Charged by alternating currents of nostalgic bemusement and wistful melancholy, “TV Man: The Search for the Last Independent Dealer” evinces all the amiable enthusiasm and discursive rambling one might expect from a do-it-yourself labor of love. Tyro filmmaker Steve Kosareff takes a sentimental journey to a handful of hamlets in California and Oregon, seeking anyone who can repair his decades-old, deeply cherished Zenith Jetlite, a 12-inch black-and-white TV set. Interviews and observations culled from that journey make for a pleasant doc best suited for viewers old enough to have once purchased a similar appliance.
Kosareff spends much of his time simply sitting around talking with managers and staffers at struggling local appliance stores that once prospered while selling Zeniths and other U.S.-manufactured TVs during the heyday of bulky console models and newfangled remote controls. Commercials and other archival footage emphasize ingenious (and sometimes hilarious) small-market salesmanship, but also indicate the wonder and awe generated back in the day by the sheer novelty of the boob tube. Indeed, “TV Man” suggests that, just as mom-and-pop stores lost ground to big-box outlets, TV sets themselves no longer appear magical or inspire affection.