|The TV Set (2007)
David Duchovny, Sigourney Weaver, Ioan Gruffudd, Judy Greer, Fran Kranz, Lindsay Sloan, Justine Bateman, Lucy Davis
Director: Jake Kasden
Insider movies are never quite as clever as they think they are – especially ones about the entertainment business. They’re either too snarky in their commentary on the proposed subject, or they’re just not accessible to mainstream America. The most recent example of this came in the form of Christopher Guest’s “For Your Consideration.” It’s a promising satire on the sheer ridiculousness of Hollywood’s obsession with awards season that fell flat, if only because the audience was left on the outside of a movie based completely around an inside joke. Enter Jake Kasdan’s “The TV Set,” a darkly comical look at the story of a TV pilot that hits on all the right notes without leaving its audience behind.
The film stars David Duchovny as Mike Klein, an aspiring TV writer who’s desperately trying to retain creative control over his latest pilot – the semi-autobiographical and ubiquitously titled dramedy, “The Wexler Chronicles” – as it goes through development hell. When he loses his first-choice lead to an overacting newbie (Fran Kranz) with a monumental ego, Mike quickly discovers that bullish network executive Lenny (Sigourney Weaver) will do whatever it takes to dumb down the project, even if it means replacing the main story arc and completely revamping the tone of the show. Mike looks to the new head of primetime programming (and a fan of his original vision), Richard McAllister (Ioan Gruffudd), for assistance in trumping Lenny’s authority. But when all is said and done, it comes down to whether or not Mike is willing to sacrifice integrity for success.
While certainly not a love letter to network television, Kasdan’s film isn’t completely biased against money-hungry industry executives. The addition of McAllister shows that while many would choose high ratings over content any day of the week, there are people in the business who will fight for a good show. Unfortunately, Gruffudd’s character isn’t quite as well developed as the others in the film, and the message is lost in the mix. Still, Duchovny is always fun to watch when he’s playing the brainy schlub, and he gets great support from other TV vets like Justine Bateman (as Mike’s pregnant wife); Judy Greer (as his perky manager); and newcomer Lindsay Sloan, who does her best Sarah Jessica Parker as the show’s girl-next-door female lead.
For all my commendation to Kasdan for keeping the material as accessible as possible, it still deviates more towards writers and others who are obsessed with television. Though not an entirely original idea, “The TV Set” plays like a bold exclamation that should be stamped on the foreheads of network executives everywhere. It’s a small step towards retribution for all the brilliant television shows cancelled over the last few years, but it’s the sort of statement you’d expect from a guy behind such tragically cancelled series like “Freaks & Geeks” and “Undeclared.” It’s all pretty trivial considering most people will never even see the film, but when you’re fighting against The Man, a win is a win.
The single-disc release of “The TV Set” features a solid collection of extras including two audio commentaries, a making-of featurette and a deleted scene. Not entirely mind-blowing stuff here, but the commentary tracks (including one with writer/director Jake Kasden and friend Judd Apatow) are both entertaining – something you don’t get on most DVDs – while the other extras add decent value.