January 4, 2013

Ed TV (1999)
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jenna Elfman, Ellen DeGeneres, and Woody Harrelson

Comments:  In 1998, a movie called The Truman Show came out and it was the darling of the movie world.  Audiences and critics alike were thrilled by the story of an ordinary young man whose life was broadcast on TV live, twenty four hours a day, three hundred sixty five days a year.  The Truman Show was so well received, in fact, that there was talk that it might win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  And that Jim Carrey (yes, the guy who talked out of his butt in Ace Ventura) was probably going to win Best Actor.  Yes, there were very few movies in the 90's that were ever as universally loved as The Truman Show.

The Truman Show

Oh, and then another movie came out the next year, in 1999.  

This next movie was also the story of an ordinary young man whose life is broadcast live on TV, twenty four hours a day, three hundred sixty five days a year.  Only this movie wasn't called The Truman Show, this movie was called Ed TV.  

And as you can guess, the reaction towards Ed TV was fairly predictable.





Yay!  Finally!  A movie with Dharma!

Yes, Ed TV was universally panned the minute the first trailer hit the movie theaters.  People HATED it.  People flat out just wanted to hate it.  It was as doomed as doomed can be before it ever actually appeared on a movie screen.

Yeah, but here is the thing.

Ed TV is actually nothing like The Truman Show.  In fact I wouldn't even put them in the same genre.  One of them is a drama, and the other one is a comedy.  The two movies might have the same premise, but they are absolutely nothing alike.

And I hate to say this.  But I think Ed TV is actually a better movie.

The Ed TV audience reacts to such a bold statement

Ed TV is the story of an everyday ordinary video store clerk named Ed Pekurny (Matthew McConaughey.)  He is in a bar late one night with his brother, and they see that a TV network is holding auditions for a new type of television show called True TV.  Basically the network wants to follow a random person around 24 hours a day with TV cameras, and they want to turn this person's life into a TV show.

And, well, Ed goes over and he auditions.  And the network picks him.

And before he knows it, Ed Pekurny's life is now a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week TV show.

Ed kissing his girlfriend on TV

I don't want to tell you any more about Ed TV because it is one of those movies that you just sort of have to experience.  You think you know where it is going, but you don't.  It is much more clever and much more dark than you would expect from such a random little innocent romantic comedy.  Although there are four things about this movie that I would like to point out.

First off, I have to give props to the casting department.

For years, people have said that Matthew McConaughey looks exactly like Woody Harrelson.  In fact, in the years leading up to Ed TV that was practically all you ever heard about McConaughey.  You heard that he was good in A Time to Kill, and that he was the guy who looked a lot like Woody Harrelson.

So what do the producers of Ed TV do when they are casting their movie?

Voila.  Genius!  They cast Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as brothers.

If nothing else, you should love Ed TV for the simple fact that somebody finally cast them as brothers.


The second thing I would like to point out about Ed TV is the fact that it pretty much predicted the rise of reality television.

Yes, I know.  The Truman Show is the movie that generally gets credit for predicting reality TV.  But The Truman Show is the story of a guy who doesn't even know he is being filmed.  So he has no idea that he is a star or that millions of people are watching him.  Yes, it is the same idea behind reality TV, but it isn't quite the exact same thing.

Ed TV, though, well that's different.  In Ed TV Ed definitely knows that he is being filmed.  And he definitely knows that he is famous.  And he definitely runs into both the goods and the bads that happen when a person is famous just for being famous.  Ed TV is so spot on when it predicts what would happen to TV over the next fifteen years that it is actually kind of spooky.  Because when you watch it, just remind yourself.  This movie came out a year before Survivor.

Ed's girlfriend reacts to the world being able to vote if she is attractive or not

The third thing I would like to point out about Ed TV is that it stars Ellen DeGeneres.  Yes, you know Ellen the world famous beloved talk show host?  Well she once tried to make it in Hollywood as an actor.  It never did quite work out for her, but she did make at least one good movie before she retired and turned into a talk show host.  She made Ed TV.  In fact, some would say that Ellen actually steals the movie.

Ellen DeGeneres, True TV director of programming

And finally, the person that I wanted to end this writeup on.  Our old friend Dharma.  The lovely and talented miss Jenna Elfman.

Jenna Elfman

In my opinion, Ed TV is a silly movie, and it is a light hearted movie, and it really isn't aiming all that high, but it works.  It works far better than it should just if you look at it on paper.  And the reason it works is because of Jenna Elfman.  Plain and simple, she is the heart and soul of this movie.  And every time I watch it, I am amazed that she didn't star in more movies.  And look, I will flat out admit it, I couldn't STAND her on Dharma and Greg.  But put her in Ed TV, dress her up in a UPS outfit, make her a sympathetic character who gets crapped on a lot, and she freaking knocks that role right out the park.  There are very few actresses in movies who I have had a crush on over the years, but Jenna Elfman as Shari in Ed TV has always been one of them.  You watch this movie and you just want to give her a hug.

In fact, to this day, I still wish she would have been cast in Jerry Maguire instead of Renee Zelweger.  I think she would have been absolutely perfect as Dorothy Boyd.


In short, Ed TV needs to go down in history as something more than just "that movie that ripped off The Truman Show."  Because it wasn't a rip off, and honestly, the Truman Show wasn't even all that great.  I mean, it was good, but Ed TV was good too.  There is no reason that one of them needs to stand head and shoulders above the other one.  They both can peacefully co-exist, because they are both completely different movies.

