Is the ugly demise of Freaks and Geeks, for which Jake Kasdan directed five episodes between 1999 and 2000 with a presumable amount of freedom, enough to explain the writer-director’s cynical view of pilot season? For The TV Set, Kasdan traces the evolution of one pilot from the casting process all the way to the moment it has been audience-tested and picked up by the fictional PDN network, doing so in a terribly unexciting fashion. David Duchovny stars as Mike Klein, whose script The Wexler Chronicles, about one man’s life after the suicide of his brother, suggests for at least one person in the movie a mix of Northern Exposure and Ed—which is to say something that could be bound for greatness. Except PDN’s president, Lenny (Sigourney Weaver), imagines a show a little closer to the one Lisa Kudrow’s Valerie Cherish gets hired to appear in on The Comeback. Asked to ditch his preferred lead actor and his story’s suicide angle, Mike must decide if it’s worth selling out if it means being able to support the new baby he’s having with his wife (Justine Batemen). From the sidelines, Ioan Gruffudd’s Richard, shipped in from the BBC to lay out PDN’s schedule for the new season, lowers his standards to the demands of American TV production and subsequently sees his relationship to his wife crumble to pieces. What with its utter lack of passion, it’s difficult to say if the film wants to be taken as satire, but if it does then this one counts as a toothless dog. Characters barely register as living, breathing people as the film slinks inertly from one obvious example of studio interference to another and how it wrecks havoc on the private lives of people in the industry. This is not to say that Kasdan doesn’t show an uncanny attention to detail as he traces the processes by which a writer’s pet project is neutered by a network: the way real locations are replaced by sets, titles are changed, and farts are inexplicably added into the script. Though this is the story of only one pilot, the film would almost have us believe all bad sitcoms happen on purpose. An unlikely pitch, but this much is true: The TV Set isn’t funnier than Everybody Loves Raymond, and that’s kinda scary.
- 89 min
- Jake Kasdan
- Jake Kasdan
- David Duchovny, Sigourney Weaver, Ioan Gruffudd, Judy Greer, Fran Kranz, Lindsay Sloane, Justine Bateman, Lucy Davis, Willie Garson, M.C. Gainey
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: