Equal parts funny and alarming, Jake Kasdan's The TV Set hits all the right bases with its one-two punch of merciless writing and across-the-board terrific acting. It's actually much more than just a sharp satire of the dynamics of a television network-- it's a story about the everlasting tug o' war between art and commerce, and it speaks about the poor ones lost in-between that try to keep their integrity intact but still have to put food on their tables.
At only 87 minutes, Kasdan is still able to develop surprisingly well a good number of his characters while moving things forward at a good pace. His stage direction feels spontaneous but is nevertheless full of well-executed crowd scenes (his finale is a definite winner), and he is able to obtain the most exquisite reaction shots possible. It's notable that the cast he has to work with is extremely gifted (the Duchovny-Weaver-Gruffud central triangle is simply perfect, and the supporting performers do them justice), but it's been quite a while since I saw a director framing his players with the right amount of confidence and communicated apprehension. Plus, the dialogue is just so damn great, and it feels so true coming out of these actor's mouths.
Not that The TV Set is gifted with a particularly articulate cinematic language, nor that it avoids all shortcuts a subject like this one might present. But it's full of jokes that range from ha-ha funny to WOW ARE YOU SERIOUS, and it's short enough that you actually feel you might have taken thirty more minutes once it's done. It's a shame this Judd Apatow-produced picture got overlooked during its theatrical release (maybe it was positioned as some potential Oscar grabber and didn't land properly?), but I'll take this very, very good project over most of the boring awards bait films around any day.