‘The TV Set’ is a very, very dark comedy that isn’t intended for a broad audience at all and therefore came out on a small independent label and wasn’t really seen by many people. Fittingly, it’s about a television program, a very, very dark comedy that isn’t intended for a broad audience at all BUT gets picked up by a major network and then gets watered down to reach the broadest possible audience. There are big(ish) names in the film – David Duchovny, Sigourney Weaver and Ioan Gruffudd – so it was a surprise that this film flew completely under the radar. It’s pretty good, no big laughs but a steady flow of chuckles. It’s interesting to see how the network television system works in all its ugliness. There are plenty of parts where, like Duchovny, you want to punch the suits in their stupid collective face. The thing is – who really cares? This film, with its many digs at the system, is aimed at such a narrow audience, that the focus group scene that’s played for laughs seems very appropriate. I enjoyed ‘The TV Set’, definitely, but one of the running punchlines is sleazy reality television shows, like ‘Slut Wars’, the network’s flagship show. Gruffudd’s character is kind of redundant, he begins as an exec who’s going to stand up for the writer’s vision, and then he bottles it. There is an imbalance between the serious, quite astute humour and obvious (dare I say… broad?) jokes. There’s an impassioned speech from Duchovny about the need for original and not lowest-common-denominator programming, and then he yells at his agent for not having seen ‘Taxi Driver’. I never saw director Jake Kasdan’s previous film ‘Orange County’, but I enjoyed his debut ‘Zero Effect’, and his profile’s about to get a lot bigger because he’s part of Team Apatow and this winter’s ‘Walk Hard’ is his too. Check out ‘The TV Set’, but don’t expect to get too much out of it.
Incidentally, series two of ‘Extras’ makes many of the same points in funnier ways.