With reality shows on the small screen almost every night of the week, it should come as no surprise that Hollywood is cashing in on the current phenomenon. Showtime takes a poke at the "integrity" of these programs as well as the long-standing cop buddy genre.
After shooting up a TV camera during an interrupted undercover takedown, Detective Mitch Preston (Robert De Niro) is forced to star in a new reality cop show. In exchange, the TV station agrees to drop its lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department. But every hard-working straight guy needs a sidekick for comic relief. Teaming up with the serious agent is Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy), a two-bit actor who works on the force between movie auditions. Under the direction of fanatical producer Chase Renzi (Rene Russo), the crime-fighting duo patrols the streets of L.A. with a lumbering camera crew in tow.
What Showtime aptly portrays is the careful staging that goes on behind the scenes before the film starts rolling. Sellars, seeing his chance to break into the movie business, takes every opportunity to play up to the "hidden" cameras. Overacting his way through every event, he puts real law enforcement on the backburner while promoting his new found fame. Preston, on the other hand, proves too average to make for good viewer ratings. He refuses to take advantage of a staged confession booth to unload his "real" feelings about his showcasing partner or to succumb to television gimmicks. Even his original '60s d0xE9cor apartment with paneled walls and plaid couch is too genuine for reality.
De Niro, Murphy, and Russo put in solid comedic performances, and scriptwriters have played off nearly every cop show of the last two decades. Jabbing at TV producers who carefully choose and groom their contestants to "survive" the ratings race on the tube, this movie reminds us that real life has little to do with reality. But with obscenities (including extreme sexual profanities) flying as rapidly as the bullets between drug dealers and policemen, producers have blasted a hole in this film's suitability for family entertainment.