The TV Set

Jake Kasdan

“The more seriously you can take a ridiculous thing, the funnier it is,” actor David Duchovny shared with film critic Elvis Mitchell on KCRW’s The Treatment, when talking about his role in Jake Kasdan’s semi-autobiographical comedy drama that takes you behind the scenes of network television’s pilot season. Shot in just twenty-five days at a breakneck speed that suits television more than film, this independent gem was released in select cities in the spring of 2007 and finally hit DVD shelves in September. Kasdan’s brilliant writing—sharp, incisive, painfully uncomfortable, funny and true provides ample fodder for the actors to play the absurdly humorous dialogue seriously, which per Duchovny, provides even greater laughs as he also proved on The Larry Sanders Show (that TV Set producer Judd Apatow worked on as well). Kasdan, who made an instant fan out of this reviewer with his witty and ingenious film debut Zero Effect worked on a few television series (along with Apatow) including Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared that always seemed to suffer through the painful first years and the dumbing down of his original vision until finally, as the tagline for the TV Set promises, “dreams are canceled.” Although it's not as easily to imagine repeat viewings of this film as it was for Effect, it’s still a highly original film that provides an excellent showcase for a nearly unrecognizable Duchovny (decked out in a beard and fat suit) along with the hilarious Judy Greer (from Arrested Development), Siguorney Weaver, Ioan Gruffudd, Fran Kanz, Justine Bateman, Lucy Davis, and Lindsay Sloane. The film follows writer Mike Klein (Duchovny) as his television series that blends humor, tragedy and pathos is changed into a crass comedy to appeal to the lowest-common-denominator of audiences with short attention spans as it goes through the entire process of rewrites, casting, filming and finally airing. While some of the jokes will be lost on viewers unfamiliar with the television process, it’s still a must for fans of Kasdan and the actors. Weaver is particularly good, blowing the rest of the cast nearly off the screen with her hilarious tour-de-force as network television executive Lenny, in a part written for a man and not changed at all when she took it on. The DVD is loaded with extras including commentary from the filmmakers and a behind-the-scenes featurette.