Tale from the boob tube

The TV Set

on April 06, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
Satirizing a medium that continually tries to satirize itself and is arguably beyond satire isn't easy. Due to competition from the internet and the channel explosion, television doesn't have the same concentrated influence (for good or ill) that it had when Newton Minnow launched his “vast wasteland” critique in the early 1960s. But nothing, certainly not the advent of reality TV, has lessened its profile as a target for lampooning. Having toiled in the industry, Jake Kasdan (TV's Freeks and Geeks and Undeclared ) knows what he's talking about, and the accuracy of his shrewd parody concerning the fate of a sitcom during pilot season is a major strength.

Another is the cast. As Mike Klein, creator of The Wexler Chronicles, David Duchovny (TV's The X-Files ) also knows of what he speaks. And as Lenny, a crude and rapacious exec at PDN, known as “The Panda” network, presumably Sigourney Weaver is able to draw on her experience acting on soaps and as the daughter of Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, legendary president of NBC.

Mike is trying to get his relatively downbeat show on the schedule without compromising his principles or throttling insecure actors. He has an ally in a network programmer (Ioan Gruffudd) recently recruited from the BBC to inject some class. But they're up against shows like Slut Wars and World's Grossest Meals and a sensibility reflected in Lenny's threatening confession, “'Original' scares me a little.” Most worrisome to Mike, his perky and able manager (Judy Greer) has never seen Taxi Driver. As the network's dumbed-down version and his cut are vetted by focus groups, Mike — with a wife (Justine Bateman) and kids to support — channels all his anxiety into his sore lower back.

The conclusion of Kasdan's snarky, low-budget glimpse behind the small screen is appropriately cynical; there are no heroes and no Peter Finch-in- Network moment. It's hard to be shocking or revelatory on this subject, yet it's made crystal clear we're amusing ourselves to death. In a few months, viewers will chuckle knowingly when they watch The TV Set on TV. Distributor: ThinkFilm
Cast: David Duchovny, Sigourney Weaver, Ioan Gruffudd, Judy Greer, Fran Kranz, Lindsay Sloane and Justine Bateman
Director/Screenwriter: Jake Kasdan
Producers: Aaron Ryder and Jake Kasdan
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R for language
Running time: 87 min.
Release date: April 6, 2007 NY/LA

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