"The TV Set"
The times I've seen the classic film, "Network" (1976) on a network is likely how many times I'll see "The TV Set" on a broadcast network. It's not that this new film, starring David Duchovny and Sigourney Weaver, is a darkly humorous rough 'n tumble about a frustrated man in the middle of a nervous breakdown over his empty life as TV news anchor. But it comes close as a somewhat comedic romp with dark reminders about what's in store for an idealistic TV writer-producer who tries to maintain the substance of a television drama he's titled, "The Wexford Chronicles."
The movie, "The TV Set" is actually much better than its title even though it is cynical and plays to the wings while reminding us---as if we needed to be---of just how shallow television a la Hollywood is. It's an alley we been taken down many a time by the likes of incisive directors like the late, great Robert Altman.
Let's raise a glass for another offspring of the venerable film director, Lawrence Kasdan. His son, Jake ("Orange County," "Zero Effect") has written and directed "The TV Set." It was only last month that Jake's brother, Jonathan Kasdan let loose with his "In the Land of Women," with Meg Ryan which, for me, is also a good film. Daddy Kasdan ("The Big Chill," "Silverado") must be popping some buttons about now.
Anyone who has ever been close to a movie set will know how realistic parts of "The TV Set" are. The interchange between the director, the producer and the rest of the film crew borders on extreme hilarity and frustration. Duchovny ("The X-Files,") as the producer, battles with the network over who should be cast in the pilot and what changes, if any, there should be in the script in order to insure the show will be picked up for the oncoming season schedule.
Just as Faye Dunaway was perfectly cast in "Network," so too is Sigourney Weaver: the supreme media bitch in "The TV Set." How can I say it? Ms. Weaver chews up most of the scenery and all the other players around her when she's getting her way with Duchovny's cast and script. A more neutral character in this Kasdan film is played by the Welch actor, Ioan Gruffudd. He's a new arrival to the southern California network scene, fresh from the BBC. Whoops, there's not a lot of happiness in this man's future as he tries coming to terms with Hollywood's television network standards and malpractice.
A strong dose of reality is brought upon Duchovny's character's idealism with the needs of his family. Justine Bateman is his supportive, yet six months pregnant wife, and it's their second one. Not seen in a while, Bateman, like the rest of us, has aged. And she, just like Meg Ryan in the other young Kasdan movie, looks great; in fact maybe even better than she did alongside Michael J. Fox as his gangly sister on "Family Ties." Since Bateman and Duchovny are both graduates of very successful TV series, I think I might have read a knowing look onto their faces about how such entertainment is made for the small screen.
Two other actors also show well in "The TV Set." They're the man and woman cast in story's series. Fran Kranz ("Matchstick Men") is the poor choice the network demands for the significant young male lead in the drama. Or is it a comedy? Lindsay Sloane ("She Said He Said") plays the darling, cute sweetheart of Kranz's character. The two have some genuinely funny moments in the film shooting the retakes for the wannabe "Wexford Chronicles" series.
When you leave the theater, you won't feel like shouting, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" But seeing "The TV Set" should underscore for you why it is that most of us watch so much less television these days.
Postscript: Peter Finch was the first actor to posthumously win an Oscar for a Male in a Leading Role. It was for the character Howard Beale in "Network."
May they both rest in peace.