Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cinematic gems #13: The TV Set

The TV Set, Jake (son of Lawrence) Kasdan's 2006 pitch-perfect satire of network television, is a biting, funny, clever spiral into the madness of pilot production. The film stars a sublime David Duchovny as writer Mike Klein, who is in high spirits as the pilot he penned is about to enter into production. An intensely personal project for him, Klein, who is expecting a baby with his wife (Justine Bateman), feels he must make concessions to an ever-hands on Network president (played with icy zeal by a never-better Sigourney Weaver). Those concessions include replacing TJ, his preferred leading man (a bearded and funny Simon Helberg) with insecure, over-the-top Zach (Dollhouse's Fran Kranz, appropriately irritating) and changing many story specifics--including the suicide of the protagonist's brother, which was the entire impetus of his show. It also takes a toll on new good-guy executive Richard (Ioan Gruffudd), a Brit brought over to the states to add some perceived "class" to the network, who does his best to smooth things over with the production while his marriage (to The Office's Lucy Davis) falls apart. Will Mike make it through the back pain, added fart-effects and constant humiliation to see his show make it to the fall lineup? Or will reality programming and the Seth Green-hosted Slut Wars put him out of the running?

The best satire is grounded in reality, and this world will ring true to anyone who has dabbled in the industry. Weaver, whose role was originally written for a man, particularly excels here as Net Pres Lenny. An ultimately clueless big-game talker with brass balls, she's the kind of powerful Hollywood player that drives an artist nuts. Judy Greer is great as Mike's peace-keeping manager (who, in a very funny scene, admits she has never seen Scorsese's "The Taxi Driver" but will rent it soon). The rest of the cast is more than game, and features a ton of familiar faces, including Matt Besser, Matt Price, Lindsay Sloane, MC Gainey, Katherine Joost, Jonathan Silverman, Philip Baker Hall, Alan Blumenfeld, Nat Saxon, Andrea Martin and Willie Garson (who is a hoot as a dense director with no concept of shot composition). The slow-burning layers of Klein's ultimate breakdown are brilliantly constructed, and played perfectly by Duchovny, who the audience really feels for. Kasdan's script and sense of tone are spot-on, making The TV Set a strong snapshot of a futile business, where it's a wonder that, ultimately, anything gets made at all.

1 comment:

  1. dude i loved the tv set. it is time for the world to stand up and say, "yes, i agree, sigourney weaver is one of filmdom's best unsung comediennes'