Eye-Opening Satire Offers Behinds-the-Scenes Look at the Birth of a Sitcom
Mike Klein (David Duchovny) is a struggling, Hollywood screenwriter with a
pregnant wife (Justine Bateman) and two kids. For this reason, he’s initially elated when the PDN Network decides to purchase his semi-autobiographical script for a TV series called “The Wexler Chronicles.”
Inspired by events in Mike’s own life, the show is supposed to be a character-driven dramedy about a grieving man’s efforts to cope with his brother’s suicide. However, even before the production of the pilot has begun, the creator begins to get hints that the studio has its own plans for the project which are inconsistent with his original vision. For one, Lenny (Sigourney Weaver), the headstrong president of PDN, finds the material too depressing for prime time, and is inclined to tweak the program to satisfy the tastes of her daughter. For she knows that the 14 year-old’s pre-approval will ensure success in the ratings with the widest possible demographic.
As a result, Mike finds himself sliding down a slippery slope as he makes compromise after comprise, first with the casting, then with fundamental elements of the plotline. By the time the first episode is set to be shot, the creative team has even eliminated the suicide while adding comic relief in the way of farts and slapstick humor. With his original idea rendered unrecognizable, Mike is left to wonder whether he’s right to be making this many concessions in order to pay his bills.
This ethical quandary is the essence of The TV Set, a plausible, behind- the-scenes peak at the intriguing process by which a sitcom gets greenlighted. Perhaps this super-realistic slice-of-life flick feels so authentic because it was written and directed by the well-connected Jake Kasdan, whose father (Lawrence), uncle (Mark), mother (Meg) and brother (Jon) are all industry insiders.
An eye-opening satire which makes a powerful statement about television’s
tendency towards very calculated, mass manipulation.