SELLING OUT by Dan Wakefield

SELLING OUT

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Perry Moss, 42, teaches at Haviland College in southern Vermont, publishes stories in Partisan Review and Playboy, lives happily with second wife Jane, a serious photographer: ""They were tweed. They were corduroy and cotton, with red flannel nightshirts in winter."" But when whiz-kid Archer Mellis, new TV-dept. chief at Paragon Films, decides to turn one of Perry's stories into a TV-series, the tweedy couple flies out for a sojourn in Tinseltown. And so begins an essentially familiar tale of selling out--as Perry, in Hollywood to write the pilot-episode, all too quickly goes Hollywood. . . to Jane's escalating dismay. True, at first Perry is put off by the glitz and the crassness, by boss Mellis, who dresses ""like a Castro-trained insurgent guerrilla."" But his colleagues--exec-producer Ned, director Kenton--are classy guys with theater backgrounds; they're encouraged to make ""The First Year's the Hardest"" (about newlyweds in academia) ""quality"" TV; the pilot turns into a two-hour TV-movie that gets good reviews and high ratings. So all of a sudden Perry is ""hot,"" and keeps putting off the return to Vermont as the show-biz possibilities proliferate. He's horny and high on power and glamour--his voice gets deeper and deeper--while Jane, fed up and neglected, heads home alone. Even after the TV-series production turns into a nightmare (crazy-quilt directives from network bozos, staff purges, disastrous ratings), unemployed Perry determines to stick it out in L.A., somehow get ""hot"" again; he maintains manic optimism with an assist from cocaine, blithely sacrificing his professorial tenure back home; he betrays exec-producer Ned, who's virtually the only gentleman in southern California. But finally, of course, after a farcical interlude with loony producer Larman Kling (""Harpo Marx with a voice"") and a script about a psychic dog, Perry realizes that he'd ""forgotten about friends. Forgotten about everything that mattered. Or used to matter."" And there's a saccharine fadeout on Perry returning to Vermont, ""moving toward the woman he loved."" Wakefield, a novelist (Going All the Way) who has done time in TV (James at 15), fills out this thin, predictable scenario with enough insider-ish, cartoony details to provide fairly steady amusement for media mavens. (One highlight: the moans and murmurs that ensue--""It's genocide. . .""--when Perry's series is scheduled opposite Dallas.) But there's too much blandness and sentimentality here for all-out Tinseltown satire--while Perry, instantly corrupted and superficially redeemed, is too much of a clown to take seriously.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1985
Publisher: Little, Brown