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EDtv

Starring Matthew McConaughy, Woody Harrelson, Jenna Elfman, Rob Reiner, Ellen DeGeneres, Martin Landau
Screenplay by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell
based on Michael Poulette's film Louis XIX: King of the Airwaves
Directed by Ron Howard
website: http://www.ed-tv.com/
 

IN SHORT: Definite date flick [Rated PG-13, 113 Minutes]

Movie number three to feature real life people in television show environments shares the same themes with the previous pair. The opening montage and some of the camera shots will remind you of one of the other flicks. If you're heavy duty into comparison, you'll catch 'em easily. Since Cranky doesn't compare, that will be the last mention of The Truman Show or Pleasantville.

While EDtv is quick to dismiss PBS' An American Family as source for its story, us ancient relics can't ignore that. To writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell goes a nod to applying the current media environment to the idea, and running for the hills when it strikes gold. Which, for the most part, it does. Fool's gold, mostly, but even those fake nuggets made prospectors happy way back when. EDtv is amiable enough, has enough stars and is sometimes rudely funny enough that it ranks higher than the average date flick. Even so, expect bigger returns on video.

From a small San Francisco cable channel, True TV, comes the "idea" of following a real person around full time. Every moment of his life, save the occasional bathroom break, on the small screen. His hopes, his fears, his love life (especially his love life, think the execs) play out as a kind of real life soap opera. In theory. If it works bossman Jim Whitaker (Rob Reiner) will take the credit for the idea which came from lackey Cynthia Topping (Ellen DeGeneres).

Their prime choice is Ed Pekurny (Matthew McConaughy), who doesn't want to be on TV in the first place. He's got a good job as a video clerk. He's poor and not too bright, loves his mom Jeanette (Sally Kirkland) and step-dad (Martin Landau) and carries an unexpressed crush on his brother's girlfriend Shari (Jenna Elfman). Simply, Ed is well intentioned and All American. Brother Ray (Woody Harrelson) on the other hand is a jock who wants Ed to take the gig to guarantee a bank loan so that Ray can open his own gym. Sister Marcia wants good things to happen for her no-talent lounge lizard boyfriend. Ed just kinda shrugs his shoulders, signs the contract without reading it (like I said, not too bright) and goes along.

Director Ron Howard spends lots of time showing us the reactions of the viewing audience, whether coeds in college, gay couples in big cities, African-American middle class or blue collar bowlers who think the entire deal is rigged. By doing so, we the audience are symbolically eavesdropping, just as sure as these "real viewers" are. Cranky detects a little film student thinking sneaking in here. That's put to rest quickly as the world's introduction to Ed finds him, at seven in the morning, doing what comes naturally to men at seven in the morning. I can say that 'cuz I know you don't believe that good ol' Opie Cunningham, All-American boy for his entire life, would put such a thing on screen.

Sure, the idea of seeing 30-foot toenails being clipped on the big screen isn't appetizing, but EDtv avoids down and dirty bathroom humor, while paying close attention to particular biological, um, reactions. As Ed gets famous, the hangers on make a beeline for the boy, most noticeably a fuzzy pink sweater named Jill (Elizabeth Hurley) and the deadbeat dad (Dennis Hopper) who ran off when Ed was 12.

The appearance of Hopper is where the usual "aw factor" kicks in. Howard tends to deliver good family flicks with a real teary sentimental sequence saved for the last third. In EDtv it is present, but target for a gag which strips out the sentimentality. Good. As the months of video stalking go on, EDtv generally reflects the media frenzy that is always on hold, waiting for the next OJ or Monica to set it off. A good barometer being the Tonight Show, Jay Leno makes a number of appearances to comment on the action - just as if he had been watching the events unfold as in real life.

Ditto cameos for talking head commentators Arianna Huffington, Harry Shearer, George Plimpton, Michael Moore (ain't that ironic casting), talk show host/ess RuPaul and, if my eyes aren't deceiving me, a teeny tiny cameo by Jenny McCarthy.

Fake fame and how it affects everybody is at the core of EDtv. From the hair plugs installed by the program's line director Ken (Clint Howard) to the book deal Ray lands; Shari's flight into exile in a different city; Cynthia's attempt to get in shape so she'll look good reaping the publicity rewards; and the personal secret of a cast member whose revelation tops off the flick, EDtv keeps everyone entertained nicely.

Geography fans will note that, according to the advertising banners running at the bottom of the EDtv broadcast, there are only three commercial city blocks in all of San Francisco. It must be some kind of in-joke. If anyone figures it out, let me know.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to EDtv, he would have paid...

$6.25

Media savvy as it is, there are subtle references that those familiar with DeGeneres' orientation will read more meaning in to some of her lines. Cranky took a date (yea!) To EDtv. He put the rating at 6.50. She at an even 6, so we split the baby. Go. Enjoy.

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2016   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.