There's a bright side to everything, even the decline and fall of network news-show standards. The August Vanity Fair features a hilarious story about bagging the big ones: the lengths to which TV anchors go to snare interviews with caning victims, felonious figure skaters and other "geeks of the week" whose tawdry tales constitute current events for many TV watchers.
The anchors are million-dollar women -- Walters-Chung-Sawyer-Pauley-Couric. Their spiritual leader is Barbara Walters. Connie Chung (CBS' "Eye to Eye"), with Heidi Fleiss and Tonya Harding scalps on her belt, is the top challenger. They all say they like each other. The people they must court are mostly, according to one anchor, "nerds who never got any attention from a woman in their lives." Thus sex appeal comes into play.
On that count, caning victim Michael Fay's attorney was best wooed by Diane Sawyer (ABC's "PrimeTime Live"): "She has an unparalleled telephone voice. It's a very languid and sexual, lingering, throaty voice. It's alluring."
The attorney has appeared on a few shows, but everybody's still after Mr. Fay himself. If he does appear on NBC's "Now" show, with anchors Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric, she will get the interview. "I think," said producer Jeff Zucker, "it's probably a lot more comfortable for Katie to see his [scars] -- if he's going to show [them] -- than, say, Tom."
If Ms. Couric gets a look, she will have earned it. The "Today" and "Now" anchor once sent Tonya Harding's lawyer a cake with words in frosting suggesting NBC would continue wooing to get an interview.
"Basically," she said, "I try to be as charming and ingratiating as I can without making myself vomit." Words to live by.