TV Hell.Posted: February 14, 2008
Is integrity taking care of your responsibilities to your family? Sure it is. Is integrity staying true to your dream? Heck, yeah. But what about when you can’t do both at the same time?
Ay, there’s the rub with which The TV Set massages us, and it’s got great hands. When the movie came out a year or so ago, most reviews said it was “interesting, but…” For me, there’s no but. This deft, subtle, and superbly-acted satire is five stars on a scale of four.
A view of the royally effed-up system that gives us our TV programming, seen through the struggles of show-runner Mike Klein (David Duchovny) to get a pilot produced and picked up by the Panda Network (think “pander network”) run by Lenny (Sigourney Weaver), The TV Set was damned with faint praise upon its release. It garnered only a 65% “fresh” rating among the top newspaper and magazine critics compiled on rottentomatoes.com. Among those who liked it, some couldn’t resist noting an over-preciousness or staleness about it. Comparisons to Paddy Chayevsky’s Network and Robert Altman’s The Player floated through the reviews. Around the same time, the now-defunct cable network Trio aired a good serial half-hour sitcom called Pilot Season (Sam Seder, Sarah Silverman, Isla Fisher) that covered some of the same ground as The TV Set. But The TV Set is its own thing—a meticulously-detailed satire that deserves comparison not with Network, The Player, or Pilot Season, but with the best film comedies ever made.
The DVD contains two commentary tracks. The first, with writer-director Jake Kasdan, Duchovny, and actress Lindsay Sloane, is amusing and worth sitting through. The second is indispensible. It features Kasdan and the film’s producer Judd Apatow. Both came up in the world The TV Set depicts (they collaborated on the series Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared). I wouldn’t say their commentary takes us deeper into the comedic hell The TV Set displays (the movie really can’t be beat at this), but it adds detail around the edges. If the movie is sharp-eyed satire, the movie-plus-commentary shows us the world behind the screen in 1080p, super High-Def vision.