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TELEVISION & RADIO | TELEVISION REVIEW

Mock-doc makes a point

Actor believes he's bound for glory, but the joke is on him in 'Windy City Heat.'

October 11, 2003|Miles Beller | Special to The Times

If there exists the lone misguided soul who still believes that becoming a Hollywood "star" is not the apogee of an American life, let him or her tune into Comedy Central's cagey, reality-tinged offering, "Windy City Heat."

This contrived but crafty documentary comedy, really a film-within-a-film, presents us with a scraggly-haired real-life fellow, Perry Caravello, who works in a print shop and comes equipped with an outsize ego. Caravello, who has previously appeared in such illustrious entertainments as "The Extreme Gong Show," wants Hollywood fame in the worst way, and this just might be it. As presented during this elongated practical joke packaged as a documentary about the making of a movie, Caravello believes he is finally bound for glory and mass adoration.

He thinks he has landed the starring role in a major motion picture. This role is Stone Fury, protagonist of a dopey action-adventure movie. Moreover, Caravello believes that an on-set Comedy Central documentary team has been filming him for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. In fact, this footage forms the joke's-on-Caravello program we viewers witness. As for the faux film, "Windy City Heat," it's about a rough-and-tumble private investigator, the aforementioned Fury, who plies his trade in the hardscrabble world of competitive sports.

"Heat's" intentionally hokey scripted scenarios involve such preposterous plot points as William "Refrigerator" Perry (played by the real former NFL footballer) enlisting Stone to reclaim his filched fridge. Caravello's acting consists of getting tossed into a pile of manure, ogling well-endowed women and having to swallow a foul concoction blended for rancidity -- this is, not accidentally, the stuff of real reality TV.

The fact that this ersatz movie's premise is about as credible as a musical adaptation of Martin Heidegger's "Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics" adds to the insanity. Indeed, Caravello's titanic self-absorption leaves him little room for pondering such trifles as cohesive story lines or clever plots. He boasts, "I'm like a young Marlon Brando," later crowing, "I'm really like Robert De Niro."

Though Caravello comes across as anti-talent incarnate, a performer perfectly devoid of art or even competency, this deficiency does not stop him. Rather, he remains fixed on his rendezvous with celebrity, convinced of his ascension to box office immortality. Still, his ego sometimes seems to wing into desperation, and an earnest wistfulness and appealing vulnerability emerge.

The forces responsible for turning what amounts to an extended practical joke into a devious video vamp include former "The Man Show" wise guys Jimmy Kimmel (now hosting his own late-night talk show) and Adam Carolla. Both are part of the producing team and also appear on screen. Add to this manic mix comic Bobcat Goldthwait, credited as the project's director as well as playing this role in connection with the make-believe film.

While "Windy City Heat" turns cold at times, its extended punch line limited by its reach, the underlying premise amuses. And, surprisingly, its contrived shenanigans manage to say, well, something serious about our current compulsion for fame. Beyond its obvious gag, "Windy City Heat" is a show of reconfigured reality that makes plain why so many of us thirst for the spotlight even if we lack any appreciable skill.

"Windy City Heat" humorously conveys that an ill wind now blows through TV land and beyond. Caravello intones during one of "Heat's" more incendiary moments, "I'll do anything to be a star."

Yet given the over-the-top antics of this cable offering, it's hard to conclude that Caravello is truly innocent of what's going on (characters he encounters include such oddly named individuals as limo driver Travis Bickle, De Niro's character in "Taxi Driver"). Taking it a step further, Caravello could be an embedded collaborator rather than a put-upon patsy. Such concerns might matter little in the end, since everyone gets what he wants. The producers reap their comedy product and Caravello collects his 15-plus minutes of fame as star of this endearingly goofy mock doc.

*

`Windy City Heat'

Where: Comedy Central

When: Sunday, 9 p.m.

Rating: The network has rated the show TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under 14 years old).

Perry Caravello...Stone Fury

Don Barris...Big Lou

Tony Barbieri...Mole/Brock

Carson Daly...Himself

Lisa Kushell...Suzanne/Jiggly Wrigley

Executive producers Jimmy Kimmel, Doug DeLuca, Daniel Kellison, Adam Carolla. Director Bobcat Goldthwait. Writers Tony Barbieri and Don Barris, Jimmy Kimmel.

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