A couch potato and his wife get zapped into a satanic satellite television system and must survive twenty-four hours of cable hell to get back home alive.
Judging a Book by its Cover
– I don’t think TVs like that existed in 1992.
– Oh no! Mom and Dad are on a game show…? This cover does not show the evil context of that game show, let alone the rest of the movie.
– Pam looks like a good screamer though John looks like he’s yawning.
Something weird’s on the air!
Directed by Peter Hyams (2010, Timecop, End of Days)
Starring John Ritter, Pam Dawber, Jeffrey Jones and Eugene Levy
Roy Knable (Ritter) is a sad loser whose life hasn’t gone his way so he pours his life into television any moment he can. His marriage with his more successful wife Helen (Dawber) is falling apart and he barely knows it. One evening when their two kids are out, Helen attempts to talk to Roy away from the TV but he can’t commit when the NBA game is in double overtime. Helen reacts accordingly by smashing the television. But how will Roy know who wins??
Later in the evening, Roy is visited by a salesman named Spike (Jones) who gets Roy to sign a contract for a new state-of-the-art satellite system and television — on a free trial, of course. Roy doesn’t get much time to enjoy this incredible new system as Helen packs her bags intending to leave her husband after seeing what he did. As he tries to keep her from driving off, the satellite dish positions itself to fire at them and they don’t notice until it’s too late, zapping them into the world of satanic cable. I’m sorry, satanic cable??
Unbeknownst to Roy, Spike is the head of an entire television network dedicated to killing people and collects their souls for one very specific consumer. The contract that Spike gets his victims to sign does have an out clause — they get returned home if they survive twenty-four hours. Spike is very proud of his soul-stealing record but his pride sours quickly after being reminded of the one that got away by his second-in-command, Crowley (Levy.) That bit of subordination will get Crowley thrown into the network himself where he meets up with Roy and Helen to lend a helping hand. And leg. As the Knables survive each subsequent channel, they work through their marital issues by talking their issues out and hoping they can repair their marriage once they find a way out of their personal Hell. Spike doesn’t want any more blemishes on his record however which sets up the final showdown between he and Roy via a Salt n Pepa music video.
I enjoyed Stay Tuned when it first came out and I still enjoy it today. While Stay Tuned is most definitely intended as a family film, looking back on it, there’s no way this would get made today with the hellish themes on display at almost every turn of the channel. There’s an amazing variety of television sequences including a quiz show where a wrong answer means certain doom, a wrestling match with no rules and killing your opponent is the only way to win and even a Chuck Jones-directed (!) animated sequence with a robot cat delivered to kill Roy and Helen as animated mice. I love it! There are also plenty of movie and television parody sketches such as My Three Sons of Bitches, Northern Overexposure, Duane’s Underworld and as a fun easter egg, Three’s Company. If you’re old enough to remember those shows then you’ll get a chuckle, otherwise, I’m not sure anyone born past the 90s would understand.
Story: 8 – A couple on the verge of divorce find the time to work things out while they are transported through Satan’s cable package and must last 24 hours to keep them and their marriage alive.
Blood: 1 – As a family film, any violence is bloodless and played more for laughs.
Boobs: 1 – I did enjoy Pam Dawber in skin-tight spandex.
Overall: 8 – Entertaining, imaginative and funny, Stay Tuned is worth the watch.
-Tim Burton was offered the director’s chair but turned it down to do Batman Returns.
-The animated sequence had already been in production for six months before the movie started filming.
-The TV series Supernatural had an episode that mimics the events of this movie with main characters being stuck and having to go through different TV programs.