With a bit of time to kill, I figured I’d get another limited release, independent picture watched and reviewed before it hits the DVD shelves in September. This time the victim, I mean movie, is The TV Set and the initial looks are promising. It’s directed by Jake Kasdan and produced by none other than Judd Apatow (remember those films The 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad?).
The TV Set takes us on a humorous walk through of the process of getting a television show written, casted and ultimately aired. It stars David Duchovny as Mike, a screenplay writer with a long track record of not getting any of his pilots picked up by the networks. The reason for this is pretty simple – he’s an asshole when it comes to altering his original vision for those he sees as part of the douche bag establishment. But now with his wife Sarah (Justine Bateman) pregnant with their second child and with network executives Lenny (Sigourney Weaver) and Richard (Ioan Gruffudd) hounding him to make changes, he’s at a crossroads – support the family or retain creativity integrity. The choice isn’t so simple.
First, the changes are small. Lenny and Richard decide against the leading actor Mike wants to cast. They want the youthful, energetic kid Zach (Fran Kranz) to appease the young girl demographic. Another thing to consider is changing the name of the show from The Wexler Chronicles to anything catchy (this coming from a network with a top show called Slut Wars). These small alterations are doable but the levee breaks when Lenny in all her brilliance decides the premise of the show is just too depressing. Instead of the main characters’ brother committing suicide, she wants the brother in jail and the mom dying of a heart attack. You know the old saying: “Give them an inch, then they want a mile.” All the while Mike walks the tightrope between doing what he has to do and what he wants to do.
What drives the movie though are the fantastic characters written by Kasdan. Duchovny’s character reminds me of how I think David Duchovny really is – a quirky man with an intense sense of moral worth (the bad back and terrible beard are extras). The cast of extras is equally as good. A wide range of personalities are covered: from Mike’s upbeat, peppy manager Alice (Judy Greer) to the overworked and underappreciated gaffer, Hutch (M.C. Gainey). Each of them adds a touch of misery and/or enthusiasm to the scenes they’re in, making it all that much more fun to watch. The show, however, is stolen by Weaver. She seems at peace as the conniving, egomaniacal bitch with no home life or existence outside of the job. She tries to connect with people around her on a personal level but it is so alien to her that I couldn’t do anything but shake my head and laugh (her pep talk to Richard is just plain ridiculous). On top of it all, she still looks fantastic.
The TV Set does a great job of giving a sneak peak into the underbelly of network television (although there are a few creative liberties taken in the name of comedy). It manages to take what is generally seen as tedious and laborious and makes it fun to watch unfold. Next time you’re watching your favorite television show (non-reality based), you’ll realize how much effort and personal sacrifice went into the polished product — it ain’t easy trying to create the next Seinfeld.