Action: The Complete Series(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2.21.2006)
"Middle America hated Action." That's the party line drawn by Action's cast and crew throughout the extras on this 2-disc set and they couldn't be more right. Written for cable, but picked up by Fox, Action was met with indifference by those who could care less about an ultra-insider's look at all seven circles of Hollywood hell and total hatred by those who were expecting a slice of wholesome family sitcom. But for thirteen weeks in the fall of 1999, Action did rip television comedy a new asshole.
In retrospect, Action was dead the minute it walked through the door: too perverse (in every sense of the word) for the primetime network slot it flailed in then disappeared from after just thirteen episodes. Everything about this show was off, from its casting (Jay Mohr, Illeana Douglas, and Buddy Hackett, need I say more?) to its structure (the series has two grand finales due to Fox dropping the show and the FX Network picking it up halfway through its run) to its heinous asshole of a protagonist, Peter Dragon (Mohr).
Granted, Peter was a relentlessly hilarious heinous asshole and it became great sport to guess who he would bitch out from one week to the next with his off-the-wall, curse-laced insults. But, in the end, the constant meanness of Action's characters combined with the overall quirkiness that made it such a great find for those who loved it, were the exact same traits that ran it off the air in no time flat.
In an obvious, but feeble attempt to come across as a show not entirely devoid of scruples, Illeana Douglas's character was decreasingly written as a damaged-goods hooker and increasingly written as the stereotypical "hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold," a moral compass to Peter's increasingly hedonistic floundering. Injecting morality into Action was a bad move. It ruined the guilt-free, party vibe that was Action's main appeal and, worst of all, it made the creators of Action look like they actually cared about gaining the approval of television viewers who were rejecting Action week in and week out.
Slowly but surely, Action's "fuck you" attitude was breaking down under the pressure of being a total ratings failure. Thankfully, and ironically, Action's reputation was saved by its quick demise. It burned bright, but was over before compassion and decency could rear too much of their ugly heads.
An informative making-of featurette is included with this set, but the real extras are the audio commentaries, in which a number of writers, directors, producers, and even a cast member (Jarrad Paul, screenwriter Adam Rafkin in the series) share anecdotes, many of which make fun of Illeana Douglas. By the sounds of it, the cast and crew did not get along very well with Douglas and they aren't afraid to bring out the venom when saying so. -- Jason Woloski