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Danny DeVito Plays Fast and Loose in 'The Ratings Game'

December 26, 1991|JON NALICK

Danny DeVito's "The Ratings Game" is a mild but funny satire of television that follows the efforts of a New Jersey trucking magnate to break into show business by subverting the ratings system.

Vic De Salvo (DeVito), whose ability to write truly tasteless television shows is exceeded only by his enthusiasm for getting them on the air, tries unsuccessfully to sell an action-adventure show about a pimp called "Nunzio's Girls" to the leading networks. Then an about-to-be-fired executive of the last-placed MBC network takes revenge on his employers by approving the show and putting it into immediate production.

To ensure that he does well, Vic conspires to replace families selected by the Nielsen-like ratings service with teamsters paid to watch his shows. The movie is filled with wonderfully inane shows that often do not seem too far removed from what we really see on TV. For example, one "Charlie's Angels"-type show called "H.O.T.B.O.D.S. and Lavarr" concerns three female CIA operatives, who moonlight as Santa Monica aerobics instructors, and their gun-toting chauffeur.

Vic's biggest hit, a "Three's Company" clone called "Sittin' Pretty," concerns a handsome Princeton freshman who winds up sharing a room with two female students. After the lead actor quits, balding, middle-aged Vic takes his place in front of the camera playing the college teen-ager.

His shows also include a Saturday morning cartoon for children called "The Goombahs," which boasts salty language and plots dealing with loan sharks and corrupt cops.

The movie was directed by DeVito and features his wife, Rhea Perlman, as the girlfriend who reluctantly helps Vic with his scam.

"The Ratings Game" (1985), directed by Danny DeVito. 102 minutes. Not rated.

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