Monday, January 21, 2008


Created by Chris Thompson
Starring Jay Mohr, Illeana Douglas, Jack Plotnick, Jarrad Paul, Buddy Hackett

With some shows, the first time you watch them, you say to yourself, "This won't last the season." Often this is because the show is just plain terrible. But, occasionally, it's because the show is good, but probably unpalatable to the general public.

The key example: Action.

The show was actually developed for cable. So it was filled with bawdy jokes, bad language, and edgy characters. Creator Chris Thompson pitched the show to HBO, then decided to get HBO to raise their offer by also pitching it to Fox, thinking the subject matter was too iffy for broadcast.

And, as you probably guessed, HBO turned them down and Fox said, "Yes." Sometimes it doesn't pay to be too smart.

Action was a show about moviemaking (so, of course, I loved it). Peter Dragon (Jay Mohr) was a Jerry Bruckheimer-type movie producer, whose last film was an unmitigated disaster.
Desperate, he hooks up with the former child star Wendy Ward (Ileana Douglas) who is now working as a prostitute (he needed someone to show up with him at an opening). Ward picks out a script from unknown screenwriter Stewart Glazer (by Jared Paul) and Mohr has to use it to produce the make-or-break film for him: Beverly Hills Gun Club.

Peter Dragon is probably the sleaziest main character to ever appear as the star of a prime time TV show. He's an unthinking liar who doesn't give a crap about anyone else, the type of person who kicks people on his way up and on the way down. He videotapes his sex sessions with movie stars (Sandra Bullock, who shows up to beat the crap out of him for it). He will be sweet and seemingly sincere when he wants something, and insult you the moment he gets it. His only real redeeming quality is that he's funny. Jay Mohr does a great job in making such an unsympathetic character so much fun to watch.

What also helps is the fact that, in many cases, Dragon has reason to insult the people around him. His leading lady shows up 50 pounds overweight. His leading man is a druggie. Everything around him falls apart, all giving him reason to blow up.

Wendy Ward tries to get him to behave better, but is not above prostituting herself for the film. She keeps her hard edge throughout, but Ileana Douglas manages to make her likable.

I'm also fond of Jared Paul as the screenwriter Stewart. He is one of the few not caught up in the Hollywood scene -- not quite yet -- so his offhand comments about what he sees are always funny. Jack Plotnick plays Dragon's assistant and whipping boy (When he refers to Wendy as "your whore," Dragon replies, "No, she's my prostitute. You're my whore.") Lee Annenberg is also memorable as Bobby G, the money man behind the picture, who is gay, but will not only never admit it, but will sue you if you make the allegation. Finally, there's Buddy Hackett, who is Dragon's uncle and chauffeur.

The show had some interesting guest cameos: Bullock, Selma Hayak, David Leisure. They all kidded their image and showed how Peter is a terrible human being, which seems to be an asset in Hollywood.

The show never stood a chance in the ratings. Fox stuck with it for ten weeks, then pulled the plug, but not without a series finale. In the final episode*, Beverly Hills Gun Club starts shooting. It's a disaster. Things go wrong, of course. People don't like the dialog so it has to be fixed. A pigeon in the sound stage ruins a take. Lines are flubbed. And finally, when things go right, there is no film in the camera. Peter goes berserk and suffers a heart attack. And dies. At 9:30 p.m. on Thursday -- the time the show was aired. And to top it, the EMTs steal his watch; no one is honest in Hollywood.

It is a perfect ending to a great series.

*The DVD adds several unaired episodes that were never run and which take the story on from there.

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