In a Hail Mary move for corporate preservation, the San Francisco based Northwest Broadcasting Corporation launches True TV, a new network which will broadcast the life of an Average Joe or Jane, 24/7 live and thus unedited, the subject chosen signed initially for one month. The project is conceived and led by one of the producers, Cynthia, but her boss, NWBC president Whitaker, will take the credit if it succeeds, and let her sink as the captain of the ship if it fails. The network is rebranded EdTV when Cynthia believes she's found her subject, Ed Pekurny, a native Texas hayseed, who fits the two main criteria that she is looking for in the person: he is easy on the eyes, and he has what seems to be a potential trainwreck of a life in that he he is thirty-one years old, spends most of his time hanging out at the bar, and has no ambition beyond his longtime dead end job as a clerk in a video store. Ed did not actively campaign for the job - his blowhard of a brother Ray was the one ...Written by
Ed is a happy go lucky video store assistant going nowhere fast who finds himself attracted to his brothers girlfriend. So far so what? But this just happens to be occurring at the same time that his every waking minute is being broadcast live to the nation on the new reality show Edtv!
Directed by Ron Howard Edtv is a first class film inspired by the French Canadian movie 'Louis 19, Le Roi Des Ondes'. Released shortly after The Truman Show its the superior if unfairly less well received of the two Hollywood reality TV themed movies. It did come up against heavy comparisons but is quite a different & better film. Whereas Truman was totally unaware that he was in a TV show Ed activity volunteers for the job. Such is the currency of celebrity in the modern media age. Who are you if you haven't been on TV?
The world of celebrity is the one we inhabit in the early 21st century. They are used to try to convince us what to wear, what to eat, what to drink & even who to vote for! We are truly living in a celebrity culture, with shows such as Big Brother & Survivor promoting the seemingly unstoppable desire by members of the public to become famous simply for being famous! Ed, slightly reluctant at first soon becomes seduced by this idea, an idea which turns sour.
Ron Howards movie does have a lot to say about the issues of celebrity & reality TV, but at its heart is a great romantic comedy which has more of an edge to it than is expected from the one time star of Happy Days. The pairing of Matthew McConaughey & Woody Harrelson is inspired, they are great together sparking off one another. Natural comedic actors you believe they are brothers. Dennis Hopper puts in a good cameo & Jenny Elfman is totally convincing as the female romantic lead. You really care about the plight of the characters & the rest of the cast are also on top form. From Rob Reiners small role as a TV executive to the excellent Martin Landau as Eds father. He is one of the best character actors of recent years making truly varied & believable performance in films as diverse as Crimes & Misdemeanors, Ed Wood & Rounders. Add Edtv to the list - his performance is comedy gold!
The great acting would of course all be in vain if it weren't coupled with a good script. Thankfully Edtv has one. All the predictable hallmarks of a romantic comedy are here but with a sharper wit & of course the reality show structure which brings a new dimension to the genre. Add to this Howards direction using all the tricks, styles & conventions of reality TV. Sometimes you are watching the cameramens POV, sometimes Eds exploits are conveyed on a TV screen complete with advertising, at other times you are presented with multiple viewpoints of the same scene. These constant variations in style keep the film fresh & interesting & are further enhanced by the audience reactions throughout the film & the TV led critique & discussions about the merits or otherwise of the phenomenon that is Edtv. Together the acting, directing & script really convince that Edtv is viable & could exist!
Overall this is a funny, well directed romantic comedy from Ron Howard. Great performances abound from all concerned. There is a deeper level to the film which isn't hammered home or done in a heavy handed way but is there none the less among the laughs. But just how long will it be before Edtv becomes a reality?
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