A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this indie comedy is a candid, insider look at Hollywood -- specifically the TV industry. And nearly everyone behaves badly: Lying is par for the course, swearing is common, stupidity trumps quality, and the writer doesn't necessarily get a happy ending. There's also some sexual content, smoking, and drinking amid all the backbiting and cynicism.
What's the story?
Like most movies about Hollywood, there's a backstory to THE TV SET, writer-director Jake Kasdan's meditation on creativity and compromise. David Duchovny stars as Mike Klein, a writer running the TV pilot season gauntlet. His idea, a series called The Wexler Chronicles -- an unusual comedy about a young lawyer who returns home after his beloved brother commits suicide -- has promise. Now if only he can keep the cooks (aka network TV suits) away from the kitchen.
Is it any good?
It's refreshing to see a real Hollywood player cast against type. Duchovny's Mike is no overpaid high-roller; he's a guy who simply wants to do good work while he tries to find a way to support his wife (Justine Bateman, in a surprisingly textured performance), his toddler, and their soon-to-arrive baby. Pressures mount -- and not just to buy the most expensive toys with boffo ratings money. It's clear that writer-director Kasdan has channeled some of his pain here, which makes the movie all the brainier. Its best moments are fueled by a deliberate wink. Judy Greer, who plays Mike's manager, Alice, is a revelation in creative fibbing: She'll sugarcoat anything as long as her client has a job that nets her the requisite 10 percent.
Network boss Lenny (Sigourney Weaver) is even more horrific: "Truthfully, original scares me a little. You don't want to be too original, " she says, sans irony. Weaver gets many lines like that, mostly directed at Richard (Ioan Gruffudd), the BBC America import poached to add "class" to the proceedings. Upon recounting a near-death tale, Lenny's take-home message isn't that she should live a better life, spend more time with her kid, or anything remotely human. She tells Richard she came out of the experience realizing, "There's no reason we can't win Thursday night." There's no reason that Kasdan couldn't have told a funnier story than this, either. Yes, there are wry moments, but there are far too many more that are just ... there. Jokes fly without landing. Scenes drag. The pacing is uneven. Sometimes the movie feels like a half-baked TV pilot of the kind that The Wexler Chronicles is becoming onscreen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they think the TV industry is really like. How accurate do you think the movie is? How do shows get made? How do they get picked to go on the air? Does taste dictate what goes on TV, or do shows help shape the public's taste? Why are reality TV series so compelling? Are networks "dumbing down" TV?