Celebrity scandals sell tabloids and the public at large follows box-office numbers, but with rare exceptions, nobody watches TV shows or movies about Hollywood. On the DVD of the critically acclaimed, ratings-deprived 1999 sitcom Action, star Jay Mohr wonders why people complained that his series was "too inside," while ER has so many fans. What Mohr misses is that ER's characters, for all their jargon-filled dialogue, are depicted as another hard-working, slow-suffering "gang at the office," while the people on Action were rich, mean, and more than a little perverse. God bless 'em.
By the end of Action: The Complete Series' 13 episodes, the fatigue of cranking out a show no one watched—and that Fox prematurely stopped airing—manifests via muddy plotlines and fluctuating character arcs. But those first 10 episodes are the stuff of TV legend, with Mohr giving a singularly electrifying performance as a millionaire movie producer attempting to recover from a flop. His ticket back to the top? A lurid action-comedy called Beverly Hills Gun Club, with a cast and crew that includes a call-girl-turned-movie-executive, a drugged-out leading man, a supermodel with a weight problem, a reclusive genius director, and a porn-addicted writer.
Action is packed with insights into the moviemaking process, from casting to publicity to making sure there's no liquor in the actors' gift baskets, but it's more about how a community of soulless people works in disharmony to create schlock. And yet, through all the unfettered sexual behavior (including Mohr taking a blowjob from a male star who wants to wriggle out of a contract) and unsparing show-business cynicism (when asked who starred in The Road To Wellville, Mohr answers, "Lara Flynn Boyle's breasts"), Action is ultimately respectful of the pressures faced by high-powered Hollywood players. It's tempting to argue that this sympathy for the devil—years before the run of bastard heroes on shows like The Shield, House, and Deadwood—made Action ahead of its time, but chances are, it was never going to find an audience on TV. It's the kind of show that justifies the existence of DVD.
Key features: Four episodes feature halting, uninformative commentary tracks. Far more useful is a half-hour featurette detailing the producers' battles with the network, troublesome co-star Illeana Douglas, and a rampant outlaw spirit described by story editor Will Forte as "like being on a pirate ship."