Once again I find myself starting a review by mentioning at what point the television show that's been released was cancelled. But it's a good thing to see so many cancelled shows making it onto DVD. In this case, the show is Action and it lasted on air until its 9th episode, although 13 episodes were produced and all are included on this 2-DVD set. HBO made some indications that they wanted to take the show on, and there's no doubt it would have had a happier home on a cable network, but negotiations broke down and the show was cancelled for good.
Action revolves around Peter Dragon (Jay Mohr), a fantastically hideous Hollywood producer whose been responsible for some mega-hits. Dragon is an uncompromisingly selfish guy, whose desperately looking for a new hit after his latest action flick does poorly in the box office. The central core of characters are suitably colourful and include Wendy Ward (Illeana Douglas) as a former child actress turned high-class hooker turned TV executive after meeting Dragon at the opening of his flopped film. Stuart Glazer (Jack Plotnick) is Dragon's right-hand man, a little bemused and always hoping to please his boss. Adam Rafkin (Jarrad Paul) is the writer of Dragon's new big hope – a film called 'Beverly Hills Gun Club', and he has to struggle with a serious amount of pressure and re-writes. Not easy to do when you're already a bit neurotic. And then there's Uncle Lonnie (Buddy Hackett), a definite father figure for Dragon, who seems to hang around and help out in a few different ways throughout the show.
So yes, Action is essentially about Hollywood and the business of film. The jokes are thick, fast and harsh – and names are named. Guest appearances from Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Selma Hayek in just the first few episodes set the tone of the piece as one of great irreverence where no topic is untouchable. Towards the end of the show, there's a particularly obvious reference to the Weinstein brothers, portrayed as fairly depraved. Jokes about actors, producers, directors and studios are peppered throughout. And although this brutal humour is most of the appeal of Action it's also a blindingly obvious reason why the show never survived.
The cast are enjoyable to watch in their roles. Jay Mohr is particularly great as the flambuoyant Peter Dragon, able to switch between charm and sheer pig-headedness with the flip of a coin. And the rest of the cast follow suit in their comic timing and ability to bring over these larger-than-life characters with aplomb. The strength of the writing is ably portrayed by the cast, and with the writers explaining in the extras that almost every situation in the show is one they've experienced (or know of someone that has), it really is an insider's view of the wacky world of movie-making in Hollywood.
Action isn't just funny, it's also joyously un-PC in its humour. There's no real sense that any of the jokes or displays of verbal attack have been toned down in any way for the TV audience, and in the end, I think that's why the show really does feel like a breath of fresh air. The over-arching storyline dealing with Dragon's quest to get 'Beverly Hills Gun Club' met is complicated enough to support 13 episodes, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who would have liked to see more of Peter Dragon and his core of family, friends and colleagues.
Action is presented here in its original 4:3 format with decent picture quality considering its age and the fact it's a TV show. There are minor problems throughout with a touch of grain and noise noticeable intermittently. Skin tones are generally natural and blacks nice and solid – some of the scenes do seem a little dark though. Overall a decent transfer.
The sound is provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is adequate – dialogue is clear throughout, the there's no real dynamism to the sound here.
The main extras here are three commentaries with the writers and producers of the show. The commentaries are witty and fun to listen to, and explain the offers HBO made for the show, and how greed in not taking up these offers is what eventually killed it. More dynamic than revealing, they definitely add to the entertainment of this DVD set. The only thing I found a little strange were the veiled jibes towards Illeana Douglas throughout.
Getting into the Action is a 25-minute featurette with interviews from cast and crew including Jay Mohr, Joel Silver, Matt Silverstein, Chris Thompson and Ron Zimmerman. Unsurprisingly the crew behind the show exhibit many of the characteristics they wrote so knowledgely about and the interviews take us through the conception, creation and cancellation of the show.
There's a glossary of Hollywood terminology which could have been a lot more informative than it ends up being. Instead a word is presented and then explained through a clip from the show. A nice way to give a bunch of clips, but I'm not sure it's particularly exciting in any way.
Finally, there are previews for An Evening with Kevin Smith, Laurel Canyon, Living in Oblivion, News Radio, Spaceballs, and Stripes.
While not the greatest TV show out there, Action is funny, irreverent and a breath of fresh air in terms of its cheek and vigour. It's good to see any cancelled show get a DVD release, and even better when the release is a good one that has the potential of getting the show a new audience.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 06:15:13