[Screen It]


(1999) (Matthew McConaughey, Jenna Elfman) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Minor Heavy None Minor
Mild None None Minor Moderate
Smoking Tense Family
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Heavy Mild Mild Mild Minor

Comedy: An unassuming, carefree man must contend with the consequences of having his life televised around the clock and live on national TV.
The ratings for the True TV cable network -- a channel devoted to documentaries -- have recently fallen, prompting its head chief, Whitaker (ROB REINER) to demand programming that will lure back their viewers. The channel's programming director, Cynthia Topping (ELLEN DeGENERES), proposes that they put a normal person's life on TV twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. With no script, edits, or professional actors, they'll let the chips fall where they may and hope the audience buys into it.

Although not everyone's crazy about the idea, they decide to give it a try. After a national search, they decide upon Ed Pekurny (MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY), an unassuming thirty-four-year- old San Franciscan and current video store clerk, to be their round the clock subject.

While his brother Ray (WOODY HARRELSON) is all for the idea, their mother Jeanette (SALLY KIRKLAND) and stepfather Al (MARTIN LANDAU) aren't initially crazy about it, but eventually sign the necessary release forms and EDtv begins its first broadcast.

With the bathroom being the only place that's off limits, Ed suddenly realizes the ramifications of what he's agreed to, but still manages to go on with his life despite the ever present cameras. Of course that doesn't make for exciting television, but once romantic sparks finally ignite between Ed and Ray's girlfriend, Shari (JENNA ELFMAN), the ratings get a boost and people begin becoming addicted to the voyeuristic show.

Eventually, however, Ed starts to see a different, unexpected side of fame. Once adoring fans now suddenly intrude on his life and his new relationship with Shari begins to show strains from the lack of any privacy. Things get more complicated when his long estranged father, Hank (DENNIS HOPPER) shows up, and even more so when the network decides to spruce things up by having an attractive woman, Jill (ELIZABETH HURLEY), come on to Ed.

With his life spinning out of control and realizing the intentions of Whitaker and his team at True TV, Ed does what he can to win back Shari, bring peace to his family, and regain control of his life, all while everyone around the country watches him do just that.

Since it superficially seems a lot like "The Truman Show" and has such a diversified cast, many kids -- most likely teens -- may just want to see it.
For sex-related situations, partial nudity and crude language.
  • MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY plays an unassuming, laid-back guy who's as happy to have a beer hanging around his neck as he is to be on TV. He does begin dating his brother's girlfriend while they're still technically going out, has or tries to have sex with several different women, and eventually becomes disenchanted with the whole notion of fame.
  • JENNA ELFMAN plays a UPS driver who likewise falls for Ed while still in a relationship with Ray, but the strains of nonstop fame eventually drive her away.
  • ELLEN DeGENERES plays the harried program director who begins to realize that her idea has its drawbacks (she also smokes and drinks some).
  • ROB REINER plays the network honcho who doesn't care about Ed's life, but only about the ratings.
  • WOODY HARRELSON plays Ed's brother who fools around with another woman while dating Shari, and then stays mad at Ed for dating her and stealing what he thought should have been his glory.
  • SALLY KIRKLAND plays Ed's disapproving mother who eventually cheats on her latest husband.
  • MARTIN LANDAU plays that ailing stepfather to Ed and Ray.
  • DENNIS HOPPER plays Ed's estranged father who only returns when he thinks that Ed's fame and fortune can help him.
  • ELIZABETH HURLEY plays the comely vixen who's hired to seduce Ed for higher ratings.


    OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
    Many moons ago, I worked at a government TV production facility. One memorable day, actor Ted Danson (who was still doing TV's "Cheers" at the time) came into our studio to record a public service announcement with a U.S. Senator. Everyone was excited to see him, but despite the adoration he was receiving and the wealth he had accumulated, I felt sorry for him. Even there, in a "professional" setting, the guy couldn't get away from fans and having to sign umpteen autographs, and I began to think that he probably encountered that everywhere he went.

    While some people are professionally famous, others often suddenly find themselves thrust into the spotlight, a point observed by pop artist Andy Warhol who once commented that everyone would have their own individual fifteen minutes of fame at some point in their lives. Had he known of the recent media fixation of turning the most mundane subjects and people into household names for months at a time, however, he may just have raised that average.

    Of course fame is fleeting and today's Monica Lewinsky has replaced yesterday's Donna Rice, Fawn Hall, and any number of other "celebrities" who were once more easily -- and sadly -- recognized by the average person than their given Congressional representatives.

    Like Ted Danson, most Hollywood actors and actresses are certainly no strangers to the trappings of being famous, and while their popularity ebbs and flows throughout their careers, they're always on the public's radar, no matter how small a blip they might be at any given moment. As such, certain segments of the public -- most likely the same ones who groove on America's funniest home videos and all of those live "surveillance" Internet sites -- can't get enough of their favorite celebrities and probably wish they could peak in and see what they're doing every minute of the day.

