Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The TV Set

This movie from late last year was playing at the Athens Film Fest, and unfortunately it was one of the many movies I was not able to see. I was, however, able to catch it on video, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Jake Kasdan (Orange County, and the new Walk Hard: The Dewy Cox Story) wrote and directed this movie clearly based on his experience in failed TV shows. This is even more evident when considering one of the producers was Judd Apatow, a long-time collaborator with Kasdan, and perhaps the biggest runaway success of 2007.

The movie follows the life of a TV pilot called the Wexler Chronicles, and its producer, Mike (played by David Duchovny). It's all about the network executives changing the script, the plot, the stars, and just about everything to do with the show for the sake of ratings.

"What if the brother doesn't kill himself?"
"But that's what the entire show is about!"
"I know, but we were just thinking, what if he doesn't?"

Lines like that peppered the movie, and are delivered so convincingly, that I have no doubt Kasdan and Apatow heard something to that effects while working on Freaks and Geeks.

Sigourney Weaver plays Lenny, the cruel executive, and Ian Gruffud takes the role of the good executive with a failing marriage, Richard McCallister. They play a sort of good cop, bad cop team, but still end up usually doing the same thing. Everything is then filtered through Alice (Judy Greer), Mike's assistant. She is constantly upbeat, and tries to gloss over everything. In the end, however, you're left wondering if she works for him, or the network.

The acting, apart from one exception I will mention, was superb. All four of those characters truly seemed the wrestle with the situations they're in. There was a surprising amount of depth for a Judd Apatow movie. The one aspect I did not like was Zach Harper (Fran Kranz), the star of the show. The character was a horribly inconsistent actor, doing wonderful in rehearsal, then blowing every take. Okay, I realize that this was the point of the character. My problem was that he was a sleaze, and kind of unstable off-set as well. There was enough of this elsewhere, and I think the movie needed one more nice-guy, that could have been fulfilled by him.

The scenes with Mike interacting with the executives or his assistant were spectacular. They created a feeling of despair that I'm sure rings true with anyone who has ever had any role in a TV show. Even if you haven't, the story is conveyed so well, you'll think you have.


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