Anarchy TV (2000)
"We chose not to try and lure you in with the actors faces but with vibrant pink instead."- original box-art tagline
Stars: Jonathan Penner, Matt Winston, Jessica Hecht, Moon Zappa
Other Stars: Dwezil Zappa, Alan Thicke, Tamayo Otsuki, Ahmet Zappa
Director: Jonathan Blank
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong language, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:50m:00s
Release Date: 2003-03-23
DVD ReviewRight from the start, Anarchy TV reminded me a lot of the 'Weird' Al Yankovic gem UHF, and I guess it's hard not to make the comparison. Both are about takeovers of television stations and how one group of people wants to do their own, weird thing, while the powers that be would rather the station be used from something more conventional. Heads butt and opinions clash; you've seen it all before. Anarchy TV, unfortunately, lacks the simple charm and true sense of humor of something like UHF because it's too busy trying to actually deliver a serious political message, and a rather messy one at that.
The plot concerns a public access channel where all of the shows are weird, off-kilter stuff. Amongst the programs is "Anarchy TV" a show that does a lot of political satire and attacks the conservative nature of most American politics. One of the women involved has a father who happens to be a religious zealot. He not unexpectedly uses his authority and community respect to buy out the station and then repurpose it as a Christian network that beams out nothing but his own type of programming. The "anarchists" decide to fight back and take over the station's signal and broadcasting their own "power to the people" message in the hopes that the city will reclaim the lost cable access show. It's all a bit far fetched and, frankly, pretentious. The characters (two of whom are played by Frank Zappa's children, Moon and Dwezil) are all relatively intelligent political thinkers. Yet, their messages and style of humor are not that great. There's enormous potential in any comedy where there's an automatic excuse for just about any kind of skit or spoof, but the potential is unused here. Although the characters take some lethal stabs at censorship and religion, they do so in a very heavy handed and unlikable manner. In short, I just didn't laugh much.
The funniest moments are the subtle details. For example, a brief appearance by George Wendt as a hippie political philosopher, or the scene in which a teacher puts on a play with her schoolchildren in which they discuss the evils of heavy foresting. Unfortunately, the loud, brash, and nasty humor that comes from the whole cable access program part of the show just isn't that funny. Especially tiring is premise that the main characters are some kind of political heroes when, in actuality, their program does little to highlight real political problems. Again, I must fall back to referencing UHF, which made the point without all the massively depressing politics thrown in. Censorship stinks, period; I don't think we needed to make the main villain an "evil" Christian where religion becomes the butt of a bunch of skits and such. In fact, the best parts of the film have nothing to do with the story, but are just simple, well-inserted sight gags or hidden jokes.
When all is said and done, I think the message about the takeovers of local access stations and the censorship that often goes on there is just too clumsy to mean much. Everything is either too little (not funny) or way overboard (purposefully offensive). Also, though the characters fling around a lot of political buzzwords, they aren't anarchists. Yeah, it's splitting a hair, but still, it makes things feel silly when their behavior really doesn't smack of true anarchy, including an entire final reel where they all perform naked on television just to get ratings. The revolution might be televised, it just isn't particularly interesting.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The full-screen image is generally acceptable, but suffers from rather heavy grain which is very evident given the dark cinematography. There's quite a bit of pixelization and artifacting throughout, especially when a scene is particularly dark.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: The audio does it's job, but the film isn't a major audio experience and sound is comprised mainly of dialogue, without much action that requires an elaborate mix. The dialogue is perfectly understandable and there are no serious issues with the track. The occasional music score is also acceptable but, again, nothing special.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Jonathan Blank
- Anarchy TV: The Game
- Timothy Leary Interview
The disc also contains a 12-minute interview with Dr. Timothy Leary, the late "Acid Guru" who should be instantly recognizable to just about anyone familiar with 1960s and 1970s counterculture. The thing is, I'm not sure why there's an interview with him is included. While a brief clip of him plays in the feature film itself (ludicrously trumped up as a starring role on the back of the box), this interview is mainly about psychotropic drugs. It has barely anything to do with corporate takeover of media or public stations. Rounding things off is a brief little trivia game that lets you answer a series of political questions, then rates how paranoid you are (I'm "very paranoid").
The keepcase insert also features the original (much better) cover art, which was inexplicably changed to a cover featuring actor faces and names (some of whom are barely in the film) as well as a semi-nude woman.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsAs a long time fan of locally-made, public cable shows, I can safely say that if a show like Anarchy TV actually existed, it would probably be the least watched program on television, especially given the predominance of satellite feeds offering actually productive things like Free Speech TV or Deep Dish Network. This is just a bunch of juvenile pot jokes and cheap-shots at the "establishment." Admittedly, it's a good, light comedy for those times when you just want to laugh a little and not have to think too much, but you could do much better with UHF or Michael Nesmith's Tapeheads.
Dan Lopez 2003-07-31