    That fanatical and nonstop fascination with celebrity fame and the power of the media are explored in director Ron Howard's latest film, "EDtv." While many will initially think the picture is quite similar to last year's brilliant "The Truman Show" -- especially since there are strong similarities between them and because Hollywood has a knack for releasing several similarly plotted films within a given twelve month period -- they are different enough in their approach of covering this topic that both are worth seeing.

    Whereas "Truman" was a delightfully wicked, "Twilight Zone" type story where everything about a man's life is manufactured for a live TV production of which he only slowly becomes aware, "EDtv" focuses on "reality TV" where the character fully knows going in that his life's going to be televised.

    While both films are enjoyable in their own right, this one's decidedly more lightweight and often funnier, but somewhat surprisingly isn't as scathing as one might expect considering its cast and director who must surely be intimately familiar with the pros and cons of being famous. It certainly doesn't have the depth of that Peter Weir/Jim Carrey film and might just suffer from being the second up to bat in telling this sort of story (although last year's "Armageddon" did far better than its predecessor, "Deep Impact," just going to prove that nobody knows anything about the public's reception of any given film).

    Nonetheless, the film will probably best be remembered for Howard's use of a virtual who's who of Hollywood talent, as well as one of the more blatant -- but cleverly excusable -- uses of advertising seen in any of today's films where product placement is an easy -- if artistically questionable -- way to offset production costs.

    The first makes the film more palatable to audiences as you're bound to find someone you like amongst the myriad of stars who appear throughout the film. Conversely, that also occasionally stops the film's momentum dead in its tracks as each new appearance of a well-known face distracts one's attention away from the proceedings.

    Then there's the advertising -- some of it real, some of it presumably fictitious (such as that promoting local businesses -- although they could be real as well) that appears on nearly every shot of the EDtv broadcast. Howard has cleverly fashioned the use of such ads with his defense of them surely being that such a live, uncut TV show would need to run ads to raise revenue, and thus the presence of all those text ads at the bottom of the screen.

    Of course it's doubtful most viewers would have even thought of that issue, but Howard gets away with it and probably generated a ton of income to help the film's bottom line. We would have preferred to see a more creative and entertaining use of fictitious ads in their place, however, that not only would have made the film funnier, but also more fun to watch and deserving of repeated viewings to catch all of the jokes. Alas, economics wins out over entertainment.

    With a charming and personable cast and a setup that has plenty of potential, however, Howard ("Apollo 13," "Parenthood") -- who's no stranger to eliciting great films from both of those -- and screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (who've written other Howard films such as "Night Shift" and "Splash") deliver a well-constructed, lightweight film. The jokes are plentiful, the characters are developed well enough for what's needed of them, and the chemistry between the leads works.

    Matthew McConaughey ("A Time to Kill," "Contact") delivers an enjoyable and believable performance as the laid-back "everyman," while Jenna Elfman (TV's "Dharma & Greg") makes up for her appearance in the abominable "Krippendorf's Tribe." Delivering what's probably her best on-screen performance to date, Elfman is fun to watch and the chemistry between her and McConaughey always feels natural.

    Supporting performances are good across the board. The always reliable Woody Harrelson ("The People vs. Larry Flynt," "The Hi-Lo Country") is good as the disgruntled brother, but his part unfortunately somewhat dries up in the film's second half. Ellen DeGeneres (TV's "Ellen") and Rob Reiner (of TV's "All in the Family" and director of "When Harry Met Sally" and "A Few Good Men") offset each other nicely as the TV executives, while Martin Landau ("Ed Wood," TV's "Mission: Impossible") is delightful as Ed's scooter-bound stepfather who isn't above making jokes at his own expense.

    That's not even to mention Sally Kirkland, Dennis Hopper, Elizabeth Hurley, Clint Howard (Ron's brother who shows up in most of his films), Donny Most (Ron's costar on "Happy Days") and many others who populate the well-known cast.

    Although some may complain that the film doesn't fully explore fame and the media, that its level of satire could have been stronger, or the fact that it's certainly predictable, Howard has fashioned it with enough charm, clever moments and winning performances that in the end, you don't really mind any of that or the fact that it's not quite as good as "The Truman Show." Funny, quick- paced and entertaining, this film should please audiences and for that reason, we give "EDtv" a 7 out of 10.

    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated film. Some sexually related dialogue occurs throughout the film (including several references to erections or the lack thereof), we see some brief nudity (a woman's mostly bare butt, glimpses of her and other's bare breasts) as well as characters passionately making out and/or preparing to fool around or have sex. The only completed encounter, however, is strongly suggested but occurs off camera.

