Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Stay Tuned (1992)

John Ritter and Pam Dawber play Roy and Helen Knable, a married couple who end up sucked into a world of TV programmes all designed to kill them off, allowing their souls to be added to a valuable total. If they can somehow survive for 24 hours then they can return to their normal lives. But that doesn't usually happen. Running through a variety of twisted shows (with pun-tastic names such as I Love Lucifer, Golden Ghouls, Northern Overexposure and Fresh Prince Of Darkness), Roy and Helen are sometimes helped and sometimes hindered by Crowley (Eugene Levy) while the evil Spike (Jeffrey Jones) keeps an eye on the proceedings.

Directed by Peter Hyams, there are a lot of pop culture references packed into Stay Tuned that made it feel dated not too long after it was first released, in the early '90s. But for people who watched most of their TV in the late '80s and early '90s there's plenty of fun to be had. The script by Tom S. Parker and Jim Jennewein doesn't try to be too clever, concentrating instead on keeping the gags and the references flying thick and fast (and who can fail to love an advert for a movie entitled Three Men And Rosemary's Baby?) and developing the main characters into people who might just survive their experience and learn to be better people, don'tchaknow.

Ritter and Dawber are both good enough in the lead roles. The former tends to be good in almost everything that he does, while Dawber is interesting to watch in movies, purely because she's done relatively few throughout her career. Jones is enjoyably evil as Spike, and Levy puts in another enjoyable comedy turn. David Tom and Heather McComb are perfectly fine as the teenage kids, and Don Calfa gets to join in with the fun for a little while, as do . . . . . . . . . . . Salt 'n' Pepa.

There's not a lot else that needs to be said about Stay Tuned. It's fun, it tries to use the budget effectively at all times (especially considering how many gags and references are packed into the runtime), and it holds up as an enjoyably anarchic comedy. There's even a sequence that has Ritter and Dawber turned into animated characters, and that's far from the most far-fetched moment.

Many people won't recognise all of the comedic targets, but this is a blast for anyone born in the late '70s or early '80s. Give it a try if you haven't seen it already.


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