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More Mediocre Viewing Found in The TV Set

  • Annabelle Robertson Crosswalk.com Entertainment Critic
  • 2007 9 Sep
  • COMMENTS
More Mediocre Viewing Found in <i>The TV Set</i>

DVD Release Date:  September 25, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  April 6, 2007
Rating:  R (for strong language)
Genre:  Comedy
Run Time: 89 min.
Director:  Jake Kasdan
Actors:  David Duchovny, Sigourney Weaver, Lindsay Sloane, Ioan Gruffudd and Judy Greer, Fran Krantz

Poor Mike (David Duchovny).  A Hollywood TV writer and showrunner, he’s finally got a great script, and one of the big networks has just green-lighted a pilot for his new series.  But they just won’t leave him alone.  Network president Lenny (Sigourney Weaver) insists that Mike’s autobiographical story line be dropped because it isn’t funny (“Statistics show that, like, 82 percent of everybody finds suicide depressing, Mike.”).  She forces him to hire bad actors—especially for the lead.  And, she makes him rewrite scenes on the spot while shooting, causing everyone on set to be frustrated.

Mike tries to stand up to her, but he has a pregnant wife and a toddler, and he just can’t afford to lose this deal.  Network exe Richard McAllister (Ioan Gruffudd) agrees with Mike’s vision for the show, but he, too, eventually caves in to Lenny’s strident demands—just like Mike’s perpetually cheerful agent (Judy Greer).  As a result, “The Wexler Chronicle,” an edgy drama about a family striving to survive a suicide, slowly becomes “Call Me Crazy!” a silly, melodramatic comedy with scatological humor.  But hey—the network picked up the pilot.  It’s actually going to be a TV series!

Director Jake Kasdan is largely creating an autobiographical tale of himself here.  A Hollywood insider who appeared as a child on The Big Chill and went on to create Freaks and Geeks, a TV show that was cancelled shortly after it was picked up, Kasdan knows of what he speaks.  His behind-the-scenes look at network machinations is realistic and informative, even as it is somewhat insider-ish.  He seeks to satirize the absurd decisions that result in the dumbed-down, crass television shows we have today, and he certainly accomplishes the task.

Unfortunately, much like Mike’s “original” script for his show, Kasdan’s project isn’t nearly as good as it wants to be.  The film moves far too slowly during the first half.  It overplays Duchovny as the victim, giving him not only a weak personality but also a cold and a bad back. He’s even confined to bed and forced to walk on crutches as his show is made worse and worse.  The dialogue also isn’t particularly inspired.  As a result, the satire generally comes across as weak and doesn’t entertain nearly as much as it could.

What the film does have going for it is great acting.  Although Duchovny is one-note, Weaver is as great as she was in Working Girl—a real threat to be reckoned with.  Gruffudd steals more than a few scenes as the charming British executive whose personal life is falling apart.  And Fran Kranz, as the egotistical, untalented lead actor on the fringe of stardom, is brilliantly annoying.  It takes a real actor to play a bad actor, and he does it perfectly. 

The film’s message is about the way that networks, who insist upon consensus from a large group of people—most of whom are in it just for the money—ruin good television.  It also shows us how vapid that world is (in case we didn’t know already).  Unfortunately, all this isn’t enough to save the film, though. 

As a result, The TV Set isn’t bad.  It’s just mediocre.  Kind of like what we see on television, actually. 

DVD EXTRAS:

  • Audio commentaries by writer/director Jake Kasdan, executive producer Judd Apatow, producer Aaron Ryder and actors David Duchovny and Lindsay Sloane
  • “The Making of The TV Set” featurette
  • Deleted Scenes

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  A few scenes with smoking and drinking; one scene where a character (possibly) smokes a joint.
  • Language/Profanity:  Several dozen f- obscenities.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  A few mild sexual illusions and one discussion about looking “sexy,” as well as some low-cut dresses.
  • Violence:  None.