on the script
Louis 19, le Roi des Ondes written by
Jeffrey T. Barabe
Matthew McConaughey (Ed Pekurny)
Jenna Elfman (Shari)
Woody Harrelson (Ray Pekurny)
Sally Kirkland (Jeanette)
Martin Landau (Al)
Ellen DeGeneres (Cynthia Topping)
Rob Reiner (Mr. Whitaker)
Dennis Hopper (Hank Pekurny)
Elizabeth Hurley (Jill)
Adam Goldberg (John)
Viveka Davis (Marcia)
Clint Howard (Ken)
MPAA rating: PG-13
U.S. release: 5/26/99
Video availability: VHS - DVD
reviewed on this website:
- the da vinci code
the grinch stole christmas
did I want from Ed TV? Well, let's see. I wanted it to
Truman Show's scrappier, funnier little brother. I wanted
Matthew McConaughey to redeem himself after a string of bland
roles (tick, tick, Matt ... you're on your fourteenth minute).
I wanted Jenna Elfman to break out as a movie actress by being
as charismatic and goofily endearing as she often is on Dharma
& Greg. Most of all, I wanted Ron Howard to take a vacation
from his usual hard-breathing Important Films and get back to
his disreputable roots -- remember that guy, the one who gave
us Michael Keaton in Night Shift and kick-started Tom
Hanks' career in Splash?
With the exception of Elfman, who is the movie's saving grace,
every item on my wish list remains unchecked. Ed TV isn't
bad enough to get angry about, but it's a mundane and toothless
satire -- a satire whose target, as I've said before, is so full
of holes by now that it whistles in a strong wind. The media
consumes everything! Privacy is dead! You're nobody unless you're
on TV! This was flat beer even back in 1995, when To
Die For told us the same things while congratulating
us for being hip to the media. If we're hip to it, why do we
need a movie to underline it?
Ed Pekurny (McConaughey), a 31-year-old video-store clerk, is
chosen by the faltering NorthWest Broadcasting Channel to be
the star of their new concept, "TrueTV" -- a 24-hour
live feed of Ed's everyday activities (except bathroom stuff).
The producers of Ed TV, a remake of a 1994 French-Canadian
film Louis 19, le Roi des Ondes, have sworn their story
is worlds apart from The Truman Show, but the only real
difference is that Ed is on the air, aware. I'm not an admirer
of Truman, but at least it had a streak of spooky paranoia.
Ed TV has nothing except the predictable ways in which
Ed's privacy is invaded and his life is trashed.
In brief, Truman appeared to be trying a metaphor for
the uncertainty of life, whereas Ed TV seems to be all
about the pains and problems of being a celebrity. Is that why
Ron Howard and Matthew McConaughey were attracted to the project?
Neither of them brings much to the party. McConaughey is a grinning
blank, giving Ed hardly any personality or temperament; he's
just a nice guy, and Ron Howard is in nice-guy mode here, too.
Everything points to the banal humanistic message that love and
family are more important than fame. They are. Right. Got it.
Didn't need a movie to hammer it home. Howard even backs off
from the logical extension of a fully televised life -- Ed having
sex, which could've scored points off of the many live-feed sex
web sites out there. Ron Howard seems like a smart and good-hearted
man, but will he ever make a movie that truly matters?
Jenna Elfman keeps her head; her Shari, a UPS driver who goes
out with Ed's oafish brother Ray (Woody Harrelson) before falling
in love with Ed, is the center of sanity in this vortex. The
writers, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, give her almost nothing
to do, so Elfman has to pull a warm and funny character out of
thin air. And Ellen DeGeneres, as a deadpan exec at the station,
does wonders with what amounts to a series of reaction shots.
There are many other reaction shots in the movie, of Ed's faithful
fans, who are meant to be us; but we see them laughing hysterically
at things we don't find funny, and the movie begins to feel like
a lame sitcom in which the laughtrack echoes depressingly in
Ed TV also has the same false ending as The Truman
Show -- the TV viewers (and we) are tweaked for being voyeurs,
but then everyone applauds when Ed gains his freedom. (And no,
that isn't a spoiler. If Ed didn't get his freedom, it
would be a surprise.) Wouldn't the audience turn on Ed for rejecting
them? Or get sick of him long before he left the airwaves? These
media-evil movies coddle the audience, as if nothing exploitative
would appear on TV if not for those immoral network execs. Ron
Howard must know it's more complex than that -- a chicken-egg
scenario, the public's need for sensation and the media's financial
need to fill the public's need -- but he has made yet another
satire that pretends the enemy isn't us.