The TV Set
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Writer/director Jake Kasdan knows a thing or two about TV. He has, after all, been involved in a number of TV shows (including the cult favorite, Freaks and Geeks)—none of which have ever made it past 18 episodes. So it’s pretty safe to assume that The TV Set—Kasdan’s comedy about the ups and (mostly) downs of bringing a TV pilot from script to screen—was written from real-life experience.

The TV Set tells the story of a new TV show called The Wexler Chronicles. Created by Mike Klein (David Duchovny), a tired and stressed-out yet eager writer, The Wexler Chronicles is a smart comedy about a young lawyer who returns home after his brother’s suicide. When the film opens, the show’s been optioned by a network, and it’s just a week away from the beginning of taping. Mike is excited by the prospect of getting his show on the air, and he’s got a solid vision of where he wants it to go.

The problem, however, is that Mike’s vision—and that of the network’s executives—are very different. From the very beginning, network exec Lenny (Sigourney Weaver) wreaks havoc on the show. Based on the questionable advice of her 14-year-old daughter, Lenny makes the final decisions about everything from casting to the show’s main premise. And no matter how bad her ideas are (or how often she changes her mind), no one dares to contradict her—especially not Alice (Judy Greer), Mike’s agent, who will do absolutely anything to get the show on the air. No matter how much Mike hates the network’s changes, though, he begins to realize that he’ll have to run with it—or he’ll end up out of work.

The TV Set provides a somewhat bleak and definitely discouraging—yet thoroughly entertaining—look at the birth of a TV show. It’s not an outrageous, over-the-top comedy (as Kasdan’s upcoming comedy, Walk Hard, which he co-wrote with frequent collaborator Judd Apatow, will undoubtedly be), though it definitely has its moments of hilarity. Mostly, though, it’s funny because it’s smart. It’s subtle and satirical—and, thanks to Kasdan’s careful attention to all those crazy little details, it’s ever-so-slightly maddening.

On top of a clever script, The TV Set also features an impressive all-star cast. From Duchovny as the increasingly jaded writer to Weaver as the indecisive network exec, there isn’t a flat performance in the film. There are, however, a couple of stand-out performances—like Ioan Gruffudd (you might know him as Mr. Fantastic) as the bewildered new guy and (especially) Greer as the clueless agent who’s eager to please.

If you’ve ever wondered how your favorite TV shows made it on the air, you’re sure to find The TV Set entertaining and even enlightening. And once it’s over, you’ll understand why all those striking writers are holding out for the extra million bucks—because if this is anything like what they’re forced to endure on a regular basis, they deserve every penny.

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