BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Fox is rolling out two "news shows": a sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton as fictional news anchors in Pittsburgh, and an unscripted show starring a former bikini model-turned-anchorwoman in Texas.
Unveiled at a Television Critics Association gathering here this week, both series are meant to deliver laughs — and ratings — but not necessarily headlines. That makes Grammer's job a whole lot easier.
"Based upon my knowledge of most television newscasting now, it has nothing do with the news anyway," Grammer said at a Sunday session. "I'm very happy to just be another performer pretending to be a performer," added the former "Frasier" star, who will be back on the air this fall in the series "Back to You."
Then at a Monday TCA meeting, Fox introduced "Anchorwoman," a reality show debuting Aug. 21 about a local TV station that tries to prove beauty, not news experience, drives broadcast news in Tyler, Texas.
The subject of much derision among journalists, bikini model and former WWE diva Lauren Jones fielded questions from the TV critics about "Anchorwoman," which follows her through a 30-day trial by fire as the newest anchor on KYTX-TV's 5 p.m. newscast.
"I was given the opportunity to live my dream," said the micro-mini-skirt-wearing Jones. "I always wanted to be an anchorwoman, and this was the opportunity to take the bull by the horns."
Hoping to boost ratings for his CBS affiliate, station owner Phil Hurley partnered with reality maverick Brian Gadinsky ("American Idol") to put the buxom blonde on the air — sans any formal journalism training.
"There was an expectation or a stereotype that she was not going to take it seriously. That she was just there to further her own bikini modeling career," Gadinsky said. "But when she got there ... everybody fell in line, and she surprised them."
Having survived her 30-day initiation, Jones says she's now fielding offers. But she's also in negotiations to stay on at KYTX.
"We're trying to make the best decision if we're going to proceed forward. That's definitely an option right now, and it looks like a pretty good one," said Jones, a graduate of New York's Parson School of Design who considers Katie Couric a role model.
Although the station has made no formal contract offer, Hurley says he'd like to keep her on the anchor desk. "But I'm afraid I'll lose her. ... She knows what we can pay."