"Isn't it terrible how the media intrudes on people's lives?" so many famous people seem to say (while others stand in the background shouting, "Intrude! Intrude!")

photo: Ron Batzdorff
© 1998 Universal International Pictures BV
The media is on the prowl again and the next unsuspecting victim for exploitation turns out to be a likable longhorn living in Paramus who is "on the road to nowhere". How lucky he is to be chosen for initiation into a charmed life on the airwaves by a ranting hungry cable executive. His life will transformed (, but not noticeably they explain,) as he goes "live" on TV 24 hours a day. Yes, Ed Pekurny (Matthew McConnaughey) thinks it's cool to be gruel for the big, bad tube.

Screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babeloo Mandel, the sitcom duo-with a long string of film successes, reunite with director Ron Howard to playfully show an unbearably normal life under the spotlights. Of course, with a team like that creating the situations and pumping out the lines, it's bound to get laughs. After a bouncing joist and a jousting romp, life begins to evolve into a series of almost life-like situations which constantly have to be dealt with onscreen (talk about your peeping Toms, Dicks and Harrys, not to mention Gertrudes). Ed Pekurny's rites of passage into maturity (after all, he's no chicken when the story starts) confront him with events he never dreamed of experiencing while sitting at work between his VCR's. His life becomes the dream of every wide-screen ego-tripper (Hi, mom!).

The ratings must rise as high as a satellite dish because that's what keeps the TV industry solvent. NorthWest Broadcasting's program director Cynthia Topping (Ellen de Generes) has come up with a gem of an idea. TV executive Whitaker (Rob Reiner) gives it the go-ahead and, once it turns into a prime time blockbuster, turns around to claim it as his own baby. The daily routine of Ed's life (subject matter for the small screen) consists of work at the local video store (pity there was no cameo here for Tarantino), good and bad times with his brother Ray (Woody Harrelson), wandering the shaky line in and out of love with his girlfriend Shari (Jenna Elfman), mixed emotions with mom and dad (Sally Kirkland and Martin Landau), encounters with Mr. power-behind-the-program Whitaker (Rob Reiner), the return of a long lost biological father (Dennis Hopper) and near-seduction (let's keep it clean) with a lusty image-hungry vixen (Elizabeth Hurley), which are all made available for easy viewing for the homebody couch potatoes who, in mass proportions, become enchanted with the home- grown, home-town boy. (Why get a life when you can watch one?)

The trail of the tale of reality under the spotlights fades before the end grows near, however, and a jolt of sitcom humor with a predictable winner's twist takes over before our hero ever gets the chance to whisper "paparazzi". (We're talking here about the movie itself and not the story line of the movie, in case you're getting confused between the reality and the illusion.)

Recipe for attempting a movie comedy hit based on real TV life:

1) Take one Texan (i.e. hunky) movie star/cum overnight success (achieved via a filmed version of a best-selling author's novel plus lots of magazine coverage - i.e. exposure) and cast as the main character.

2) Let a sitcom star/cum stand-up comic play the role of a TV executive whose eye has latched upon a new vehicle/cum persona for the latest potential hot item for TV.

3) Position another sitcom star/cum actor-director to play the executive head in charge of the network. (Shades of Garry Marshall in "Holy Man".)

4) Place a sitcom star at his side (i.e. hunky lead) for mandatory love interest, but don't let her be too pretty until she has a makeover in the movie.

5) Manipulate enticingly (e.g. appearance on talk show written into script) the seductive appearance of another (this time attractive) movie star without any TV background, but with a neat set of needles and pins holding her dress up.

6) Find a producer for the project that has worked not only with the project director, but preferably has past experience with Jim Carrey.

7) Put an ex-sitcom star\cum director with a good track record at the control panel to operate the whole shebang and "voila":

Lights! Camera! Action! Success! Fame!
Isn't that what it's all about? Maybe not.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett