EDtv vs. The Truman Show

The thought of following around a single person and capturing his entire life on television actually isn’t new. Even before last year’s The Truman Show, there has been MTV’s brand of real-life TV called “The Real World.” Even on the internet, there are several sites where you can watch the inhabitants of college dorms, apartments, or office buildings via “webcams.”

But so far, the idea of a national broadcast of ordinary individuals oddly hasn’t happened yet. That’s where these two films come in.

Plot Intersection

  • Authenticity of the lead characters and their directors.
  • Plot involves insatiable, non-stop media coverage of their lives.


Edtv (March 26, 1999)

Release Date: March 26, 1999
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Sally Kirkland, Jenna Elfman
Genres: Comedy
Runtime: 122 min
Original Title: Edtv
Original Film Language: English
Production Companies: Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures
Video store clerk Ed agrees to have his life filmed by a camera crew for a tv network.

Cast Edtv

  • Matthew McConaughey
  • Role: Ed 'Eddie' Pekurny
  • Woody Harrelson
  • Role: Ray Pekurny
  • Sally Kirkland
  • Role: Jeanette
  • Jenna Elfman
  • Role: Shari
  • Martin Landau
  • Role: Al
  • Ellen DeGeneres
  • Role: Cynthia Topping
  • Rob Reiner
  • Role: Mr. Whitaker
  • Dennis Hopper
  • Role: Henry 'Hank' Pekurny
  • Elizabeth Hurley
  • Role: Jill
  • Adam Goldberg
  • Role: John
  • Viveka Davis
  • Role: Marcia
  • Clint Howard
  • Role: Ken
  • Geoffrey Blake
  • Role: Keith
  • Gail Boggs
  • Role: Wife
  • Jenna Byrne
  • Role: Felicia
  • Greg Sestero
  • Role: Roach
  • RuPaul
  • Role: RuPaul
  • Merrin Dungey
  • Role: Ms. Seaver
  • Ian Gomez
  • Role: McIlvaine
  • Gavin Grazer
  • Role: Clint
  • Chris Hogan
  • Role: Paul
  • Arianna Huffington
  • Role: Panel Member
  • Larry "Flash" Jenkins
  • Role: Husband
  • Wendle Josepher
  • Role: Rita
  • Scott LaRose
  • Role: Desipio
  • John Livingston
  • Role: Terry
  • Mitzi McCall
  • Role: Fig Lady
  • Jim Meskimen
  • Role: Dr. Geller
  • Don Most
  • Role: Benson
  • Rick Overton
  • Role: Barry
  • James Ritz
  • Role: Tad
  • Rusty Schwimmer
  • Role: Alice
  • Steven Shenbaum
  • Role: Jack
  • Gedde Watanabe
  • Role: Greg
  • Steve Kehela
  • Role: Reporter
  • Googy Gress
  • Role: Reporter
  • Jo McGinley
  • Role: Tracy
  • John Pirruccello
  • Role: Kevin
  • Charles Arthur Berg
  • Role: Party Goer
  • Anthony Jensen
  • Role: Party Goer
  • Sommer Garcia
  • Role: College Girl
  • Jennifer Elise Cox
  • Role: College Girl
  • Alexandra Holden
  • Role: College Girl
  • Mark Wheeler
  • Role: Bartender
  • Anna Karin
  • Role: Snapple Girl
  • George Plimpton
  • Role: Panel Member
  • Michael Moore
  • Role: Panel Member
  • Merrill Markoe
  • Role: Panel Member
  • Bill Maher
  • Role: Bill Maher
  • Jay Leno
  • Role: Jay Leno
  • Sonia Bhalla
  • Role: Ticket Taker
  • Joe Bellan
  • Role: Lou
  • Diane Amos
  • Role: Autograph Mom
  • Wade Robson
  • Role: Teenage Boy
  • Andy Arness
  • Role: Groupie (uncredited)
  • Cyndi Pass
  • Role: Cassie

Trailer Edtv

It’s great to see the sincerity of these two movies. A large chunk of that reality was shouldered by its leads. Mathew McConaughey’s role of Ed Pekurny in Edtv is a refreshing change since his heavy-handed parts in A Time to Kill and Contact. McConaughey as a competent, yet beautiful lawyer in Mississippi was far-fetched. And if he could ever become the foremost spiritual advisor to the President of the United States, I could become the next Pope. He nails it as Ed, though.

He had a lot of good direction. Ron Howard is very good at realism and once again pulls it off in EDtv. He took us right into the heart of many a raging fire in Backdraft. He let us float onboard Apollo 13. We wretched for the parents victimized by child abduction in Ransom. Howard may shoot his movies by the numbers, but no one can accuse him of counterfeit filmmaking. And in EDtv, Ron uses just the right amount of hilarious scenes and plot twists, balanced by some genuine acting, to keep us interested.

