August 19, 2003


IS THE BATTLE OF SHAKER HEIGHTS FIXED?: Entertainment Weekly has a not-altogether-tongue-in-cheek item in this week's issue (not online) alleging that the fix is in with "Project Greenlight." EW can't understand why Miramax (and producers Ben Affeck, Matt Damon, and Chris Moore), in need of a hit, would choose the obviously unqualifed "bumpkin directors," Kyle Rankin and Efram Potille, as winner of their let's-make-a-movie contest. Did they purposely hire abrasive, not-very-talented helmers knowing they would clash with the producers, actors, and writer, and thus produce riveting TV?
I think they did, and here's why: the budget the directors are given for the film is around $2 million ($1 million last year). I haven't seen any statistics and I'm only speculating here, but I'd imagine the fee HBO pays Miramax/LivePlanet (Damon/Affleck's production outfit) for the right to air the show isn't a whole lot less than that number. Ergo, Miramax had already recouped the majority of its investment before an inch of film was shot, and any subsequent profit the movie itself makes is gravy on Miramax's part.
Therefore, the producers are given the chance to monkey around to their heart's content, and hire the sort of director who would, say, interrupt an important production meeting in order to ask for a free car. The only reason anyone would see "The Battle of Shaker Heights" is that's the "Project Greenlight" movie, so producing a riveting TV show is a better way to draw interest in the film than just about anything the Miramax marketing geniuses could come up with. That's why we've been treated to the long-running, three-way battle among smarmy, chair-breaking asshole producer Chris Moore, clueless directors Ranken and Potille, and sensitive, sweet-eyed screenwriter Erica Beeney, who I confess I've had an Ohio-sized crush on since episode one. When she had her little peptalk with J.Lo a few weeks ago, my eyes were on Beeney, baby.
EW also mocks the presence in the film of Ray Wise, who is forever etched in popular memory as Leland, the man Who Killed Laura Palmer on "Twin Peaks." Is the evil spirit BOB haunting the set? The owls are not what they seem...
But my favorite moment on a series full of Unintentional Comedy Hall of Fame bits came on last week's episode, during which Ben Affleck (gracing the show with his presence) lamented that if 'Shaker Heights' flops, he, Damon and Moore may have to "reconsider whether Project Greenlight is a viable way of producing movies." As opposed to what, Ben, doing it the "Gigli" way from now on?

WORLD ACROSS "THE WIRE": The show that precedes 'Greenlight' on HBO Sundays, "The Wire," is absolutely incredible- but among all my friends who worship "Sopranos," "Sex and the City," and "Six Feet Under," I don't know a single person who watches it. Yes, I know a bunch of cops trying to bust drug-runners on the Baltimore docks doesn't sound as interesting as the Jersey mob, or women frankly discussing tea-bagging, or dead bodies, or the creator of "Seinfeld" wandering around offending people, or a bunch of amateur idiots making a movie- but trust me, it is. Season finale is Sunday.

AND SPEAKING OF HBO, AND TWIN PEAKS...: Next week David Duchovny begins a guest-starring stint on "Sex and the City." He'll certainly make the show more watchable, but knowing that an embarrassing stint on SATC all but ruined the career of another of my favorite actors, Kyle MacLachlan, I'm not so optimistic about Mulder's chances. Oh well, at least Blair Underwood is working again.

Posted by Stephen Silver at August 19, 2003 02:02 PM
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