There’s a chill in Control Room A in MTV’s midtown Manhattan studio. These walls have seen the action and chaos that comes with countless hours of live television, but they have rarely seen greatness. Today, however, they are awash in it.
Draped in red velvet, some six-and-a-half feet of pure man gallops like a stallion down the thin hallway that leads to the news studio. With scripts tightly clenched in one hand and hair delicately patted with the other, the man — nay, the legend — breezes onto the set and into his chair, awaiting the signal from his floor producer.
Anchorman Ron Burgundy has come to New York to teach the staff of MTV News a few things, and class is in session.
“Where the hell is my scotchy scotch?” he barks between takes.
Burgundy’s well-documented love of whiskey says less about possible alcoholism than it does about the pressures of being a trusted and beloved newsman. If the National Park Service were to commission a new Mount Rushmore in honor of history’s great news icons, somewhere, sandwiched between Cronkite and Murrow, you would likely find Ron Burgundy.
From his humble but storied beginnings at KVWN in San Diego, Burgundy’s thick, baritone delivery, light emphasis on facts and spectacularly sculpted hair have built a legacy that has served as a beacon to countless contemporary broadcasters. His influence can be seen on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News, and his presence in the halls of MTV — where for one day he is taking a break from promoting “Anchorman” by filling in as the anchor for the channel’s daily news — isn’t merely noticed; it’s felt deeply.
“I just had to come down and check out the competition,” MTV News reporter Sway said as he tried to look busy outside the news studio.
And Burgundy does not disappoint. Just as tape is about to roll, he waves off his crew, and pauses for a moment halting production as he searches for… something. Stories may come and stories may go, but the news will not start until Burgundy had slipped on his Channel 4 KVWN ring. After that, the master goes to work.
Poised stoically before the camera with the posture of a Greek statue, Burgundy brings the same gravity to stories about Britney Spears’ upcoming nuptials and Andy Dick’s new reality show that he brought to news of mudslides and multi-car pile-ups during his days in San Diego. As he throws to a piece about hot new dancehall rhythms, he seems to channel the feel of Jamaica. He’s not just conveying information; he’s living it. Before the next story, he double- and triple-checks the pronunciation of Scott Weiland’s name before eventually saying, “I guess it doesn’t matter, does it?” Like any good TV newsman, Burgundy knows the names aren’t important … the tape is.
Burgundy is hardly all bluster and business. Between stories, he jokes with stagehands — truly a man of the people — and as tape rolls, he loses himself in the music for a moment, slapping his thigh in time with the rhythm.
But when the camera is on, so is Burgundy. He deftly works through versions of each of the day’s news stories for MTV, MTV2 and mtvU. He’s a master, painting his information on a canvas of videotape, accenting his work with charm and moustache hair.
Then, in one final moment, Burgundy blows the roof off of the news studio. As he begins his final read of the day, he breaks out the now-legendary Burgundy Turn, pivoting his shoulders and turning to face the camera as the segment begins. For a moment, it feels as if the move has drawn all of the air from the studio, and it becomes evident that all around are truly in the presence of television-news greatness. As the dizzying effect of the Burgundy Turn begins to wear off, the anchor is coming down the homestretch, and MTV News’ all-to-brief flirtation with Ron Burgundy is coming to an end.
“God bless you,” he tells his audience.
And God bless you as well, Mr. Burgundy. God bless you.
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