Instant fame is a dream of many, but at what cost does it come? Director Ron Howard’s latest film, Ed TV, takes a critical look at the price of celebrity. This comedy doesn’t pack as hefty a punch as it hopes for, but it is often funny enough that it doesn’t matter.
TrueTV is a cable network in search of a gimmick, and, after a brainstorm, programming executive Cynthia (Ellen DeGeneres) believes she has found one. The network will broadcast the life of an average American, live and uncut, 24 hours a day.
After a nationwide search, the lucky winner is Ed Pekurny (Matthew McConaughey), a video store clerk in San Francisco. Talked into the gimmick by his brother Ray (Woody Harrelson), Ed thinks that gaining instant fame will be fun.
But, after a while, the lack of privacy starts to sink home. As Ed becomes a celebrity, cracks begin to appear in his previously stable family. First, Ed begins an affair with Ray’s girlfriend, Shari (Jenna Elfman). Soon, long buried family secrets begin to surface, and Ed desperately searches for a way out.
On first glance, Ed TV seems to sound an awful lot like last year’s The Truman Show. Both films do feature 24-hour tv shows revolving around the life of one man. In fact, both movies feature nearly the same reaction shots of “typical” members of the television audience. However, whereas The Truman Show was analyzing the boundaries between reality and entertainment, Ed TV is more interested in examining the culture of celebrity.
Though Ed TV’s criticisms about the ultimate cost of fame ring true, the underlying concept of a popular 24-hour channel devoted to Ed just doesn’t seem plausible. An edited show, maybe…but in today’s instant gratification culture, it’s hard to imagine a show where days or weeks would pass before something actually happens.
But, with several months compressed into a two-hour film, there’s hardly a lack of activity in the movie, Ed TV. In fact, it begins to seem odd that so many big and important events occur in Ed’s life during these few months. A few of the moments seem a bit too scripted (the cat scene, for one), but nearly all are enjoyable.
Ed TV does certainly have a stellar cast. In addition to those mentioned above, Rob Reiner, Dennis Hopper, Elizabeth Hurley and Sally Kirkland also star. In the film’s most enjoyable role, Martin Landau shines as Al, Ed’s stepfather. He simply steals every scene he’s in.
The conclusion of Ed TV feels a bit rushed. The heretofore amiable network all of a sudden is painted as pure evil. But, even if the wrapup lacks dramatic weight, the movie delivers quite a good time getting there.