“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Show” – 2019 SDAFF Review

From the very first frame, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Show” (瘋狂電視台瘋電影) immediately tosses the viewer into a chaotic Technicolor maelstrom of a Taiwanese television network struggling to survive with a mob-connected boss searching for personal cash instead of ratings.  With longtime employees let go, a group of unmotivated student interns, an aspiring actress and a steadfast friend try to help Yeh – one of the last men standing at the appropriately named Crazy TV – keep the network afloat.

The odds are seemingly stacked, but instead, as the budget drops, Crazy TV’s live programming becomes more and more delightfully experimental.  Think of Conan O’Brien’s previous segment on The Tonight Show called “Channel Surfing,” but amped up on steroids: this is the type of programming we wish was on live TV.  Ranging from the absurd to the even more absurd, shows feature a Michael Jackson impersonator; a durian, fruit fly and lewd bunny dancing in front of a not-quite-sponsored backdrop featuring a Yakult macrobiotic drink; and a monologue on mathematics serving as a sleep soundtrack, to name just a few segments.

Meanwhile, the incensed boss Mr. Lo realizes that he may not get the payout that he desires, and tries to put a stop to Yeh’s antics onscreen.  Yeh may be down but not entirely out, and he still has a few tricks up his sleeve, although his own reality may be careening on a collision course with reality TV.  Insert more flashbacks and melodrama, and the pacing notably slows – in some cases, too much so.  However, cameos from celebrated Taiwanese stars and a sprinkling of clips from past real-life television shows ultimately transform “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Show” into a tribute to the local small screen.

“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Show” will screen at the 2019 San Diego Asian Film Festival on Nov. 10. Tickets are available at sdaff.org.