Adam McKay is not optimistic about the current state of TV news. But unlike most, he has told millions of people his thoughts on the subject, in the form of the classic comedy "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," which he directed and co-wrote. Will Ferrell, the original film's star, recently announced a sequel, and McKay told Salon's David Sirota that he thinks "Anchorman 2" will be even more relevant -- because the superficiality of the news has only gotten worse.
If you have somehow never seen "Anchorman," the story centers around Ferrell's character Burgundy, a pompous caricature of an egotistical news anchor whose love of his well-coiffed mustache and hair almost equals his disgust with the idea of a female news anchor. And while Burgundy is an undeniably silly -- not to mention really, really funny -- high-status dolt, McKay explains that the character is meant to mock the idea that image trumps reporting in the TV news game.
"Part of what inspired the movie was just how ridiculous the news had become," McKay told Sirota. "It was all ratings driven. The people were getting better and better looking. The weather women were getting outrageously beautiful. It was all about the voice and the hair."
And even in the nine years since the original "Anchorman" came out, McKay has seen Ron Burgundys appear more often on teleivion. "[T]he character has gotten more and more relevant as the news has gotten to be nothing more than a ratings-driven profit machine that is never going to examine any of the real power in this country."
While it's likely that "Anchorman 2" will be less a Chayefsky-esque criticism of the media and be more an exercise in silliness -- he hinted to Sirota that the story will center around a "custody battle" and will include "bowling for dollars" -- McKay has been known to include political or social criticism in his films where audiences least expect, such as an animated explanation of the financial crisis that closed out cop comedy "The Other Guys." He also faced some criticism for a line in the epilogue of "Anchorman" that Steve Carell's idiot character would go on to become a high-ranking member of the Bush administration.
McKay's interest in using comedy to poke fun at political issues has extended to other upcoming films. He is producing the upcoming "The Campaign," which will see Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis running for office against each other, and as of 2010 he wanted to make a film about the godfather of shameless political campaigning, the late Lee Atwater. McKay also is a frequent blogger for HuffPost.
Excerpts of Sirota's interview with McKay can be read on Salon. The full interview will be streamed Tuesday morning on his radio show's website.