Likewise, Jim (Rubber Face) Carrey is surprisingly sincere as Truman Burbank.

The Comic-Turned-Actor


The Truman Show (June 4, 1998)

Release Date: June 4, 1998
Starring: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone
Genres: Comedy, Drama
Runtime: 103 min
Original Title: The Truman Show
Original Film Language: English
Production Companies: Paramount
Truman Burbank is the star of "The Truman Show", a 24-hour-a-day "reality" TV show that broadcasts every aspect of his life -- live and in color -- without his knowledge. His entire life has been an unending soap opera for consumption by the rest of the world. And everyone he knows -- including his wife and his best friend -- is really an actor, paid to be part of his life.

Cast The Truman Show

  • Jim Carrey
  • Role: Truman Burbank
  • Laura Linney
  • Role: Meryl Burbank / Hannah Gill
  • Noah Emmerich
  • Role: Marlon / Louis Coltrane
  • Natascha McElhone
  • Role: Lauren / Sylvia Garland
  • Holland Taylor
  • Role: Alanis Montclair / Angela Burbank
  • Ed Harris
  • Role: Christof
  • Brian Delate
  • Role: Walter Moore / Kirk Burbank
  • Paul Giamatti
  • Role: Simeon
  • Peter Krause
  • Role: Laurence
  • Blair Slater
  • Role: Young Truman
  • Heidi Schanz
  • Role: Vivien
  • Ron Taylor
  • Role: Ron
  • Don Taylor
  • Role: Don
  • Ted Raymond
  • Role: Spencer
  • O-Lan Jones
  • Role: Bar Waitress
  • Krista Lynn Landolfi
  • Role: Bar Waitress
  • Harry Shearer
  • Role: Mike Michaelson
  • Jeanette Miller
  • Role: Senior Citizen
  • Philip Glass
  • Role: Keyboard Artist
  • Una Damon
  • Role: Chloe
  • Joe Minjares
  • Role: Bartender
  • Philip Baker Hall
  • Role: Network Executive
  • John Pleshette
  • Role: Network Executive
  • Terry Camilleri
  • Role: Man in Bathtub
  • Joel McKinnon Miller
  • Role: Garage Attendant
  • Judy Clayton
  • Role: Travel Agent
  • Fritz Dominique
  • Role: Truman's Neighbor
  • Angel Schmiedt
  • Role: Truman's Neighbor
  • Nastassja Schmiedt
  • Role: Truman's Neighbor
  • Muriel Moore
  • Role: Teacher
  • Mal Jones
  • Role: News Vendor
  • Judson Vaughn
  • Role: Insurance Co-Worker
  • Earl Hilliard Jr.
  • Role: Ferry Worker
  • David Andrew Nash
  • Role: Bus Driver / Ferry Captain
  • Jim Towers
  • Role: Bus Supervisor
  • Savannah Swafford
  • Role: Little Girl in Bus
  • Antoni Corone
  • Role: Security Guard
  • Mario Ernesto Sánchez
  • Role: Security Guard
  • John Roselius
  • Role: Man at Beach
  • Kade Coates
  • Role: Truman (4 years)
  • Marcia DeBonis
  • Role: Nurse
  • Sam Kitchin
  • Role: Surgeon
  • Sebastian Youngblood
  • Role: Orderly
  • Dave Corey
  • Role: Hospital Security Guard
  • Mark Alan Gillott
  • Role: Policeman at Power Plant
  • Jay Saiter
  • Role: Policeman at Truman's House
  • Tony Todd
  • Role: Policeman at Truman's House
  • Marco Rubeo
  • Role: Man in Christmas Box
  • Daryl Davis
  • Role: Couple at Picnic Table
  • Robert Davis
  • Role: Couple at Picnic Table
  • R.J. Murdock
  • Role: Production Assistant
  • Matthew McDonough
  • Role: Man at Newsstand
  • Larry McDowell
  • Role: Man at Newsstand
  • Joseph Lucus
  • Role: Ticket Taker
  • Logan Kirksey
  • Role: TV Host
  • Adam Tomei
  • Role: Control Room Director
  • John Pramik
  • Role: Keyboard Artist
  • Al Foster
  • Role: Bar Patron
  • Zoaunne LeRoy
  • Role: Bar Patron
  • Millie Slavin
  • Role: Bar Patron
  • Dona Hardy
  • Role: Senior Citizen
  • Tom Simmons
  • Role: Garage Attendant
  • Susan Angelo
  • Role: Mother
  • Carly Smiga
  • Role: Daughter
  • Yuji Okumoto
  • Role: Japanese Family
  • Kiyoko Yamaguchi
  • Role: Japanese Family
  • Saemi Nakamura
  • Role: Japanese Family

Trailer The Truman Show

There’s something oddly genuine about Carrey, which is almost out of character coming from the guy who played in such body-humor farces as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb & Dumber (of which I will never tire). But if you look at two of his recent films, The Cable Guy and Liar Liar, you see a slight change in his taste for roles. Carrey is beginning to move from pure slap-stick to sincere acting, similar to Robin Williams’ transition from goofy comedy to involving melodrama. Williams’ latest (Patch Adams and What Dreams May Come) have done well, even if not received positively from the critics. Probably his most memorable dramatic repertoire has been Good Will Hunting, Awakenings, Dead Poets Society, and Good Morning, Vietnam.

