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The Ugly Truth

a review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

TTM surfers who read these reviews don't know how lucky they are they've got me to write this one on "The Ugly Truth." It's a new, racy, romantic sex comedy (rated "R" and directed by Robert Luketic) that's about a medium-market television station and the shenanigans that go on with its news department trying to boost the ratings of a lame midday TV news show. I think I sort of identify with that. (Now it's time for "Go for Dough on the Early Show!")

But there's more. All the randy silliness in "The Ugly Truth" is set in a bogus Channel 2 -- KSXP-TV, Sacramento, California. Now, you can tell just how fortunate you're getting to read this piece written by a guy who can identify so well with both the first and, now, this second paragraph of comments about a feature film that feels more like an extended, ribald Show Time sitcom a la "Weeds" or "Californication." (Praise be to Mary-Louise Parker and David Duchovny.)

Katherine Heigl plays Abby, a hot, hip lady TV producer in California's capital. (See great exteriors of downtown Sac at the river.) The boss is on her to get the ratings up on a news program. She sees a rude cable show titled, "The Ugly Truth." The host is named Mike. He's played by Gerard Butler.

Mike's a chauvinistic ladies' man who's very perceptive about young women and their reactions relating to those moments they experience in sexual and romantic situations. Did I say the disheveled Mike is also an insufferable cad? Putting the proverbial finer point on it, Mike does a sort of Dr. Phil thing (in reverse) on the air. He makes sure to always offend and titillate viewers, simultaneously. He also affected people at the screening that way---especially the females. But what's really hot, guys, is that "The Ugly Truth" was written by three gals: Nicole Eastman, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith.

Mike at work

Cad under the Klieg lights

You'll never guess that Mike is hired by KXSP over Abby's objections. The suits in the front office know he'll be just the ticket to get her show back on its feet.

Viewer reaction to Mike's "The Ugly Truth" segment on the news program is astounding. Hey, look at those ratings! Hey, looks at those spot sales during the program's time period! There's nothing more to say about that, except that the lovely Abby is not having any of it. It is the ugly truth that she's totally anti-Mike in every way but can do nothing because what she and her crew do is entertainment---not news. As Tulsa's Mazeppa would say, "Show Bidness!"

Since "The Ugly Truth" is neither a whodunit nor layered, non-sequential caper flick designed to confound we can all see where this movie is going. But the fun getting there is worth the price of the evening, if you don't spend much time at the concession stand and put your own favorite television personalities into the principal roles, whether they be local or on the network.

Here in Sacramento, Dave and Lois Hart, who used to co-anchor on CNN, have been holding forth on the local NBC-TV affiliate for as long as I've been here. The couple retired last fall. Dave and Lois are married and can boast a successful, in-tandem career. They're well-liked and have shown they can do the ratings thing quite well, thank you.

For Sacramentans, especially, there's a very humorous sub plot in "The Ugly Truth." The co-anchors of the news program on which Mike's "Ugly Truth" segment is featured are married. The woman is played by Cheryl Hines ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") and her hubby co-anchor is played by John Michael Higgins. Mr. Higgins plays his character as if he may have been sneaking some peeks of Ted Knight as Ted Baxter on "The Mary Tyler Moore" television hit.

Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins

Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins

Hines and Higgins are put into some pretty zany situations in "Ugly Truth" that I hope don't offend the real-life Dave and Lois Hart, formerly of KCRA, Channel 3, Sacramento. If I've assumed too much in the characterization of the wedded TV anchors in the movie, I extend my deepest apologies to both Dave and Lois. I guess it's just the Sacramento in my soul.

Speaking of TV news anchors: I walked into the screening behind another well-known Channel 3 news anchor. Like me, a retired gentleman by the name of Stan Atkinson. Everybody in Sacramento knows who Stan Atkinson is. Stan is to Sacramento what Jack Morris is to Tulsa, except, I've heard Stan has a better golf swing.

I didn't see where Stan sat during the screening, but I'd wager he was, like me, laughing his tally light off with the raunchy antics going on during the whole damned running time of this (as they say) laugh-packed movie. Perhaps there's more honesty in this motion picture than any of us realize. Maybe that's why they call it "The Ugly Truth."

We'll be back right after this extended string of long-winded commercials.

Abstruse Addendum to the Film "The Ugly Truth"

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Imagine my dismay when I learned the well-known, former Sacramento TV news anchor, Stan Atkinson DID NOT attend the screening of "The Ugly Truth" last week when I did.

After writing the review above, I did a radio interview about the movie on one of the Sacramento public radio stations I worked for two score years. Jeffrey Callison, the talk show host of "Insight" was curious about the film since it was set in Sacramento and that there seemed to be allusions in the script to local channel 3 TV personalities.

Waiting for my turn to be interviewed on the radio show, I chatted with Mike Carroll, a man also there as a guest to talk about his making of a noir film in Sacramento called "Nightbeats." Carroll happens to be an employee of Sacramento's channel 3 where Stan, Dave and Lois worked for many years.

The noir film guy said that no one, to his knowledge, at Channel 3 was aware of any ties between the film studio responsible for "The Ugly Truth" and Channel 3, KCRA. Could it be I was jumping to hasty conclusions as I watched the movie? Certainly not. Not me.

Host Callison invited Stan to come on the program and talk with him and me about "The Ugly Truth," since I had told the him I'd seen Stan at the screening. Mr. Atkinson declined the invitation. Seems he and some friends were at the cineplex to see the new Harry Potter film.

My apologies to Dave and Lois Hart are herewith repeated.

As Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann used to say on "Laugh In," "And that's the troof." But the movie is still funny.

"The Ugly Truth" official site. Opens wide on 7/24.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net.

Copyright © 2009, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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