TV Man: The Search for the Last Independent Dealer: Film Review

This nostalgic rumination on a bygone era would probably best be enjoyed on a vintage black-and-white television.

Steve Kosareff's documentary explores what happened to the once ubiquitous mom and pop television retailers.

Steve Kosareff’s documentary TV Man: The Search for the Last Independent Dealer certainly lives up to its title. This affectionate and nostalgic look at the sort of mom and pop stores where you could count on service with a smile is hardly earthshaking. But anyone frustrated with big-box retailers and the impersonality of Internet shopping will find this a welcome paean to a bygone era.

This modest homegrown effort is loosely structured around the passionate desire of Kosareff, the author of the book Window to the Future: The Golden Age of Television Marketing and Advertising, to find someone to repair his most prized possession. It’s a vintage 12-inch black-and-white Zenith Jetlite television, which he purchased when he was just 14. He earned the $100 to buy it by selling Christmas cards.

Kosareff begins his search by attempting to track down a number of stores once owned by Lloyd Dennee, who in the 1950s was apparently quite the big shot Southern California television retailer. Not surprisingly, none of them still exist, so he tracks down a few independent dealers in the Pacific Northwest, some 1,000 miles away.

The resulting encounters form the heart of the film, as the filmmaker hangs out with these rare specimens, several of whom examine his antique television only to discover that its tubes have gone mysteriously missing.

Along the way, they deliver anecdotes and recollections revolving around such former aspects of their trade as falling off roofs while installing antennas; fending off the advances of lonely housewives; avoiding being shocked while making in-home repairs and attempting to help oldsters confused by their new-fangled remote controls. One recalls how a former owner accepted goats and pigs in lieu of cash payments.

Adding some cinematic heft to the proceedings is the ingenious incorporation of entertaining clips from old television shows; vintage commercials for such former leading TV manufacturers as Zenith; and television-related scenes from old movies such as 1954’s Suddenly, a little-known thriller starring Frank Sinatra in which a television repairman plays a prominent role in the story.

The film is currently playing an exclusive theatrical engagement at the Monica 4 in Santa Monica. But it will find its most appreciative audiences on -- you guessed it -- the small screen.

Opens: Friday, Sept. 6 (TV Man Productions)
Director/screenwriter/producer: Steve Kosareff
Executive producer: Paul L’Esperance
Director of photography: Andrew B. Parke
Editor: Randy Vandegrift
Not rated, 82 minutes

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