Hollywood Flashback: 'Action' Skewered a "Gross, Cynical" Hollywood in 1999

Courtesy of Columbia Tristar/Courtesy Everett Collection
Sandra Bullock played herself opposite star Jay Mohr on a 1999 episode of 'Action.'

"It was almost universally liked by people in the business and actively hated by the rest of the world," says exec producer-writer Don Reo of the sitcom created 20 years ago starring Jay Mohr and Illeana Douglas.

"It was almost universally liked by people in the business and actively hated by the rest of the world," says exec producer-writer Don Reo of Action.

The sitcom, created 20 years ago by the late Chris Thompson, centered on a movie producer (Jay Mohr) trying to come back after a flop called Slow Torture. The Hollywood Reporter's review said the Fox show was "irreverent, gross, cynical, disgusting and, a lot of the time, embarrassingly funny … If you can't find something personally offensive in this show, you're just not trying very hard."

Among the actors who played what THR described as "vibrant, if loathsome, characters" was Illeana Douglas in a role she calls "the greatest part offered to me in my career": a former child star who's become a high-priced hooker turned TV executive.

"People were saying Action and something called The West Wing were the shows that were going to change television," says Douglas. "People say they want something different, but maybe we were a little too different."

Besides ratings woes, the series had problems at the network.

"One episode was initially rejected by the Fox censors because of the second blow job," says Reo. "They were good with one, but two crossed the line."

In the end, only 13 episodes were made.

"There's one so disturbing, they never aired it," says Douglas. "All I can tell you is our guest star was Ice Cube, and it was brilliant."

This story first appeared in the June 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.