The Ratings Game finds Jersey trucking magnate Vic De Salvo (Danny DeVito) struggling to make it in Hollywood. He has no shortage of money or ideas, but he seems to be lacking some element of class and mainstream appeal. At best, his projects would attract a niche audience of working class Italian-American men from Jersey. No wonder Vic’s license plate reads “PAISAN”.
Given Vic’s rather specific sensibility, it’s no surprise that doors keep closing in his face. Even when he gets greenlit to film a pilot centered around college girls whose third roommate is (surprise!) male, he knows he’s being patronized. Oh, they’ll air his show, but it’ll be up against the World Series. No one will watch, and it can be scrapped on the basis of low ratings…unless Vic can find a way to beat the system.
As it happens, Vic has just met a lovely woman named Francine (Rhea Perlman) who works for the firm that calculates television ratings. Using his inside access, Vic hatches an outlandish plan to rig the Nielsen Ratings and take over television. After the wild success of his first show, which is clearly terrible, other De Salvo projects take over the airwaves. Imagine every show on TV having the cast of Jersey Shore and/or the characters from The Sopranos as its target audience, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of De Salvo’s television takeover.
By the time Vic and his various projects have made it to the equivalent of the Emmy awards, the jig is up, but his scam has exposed the herd mentality of the entertainment business, “hey, if everybody’s watching it, this crap must be good!” Though it’s fairly safe to say Vic’s days in Hollywood are over, his sweet romance with Francine has blossomed into something promising and the future still looks bright.
The Ratings Game is a wonky, over-the-top comedy in the vein of UHF that succeeds in spite of its absurdity. You know it could never work, but somehow the movie remains believable. It’s a fun slice of the times and features an impressive list of guest actors including UHF stars Kevin McCarthy and Michael Richards, George Wendt, Steve Allen, Gerrit Graham, and Vincent Schiavelli. This odd gem has been out of print since it aired as a Showtime original movie, but can now be enjoyed by old fans and viewers alike (not just Italian truckers from Jersey).
Special features include a collector’s booklet, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a collection of Danny DeVito’s short films including “The Selling of Vince D’Angelo”, “A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening”, “The Sound Sleeper”, and “Minestrone”.