The Ratings Game (1984)
Director: Danny DeVito
Starring: Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Gerrit Graham, Kevin McCarthy, Louis Giambalvo, Frank Sivero & Vincent Schiavelli
Released by: Olive Films
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Marking his directorial debut, Danny DeVito also stars in The Ratings Game as successful Jersey trucking tycoon Vic De Salvo whose aspirations of fame lead him to Hollywood. Teaming up with his girlfriend (Rhea Perlman, Matilda) who works for the TV ratings service, the tenacious new show runner hatches a scheme to rig the sacred system in his favor. Gerrit Graham (Used Cars), Kevin McCarthy (Innerspace), Louis Giambalvo (Weekend at Bernie’s), Frank Sivero (Goodfellas) and Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost) co-star.
Shortly after the cancelation of his successful sitcom Taxi, Asbury Park native Danny DeVito would find himself carrying the torch both behind and in front of the camera for the Showtime network’s debut into original TV movie programming. Impressing top brass with his comedic creative chops on HBO’s politically funny anthology series Likely Stories, DeVito’s Jersey roots and boisterously Italian heritage rides shotgun in this satirical sendup of showbiz and scandal. Relocating with his family to Tinseltown and living lavishly off of his trucking business, Vic De Salvo yearns to become a respected TV producer much to the overwhelming disapproval of established players. After a spiteful decision earns De Salvo a green-lit pilot at the struggling MBC network, the short statured wannabe professional must overcome a suicidal time slot setup by his hilariously unsupportive studio head (Graham). Teaming up with his girlfriend and fellow Jerseyite Francine (Perlman) who works for the trusted television ratings service, De Salvo’s mafioso-esque plan to rig the system to ensure his show’s popularity shoots his credibility up the charts before a hysterical downward spiral culminates at the annual TV Digest Awards ceremony.
Hosting a multitude of appearances from ascending stars including, Michael Richards (Problem Child), George Wendt (Cheers), Daniel Stern (Home Alone) and Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld) as a dismissive network exec, The Ratings Game is a bonafide only in the 80s knee slapper that makes light of TV programs of the era while, DeVito and Perlman’s lovely onscreen chemistry assures viewers what they see is not just movie magic but, the foundation of a personal and professional relationship that has endured four decades. Well praised during its original release and sending DeVito off on a successful run of theatrical hits, The Ratings Game would ultimately fall into unwarranted near extinction. Delectably silly and containing an impressively funny ensemble cast, The Ratings Game has aged considerably well, highly earning itself a rerun.
Olive Films presents The Ratings Games with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Bearing the marks of its TV movie roots with black bars displayed vertically on either sides of frame, bolder colors found in costume choices are eye-catching while, an inherent softness and occasional speckling is unsurprisingly displayed given the film’s original viewing intent. A vast improvement over its bygone VHS release, The Ratings Game has never looked better. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is sufficient, if not underwhelming, with no troubling levels of distortion or hiss detected. In a welcome change of pace, Olive Films welcomes the release with a generous helping of supplements including, The Short Films of Danny DeVito: The Selling of Vince D’Angelo (20:37), A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening (13:48), Minestrone (11:51) and The Sound Sleeper (11:52). In addition, Deleted Scenes (6:03), a Behind the Scenes Featurette (6:50), Promo Spot (1:41) and a 26-page booklet featuring stills, screenplay excerpts and writings on The Ratings Game and Likely Stories are also included.
Incorporating his own Garden State upbringing with stereotypical cracks at his Italian ethnicity, Star/Director Danny DeVito’s The Ratings Game makes a splash keeping viewers entertained by its many funny performances and charmed by his and real life wife Perlman’s lovable onscreen romance. Appreciatively saving and reintroducing audiences to Showtime’s first-ever television movie, Olive Films deserves praise for the feature’s remastered high-def presentation and its welcome inclusion of bonus features that will hopefully continue with future releases.