Stay Tuned (1992) — Couple gets trapped in cable TV hell

“Strange? I’m a cartoon mouse with high-heel sneakers. The word ‘strange’ is somewhat lacking.”

DnaError’s rating: Remember the 90s?

DnaError’s review: Ah television: the boob tube, the idiot box, the glowing babysitter, teacher mother secret lover, a cultural touchstone that turned us from a nation of jitterbugging war heros into fat couch-riders with the attention spans of gnats. Gotta love it. TV is also the subject of the bizarre early ’90s comedy Stay Tuned.

John Ritter plays Roy Knable, a TV obsessed snack food-shoveling pathetic turd of a man. His wife, Helen, resents his constant fondling of the remote control rather than her, and his two kids are bored of his couch-jockeying. Soon, as we have all experienced, a demonic satellite TV salesmen pawns off on Roy a huge new dish (boy, the early ’90s — remember when dishes where not the size of small pets?) that sucks him and his wife into a kooky universe of satanic TV parodies.

Stay Tuned is one weird and funny movie. It grows on you, from the endless parodies of every TV genre under the sun to the occasionally witty one-liners. Sure, some of the jokes are outdated (i.e., parodies such as “Northern Overexposure,” “Three Men and Rosemary’s Baby,” Salt and Peppa), and the movie seems to loose steam in its final 20 mintues. But its rapid-fire jokes about everything from bad Japanese monster movies to Saturday morning cartoons make Stay Tuned a pleasant rental comedy.

Kyle’s rating: Stay tuned… for Satan!

Kyle’s review: DnaError’s review is good, but if you’re on the fence about checking out Stay Tuned, I must speak directly to you: See this movie! It’s wacky wild fun!

Everyone at least once in their life wishes they could enter their particular favorite show and get involved. You can experience that fantasy through this film! Sure, it’s only a notch above a made-exclusively-for-cable movie, but that tiny notch represents a higher budget well spent on amusing TV parodies, clever wit, and engaging performances from John Ritter and Jeffrey Jones. It’s all worth it.

I’d also like to mention that if you ever get sucked into the television realm to do battle with Satan and his minions, use the old “hey your shoelace is untied” followed by a kick-in-the-nuts-when-Satan-is-distracted gag. Take that, Lord o’ Darkness! Haw haw!

Justin’s rating: Channel 666… get it? That’s a satanic number AND a cable channel! So subtle.

Justin’s review: Sometimes I think that there’s been a massive effort to make a “Subtext for Idiots” movie series and we just never see the label when we rent. I’m not an overly dumb guy. Sure, one morning while making coffee the pot ended up exploding and I ran in small circles shrieking like a little girl, but I’m not overly dumb.

So say, for instance, you’re a filmmaker and you want to make a parody of something. I am intelligent enough to get a sly reference if you slip it in under the radar (and it’s more delightful if I catch it only the second or third time around). But when you assume that I can’t understand anything unless it is literally spelled out for me, “T-H-I-S I-S A P-A-R-O-D-Y,” then I get a little miffed and plop my imaginary child down in front of the TV and go get a soda or something.

Stay Tuned is not a subtle parody of TV shows. One of the nice things I can say about it is that at least it isn’t gross. A quarrelling couple (having the Most Fake Divorce Argument Ever about the husband’s hypnotic obsession with TV watching) ends up inside a series of cable TV shows FROM HELL! Ahhh!

No, wait, let me try that again… from, erm, hell. Yawn. Yes, when you’re sucked into a satanic TV satellite dish system, you’d expect things to get pretty gory and freaky, fast. But not here. I’d almost recommend Stay Tuned to any kindergarten class, it’s that tame. It’s like the least scary version of hell, ever.

For instance, the couple get sent to a Wayne’s World parody called Dwayne’s Underwold. Wow! This version is pretty much Wayne’s World except they’re zombies and that’s it. I’m so frightened, the seat of my pants are now a chocolate brown!

So pretty much we have to accept that they’re going for a mildly twisted parody, which is largely miss and hit and miss. Jeffrey Jones, that bad principal from Ferris Bueller and the news, is the lead devil-guy with a high tech command room trying to make sure that the couple ends up in hell forever. That might not be too hard, as our heroes spend most of the time bickering when not surviving by the skin of their teeth.

Essentially, Stay Tuned is not as visionary about its underworld theme as Beetlejuice. Nor is it clever enough with the parodies as, say, UHF. So many times they’re blatantly spelling out the joke for you that you feel compelled to scream back, “OKAY! I get it already! That’s a show I know, only with some sort of hellish twist to it!”

The really sad thing is that since Stay Tuned is an early ’90s project, most of the shows they parody have already been taken off the air and been put to sleep (probably my favorite mention of an early ’90s show was “The Fresh Prince of Darkness”). It’s not horrible, but it’s far from good, and I’ll stick to that. In HEAVEN!

Didja notice?

  • The *excellent* Cartoon sequence. Seriously, it was so Chuck-Jonesian… from the asides to the wacky animation… I can’t believe cartoons like that aren’t made any more.
  • Dwayne’s Underworld? Man, talk about a right-on parody! I thought it was actually Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey.
  • Jonah F writes in: “You forgot the John Ritter/Three’s Company joke, when John Ritter finds himself in the Santa Monica apartment – a blond and a brunette appear at the door, and demand of him, “Where have you BEEN?!” Ritter, understandably, screams.”
  • The fall lineup including: I Love Lucifer, The Golden Ghouls, Murder She Likes, David Dukes of Hazard, Facts of Life Support, Beverly Hills 90666, Fresh Prince of Darkness, and Unmarried with Children

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