Peter Weir directed Truman, and incidentally directed Dead Poets as well. So Weir’s flare for capturing the humanity of a film is well established.

There’s very few differences between Truman and EDtv. The only significant ones are fundamental.

Character Contrasts

  • Product plugs — real or fake?
  • EDtv‘s exhibitionist or Truman‘s peeping tom?

Where Truman and EDtv differ starkly is in their clever inclusion of product commercialization. With a 24-hour broadcast of someone’s life, the normal funding methods (commercial breaks) aren’t exactly optional. So both Truman and EDtv work in their sponsors by subtle (and not-so-subtle) placement.

Weir was quite aware of the conflict of interests involved in free advertisement; so he used fake products in Truman‘s ads. What resulted was hilariously awkward real-time plugs for bogus products. Truman has no idea why his wife keeps elaborating on dish soap and plant fertilizer.

In EDtv, however, the same device is used but with real products. We see Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Motorola, Yahoo, and many others blatantly displayed everywhere. The corporate presence becomes almost overbearing at times. So is Howard alluding to the corruption of sponsorship and rampant commercialization of modern television? Overbearing or not, it fits with his portrayal of frenzied media coverage. In an age when individual plays of professional sports are sponsored by name brand products, the message is certainly relevant.

Yet the irony (or hypocrisy) of it all is that surely Howard was compensated by all those companies for giving them prime ad spots in his film. I certainly doubt they were plugged for free. Come to think of it, I’m just as guilty for having mentioned them above. Why, even “Real World” edits out any exposed product labels from their show!

Man Under a Microscope

The story of Truman Burbank is a unique one. He was the first child to be adopted by a corporation for the sole purpose of being televised to the world. There’s just one hitch: Truman has no cognizance of this grand experiment and lives in a completely fabricated environment. The mastermind behind this elaborate operation is a rogue filmmaker named Christof (Ed Harris), who changes the “script” of Truman’s life from day to day to appease viewer ratings.

Ed Pekurny, on the other hand, voluntarily subjects himself to public scrutiny. He and his loser brother (Woody Harrelson) audition for a new cable show on the “True TV” network that features 24-hour roaming-camera footage of an ordinary person. Ed is selected as their poster boy, and soon becomes the preoccupation of everyone. His new job as host of EDtv has the appeal of real-life video with the addiction of daytime soap operas.

From mundane to intimate, nothing is private and the audience craves more. They quickly elevate Ed to stardom. His newfound fame is even compared to the Beetles and the Spice Girls. His charm and sincerity would seem to echo the former, but his short-lived fame is reminiscent of the latter. This is confirmed by one of Ed’s friends who even gets a spot on a talk show to comment on the media phenomenon of Ed. “It used to be that you became famous because you were special,” he says. “Now you become special because you’re famous. Fame itself has become a moral good.”

The fandom behind Truman is just as strong. The people love him because he is real. This insatiable desire for reality is encouraging, but also a bit depressing. For while it is good to see that people really want to stay in touch with real life, it seems odd that they can’t see the uniqueness in their own lives. This infatuation with the elite icons of television is disturbing. It used to take huge star power in Hollywood or living legends in Washington to warrant unadulterated praise. Now, we are content to raise simpletons on the altar of fame. Indeed, we see it in such new TV trash as Jerry Springer and other midday circus talk shows. The standards have fallen from bad to worse.

There’s even an obvious allusion to the recent Clinton scandal as Ed turns into a screen version of Larry Flint and calls upon all conscientious citizens to dig up as much scandal on the True TV execs as possible. Ed’s scheme is to force them to annul his eternal contract. The message is a familiar sounding one: Ed’s private life should be his own business and doesn’t belong on the boob tube.

It’s hard to say which of these movies did a better job with its message. EDtv was well executed by Howard. However, I’m not convinced people will remember it’s truths about mass consumption of entertainment for very long afterward, because it succumbs to the notion itself.

I do think that from the Truman scenario you could learn more about human nature, simply because Truman doesn’t know you’re peeping. In this sense, although fundamentally flawed, Truman is the better of these two social experiments. If Truman was a “film,” then EDtv is just a two-and-a-half-hour sitcom.

Where both Truman and EDtv really succeeded was in making me want to give up television forever. (That’s actually a compliment.) Unfortunately, I’m just as much a part of the consuming masses as anyone else. I’ll probably tune in to the next TV I see.

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