Collector's Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks Yes, 2
#1 - Ron Howard (Director)
#2 - Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Writers)
Running Time 118:03 minutes Other Extras Biographies - Cast and Crew
Deleted Scenes (39:06)
Featurette-Making Of Caught In The Camera's Eye (30:07) 
Music Highlights
Outtakes (7:37)
Production Notes
Web Links
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (86:20)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Ron Howard

Columbia TriStar Home Video
Starring Matthew McConaughey 
Jenna Elfman 
Woody Harrelson 
Ellen DeGeneres 
Sally Kirkland
Martin Landau
Rob Reiner
Dennis Hopper
Elizabeth Hurley
Clint Howard
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Randy Edelman

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16 x 9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s) 
Italian (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s) 
Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s) 
English Audio Commentary 1 (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 2 (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or
After Credits

Plot Synopsis

    Unfortunately, it is probably inevitable that comparisons will be made between EDtv and The Truman Show on the basis that they both deal with people living a life on television for the world to see. Unfortunate because they really have not a thing in common, other than what at first glance may be a passing story resemblance. Whereas The Truman Show has the "charms" of Jim Carrey to carry a story involving a completely fabricated world, EDtv is blessed with a story set in the reality of a real life and a damn fine cast to bring it to life.

    The broad plot is that television producer Cynthia Topping (Ellen DeGeneres) has pitched an idea to her station boss Whitaker (Rob Reiner) about a twenty four hour a day look at the life of an ordinary guy. The selection process narrows the choice of participant down to one Ed Pekurny (Matthew McConaughey), a video store clerk in San Francisco. Pushed by his brother Ray (Woody Harrelson), Ed reluctantly agrees to the deal and thus starts a rather intrepid journey that pokes fun at a lot of things but also has a poignant message about the effect of fame. Here we have Ray alienating and humiliating sister Marcia (Viveka Davis) with a less than funny story, Ray cheating on his girlfriend Shari (Jenna Elfman) on national television, Shari breaking up with Ray and starting up with Ed on national television, Shari leaving Ed because of national television attention and media polling, Shari getting back together with Ed in spite of national television and the media spotlight, wannabe starlet Jill (Elizabeth Hurley) taking up with Ed to get national television exposure and so on and so on. Add into the mix a father Hank (Dennis Hopper), whom Ed has not seen for years, suddenly appearing then disappearing, stepfather Al (Martin Landau) with a very dry sense of humour and mother Jeanette (Sally Kirkland) caught between a few lies and you have a very ordinary family caught up in a very unusual situation. A situation that unfortunately starts to wear them down and the only solution to which is to get the television station to voluntarily axe the show. But this is an enormously dense script that really needs to be watched as no synopsis is really going to do it justice.

    Personally, I found EDtv to be a gloriously humourous poke at the whole concept of celebrity and the effect it has on the participants. Ron Howard has made some great films in his directorial career, most notably Apollo 13, Ransom, Backdraft and Cocoon, and this in no way diminishes that portfolio. This is a wonderful film, starting with a great script from Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel and extending through some great acting and some marvellous cinematography. At just about every level of this film, quality is on show. Particularly impressive to me is the use of film and video and the segueing of the two formats here to create a glorious feel of live action and television action in the one film. Some of the ways that the segueing was done to move from scene to scene is especially impressive. But beyond the technical quality is the quality of the performance. Matthew McConaughey is superb as Ed and brings an impish sense of fun to the role and is completely believable in the role. His chemistry with Woody Harrelson is obvious to see, and you do not need two commentaries and a featurette to tell you this. The surprise for me though was Jenna Elfman, who really does not do a lot for me: here she is completely believable as the girlfriend trying a relationship with a guy in the public eye when she really has very little success with relationships anyway. Just about every role has a gem player, and you would find it hard to fault the dry wit of Martin Landau here, nor the vixenish sexuality of Elizabeth Hurley and the presence of Rob Reiner (better known as a director) as the station boss. Of particular note is the use of real cameramen to film the video action whilst themselves being filmed as part of the film action.

    Having now seen it on DVD, I regret never having caught this at the cinema. Undoubted class across the board led by Ron Howard in a triumphant return to comedy.

