Stay Tuned (1992)

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What happens if you watch just a little too much television? Well, TV icons John Ritter and Pam Dawber find out in this pretty funny 90’s comedy.

Roy and Helen Knable are a couple who have lost the spark in their marriage. Helen is a successful businesswoman while Roy has a very horrible job selling plumbing supplies and would rather watch TV at night. One fateful day, the mysterious Mr. Spike gives Roy an unbelievable offer that will change his life. He is given a new satellite dish that gives him over 600 channels. However, when Helen finds out, she decides to leave him. When Roy attempts to get through to Helen, they both find themselves sucked into the satellite dish.

Mr. Spike is actually an emissary from Hell who runs the TV channel. He explains to a new worker that everyone they capture has 24 hours to survive and if they die on TV, they die for real and end up in Hell. Roy and Helen are shocked to learn they are now on various TV shows and it is up to their tech wizard son Darryl and daughter Diane to help Roy and Helen attempt to survive. However, Spike, realizing that Helen and Roy could be ones who could end up lasting the full 24 hours, has a devious trick up his sleeve that could threaten not only their marriage but their lives in the end.

Directed by Peter Hyams, this is quite a wild ride into the world of television. Or better yet, why they can call television the “idiot” box. In this case, the idiot is Roy Knable, played by the late great John Ritter. Roy’s obsession with TV has caused a major rift in his marriage and throughout the course of the film, we see Roy in some ways acting out some of his fantasies but at the same time realize the mistakes he made.

Ritter, who became iconic with his role as Jack Tripper in Three’s Company (see the reference to it in this film) and Pam Dawber, another TV icon in this case Mork and Mindy, have great chemistry as Roy and his estranged wife Helen. Their scenes together start off as well, what you would expect of a couple whose marriage is on the rocks, but in their TV scenes together, it’s quite fun to see them in various situations from game shows to a cartoon, in which the legendary Chuck Jones, worked on.

Jeffrey Jones brings his A-game as the villain Spike, who is practically Ed Rooney without the ‘stache. As for Eugene Levy, he plays the character of Crowley as a stooge to Spike then he offers to help the Knables in their time of need for one simple reason. He’s tired of being Spike’s little whipping boy and the one who attempts to make sense in the situation. Interestingly enough, Jones does get in on a Rooney reference and there is a nice fencing action scene which could have helped Hyams in the decision to direct the Hong Kong-stylized version of the classic Dumas novel, The Musketeer, nine years later.

Stay Tuned is a hilarious look at the world of TV, but seen when a couple are sucked into a world of television Hell, all driven by ironically TV icons and Mr. Rooney.

WFG RATING: B

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Morgan Creek production. Director: Peter Hyams. Producer: James G. Robinson. Writers: Tom S. Parker, Jim Jennewein, and Richard Siegel. Cinematography: Peter Hyams. Editing: Peter E. Berger.

Cast: John Ritter, Pam Dawber, Jeffrey Jones, Eugene Levy, David Tom, Heather McComb, Bob Dishy, Joyce Gordon, Erik King, Don Calfa.

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