A satirical look at the Nielson Ratings system and at the entertainment industry as a whole, The Ratings Game (starring Danny DeVito) has come to blu-ray thanks to Olive Films. This is actually a film of many firsts — it was Showtime’s first original film, DeVito’s first foray into directing, and this is my first time hearing about the film. Let’s dive in and see what all the commotion is about.
Have you seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? If you have, then you will know a little about what to expect here. Not only is DeVito in that series as well, he basically plays the same role in the two projects. He’s a wealthy (or at least seeming to be), somewhat insane man who has hilariously ridiculous ideas that spawn a series of hijinks that barrel himself and his comrades into a world of troubles.
In The Ratings Game, DeVito takes on the guise of Vic De Salvo. Vic’s main goal in life is to make it big in the TV production world. He’s been having a lot of troubles making it in the biz, which is likely to be attributed to his desire to spawn a bunch of (let’s face it) bad TV shows with himself as the star. It is not until he meets Francine (Rhea Perlman) that his luck begins to turn around.
Francine works for the Nielson’s Ratings company, and, as it would turn out, her job satisfaction has suddenly plummeted, so when her new love interest wants to make a play on the ratings, she is willing to help.
Armed with the names and addresses of the “Nielson families” (the households that the ratings company use to track watching habits and develop their scores), Vic concocts a plan to create a winning scenario for his shows. The plan? Well, it includes a prolonged cruise for select families (strategically selected, to be precise) that will keep them away so he can get into each of these houses and tune into his shows. Needless to say, the success of his hilariously bad shows doesn’t go unnoticed, and the next thing you know, it all may come down on top of himself.
The Ratings Game is an absolute joy to watch. The satirical look at television shows and the ratings system holds up well after the years, and DeVito’s sarcastic humor is top notch. The on screen chemistry with Rhea Perlman is believable and heartfelt, and goes well with the comedic tones to make for a great mix. This one may not be as riotous or memorable as others from it’s time, but there is no doubt as to why it has drawn itself a cult following. I had missed this one growing up, and am incredibly glad it crossed my path again now.
The Picture 4/5
Presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, there are black bars on either side of the picture, which is slightly annoying to some, but is a limitation of the time in which it was filmed. There is a noticeable film grain, but it’s never in the way and you can really tell that there was great care put into making this as clean a transfer as possible. Unfortunately, the 80’s were just sort of a time where things weren’t often as exciting on screen as they are today.
Having said all that, when compared to the several bootleg VHS versions of this film that are floating around out there, the blu-ray transfer is beyond a doubt the best quality available, as it looks quite good on the format.
The Sound 2.5/5
Presented in a 2.0 audio track, the sound is nothing to write home about. Without the multi-channel track that most of us are no doubt accustomed to, some of the scenes suffer from rough mixing, where the dialog can get lost in the fray. Thankfully this doesn’t happen too frequently.
Overall, the audio is serviceable, and significantly better sounding than the bootlegs.
The Features & Packaging 4.5/5
Olive Films has released this blu-ray in a single disc amaray packaging with a very nice booklet that has interesting information about the film and a multitude of photos. The sleeve is single sided, and there is art on the disc.
As far as special features are concerned, included are:
- Promotional Trailer
- Behind the Scenes Featurette
- A Collection of Danny DeVito Short Films
- The Selling of Vince D’Angelo
- A Lovely Way to Spend An Evening
- The Sound Sleeper
- Deleted Scenes
These special features are no doubt going to excite long time fans of the film, especially the short films by DeVito. Each is unique and interesting, and you can see his influence in each. They range from hilarious to bizarre, and are definitely worth the ticket price alone, in my opinion. Once again, I was having flashbacks of It’s Always Sunny episodes, as some of the situations in these shorts are completely off the rockers.
The Verdict 4/5
When it comes to The Ratings Game, you are likely in one of two camps: those who have seen this film and loved it, or those who have never heard of it. Either way, I think this film is worth watching, as it tickles the funny bone and features a whole lot of that 80’s charm. This one looks great on blu-ray, and collector’s will be happy with the nice booklet and included short films.
Note: This Blu Ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.