The time: the nineteen-seventies. The place: San Diego, California. And the man: Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), the most trusted local news anchor in the city, every other station comes a distant second in the ratings when he is on the air as most of the population tunes in to hear him deliver the day's events in his avuncular but commanding style, a giant among newsmen. He has solid support from his team of Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), the roving reporter, Champ Kind (David Koechner), the sports reporter, and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) who takes care of the weather. But what if there was someone else added to that party of four? And what if that someone was... a woman?
Anchorman was a film that, much like Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery a few years before it, was not entirely appreciated at its initial release yet as with the Mike Myers opus went on to be endlessly quoted by those who rented it on home video, or DVD as it would then be. That quotability was a big reason many comedies have taken off with the public, it's more than simply a catchphrase that would have been the bonus to any comedy act of decades before, it was an apparent non sequitur that when delivered to an appreciative audience, no matter if it was only one person, would immediately break down all barriers of class, gender, race and politics and prove a universal method of uniting the globe.
OK, maybe that's an exaggeration, but there are certain films and television shows where a well placed quote from a celebrated moment allows the speaker to benevolently borrow its cool and set the room laughing in welcoming a happy memory of a pop culture artefact, and Anchorman went over like gangbusters with many thousands, even millions. Funnily enough, although Will Ferrell and his director Adam McKay were credited with the script, a lot of the most quoted lines were of the improvised variety as the cast were made up of many a seasoned improv talent. So many random gags were left on the cutting room floor that they rescued them and crafted a whole different, feature length, straight to DVD effort, which was either an indication of how fertile the performers' imaginations were, or of how long the shooting day must have been.
Conceive of it: everyone coming up with the best lines they could, not all of them successful, until McKay called "cut!" for the umpteenth time and then the process began all over again - who says these stars don't earn their money? They must have the patience of Job. This was not just a selection of sketches featuring as much silly dialogue as they could dream up, as there was an actual plot to Anchorman as well, which would have been the centre of a let's laugh at the seventies satire in many a comedy yet in this case was the source of more excuses for the cast to act like idiots for giggles. This new female reporter is Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who enters the bear pit of testosterone-fuelled news reporting and sets the cat among the sexist pigeons, before entering an actual bear pit for the grand finale of foolishness.
Nevertheless, we are well aware Veronica, while in possession of flaws of her own, is in the right and represents the future, while the Channel 4 news team of Ron and company are in danger of becoming dinosaurs if they don't shake up their act. But this was not really making any great ethical stand other than that, and the men's workplace prejudices are the springboard for the cast to behave as ludicrously as possible with the reporters first trying to persuade Veronica into their beds to get her under their control, and when against the odds Ron succeeds, get overconfident and lose their grip on the situation dramatically. Thrown up seemingly for the hell of it were such scenes as Ron having a conversation with his dog Baxter, Ron playing jazz flute ("I dabble"), the men goading their TV rivals into a pitched battle on the streets of San Diego where Brick really does kill someone, and a bunch of morale-boosting support from famous faces who not coincidentally had starred together in their other movies. For some, Anchorman was too stupid for words; for others, that was the appeal. Music by Alex Wurman.