The TV Set (2007)
Starring: David Duchovny, Sigourney Weaver, Ioan Gruffudd, Judy Greer, Fran Kranz, Lindsay Sloane, Justine Bateman, Lucy Davis, Willie Garson
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Hollywood loves making movies about themselves, even though it’s yet to be proven that anyone outside of Hollywood is interested in watching them. I guess since everyone they talk to is interested in Hollywood, those in it figure that everyone would want to see a movie about the inner-workings of their job. I guess if accountants suddenly starting making movies, we could expect a lot of movies about the inner-workings of accounting that no one wants to see.
Jake Kasdan‘s barely-released-to-theatres The TV Set is another entry into the subgenre of Hollywood satire that cynically presents how the sausage is made, this time profiling an idealistic writer’s attempt to get his vision made into a network TV pilot. Kasdan previously worked on Freaks and Geeks, Grosse Pointe, and Undeclared as a director, and tried to develop his own movie Zero Effect into a TV series, so he put those experiences into play while writing and directing this film. In it, David Duchovny plays Mike Klein, a Judd Apatow-esque writer trying to guide his semi-autobiographical drama through the pilot process in the hopes of being picked up.
As you can imagine, he runs into several difficulties along the way, including the artistically-devoid ideas of network president Lenny (Sigourney Weaver), the spineless support of new programming executive Richard (Ioan Gruffudd), the oafish performance of lead actor Zach Harper (Fran Kranz), the pretentious shooting of director Brian (Willie Garson) and the overall idiocy of test screening audiences. As Kasdan presents it, network programming is the result of business-minded people more concerned with Q ratings than quality and compromises that twist the intent of the artist beyond recognition.
Which might be accurate, but it is a tad overly cynical, and in this movie, a lot overly simplistic. I don’t doubt that Kasdan experienced trials similar to those depicted, and I understand that this is supposed to be a satire, but I still felt it to be too broad to be taken seriously, and oddly not biting enough to function as useful satire. It also didn’t help that the show Mike struggles to maintain his artistic integrity over didn’t seem to be any good. Undoubtedly, the network interference made the show worse, but while watching I couldn’t help but think they weren’t exactly wrong to suggest changes be made, just not the changes that were suggested. It’s a problem that another inside-Hollywood show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, had in that the sketches within the show weren’t any good either, which undercut the attempt to present those involved as über-talented.
Worse, the attempts at satire seem trapped in a television world of five years ago, when trashy reality television drew in big numbers for networks, instead of being pushed into the margins of cable as it is today. Its just another example of how Hollywood sneers at reality TV as a threat to scripted TV and an example of how movies like this are made for that audience (take that, Joe Millionaire!).
For the rest of us, there isn’t much to The TV Set. None of the characters are all that appealing, not even Duchovny’s affable turn as lead. There’s nothing in the behind the scenes side of the movie that hasn’t already been done in Entourage. If you’ve ever made a TV show, then this might be a fun jab at the meddling executives that twisted your vision. If you haven’t, you may as well skip this one.