A high school slacker who's rejected by every school he applies to opts to create his own institution of higher learning, the South Harmon Institute of Technology, on a rundown piece of property near his hometown.
EDtv will inevitably be compared to Peter Weir's The Truman Show but really they haven't much in common. The Truman Show took itself far too seriously. EDtv is a fairly black comedy, a satire on modern TV culture.
The producers of a failing TV network decide to take a punt and try a new format - a real TV doco on an ordinary life.
They audition and choose Ed (Mathew McConaghey), a rangy, slobbish video store worker who's been once or twice bitten in love; the sort of fellow who goes out with a beer mug tied around his neck.
Ed takes on the challenge partly because he's pretty broke and partly because he's bored, urged on by his little hoper, small brained, big muscled brother Ray played by Woody Harrelson. A few days into the shoot Ray throws over his girlfriend Shari (Jenna Elfman) and Ed wins her as his new lover. Ratings soar!
The talent of the cast (not to mention it's director Ron Howard) lends a great deal of life to Edtv. It's often genuinely funny. McConaughey uses that winning smile to perfection, even as he has an early morning, half asleep fiddle with his genitals. McConaughey is a major reason why EDtv works as well as it does.
Woody Harrelson is a genuinely talented actor and can play a spoilt, selfish meat headed brother perfectly. Some of the best lines have been left to Al the boy's father played by Martin Landau as well as to Ellen DeGeneres as the show's producer.
But it's the character of Ed and his family who really set the neurones firing. Unlike many American films these heroes are ordinary middle Americans, probably about as close as a mainstream American film could get to an English, Ken Loach/Mike Leach, style of middle/working class family. There aren't any chandeliers in Edtv.
It's not often that these sorts of characters are treated warmly in these sorts of films and then we must ask how our own families would fare under this sort of warts and all scrutiny- probably about as well as Ed's.
And it's also interesting to wonder how much the average Aussie would consider EDtv to be a satire given the popularity of Rikki Lake and her ilk, not to mention the Funniest Home Video types of programs. Is real life TV (is there such a thing) already even more outrageous than EDtv? Is EDtv outrageous enough to be satire?
There are some dull minutes in EDtv (mostly to do with Elizabeth Hurley's appearance as a sex pot) but EDtv proves again that Hollywood isn't nearly as dumb as it makes out to be.
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