Monday, October 23, 2006

Austin Part 1: The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

Writer/Director Jake Kasdan meets his fans after the showing of "The TV Set" at Austin's historic Paramount Theatre.

I've been at the Austin Film Festival since last Thursday and just got back, so this week will be spent mostly reviewing my adventures there. Fear not, I'll figure out a way to tie in TV somehow, though most of the weekend was spent on movies. I also took pictures, which I will try to upload later today.

The festival's opening feature film was "The TV Set," written and directed by one of my favorites, Jake Kasdan. "The TV Set" revolves around a TV writer/producer (David Duchovny), who is desperately trying to get his pilot on the air of a Fox-like network that mostly puts on reality crap. Duchovny has allies in his pregnant wife (Justin Bateman, "Family Ties"), his not-so-supportive agent (Judy Greer, "Arrested Development") and a former BBC producer (Ioan Gruffud, "Fantastic Four") who has been brought into the network to help find projects with some class.

Duchovny, however, finds trouble at every turn, from the miscast lead of his sitcom to the studio executive who is a blithering idiot but thinks she knows everything (Sigourney Weaver in a movie-stealing performance). Sadly, based on what I learned at the Screenwriter's Conference at the Festival, Weaver's character is less of a caricature than you might think.

Kasdan, the son of writing legend Lawrence Kasdan ("The Big Chill," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Body Heat," "The Empire Strikes Back," et. al.) inherited much of his dad's talent, but may have even more of a knack for biting satire. His debut feature, "The Zero Effect," a modern retelling of Sherlock Holmes starring Bill Pullman and Ben Stiller, was one of the cleverest films of that year. Kasdan got his break into the business directing TV, including much of the series "Freaks & Geeks" (a classic, seriously, get the DVD) and "Undeclared," both the brainchildren of his buddy, Judd Apatow.

Jake is a terrific guy with a lot of charm. He took a lot of questions after the filmed was shown, and both the movie and the session were among the highlights of the festival. I won't say "The TV Set" is the best comedy/satire I've seen this year - that honor still goes to "Thank You For Smoking" - but that I mention the two films in the same sentence shows how much I enjoyed it.

SAD NEWS: R.I.P. Jane Wyatt, who died Friday. Wyatt is best known for her role on "Father Knows Best," but she will always be Spock's human mom to me.

MONDAY'S BEST BET: I got to see a lot of TV talent at the festival, though I was disappointed in not being able to engage them more.

I spoke briefly with Michael Ian Black ("Ed") but wasn't able to get in on his poker game, which was a disappointment on two fronts. America Ferrera ("Ugly Betty") won't be in Austin until this Saturday, apparently. And William Fichtner ("Prison Break") walked by me on the way to the elevator, so I didn't get a chance to talk to him and find out about what's up next.

"PB" (Fox, 8 p.m.) returns to the air tonight after a brief hiatus because of the baseball playoffs. We last left Michael and crew being betrayed by his old cell mate, Sucre; meanwhile, Fichtner's FBI agent murdered another escapee, Tweener.

I enjoy the thrill ride aspect of "Prison Break," even though it crosses the line of unrealism much of the time. I'm willing to look past it because when the writers do cross that line, they manage to keep the story entertaining and don't do it so outrageously to make the story unenjoyable, a' la "24."

I read a report last week that creator Paul Scheuring wants to end the show this year instead of dragging out the story forever, while Fox wants to keep the hit on the air, naturally. I'm hoping Scheuring wins out even if it means the end of the show, because nothing is worse than a show being dragged out past its prime.

Viewers should also note that "Justice" (Fox, 9 p.m.) airs in its new timeslot tonight, replacing the awful "Vanished."

TV fans may also want to check out guest star Jane Seymour tonight on "How I Met Your Mother," (CBS, 8 p.m.) And don't forget TV's best block of programming, "Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.) and "Studio 60" (NBC, 10 p.m.)


Anonymous said...

Glad you are back from Austin. Did you get to see Amanda Peet - the best looking woman on TV ? I agree withyou on "Lost " (Friday's Column) it will have run its course. I think that "kidnapped " is over rated

Zodin2008 said...

Yes, welcome back, Phillip. Very cool stories from Austin!

I wholeheartedly disagree with your "24" criticisms which never loses its touch, year to year, as the best thrill ride on Television. The best show on a Television is a TIE between "Rescue Me" and "Battlestar Galactica", but "24" is great in its own right.

I am excited about Jake Kasdan's film, it sounds also sounds like a stinging criticism of the never ending Reality TV trend that's infect all our lives for the worse these days. Bravo to Jake Kasdan for making a brave film like this that sounds highly entertaining. I am looking forward to it and yes, "Thank You for Smoking" was the best film of the year.

The 2nd best, if you have yet to see it, is "The Departed", the new Scorcese flick which I saw a week & a half ago and was truly Scorsece at his best--and most violent. Nicholson, DiCaprio, Wahlberg, Sheen, Damon, Baldwin--the all star cast was excellent.

Tonight my DVR will be working overtime as I will be watching "Prison Break", "How I Met Your Mother", "Heroes", "Studio 60", "Weeds" and "Everybody Hates Chris", plus "Justice"--ergo, some of these shows will in fact be watched later in the week ;-)

Phillip Ramati said...

Glad to be back.

Anon - No to Amanda Peet. I wish I did see her. I never said, however, that Lost has run its course. I said people's viewing happens were screwy. And I disagree, of course, on Kidnapped.

Zod, 24 shouldn't even be mentioned with those other shows.

Kasdan's film is great. It's a satire; not anything like The Departed, which also was a good film.

Yeah, Monday is a tough night to get out of the house these days...