Transfer Quality


    Well, we again have a fine transfer from Universal, courtesy of Warner Advanced Media Operations.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    It is important to understand that the film was shot in such a way as to have an essentially film aspect to the action whilst also having a video aspect to the film. As the action switches from one form to another there are obviously going to be textural differences that are completely intended. Accordingly, you have the sharp and clear transfer for the film aspects that contrasts with a slightly grainier, slightly less sharp and slightly murkier transfer of the video aspects. Overall, this came out really well and is a very convincing and believable transfer that leaves you in no doubt as to what "version" of the action you are watching. It should be noted however that this was never what I would call a really sharp transfer, and this is a part of the compromise in how the film was put together I believe. Shadow detail was very good. There did not appear to be any low level noise problems in the transfer.

    The colours were very nicely rendered throughout the movie, with a slightly richer tone to the palette. It is not what I would call a vibrant transfer, but again this is a reflection of the way the film was made, and the result is a very natural feel to the film. There was the odd hint of oversaturation of the colours at times, but nothing that you could really call distracting and annoying.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noted in the transfer. There were no significant film-to-video artefacts noted in the transfer - I think there were a couple of extremely minor instances of aliasing that really were not that noticeable. There was the odd film artefact here and there but all up this is a very clean transfer as befits a film of such modern vintage (although we sometimes do not see such clean transfers in modern films).

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change coming at 86:20. This is not too noticeable and is barely disruptive to the film.


    This is a very nice soundtrack although not offering too much in the demonstration department.

    There are six audio tracks on the DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and two English Audio Commentaries in Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and to the English Audio Commentary tracks.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc.

    The score by Randy Edelman is a fairly typical example of his work, effective but not especially memorable. It is nicely supportive of the on-screen action although you would be hard pressed to remember that you had heard it when the film is finished (well at least I didn't).

    This is a nicely detailed soundtrack with some nice use of the surround channels, without being way over-the-top in effects. The result is a quite nicely ambient soundtrack that encompasses you pretty well as part of the action. Perhaps there could have been a little more use made of the rear surround channels, but this is a dialogue-driven film and huge effects this will never give you.

    The bass channel seemed to get very little use, and for the most part was non-existent in the mix.


    As is usual for a Universal Collector's Edition, there is an excellent selection of extras on this disc.


    Notable for being 16x9 enhanced if not for anything else.

Audio Commentary - Ron Howard (Director)

    This is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0. He has a nice relaxed style to his commentary, and is not afraid to shut up for quite extended periods. Gives a lot of nice additional information regarding the film and is quite an informative, if not especially entertaining, commentary. Nice addition to the package though.

Audio Commentary - Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Writers)

    Also presented in Dolby Digital 1.0. If I thought Ron Howard was fairly relaxed about keeping quiet, these guys are positively asleep! Which is a little funny as, based upon the featurette, you sort of expected a million miles an hour type commentary. Still, when they did decide to pass on their thoughts they were most welcome, and counter pointed Ron Howard's commentary very well indeed both in content and style. Not the best that I have heard but these guys can be very funny when the opportunity arises.

Featurette - Caught In The Camera's Eye (30:07)

    This is a reasonably interesting look at the making of the film, including extended interviews with Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer, as well as most of the main cast, in the modern tradition of extended publicity. Still, it is always worthwhile listening to Ron Howard and worth a look.

Deleted Scenes (39:06)

    You want deleted scenes? Well you have certainly got them here. Obviously the quality at times is not the best as these are pretty raw cuts, at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Unfortunately I lost count as to how many there were, but I would guess at well over thirty. Obviously some are quite short and once you have seen the film you can understand why they came out. However, a nice inclusion in both quantity and quality.

Outtakes (7:37)

    A collection of generally very short outtakes, usually involving Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. None are especially funny but it is a quite interesting look at how you can manage to stuff up even the simplest little thing.

Theatrical Trailer (2:49)

Production Notes

Biographies - Cast and Crew

Music Highlights

    Really just a menu to direct you to specific songs in the film.

Web Links

    Sorry - still no DVD-ROM drive so cannot comment upon them.

R4 vs R1

    The film is available in two versions in Region 1 - a barebones DTS encoded DVD and a Collector's Edition similar to the Region 4 release. The comments relate to the Collector's Editions.

    The Region 4 release misses out on:

    Tough call here as the music videos would probably tip the balance in favour of Region 1, although we do have the inherent superiority of the PAL system. Call it deuce?


    EDtv is a damn fine film that I enjoyed immensely, well conceived and well executed. Overall a very good package although not quite meeting the heights of the absolute best that Universal have produced. Well worth adding to your collection.

    A very good video transfer.

    A good audio transfer.

    A very good extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
8th December 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL