Monday, December 01, 2014

Cult-TV Theme Watch: News Anchors

A news anchor or news-caster presents the nightly news on television, is often the most prominent journalist on a team of TV reporters. 

In cult-television history, the news anchor has long been a staple of the genre, appearing to deliver the news -- terrifying and amazing -- in a variety of beloved series.

In the pilot episode of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space (1965), “The Reluctant Stowaway,” for instance, we see a news anchor at his desk (and on TV) explaining to the American populace the mission and importance of the Jupiter 2 mission to Alpha Centauri.

In “Breakaway,” the first episode of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s Space: 1999 (1975 – 1977), Moonbase Alpha’s 311 resident astronauts and scientists receive a final transmission from Earth, and it happens to be a major news broadcast.  The news anchor (Don Fellows) there discusses the terrible devastation caused on Earth by the explosion on the moon and its subsequent rip from orbit. He broadcasts on the network GTV (Global TV?).

In V: The Series (1985), real-life news-man Howard K. Smith played himself in several episodes, but as the news anchor for the Freedom Network. At the start of each episode of V (in the first half of the season) Smith would appear on-screen to tell the latest stories of human courage against the Visitor occupation of Earth.

In the V remake of 2009, another news anchor played a crucial role.  Scott Wolf portrayed Chad Decker, a nightly news anchor who was co-opted by the Visitors when they offered to cure his cancer.  He eventually turned against his benefactors, however, and joined the Fifth Column.

In sci-fi TV history, we have also met many humorous or funny news anchors, who poke fun at the idea of a “Voice of God” news broadcaster.  Since 1975, Saturday Night Live has aired “Weekend Update,” a mock news show in which sometimes one or more anchor sounds off about the news. 

Over the years, this role has been played by Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Christopher Guest, Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon, Norm MacDonald, Colin Quinn, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz, Seth Meyers, Cecily Strongt, Colin Jost, and Michael Che.

And on The Simpsons, Kent Brockman (Harry Shearer) is Springfield’s beloved news-caster (for channel 6), welcoming new alien overlords to Earth and otherwise parodying -- or skewering -- modern newscasts.

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