As for me, I just happen to think that Ed TV is the more charming one.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Ed TV

Nearly nothing like the Truman Show - 3 October 2001
It's a shame that due to the timing of when Edtv was released, it was automatically deemed a pitiful copy of the Truman Show, a movie that won our hearts the previous year. Now, I love the Truman Show too, very much, and I'll admit that I was was very uninterested in ever seeing a copy-cat version of it. It was until just a few weeks ago that I actually watched Edtv (even with the expectation that I would most likely not like it too much) and I must say I was pleasantly surprised!

Not only was Edtv funny and entertaining, but it was nearly nothing at all like the Truman Show. I mean, the ONLY similarity is the idea of a live TV show about an "ordinary" guy. But Truman didn't even know he was on TV. He was just living what he thought was an ordinary life. All the cameras and microphones were completely hidden and he lived in a town that was entirely fabricated from his wife and life-long best friend, to the rain and even the sun. His is a story of a man searching for an escape from his everyday life, which little by little he is realizing may not be what it seems. Ed on the other hand was a nobody who was chosen to have a camera crew actually follow him around all day while he went on about his life. His life, and in turn the show, became more about instant celebrity as viewers became enchanted in watching this loser become a mega-star over night. People flocked around him just as much to meet him as to be on TV themselves and he endured some major struggles in keeping his life and relationships normal, which was impossible with his celebrity status and on-camera life.

Both movies had a theme of America's fixation with TV, and more specifically Reality TV, but have different plots and overall themes altogether. I think Edtv was a very enjoyable movie and Mathew McConaughey and Jenna Elfman delivered fantastic performances. Not to mention the mind boggling, and I think underrated, job of editing such an enormous amount of footage. Considering that while the film cameras were rolling, the video cameras were rolling too, and just about all of the video footage you see was actually shot when you see it being shot, I think that Ron Howard did a great job of keeping track of it all and actually making it work. So when someone says, "Well, it was no Truman Show" they are absolutely right. I think it is a great movie that stands on its own and should stand proud.

Brilliantly satirical -  14 March 1999
EDtv is an excellent look about how far our national obsession with fame can go. The actors all seem to be having lots of fun with the script, probably because they have had an actual experience like Ed does at one point in their career.

Of particular note is Jenna Elfman, who plays completely against type and shows excellent range as a dramatic actress. Also good are Matthew McCounaghey, who finally lives up to his hype, Elizabeth Hurley pokes fun at herself in a few spots, acting well also, Rob Reiner, very funny as a corporate bigwig, and Ellen DeGeneres is very good as a voice of reason throughout the picture.

This movie can be considered as a well timed message from stars to fans on showing what their life can be like at times. It is also bitingly funny, and all together, another winner from Ron Howard.

Exposes The Vulgarity Of Reality Shows, and The Public That Loves Them - 30 May 2005
I never liked reality shows,and when this movie was shown on cable I decided to watch it and found it really interesting.Matthew McConaughey plays video store clerk Ed Pekurny who lives with his parents and his big brother Ray Pekurny,played by Woody Harrelson.He is hired by a TV company that wants to do a 24-hour reality show based on his life,and Ed grabs the offer.In the beginning,the public tells Ed that his show 'stinks',but as they see him getting involved with his elder brother's girlfriend,the ratings go above the roof.What's more,when Ed makes out live with the bombshell to end all bombshells,that is Elizabeth Hurley,the interest verges on voyeurism.The icing in the cake comes when Ed's father suddenly turns up from nowhere,having abandoned him and his brother years ago.The film is a well-made documentation of the vulgarity of the public that makes up the television audience not only in America,but the whole world.Sex and scandal will always be the top-sellers,whether it is an ordinary man's tale or that of a celebrity.In fact,it is Ed's scandalous life that makes him America's Number One celebrity.McConaughey plays his role with ease,and so does Harrelson.Ellen Degeneres is good as the unscrupulous TV producer,while Elizabeth Hurley's brief appearance leaves the audience gasping for more.Quite entertaining and very candidly made.

Better than "The Truman Show" - 18 March 2001
I decided to write a comment because I am fed up of seeing this movie compared to "The Truman Show" and always coming off badly.

While it is certainly true that there are many similaritires in the idea and plot this one wins every time for me. And here is why...

"The Truman Show", while an excellent movie was set an some unknown time in the future, when it is possible for a corporation to adopt a baby towards the selfish ends of the corporation. Whilst adoption law may already be ropy in many places, I do not believe that "The Truman Show" could currently take place.

EDTV, on the other hand, could happen now. Current viewer likes and dislikes would well mean that a show of this kind would have enormous audiences, and all in all EDTV is a very good and clear comment on our current society. Totally relevant to the world we live in. And therefore, much more interesting....

Not the Truman show - 29 July 2002
I have just seen Edtv for the first time and must say I thoroughly enjoyed it unlike most people who have commented on it I hadn't or don't remember hearing anything about this film. I also notice a lot of people compared it to the Truman Show I enjoyed the Truman Show but enjoyed this even more. This is partly due to the fact it was more realistic in that in The Truman Show everyone around Truman is acting and playing a part in keeping Truman from the truth. As you probably guessed the whole nation is gripped by ED similar to the way Big Brother is with audiences simple idea but is addictive we see this in ED's first few days on TV when people are criticising their roommates and partners for watching it soon they become hooked my favourite character was Ed's step dad Al every time Al spoke in the film I laughed every line he said was funny. Another thing I enjoyed most about the film is that in a way you felt as though you where really watching like the millions across America hooked on the Ed phenomenon which I think Truman Show tried to do but didn't really succeed in doing. I recommend the film to anyone.

Ed TV at the IMDB

Ed TV at Wikipedia

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