    Profanity gets a moderate rating due to at least 10 uses of the "s" word, as well as other words (including some genitalia related ones) and colorful phrases. Throughout the movie different characters drink or hold drinks, with a few of them being drunk or tipsy. Some comedy-related bad attitudes also exist (including a guy cheating on his girlfriend who then begins a relationship with that guy's brother before theirs is done, as well as some greedy network executives).

    Due to the fact that more conservative viewers may find the film's content pushing the PG-13 envelope, you may want to take a closer look at what's been listed should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may wish to see this picture.

    On an additional note, for those concerned with bright, repetitively flashing lights, a scene set in a nightclub has some moments of full-screen strobe effects.

  • When Cynthia hypothetically asks what made her decide the idea would work, a co-worker says, "Half a dozen wine coolers?"
  • People have drinks in a bar, including Ray, and we see Ed with a beer hanging from his neck.
  • People drink in the bar again and Ray mentions that his sister is an alcoholic. A character then walks up and states that he's had nearly twenty beers (when commenting that he's taking a poll about whether to shave his head or not).
  • We see Ed, as well as some miscellaneous characters, drinking on the street outside the bar.
  • Shari's roommate states that she gave Shari -- who's not much of a drinker -- a drink and that she's now somewhat belligerent. We then see Shari and she appears a bit tipsy.
  • A viewer drinks a beer while watching the show.
  • People have drinks in a bar.
  • Cynthia has a drink after exercising.
  • We see an open bottle of liquor on Hank's dresser.
  • People have drinks back at TV headquarters.
  • We see a partial glimpse of the fictitious President of the U.S. who's holding a drink while watching the show.
  • Ed drinks from a beer bottle hanging around his neck.
  • People in a poker/card game drink.
  • Whitaker has a beer.
  • People have drinks in a bar.
  • Although not really either, the extreme close-up sight of Ed cutting his toenails had some in our audience reacting unfavorably.
  • Ray has both for cheating on Shari, and to the same extent, Shari and Ed have some of both for starting to date at the same time (but in reaction to Ray's first actions).
  • The public/viewers begin to badmouth Shari (that she's not hot, too tall, too bony, and not right for Ed).
  • Whitaker and his associates begin to have both as we soon see that they're more interested in ratings than Ed or his family and friends' lives, and Whitaker then has both toward Cynthia who thinks the show has gone far enough.
  • Some may see Ed having some of both for initially agreeing to more TV coverage while knowing that it upsets Shari.
  • We learn that Hank (Ed's father) had affairs while married to Jeanette who then has an affair of sorts herself.
  • We see that a fan/stalker of Ed's has broken into his apartment.
  • Some viewers sensitive to violence against animals may not like a scene played for laughs where Ed and Jill make out on top of her table, and he then falls off and accidently lands on her cat, injuring it, but it survives.
  • None.
  • Handgun: Held by actor Don Johnson in a clip seen from the TV show "Miami Vice."
  • Phrases: "Lay" and "Stooping" (for sex), "Chubby," "Stiffy" (for erections) and "Johnson" (for penis), "C*cking" (substituted for d*ck as in "what are we c*cking around for?"), "Sh*thole," "Sh*thead," "Putz," "Balls" (testicles), "Bitch," "Skanky ho'," "Geez," "Retards," "Suck(s)," "Bastard," "Pissed," "Go to hell," "Horse's ass," "Pissed off," "Nuts" (crazy), "Dorky," "Chicks" and "Slut."
  • Showing that he can't bend his middle finger (due to a boyhood accident), Ed bends his others resulting in him sort of jokingly giving "the finger" to the camera.
  • We see Ray bench-pressing Shari.
  • Cynthia gives "the finger" to Whitaker and others.
  • None.
  • None.
  • A song includes a line about whiskey being in your water, while another song sounded like it included the word "penis" during the Ed/Jill attempted sex scene.
  • At least 10 "s" words, 3 slang terms for male genitals ("c*ck," "Johnson" and what sounded like "d*ck"), 1 slang term for female genitals ("p*ssy"), 14 hells, 9 asses (3 used with "hole"), 6 damns, 1 S.O.B., 1 crap, and 8 uses each of "G-damn" and "Oh my God," 3 uses of "Oh God" and 1 use each of "Oh Lord," "For Christ's sakes," "For the love of Jesus Christ," "Oh Christ," "Oh Jesus" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • Ray comments that meeting Shari's parents was trying, and says that "the dog was smelling my balls." He then adds that he hopes it was the dog stating that Shari's mother did disappear for a while.
  • As Ed discusses the concept of his life being televised, Al asks "What about sex?" Ed then jokingly responds, "Sorry Al, I'll have to pass." They then briefly discuss whether the network will be able to show him having sex or being nude.
  • With the cameras rolling on Ed waking up in his bed, Whitaker asks, "Is that what I think it is?" We then hear someone say "A morning chubby" (erection) and we see Ed put his hand down inside his underwear and reflexively scratch/feel himself until he realizes the camera is on him (played for laughs).
