The deliciously twisted saga continues for this summer's most
genuinely clever, original TV show -- which copies the bejesus
out of another series and plays its stars for hall-of-fame fools.
We're talking about Comedy Central's "Contest Searchlight,"
a semi-rip-off of HBO's "Project Greenlight" and one of the
funniest, smartest fake looks behind Hollywood's fake-anyway
curtain since "The Larry Sanders Show."
The thing is, they're not admitting it's fake, and given what
we know about TV, the general chaos and behind-the-scenes idiocy
could well be real.
In theory, "Contest Searchlight" (at 10:30 p.m. Wednesdays)
is a show about comics Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke giving a
young comedy writer a chance to produce a TV sitcom. "Project
Greenlight" had Matt Damon and Ben Affleck giving a young director
a chance to make a movie.
But after two episodes, Leary and Clarke appear to be losing
interest in their project fast -- Leary, for instance, is off
in rehab after hiring an attractive contest applicant as his
Last week, attempts to shoot the sitcom's opening credits resulted
in a car crash, a bike theft, two brawls, a horrible (fake)
injury to Peter Gallagher playing Peter Gallagher, a ticked-off
Colin Quinn playing a ticked-off Colin Quinn, lost money, lost
time, a director in tears, and zero usable film. In other words,
like a day on many sets.
The highlight may have come when a writhing-in-pain Gallagher
was lying on a blanket in the street, and the young director
tried to stage a picnic next to him.
"That's when he really showed me something," Clarke said into
But the best part is the "feud" between Leary and Comedy Central's
biggest star, Jon Stewart. In the first episode, we saw Leary
talking on the phone with Stewart, trying to get him to co-produce
the show. Stewart tells him yes, then later backs out.
As funny, and semi-realistic, as this is, it clearly is not
real. Anyone watching the show for two minutes would figure
that out. Anyone, that is, except the good folks at "Access
They sent out a breathless news release for a recent show saying
Leary "seems quite serious" about being "disappointed by a 'famous
ex-friend' of his who dropped out of the project after it was
under way." The news release goes on to say it was revealed
on "Comedy Searchlight" (their mistake) that Jon Stewart was
So last week, Leary showed up on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart"
to do his pretend angry thing, and he ranted about how they
had talked about the show and Stewart had promised and everything.
"But, but ..." Stewart said, "you were drunk and if I believed
everything you said when you were drunk, I'd be Mrs. Denis Leary
Then Stewart leaned over and stage-whispered, "You told me to
think of something."
Not only is "Contest Searchlight" as original and funny as anything
on TV right now, but Leary and company are doing what might
be described as free-form comedy wherever someone lets them.
It's too bad one of those places is not a major TV network.