Average joe Ed Pekurny is selected by True TV executives as their new money-maker, as star of 'EdTV', a 24-hour broadcast of this one man's life. Immediately, the film opens up a world of possibilities for itself. There's the strain put on Ed's relationship with his family (particularly his brother Ray), the reaction to Ed's fame by strangers and friends alike, and obviously the development of Ed's own character when he's broadcast to the world all day, every day. The film is even studious enough to delve into the character of the show's creator (played by Ellen DeGeneres), whose mistreatment by True TV executives (in particular, Rob Reiner's arrogant True TV President) fuels her desire to see the show succeed.
Yet, with such promise comes great capacity for failure, and EdTV is a failure. It never truly explores the interesting plot lines it sets up, and doesn't even try to be the kind of interesting or dramatically enriching film that The Truman Show is. Instead, it wastes the talents of it's cast, refuses to ask the kind of questions you'd expect, and doesn't even capitalise on the escalation that most films of this variety do. No resolution is provided for the interesting plotline involving Ed and Ray's absentee father, nor is the gradual face turn of Ellen DeGeneres' character met with any satisfying act of goodwill.
That's a problem that I feel lies with director Ron Howard. The writing is cliche, sure, but the the cast never quite phone it in (even if nobody really gives it their all). Instead, scenes are completely tonally inconsistent, and it's maddening. There's a scene early on in the film where Ed discusses the TV deal with his family around the dinner table. This should have been a light, mildly inspirational scene (you know, where the protagonist promises his dependents the sun, moon and stars), but it was played with too much of a satirical, borderline cruel tinge, and came across as more condescending than uplifting.
Then there's the supporting characters. Characters like Ed and Ray's sister come in and out of the film, mostly when there's a joke to be made. No resolution is provided for the sister character, or her seemingly self-destructve relationship with the terrible frontman of a local band. The worst example of the film's dispensable peripheral characters is Elizabeth Hurley's femme fatale character. She is set up as something of an antagonist, the popular attractive obstacle for Ed to overcome, before his inevitable reconciliation with love interest Shari (Jenna Elfman). Unfortunately, Hurley's character is given a modicum of characterisation before she shuffles off into the sunset. It's maddening.
That's not to say the film doesn't have it's redeeming elements. As I said, the cast is strong (McConaughey, Harrelson, DeGeneres and Reiner are all memorable and committed), but poor writing and inconsistent direction really detract from that. And the film does have some great ideas. Even if it hadn't asked the philosophical questions The Truman Show had, it could have been a seriously compelling look at the skeletons that emerge when a family is scrutinised by millions. Yet again however, it's a totally underwritten idea that amounts to naught by the film's run time.
The film's visual style is similarly fatiguing. It's not bad, necessarily, but it's aiming for that in-your-face, highly-colourful, look typical of ads or music videos, presumably in an attempt to keep with the film's themes of voyeurism and media control. Unfortunately, as the film descends further into the pit of bad comedy, the film's style becomes more and more grating, until it gets tiring to watch.
EdTV is the kind of film that I would simply suggest you avoid. It's not as bad as say, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but I would recommend that monstrosity over EdTV for morbid curiosity, the pretty visuals, or even the acting. EdTV, while a better film, is the kind of forgettable, pointless film that should never have come to fruition, especially after The Truman Show.
EdTV gets a 4/10.