Whether you’re of the school that thinks it’s genius or among the naysayers who think it’s a marketing ploy for a sequel that hardly needs more hype, the Newseum’s new show is kind of a big deal. “Anchorman: The Exhibit” opens tomorrow on the Pennsylvania Avenue museum’s second floor, and contains such relics as might get Ron Burgundy himself excited: original costumes, a model of Baxter the dog sporting pajamas, Sex Panther perfume, and even Ron’s jazz flute.
The show opens five weeks before the release of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s as much a promotional device as Ben & Jerry’s Scotchy Scotch Scotch ice cream or Will Ferrell’s in-character ads for the Dodge Durango. Still, “Anchorman: The Exhibit” offers a little more than just costumes and other artifacts enshrined inside glass cases of emotion. Scenes from the first movie are cross-referenced with snippets looking at TV news history, from the way news teams were promoted as gangs of friends you’d invite into your home to the sexism frequently experienced by female reporters. There’s also a segment exploring the real-life case of Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel, which reveals how consultants urged news producers in the ’70s to whip up their ratings with animal stories and other squishy human-interest features (here’s looking at you, BuzzFeed).
Is it a thought-provoking and insightful analysis of TV news in America? No. It’s an exhibit of costumes and props from a hugely successful cult movie. Visitors can film themselves playing anchormen and anchorladies from behind a replica of the Channel 4 newsdesk, and click on a touchscreen to see Ron Burgundy offer advice to prospective newsreaders, such as: “Drink plenty of fluids, and by fluids, I mean bourbon or gin.” Some of the unexpected inclusions are the most interesting—Ron Burgundy’s wallet contains an “American Excess” credit card, and Judd Apatow’s copy of the script is so tiny it’s hard to read. But it’s the most Instagrammable exhibit of the year, and that’s really all that matters.
“Anchorman: The Exhibit” opens November 14 at the Newseum. For more information, visit the Newseum’s website.