Friday, November 09, 2007

Movie Log: The TV Set

Oh, it's Real Tough being a creative guy. You live in a big house and drive a nice car, your wife doesn't work and you yourself apparently haven't worked in a while, but The Man wants to screw with your visions. Such is the world of The TV Set, a comedy about TV writer Mike Klein (David Duchovny).

Klein is dumb enough, when he has to audition two people for the network for each of the two leads in his pilot script, to choose his #1 choice for title character and a guy who he thinks is completely wrong. (Everyone in a creative field knows you don't present an option you can't live with...well, everyone except Klein.) All of his troubles come from that dumb decision, because The Suits chose the wrong guy -- that's what Suits always do, isn't it?

Signourney Weaver and Ioan Gruffudd play the two major Suits in this movie; she is larger-than-life and given to long monologues that are nearly as impressive as the screenwriter thought they were, while he is quieter and smarter, presumably because he is British. Gruffudd also gets a subplot about how soul-destroying and time-consuming his job is, though that's almost entirely based on what his wife says as she leaves him. (Gruffudd isn't seen working horribly long hours -- he makes it to an afternoon soccer game! -- or having his soul destroyed; he stays thoughtful and centered throughout. This subplot is either exceptionally underdeveloped or the wife is actually guilty about a secret affair.)

The TV Set is a movie about making a TV pilot, and the lesson seems to be that TV sucks because things always go wrong (not really from malice, though The Suits are aggressively low-brow at times), and so the shining vision of a writer is reduced to crap on the screen. Except...what we see of his original vision isn't all that great to begin with. The dialogue is trite, and we don't really get a sense of the shape of the plot (or any of the secondary characters), so it just seems like a bland love story between two attractive but not overly bright people. I wasn't convinced that Klein's pilot would have been vastly better with the mopey, bearded Zach Braff-manque instead of the goofy Owen Wilson type, though I will admit that the "bad version" we see a bit of at the end is impressively bad.

I enjoyed The TV Set, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a decent comedy for grown-ups. But I don't think its lesson is quite fair -- especially since TV is proverbially a writer's medium, and pilots are generally worse than (and different from) the shows that grow out of them. Someone here doth protest too much.

1 comment:

Johan Larson said...

I imagine this movie is just hilarious for folks working in the TV business, because it pokes fun at stereotypical versions of people they're around every day. For the rest of us, the humor's a bit distant, a bit obscure. So much so, I'd hesitate to call it a comedy. To me if felt more like a drama about how little you often have of settle for, in the real world.

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