Bizarre and Listless I Saw the TV Glow Disappoints

I saw the TV Glow Review

If you go back and watch the series and shows you used to love even a few years ago, you may notice things don’t feel the same. The jokes don’t land the same, the show is cheesy or it just doesn’t make as much sense. But what if that show you loved as a kid actually had an impact on your life, and shaped who you are? Would that make it any different?

I Saw the TV Glow is the latest release from A24, following a couple of teenagers who bond over a late-night teenage horror show in the mid-90s. The show, The Pink Opaque, follows two teen girls who are connected psychically and connect to beat the bad monster of the week in their town. For Owen, the show is fascinating and little more than that. But for his friend Maddy, the show is reality, and delves into the story each week for more of the mythology, as her fandom turns closer to obsession.

Where I Saw the TV Glow does well – it sets the movie in the mid-90s, and all of the elements of that time era. We’re not talking about the oft-seen clothing off the rack that a lot of movies are doing now setting movies in that time period because the styles are popular again. But anyone who was in high school or was a teen at that time is going to get a pang of nostalgia just watching it. You’ve been in that basement, or one of hundreds like it. The clothing and haircuts are ones you or your friends had. And the shows they’re watching, are so reminiscent to the Are You Afraid of the Dark style shows we grew up watching on Nickelodeon – slightly creepy but ultimately cheesy bad guys around every corner. With that comes the toxicity of the time as well, with the more rigid gender norms and expectations, plus the lack of information about different and acceptance of neurodiversity as well. It’s steeped in nostalgia, but quickly reminds you that it wasn’t all good as well.

But that might be where the goods end for the movie and the rest we’re left with a lot of questionable choices. The younger version of Owen may be one of the first ones that will have you questioning things. Not only does he not bear any resemblance to Justice Smith who takes the reigns from age 15-40+, but he in no way would have grown that much and lost that much melanin in two years (unless he truly locked himself in the basement for two years). The voice change could have happened. But at the same time, Maddy is played Brigette Lundy-Paine throughout the whole film. It’s disconnected and odd.

There are other elements that are just wrong in the movie, maybe that was the point, but it just leaves you with a bizarre feeling. Even at the beginning as younger Owen is walking around his school he’s taking part in the parachute game with other students. This is something primarily for elementary-aged students, and not something that would happen in high-school. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fond memory, and something that we’d still love to do today, but well under the age of the characters or the subject of the movie. But maybe that’s the point – he’s younger mentally and more innocent? The world is reflecting that? It just didn’t have a place in the movie and is just one of countless examples of things that could have been cut from the movie to make it actually interesting.

Ultimately, I Saw the TV Glow is truly disappointing. It takes two great actors and gives them roles that don’t do eithers career justice. Was it the directing? A specific reason or desire to have both actors and have them deliver lines so painfully that it makes you sometimes roll your eyes? Who’s decision was it to have Justice Smith to do the weird froggy froggy-sounding voice? His character, in today’s eyes, would be on a spectrum of some sort, but does that mean that every part of him has to be this caricature? It just seems odd, and in a story that doesn’t seem to deliver on dread, creepy motives or even a thrill of any sort – where was the movie or story going? There are so many different ways the movie could have ended that would have ultimately served the story better. But again we question, at what point or who’s decision made the movie fall apart like this?

I Saw the TV Glow is opening in theaters this weekend.

Overall Rating

Two Stars Review

About I Saw the TV Glow

Teenager Owen is just trying to make it through life in the suburbs when his classmate introduces him to a mysterious late-night TV show — a vision of a supernatural world beneath their own. In the pale glow of the television, Owen’s view of reality begins to crack.


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