A television network is making a pilot of Mike's quirky comedy based on the aftermath of his brother's suicide. As the network suits ask for change after change, and as Mike struggles with compromise, there are strains on families, execs who show rushes to their children, leads who feel each other out, and assistants who put a smile on everything. Can an honest show get made in the world of reality TV chasing an audience of teen-aged boys? Written by
Why not "The Wexler Chronicles"?
Against "Infidelity 101"? We'll get killed.
Well, we'll do better than we will with "Cheating Heart." You said so yourself, Lenny. "Sex will always beat disgusting foods. But in a fight between sex and sex, the sexier show will win," and they have the sexier show. Seems to me that the only way to counter them is to go with an actual scripted story with characters and... *stories* and things. If only for the 35-and-ups. At least we'll do some kind ...
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During the end credits an elimination round from the fictional reality show "Slut Wars" plays, featuring Seth Green as the host. See more »
Despite its short running time, "The TV Set" doesn't quite sustain its humor throughout. There are tremendous lulls in-between some very good jokes. There are a few really big laughs and the premise is awfully enticing. Yet, writer-director Jake Kasdan, who wrote and directed the very funny and hugely under-rated, "Zero Effect" (1998), cannot seem to keep things funny throughout.
The film, to be distributed nationally by ThinkFilm, is a rather rude awakening, albeit a funny one, to anyone who aspires to be a writer, especially a TV writer. Mike (David Duchovny) comes up with an idea for a TV series, only to find he is forced to compromise at every turn - from the lead actor to the tone of the pilot to plot points.
The first 10 minutes or so are very funny. But the film loses steam as it goes along, partly because Kasdan seems to want to make a 21st century version of "Network" (1976) at times. But trying to emulate Paddy Chayefsky is no easy feat. Chayefsky was unique and although Kasdan scores some points, he just cannot overcome these huge dull lulls when exposition takes over for comedy and the film just falls flat.
Sigourney Weaver as Lenny, the studio executive - incidentally, the role was initially written for Ben Stiller, so I suppose it's a blessing that he backed out because the man's not done a good movie in years and has ruined several potentially funny films - seems to be simply replaying her shrill, bitchy Katharine Parker from "Working Girl" (1988). Trouble is, villains need to be interesting and Weaver can't quite find what makes Lenny an intriguing person.
Judy Greer does the best of the lot. She has fine comedic timing, knows how to turn a phrase and realizes that good comedy requires underplaying a role sometimes. It's good to see Justine Bateman back in action, but she truly is wasted as the suffering wife. Ioan Gruffudd brings a semblance of dignity to the proceedings finding the right balance for a character conflicted by personal gain and artistic integrity.
Then, there's Duchovny. I realize he has an incredibly loyal following for whom he can do no wrong. Every performance, in their mind, is Oscar-worthy. (I am a huge Woody Allen fan, but I readily admit the man's made some turkeys. Duchovny fans, on the other hand, can't seem to quite grasp that he isn't all that good an actor.) Duchovny has the emotional range of Patrick Swayze, if that. You want to see how limited his range is? Watch Duchovny's crying scene in "Return to Me" (2000).
Duchovny has a few good moments in "The TV Set," especially reacting to what's happening around him. But, truth be told, he gives the same performance in everything he does, be it television or movies. There's no difference between his performance here and his turn in the wretched "Connie and Carla" (2004). It's impossible to differentiate one Duchovny performance from another. There's a smugness to him that can be appealing, and which occasionally works, but he desperately needs a broader range of emotions to turn him into an average actor.
Kasdan misses several opportunities to get in some great jokes. After a while, the film takes on a typical arc. You sense where the story's going. A couple of digs at TV work. After all, Kasdan has experience having good shows canceled. And some of his best jokes seem to lurk in the background. You have to pay attention, but they're good.
"The TV Set" isn't a bad movie. It just isn't as terrific as it could be or Kasdan wants it to be. He has a lot to say about the state of TV today - which is, with a few exceptions, rather execrable - but he seems to struggle trying to find comedy for his entire story. Writing comedy isn't easy. And Kasdan should be credited for coming up with this. I just wish this had been funnier. Come to think of it, a bit more of "Slut Wars" - written well, of course - might have helped.
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