Barris directed, produced & starred in Gong Show Movie. It concerns Barris (host and creator of the gong show) being bugged by all manner of people who have no decorum & want to perform for him (to be on the show) & the problems he faces with producers + personal life to get the show on the air.
This is not the first film to be concerned with reality tv (Kazan’s Face in the Crowd and Allen Funt’s What Do You Say to a Naked Lady come to mind) but it predates Stardust Memories by months and King of Comedy by years and is the best of the lot, cept for Crowd, partly because of Barris’ and co-writer Robert Downey Sr’s edge. Even with that edge, it is not as cruel in its depiction of fans as Memories, the Fellini-like characters seem out of place among Sandy Bates fans; at least gong show contestants could seem rude and pushy.
Watching the ending of Gong, though, reminded me of Deconstructing Harry (released 17 years later).
The moral of Harry is “know yourself; stop kidding yourself; accept your limitations and get on with your life.” Harry, in that film, was confronted by his own creations (or delusions) and celebrated. Barris goes through something similar at Gong’s end and after leaving the show and going to the desert. The ending of Gong is quite perfect because it stays true to the shows kitschy ideals while still being both moving and entertaining.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend it, The Gong Show Movie is not nearly as bad as it’s reputation would indicate. It’s a combination of censored clips from the show and, as Den said, a the kind of hostility towards his fans that made Stardust Memories one of the more controversial Allen films. While I didn’t find it funny or particularly moving, I was also never bored.
,,, was just thinking about Allan Funts’ What Do You Say to a Naked Lady
will have to add to database one of these days, groundbreaking in its way