The Truman Show

TV provides. From infancy on we live with and learn from its characters, sharing their lives and language. If in doubt, listen to twentysomethings speak as if their conversations were crafted by the writers of ”Friends.” ”The Truman Show,” Peter Weir’s parable about a man and the machine that made him, takes that idea to its extreme, merging TV’s ability to influence with a fable of lost identity.

It takes a spotlight almost falling on his head to alert Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) that something in his world isn’t right. In fact, things are too right. His work, his friends, his wife (Laura Linney), his life, are television’s hottest hit, on the air for 30 years running. The program is a Skinner box with sponsors; the movie is darker metaphor, its voyeuristic themes even more resonant when watched at home, where, without the trappings of a movie theater, it seems as if we too are observing a cornered life.

Truman Burbank’s life is entertainment, and he actually is a commodity — his every household item’s a product placement. Truman’s life is sitcom familiar, and a behind-the-scenes segment reveals that Truman was adopted by a corporation (with his memories available as greatest-hits packages). Andrew Niccol’s witty script tunes in to our hunger for reality and capacity for callousness — until televisionary Christof emerges. Played by Ed Harris with malign tenderness, the show’s ”conceiver and creator” sees Truman as a son-and gets angry when his boy wants to leave the program that revolves around him. As the soft-eyed Christof, and the world, watches, Truman tries to punch through the fourth wall to find his true self-not the one seen on TV. The irony is that they may turn out to be one and the same.

My So-Called Life
  • TV Show