It may be a measure of how beloved a comedian Will Ferrell has become, or it may be a sign of the apocalypse, but when a North Dakota TV station gave over an entire evening news broadcast to a movie promotion stunt, no one seemed the least bit offended.
On Saturday, Ferrell, in character as San Diego news anchor Ron Burgundy, complete with fake moustache and maroon suit, was allowed to co-anchor the 5 p.m. news with anchor Amber Schatz on the Bismarck station KXMB-TV. The stunt, a promotion for "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," delighted not just viewers in Bismarck but apparently much of the Internet. You can see it here.
Ferrell, as Burgundy, bantered with the sports and weather guys, reported a story about a local fire, and read the intros to pieces about a wearable suitcase, a Santa appearance in a small town and a local speed trap featuring a dummy propped behind the wheel of a sheriff's car.
He told Schatz she looked attractive and asked if she was married. When she replied that she was not, he said, "Well, I am, so don't get any ideas."
Not to be a fuddy-duddy, but any news operation that lets an actor commandeer an interview by insisting on doing it in character -- let alone taking over an entire 30-minute broadcast -- needs to do a little soul searching about its mission, not to mention its sense of humor.
The problem is twofold: You've just blatantly allowed your newscast to be co-opted by the corporate interests of the movie industrial complex. And, perhaps an even greater sin, journalists make terrible straight men and women.
In-character news interviews don't just drag down the news, they drag down the comedy. Every time Sacha Baron Cohen promotes one of his movies -- "Borat," "The Dictator," "Bruno" -- he insists on doing interviews as the fictional men he's created. Unless he's being interviewed by a fellow comedian, the exchanges are almost always more cringe-worthy than funny.
At the end of Saturday's broadcast, the KXMB news team presented Ferrell with a station sweatshirt, whereupon he missed his cue for the signature line that was supposed to be the station's payoff.
Schatz tried in vain to cue him: "Stay ... classy?"
"Oh, am I supposed to read that?" he asked.
Clunk. Roll credits.
If an actor insists on giving an interview in character, you can be sure that no one will learn a thing about the movie or the actor. Except, in Will Ferrell's case, I guess, that he can't read a cue card.
Joke's on you, Bismarck.