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Real TV taken to its natural conclusion. Ed (MCConaughey) agrees to have his life the subject of a TV show. Unlike The Truman Show where the protagonist was unaware, and all the other characters actors, on EDtv, everyone is playing themselves.
You might wonder, as I did, what this film could add to that already said by The Truman Show. Both cover the old science fiction premise of vampiric viewers watching others' lives instead of actually choosing to have one of their own. It's an old whinge -- that the undertrodden masses have no real existence, as if living life to its fullest is only a factor of education and money, rather than self and character.
Movie Poster, EDtv,
Movie still, Matthew McConaughey and Elizabeth Hurley in EDtv
|However, both Truman (Jim Carrey) and Ed (Matthew McConaughey) are average joes. Truman is a life insurance sales rep., and Ed works in a video store (irony of ironies). Neither of these is a job fraught with intellectual challenges or life-threatening activities.
So, would watching someone else's life, however mundane, be inherently more interesting than living one's own? The premise of both films is, yes, people would rather watch than act. Well, there's plenty of precedent in history that people would rather follow than lead, rather slide than think, so would they watch our heroes?
Truman, performed by Carrey, written by Peter Weir and Andrew M. Niccol , is charming in his naivete. One imagines that without his active inner life (acted out before unseen characters) he would be tedious beyond belief in his artificially-sweetened American-idyllic life. Ed, performed by McConaughey, written by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, is another 'nice guy'. He has a 'dead-end' job, an average quirky family (including Martin Landau in a wheelchair and Wood Harrelson as a brother on the make) and he's in love with his brother's cheated-on girlfriend (Jenna Elfman).
The EDtv humour comes from an acute consideration of what would happen around you, as well as to you, if your every move was transmitted out on cable. Some of the effects are subtle, like an increasing quality of advertisers streaming on the screen; and the rapid delivery of a Pepsi dispenser when Ed states his preference. The backgrounds are filled with 'Hey Mom' passers-by trying to get on camera, and the foregrounds include stilted and awkward everyday events with people who look like Bambi-in-headlights.
Will these films make a difference, or are they just entertainment? Fame and money don't bring Ed happiness, and Truman doesn't find happiness until he discovers his god is just another person manipulating his life Truman find happiness when he claims his own power. Similarly, we know that Ed will find happiness only when he accepts his own control over his life. We may not always have the life we would choose, but we do have the life that we make.
There hasn't been an overwhelming turning away from 'reality' shows, just as the papparazi rescinded their agreement and have taken after young Prince William. The audience, the readers, have focused on the people behind the cameras, not themselves, the people in front of the screen. Ultimately change only happens when people accept that they control their own experiences.
It's that old saying: Get a life -- of your own. Life is not a spectator sport.
Movie still, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in EDtv
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed:1-Apr-1999 Last updated: Last tested: 19-Jan-2009 Last Compiled: 08-Aug-2014
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