Boob Tube: Sex, TV and Ugly George
Pathfinder Home Entertainment // Unrated // $19.98 // June 17, 2008
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted June 12, 2008
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In 10 Words or Less
In search of true reality TV and breasts

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Exposing attention whores, good documentaries, breasts
Likes: Public access TV
Dislikes: Attention whores
Hates: The idea of having to protect my daughter from this world

The Movie
I don't remember when I first heard about Ugly George, but it was a long time ago, and I was certainly amazed. Back in the late '70s and early '80s, This guy, who is not a stud (though the name only recently started to fit) convinced women to get naked right on the New York City streets, for his cable-access TV show, which was the pre-cursor to today's Girls Gone Wild. But whereas Joe Francis' cameras stalk drunken whores, Ugly George's prey was more likely just a pretty girl running errands, plus, this was before the age of sex tapes and lesser stigmas regarding sexuality.

This film, directed by "News Dissector" Danny Schecter, is a very structured look at George Urban's life-long obsession with the ladies, tracing his youth, his legendary role in the early days of cable television, his more recent activities and his legacy. Loaded with sexual footage from George's series and archival photos, it tries to tell several stories, using George as a focal and jumping-off point. First and foremost is the is the growth of sex in the media, moving from the underground of stag reels to mainstream America, a change that coincided with George's glory days.

Ugly George's story is not a positive one, as, despite being a part of cable's massive growth in the '80s, he never made much money doing what he did, and in the age of the Internet, he's a bit of a relic, battling for attention with incredibly easy access to much more explicit porn. Unfortunately for him, he's not exactly a sympathetic character, claiming responsibility for half the innovations in TV and possessing an incredibly sleazy personality. Plus, the fact that someone so kooky could convince so many women to get naked, isn't about to get him a lot of compassion from men or women, though Schechter manages to find a few people who fondly remember George (or more precisely his show.)

Beyond the cable TV economics and history lessons, Schechter delves into other related areas, including the objectification of women (with help from a filmmaker who confronts wolfwhistlers) and men's obsession with breasts (via participation by experts and critics (and offering space for plenty of gratuitous video)), as well as Ugly George's true role as either a harbinger or pioneer of today's reality TV landscape. Long before TMZ, Ugly George was bothering celebrities like Deborah Harry and Ted Knight on their own turf, and if you could bring the young George to today, his knack and passion for self-promotion would make him bigger than Tila Tequila.

Though no good documentary is ever really objective, it's pretty obvious that Schechter is at least partially on Ugly George's side, especially when he takes his camera to the gates of Time Warner's castle, making a point about the corporate empire built with help from George's popular show pushing him away before eventually embracing its own brand of televised sex. It's a pretty obvious pushing of his media agenda, almost hijacking George's story. But then, when the cameras watch George try his shtick at the 2006 Greenwich Village Halloween parade, perhaps he's really just on his own, like it's always been.

This one-disc release is packaged in a standard keepcase, and features an animated anamorphic widescreen menu with options to watch the film, select scenes and check out the extras. There are no audio options, no subtitles and no closed captioning.

The Quality
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen, and the new footage shot following Ugly George or during the talking head segments looks pretty nice, with good color and detail, and no obvious dirt or damage. The material from his old show, which is pillarboxed full-frame, doesn't look too bad either, considering how it was shot and how old it is, though there's considerable video noise.

The audio is delivered as a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack that handles the dialogue cleanly and presents some strong music, but nothing about the sound will impress much, as the material just doesn't lend itself to a dynamic mix.

The Extras
The only extra included is a selection of trailers from several sex-related Pathfinder films.

The Bottom Line
Danny Schechter has managed to put together a documentary for all audiences that might be interested in Ugly George: smart analysis of his place in the media and society, and plenty of T&A for the pervs. The tight, book-chapter structure keeps it a little too orderly, but it's more of an academic exercise than an artistic one anyway. The DVD presentation is good, but average, with no extras to add to the fun. It's certainly worth a look for those interested in '70s sexuality or the fringes of the media.

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