This is TV, stupid

It's an unsettling thing that success can so easily be made to look like corruption. You'll find a good and pretty darn funny example in The TV Set, a smart ring-up of the vulgarities of network television I caught tonight at E Street Cinema down by Ford's Theatre.

While hardly a new theme -- artist meets suit, integrity meets compromise -- I enjoyed how the conflict was brought to life by dramatizing the way coercion and criticism can be cloaked in the rhetoric of persuasion and euphemism.

When the imperious network executive (Sigourney Weaver) wants to dumb down the pet project of an earnest writer (David Duchovny), she doesn't directly confront him with her demands. His will is slowly bent through a series of passive-aggressive maneuvers that erode his resistance and are undertaken with a smile sandwiched between empty compliments. Looming at every turn, of course, is the unspoken knowledge that one side of the table is holding all of the cards.

Unlike other recent workplace satires like The Office or Dilbert, where bureaucratic gamesmanship and corporate happy talk are depicted as the shield and song of the incompetent, The TV Set aims to show how it can also be the sword of the ambitious and the powerful. Plus it's really funny.

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