Faux News, a Bikini Babe and Alberto Gonzales: Lessons From FOX's Anchorwoman

08/28/2007 01:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It was a combo of what a lot of people say News Corp. does best: salacious -- if not fictitious -- news and outright salaciousness thinly veiled as entertainment. So why did that cocktail known as Anchorwoman fail so miserably as a reality show - one and done as of last week Wednesday with a paltry 2.7 million viewers. According to Jim reruns got more viewers in that hour. ACCORDING TO JIM!

The recap for the 297,300,00 who missed it: Anchorwoman starred Lauren Jones who is famous for holding a lot of jobs you wouldn't want your daughter to have. Ms. Jones is shipped down to FOX affiliate in Tyler, TX to be remade into an...wait for it...Anchorwoman. As reality shows go it wasn't Unanimous awful -- truly Unanimous was the best worst reality show ever -- and you could at least make a drinking game out of guessing which parts of Jones's body were augmented (it was easier to guess which weren't). But basically it was a one-joke show: ditzy chick tries to make it in the cutthroat world of local news where looks won't buy you an exclusive interview with the city comptroller. Jones's foil in the show was the station's brunette anchor Annalisa Petralia who is merely attractive next to Jones's medically enhanced gorgeousness.

For all I know Lauren Jones might be the Madeleine Albright of bikini models. But opting to play the umpteenth version of the dumb blonde was a bad call. Vapid and bleached was played out way before Posh Spice tried to do the next-to-umpteenth version of it a month ago, and that was with the added benefit of English wit.

The real problem with Anchorwoman is that it was built on a flawed concept. Reality shows -- or "reality" shows -- are supposed to reveal to the viewer the unseen. That Ozzy Osbourne has much in common with Ozzie Nelson. That a thirty year old man could fall in love with a forty-eight year old woman instead of a twenty-three year old girl. Anchorwoman promised to peel back the mysterious curtain of news and reveal that the media is shallow and anyone can read a Teleprompter.

Unfortunately the folks at FOX were at least fifty-six years too late.

Billy Wilder did it better in Ace in the Hole (finally available on DVD) and Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lumet showed their prescience with 1976's Network.

But for a more immediate version of the same you only needed to check out the Fox News web page yesterday.

While all other major news sites were leading with the Gonzales resignation, the headline on Fox was an arrest in a Texas "kill spree." That was followed by stories on Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho getting popped in a Minnesota airport (hey, at least it he was a negative story about a Republican), a motorcade cop escorting President Bush who died in a crash and Michael Vick doling out a mea culpa. Below a story on a KY SWAT team taking out a gunman you get the line: Bush: Gonzales "Dragged Through the Mud." If you'd just dropped in form mars, you wouldn't even know the guy'd resigned. Much as history is owned by the victors, news is "owned" by the outlets. Even the demi-cognoscenti already know this. Anyone who truly buys into the bromides of "fair and balanced" or "most trusted name..." may have been slightly entertained, but would not have been remotely enlightened by the travails of a bikini model at a small market TV station. How FOX figured their Anchorwoman "reality" was going to compete with Fox News's reality is beyond me.

Just for the record, it's beyond me how Fox thought Anchorwoman was going to compete with Judy Miller's reality at the New York Times either.

If you're desperate to see if a ditz can really make it in TV news, Anchorwoman will be available online.

If you're desperate to see if sins of omission and agitprop can pass for news, Fox News is always online (and the Times, too!).