There is only one good reason to see EDtv. Matthew McConaughey? No. The crowd-pleasing-take-no-risks direction by Ron Howard? No. The funny, yet unoriginal, script by Michel Poulette and Lowell Ganz? No. I’ll tell you the only reason to see EDtv later on in the review.
TrueTV is a cable broadcast company that is struggling to get better ratings (it is doing worse than the gardening channel). The woman put in charge of rescuing the cable channel is Cynthia (Ellen DeGeneres) Toppings. Cynthia comes up with the idea of putting a camera on a man 24 hours a day and broadcasting that. A great idea especially if you look at how engrossed people are when spying or peeping into other people’s lives. Look at the many webcams available on the Internet (including the infamous Steve-Cam that, at times, points at me). People are just intrigued by the idea of watching someone else’s life.
The man that Cynthia picks as the star of this 24-hour TV-cast is Ed (Matthew McConaughey) Pekurny. Ed is a 31-year old video store clerk that, when at a bar, wears his beer around his neck. His family is disfunctional: his father left him at an early age, his brother Ray (Woody Harrelson) is a “blossoming” entrepreneur, and his sister’s a drunk dating a cocktail lounge piano player. And this is also the perfect person for Cynthia’s project Ed is charming and good looking with enough family problems for some potential onscreen drama.
The first few days Ed’s life are pretty uneventful. The show seems like it’s about to sink, the network executives are calling for the show to be cancelled. That is until Ed falls for his brother’s girlfriend, Shari (Jenna Elfman). And this is where the drama in Ed’s life kicks into high gear.
As EDtv becomes increasingly more popular, Ed finds out that being famous is not all that it’s cut out to be. The price of celebrity is the loss of privacy. Ed finds this out rather quickly as his show’s ratings skyrockets.
The idea behind EDtv is not original, everyone’s already heard of The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey in which a man is on TV 24-hours a day also. So, is EDtv different from The Truman Show? Definitely, whereas The Truman Show was about a man unknowingly stuck in a TV world, Ed chooses to be on TV all day. Then there is the issue of believability and real-world-ness. EDtv feels real and has that sense of “it could really happen.” The Truman Show doesn’t.
Ron Howard is a director who takes no risks when doing a film, which is fine, he puts out crowd-pleasers. Films that everyone likes but are not exactly innovative. EDtv is another one of those films. Howard is given a great idea to work with, but doesn’t take it to its full potential. Instead he keeps the film light-hearted. There could have been so many other things that Howard and the two scripters could have looked at, but didn’t which is somewhat of a disappointment. Howard does a good job with EDtv, but it could have been better.
Scripters Michel Poulette and Lowell Ganz start off EDtv well enough and for about half of the film they keep it moving at a good pace, but the script starts to lose steam as we roll into the second hour. They throw twists into Ed’s life to try to spice it up, but I did end up looking at my watch a few times wondering when the film was going to tie things up and finish.
Matthew McConaughey does well as Ed. Other performers also fair well. These other performers include Ron Howard’s brother Clint as an EDtv director with a hair-plug problem, Martin Landau as Ed’s stepfather (“I gotta pee…wish me luck."), and Ellen DeGeneres. But the performer to look for, and the reason to see the film, is Jenna Elfman. Elfman is best known as Dharma from ABCs sitcom Dharma and Greg. Elfman lights up the screen every time, she is one of those performers whom you just like from the very start. Kudos to Elfman for a wonderful performance that rescues EDtv.
There are two things that feel out of place in EDtv. The first is Rob Reiner who is the head of TrueTV. He plays a mean-spirited executive that only cares about the bottom line that we’re all supposed to hate. But, it’s Rob Reiner! It’s pretty hard to hate Rob Reiner and in EDtv I couldn’t really get myself to hate his character. The second is Elizabeth Hurley’s character, whom really didn’t help to do anything. The subplot with her as a model vying for Ed’s attention so that she can get TV exposure is a waste of time.
Catch EDtv during a matinee showing to see Jenna Elfman who is the highlight of the film. EDtv is a film that has great potential behind it, but no one in the director and screenwriter’s chairs to actually make it more than just a crowd-pleaser. This could have been one creative and genuinely intriguing film.