Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ted Baxter

Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), is the dim-witted, vain, and miserly anchorman of the Six O'Clock News. He frequently makes mistakes and is oblivious to the actual nature of the topics covered on the show, but considers himself to be the country's best news journalist. He is often criticized by others, especially Murray and Lou for his many shortcomings, but is never fired from his position.

Ted Baxter is a fictional character on the sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977). Portrayed by Ted Knight, the Baxter character is a broad parody of a vain, shallow, buffoonish TV newsman. Knight's comedic model was William Powell, and he also drew on various Los Angeles newscasters, including George Putnam (newsman), in helping shape the character. The role was originally conceived with Jack Cassidy in mind but Cassidy turned it down, although he did appear in an early episode as Ted's equally egocentric brother Hal. Ted Baxter has become a symbolic figure, and is often used when criticizing media figures, particularly news anchors hired for style and appearance rather than journalistic ability.

Baxter was the pompous, narcissistic anchorman for fictitious station WJM-TV in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Satirizing the affectations of news anchormen, the character spoke in a vocal fry register parody of the narrator of the old Movietone News film strips that played in movie houses before the television era. While his narcissism fueled Baxter's delusions of grandeur, his onscreen performance was buffoonish. A running joke of the show was Baxter's incompetence, featuring a steady stream of mispronunciations, malapropisms, pratfalls, and miscues. Constantly in fear of being fired, Ted Baxter was, ironically, the show's only character to survive the final episode's massive layoffs at WJM.

In the first few seasons of the show, Knight played the character broadly for comic effect, a simpleton that would mispronounce even the easiest words while on camera. Knight even grew so concerned that the show's writers were abusing the character that at one point he considered leaving "MTM". To round out Knight's character, the writers then paired him with a love-interest, Georgette, played by Georgia Engel, who brought out some of Baxter's more lovable characteristics and whom Baxter eventually marries.

On the animated TV series The Simpsons, the recurring character of anchor Kent Brockman is an homage to Ted Baxter. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy also makes extensive explicit and implicit references to Ted Baxter such as the dog named Baxter. In the episode "18th and Potomac" of The West Wing, C. J. Cregg uses Ted Baxter as the paradigm of a bad reporter. In the comedy-horror film Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Dr. Gangreen's underling Igor is shown to hold a diploma from "The Ted Baxter School of Journalism". In "Bruce Almighty," the name of the anchorman (played by Steve Carell) is Evan Baxter. The Electric Company also spoofed Ted Baxter as "Fred Baxter", a dimwitted news anchorman portrayed by Jim Boyd.

On the MSNBC program Countdown, Keith Olbermann regularly refers to his rival Bill O'Reilly as "Ted Baxter" and reads O'Reilly's words in a Baxter imitation. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said of O'Reilly, “Someone's got to say it: the man is Ted Baxter,” in the July 6, 2008, issue of New York Times Magazine. Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin agrees.

The Charleston, South Carolina, City Paper awarded news anchor Bill Sharpe a 2008 Best of Charleston Award for "Best Ted Baxter Impression"

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