBS affiliate), hires Jones to jump-start the station’s sluggish performance, causing considerable chagrin (OK, probably put-on chagrin) among his existing staff.
Greeted by billboards that say with almost messianic undertones simply “She’s Coming,” Jones obligingly arrives from Los Angeles looking the bimbo part, wearing a low-cut leopard-print top and miniskirt. As she struggles with mastering a TelePrompTer, employees place side bets on whether she’ll melt down on air, as current anchor Annalisa Petralia frets and news director Dan Delgado looks ready to swig Pepto-Bismol from the bottle.
But really, who’s kidding whom? The trend toward objectifying women in TV news left the barn ages ago, as Fox News Channel’s array of news readers and L.A. talent such as Jillian Barberie and Jackie Johnson attest. The KYTX newsroom personalities, moreover — who surely must relish this national stage — clearly know what their roles are as they react to this shapely grenade thrown into their midst.
Being Fox, of course, the show exaggerates the tension by overtly establishing that Jones is utterly lacking in credentials and was hired strictly for her looks, attempting to build suspense regarding the potential train wreck to come. In that respect, think of this as “The Simple Life” in a different venue, with Jones essentially cast as a more voluptuous version of Paris Hilton, tackling another “fish out of water” career challenge.
Some feminists have already derided the concept, which for the most part plays into Fox’s “Criticize us, and inadvertently help promote our show” strategy. Still, given the obvious manipulation involved, it’s hard to take “Anchorwoman” seriously, which isn’t the same thing as saying it’s funny.