  • We learn that Ed's sister and her boyfriend are living together, but we never see anything. We also see two gay men who apparently live together, but likewise don't see any activity.
  • Ed goes to visit Ray and discovers (and we see) that he has another woman in his place. As such, we see (for more than a few seconds) most of her bare butt (she's wearing a thong-like bottom) as well as glimpses of the sides of her bare breasts (she's topless) as she stands peering into the fridge. When Ed asks Ray why he didn't stop (from having sex with that woman), Ray responds, "I'm a guy. We don't stop....We're the gas, women are the brakes."
  • Explaining why she never intended to marry Ray, Shari says "He's a bad lay. I mean bad." Later, Ray shows up with a woman who states on camera that he's not as bad in bed as Shari stated and that she's "definitely had worse."
  • We see some passionate kissing between Ed and Shari.
  • Ed wears a T-shirt that shows a nude woman (from the waist up) whose hands cover her breasts.
  • We see camera footage that briefly focuses on Jill's clothed breasts.
  • Ed tosses a picture of a nude woman (that we see for a split second that may show some nudity such as bare breasts) into his "nude picture pile" of other such pictures (although we don't see any of them).
  • Ed's mother talks about coming home in the past to find Hank in bed with another woman. Ed then learns that she and Al had sex before she and Hank split causing Ed to say, "You and Al were..." (as he repeatedly smacks one hand against the next to symbolize sex).
  • We see Ed and Shari passionately making out in a car and then them removing her shirt. Before we see anything, however, we see the camera crew running up and on their footage we see what may have been a very brief glimpse of her breast (viewers react as if they did and her roommate mentions that someone posted a picture of her breast on the Internet).
  • Jill shows some cleavage as well as part of her upper thigh in a formal dress with an extremely high-cut slit.
  • We see Ed and Jill passionately making out while standing and she looks to her bedroom and says, "Should we...?" as she continues to kiss and suggestively rub up against him. He declines, but then shows up another night for "the big event" (sex) and finds a huge crowd waiting and cheering him on (with signs reading "It's show time"). A student viewer comments that Ed hasn't had sex in six weeks causing his friend to ask, "What, like we have?"
  • Ed then goes inside and finds Jill in a cleavage revealing outfit. She then suggestively puts a grape (and her finger) inside Ed's mouth and they passionately kiss while he grabs her clothed butt. They then move over and onto a table (that we see has a painting of a woman on its top that shows the side of a woman's bare breast) while a crew member says, "We're go for sex." We then see her straddling him on top of the table (from a low angle and behind them) and see the side of her bare butt. Before anything else happens, however, he falls off the table and lands on her cat (which is injured but okay). Moments later, Jay Leno jokes about there being one big build up and that he (Ed) then couldn't perform, and drag performer RuPaul states "All that guy did was hurt that girl's p
  • ssy" and then modifies that by saying the comment refers to her cat.
  • We briefly see Jeanette's cleavage.
  • A doctor mentions that Ed's father died while having sex with his mother, which causes Whitaker to state, "The mother was stooping the ex-husband." To defend herself, Jeanette states that Al can't have sex and it's been a long time for her. We then hear Jay Leno doing a joke stating that the mother's good at it (sex), the two sons can't do it, one husband can't do it, and that the husband who could, died while doing it.
  • Trying to embarrass someone, Ed starts talking about penile implants on live TV. He talks about the implant being put in, and then the user having to squeeze a bulb that forces fluid into the shaft (and as he says this, he raises his arm like an erection) and says, "Voila, you've got yourself a stiffy." He then asks about the identify of the man who can't get his "johnson to go north."
  • We see Ed and Shari in bed together under the sheets, suggesting that they had sex.
  • Cynthia smokes several times, while miscellaneous characters smoke in various other scenes.
  • Ed comments that his father ran off with his mother's nurse when he was a boy. Upon that man's reappearance, however, Ed starts asking his mother about the truth.
  • A character learns that his father is dead.
  • People who become addicted to TV shows and the characters that appear on them.
  • People who become famous for no good reason other than the press suddenly covering their lives.
  • The downside of being famous -- lack of privacy and having cameras and paparazzi always hovering around for coverage.
  • Some very brief footage at the beginning shows clips of news-related mayhem -- riots, fires, etc...
  • While making out with Jill on top of her table, Ed falls off and accidently lands on her cat, injuring it, but it survives (played for laughs).
  • Some crew members have to restrain Ed from smashing their equipment with a chair.

  • Reviewed March 13, 1999 / Posted March 26, 1999

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