Monday, December 06, 2004
As a certain former NBC employee figuratively finds himself Dakota-bound and possibly facing a labor-intensive restart of a once lucrative Sunday Supplement underwear-modeling career, I am forced, by dint of yet more smoldered offerings upon his already blackened altar, to consider that unique but ubiquitous and fading American entity commonly called anchorman.
I say “commonly” because, for all my 30 years slaving in the salt mines of domestic and international television, we uncommon North American insiders referred to the on-camera crowd as “talent” since that was what they, once upon a time, were supposed to possess as justification for their visual primacy.
I say “supposed” because, throughout television’s long history, talent was precisely the quality these teased, heavily promoted and thickly made-up butts of gallows humor most often lacked.
Mr. Brokaw, as any viewer would know, found “R” an irksome letter in the grand mumbled alphabet tradition of handicapped consonant pioneer Barbara Walters.
Many an entertaining, though information-free, American evening was spent watching NBC’s old Tom wa-wa his way through an “R”-packed script along the lines of ”regular Rangers round up rebel renegades in Rwanda.”
On the day of this gentleman’s final broadcast, after the over effusive accolades from the freakish remnants of Katie, Matt and Al and shortly after a simulated welling of bone-dry anchor tears, I sent this email to NBC News:
Of course, silly me, I’ve given the back of my hand to the alleged journalistic element and front row center reserved seating to cheap theatrics; always, as some detractors allude, a triumphant forté of my rebellious broadcast existence.
But theatrics and cheapness have always been the yin and yang of the cool toob no matter some “talent’s” semi-recent hot infatuation with post-Watergate me-focused celebrity journalism.
Yes, over the last 20 to 30 years, TV’s million-dollar glamour pusses have fallen all over themselves to enforce their identification as members of that pencil-pushing profession just slightly less historic than prostitution by actually writing the occasional 20 or 30 seconds of self-ballyhooed script copy.
Some of these faux scribes have been known to actually sit alongside a producer and editor to contribute the occasional phrase when not in ongoing telephonic communication with agents, stylists or divorce lawyers.
Suddenly, into the as luck would have it semi-literate marketplace, came a less than mythological Muse in the form of synergistic mega corporate ownership with endless ranks of ghostly writers capable of feathering spontaneous anchor jibber into something, when jacketed in glossy photos, divided into chapters, hyped ad nauseum and occasionally taped for televised usage, vaguely book like.
I’m imagining this former network anchor’s particular writing career will, thanks to GE and a corporate kool-aid gargle, burn its dim bulb well beyond this past week’s retirement to further illuminate synergy’s pale green heaven.
In an amusing life beyond the grave coincidence, I’m reminded of my old anchor team’s reawakening this evening in metropolitan Washington, DC.
The hug and kisses puffery in yesterday’s Washington Post almost completely misses the fun fact that the more entertaining show will be off-air in WJLA’s Rosslyn, VA newsroom and former HQ of the reunited anchor team’s previous corporate ownership.
I find some synergies, like that former owner’s disastrous November sweeps, almost too delicious!
Yes, kiddies, in a flashback tribute to divas of yore, titanic cable and over-the-air egos will spark and clash in what is sure to be high entertainment for the producers and crews privileged to watch.
The truly intelligent, lovely, elegant, ever arch and, now, senior anchor gave a WoPo staff writer the tantalizing hint:
Bunyan was reluctant to draw an exact comparison of what happened to her and Peterson at WUSA but acknowledged one similarity. "The parallel I see between us and this situation is how things have moved on for both of us, regardless of how we left, willingly or not willingly…
Treated rather brutally by the previous station’s ownership and, in a manner (wink, wink) similar to a union negotiation without a shop steward, this female anchor found her, then, last broadcast a mysteriously solo flight.
While too refined to dish too diva in ‘JLA’s mile-high newroom, this female class act will, I’m sure, join the watchers in expecting the spark mother load to cascade between her now and former, old and younger alpha-esque 6PM anchors.
Am I smelling smoke, a book deal or, lucky for the terror-constrained new owners, both?
Photos: NBC, dcrtv.com