Edtv ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

EDtv came out nine months after The Truman Show and is basically the same story, but only if Truman knew he was on TV 24/7 and signed up for it willingly. They both have the recurring shots of fans watching the show, a love interest that leaves the show, and a protagonist that eventually leaves the show for love.

The Truman Show (which I gave 4.5 stars) is considered the better film, is much more celebrated, and is far more analyzed. EDtv (which I gave only 4) is less so, but in some ways is the superior film.

First, EDtv eliminates the massive elephant-in-the-room that is the dramatic irony of when Truman will find out he's on TV. EDtv, therefore, deals much more immediately with the voyeurism that's only a subtheme in Truman.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]
EDtv deals instead with the idea of fame and celebrity: do we really want it or not? To quote an obscure 90's band, Five Iron Frenzy, "I wanted to be famous; now I want to take it back." Ed eats up being on TV and getting exponentially more famous, recognized, and adored. Unfortunately, his girlfriend Shari does not and leaves him over it. Then a fame-hungry model sees Ed as her chance to get famous and plays their dates for the camera. When Ed's finally had enough, the studio won't let him quit.

What's a man to do when his family is being harassed on TV 24/7? Enter another theme of the movie: leverage. Ed's brother Ray leverages his brother's fame and money to start a business and write a book. The model leverages the two dates with Ed for more fame. The network executives leverage their legal power to keep Ed on TV even after he wants to quite. Ultimately, and most satisfactorily, Ed leverages his popularity and huge fanbase to help him quit the show by having them dig up dirt on the network executives.

Effectively, since the contract demands he be on air 24/7, he uses the show against the executives to out their dirty little secrets until they cancel him. The only thing that'd have made that better is if that sequence was longer and more detailed. I'd have likee to have seen Ed acquire the routines and home addresses of the executives and follow them around, putting that on TV until they cancelled him.

The Truman Show had themes about God-complexes, nature-vs-nuture, and the abuse of a child by pretending to kill his father in front of him. EDtv's family drama reveals are mundane by comparison, but that makes them all the more powerful. By stripping the sci-fi element away, EDtv ultimately becomes a family drama wrapped in a story that predicted the worst elements of reality tv.

I recommend this one to anyone who likes a thoughtful take on why we watch what we watch.