I remember when Stay Tuned was first released, because I was very keen to go and see it at the cinema. The premise – a suburban couple get sucked into their TV set – just seemed too good not to want to see!
Of course, I didn’t go and see Stay Tuned and despite the fact that years have passed since the film opened in cinemas, I’ve still not watched it. Well, not until today anyway – as today is the first time I watch Stay Tuned!
Now I’m under no illusions that Stay Tuned is going to be a good movie. The fact that I’ve waited all these years to watch this movie tells me that somewhere, in the back of my mind, I know this is going to be a disappointment, but still I’m watching it.
As for what I know about the film?
Quite a bit actually. I know that Stay Tuned is a satire of TV programmes; I know that the film stars John Ritter and Pam Dawber; and I know that the film includes an animated sequence where Ritter and Dawber get turned into cartoon mice. This sequence was animated by legendary cartoonist, Chuck Jones.
So yeah, despite not having seen the movie, I know a fair bit about it.
Right, it’s time…
*Clicks the play button*
1min 30secs – The film has opened with a mysterious man approaching an elderly couple with some kind of offer of a lifetime. This feels like an episode of The Twilight Zone or to a lesser extent, Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories. Yeah, definitely Amazing Stories.
2mins – The opening credits have kicked in and they’re like a low budget version of the Superman titles. A really low budget version of the Superman titles.
9mins – So… John Ritter and Pam Dawber are married. Life is great except the TV is getting in the way. Damn TV!
9mins 40secs – Pam Dawber is pissed. Probably because John Ritter is watching countless TV shows yet none of the shows are Mork and Mindy. I’d be pissed too if I was the former star of a TV show and my other half didn’t watch it. Unless I was the star of Love Island.
10mins 40secs – And now Pam Dawber has just smashed up the TV! I told you she was pissed.
11mins 30secs – Jeffrey Jones has just turned up. He was the mystery man at the start of the movie. He’s just offered John Ritter a new TV. How nice is that?
15mins – Yeah… it’s possible that Jeffrey Jones is the devil. Still – free TV!
15mins 30secs – John Ritter has just put the TV on and the film being advertised is Three Men and Rosemary’s Baby. Now that’s a movie I’d watch! Seriously. It can’t be any worse than Three Men and a Little Lady, can it?
18mins – Oh dear; John Ritter and Pam Dawber have just been sucked into the TV.
22mins – OK, so Jeffrey Jones isn’t the devil. He’s just making TV shows for the devil. Oh, well that’s OK then.
37mins – John Ritter and Pam Dawber’s kids have started to question their parents disappearance. Yet they don’t seem to be doing anything productive. Great going, guys.
38mins – So, currently the film is working its way to the end of a fair lengthy sequence inspired by the ’90s TV show, Northern Exposure. Remember that one, kids?
39mins 30secs – Yes! I’ve reached the animated sequence. This is the part that made me want to watch this movie as a kid. PLEASE BE GOOD. PLEASE BE GOOD!
46mins 30secs – Yeah, that was pretty good. The whole animated sequence had a Tom & Jerry/Looney Tunes vibe, complete with ‘That’s All, Folks!’ ending and a Chuck Jones cameo. Works for me!
47mins – This film is now doing a parody of Saturday Night Live/Wayne’s World. Er… that’s not Mike Myers under that Wayne Campbell make-up. I’m pretty sure that’s not Dana Carvey either.
1hr 6mins – The last 20 mins have largely involved two sequences – one set in a gangster movie and one set during the French Revolution. Neither was particularly interesting/funny/exciting* (*please delete as applicable). Bring back the cartoon mice!
1hr 7mins – John Ritter has been sent home, but Pam Dawber is still stuck in the TV. There’s a re-run metaphor here somewhere.
1hr 10mins – And John Ritter’s gone back into the TV.
1hr 11mins – Things are starting to wrap up and…
1hr 12mins – Oh, a Star Trek: The Next Generation parody.
1hr 12mins 40secs – Sorry, where was I? Oh yes; so things are starting to wrap up and yet it feels like the movie hasn’t really gone anywhere. This is just an endless array of parodies and sight gags – which aren’t funny.
1hr 14mins – ‘Driving Over Miss Daisy‘. OK, so that was funny.
1hr 22mins – John Ritter and Pam Dawber are back home safe and sound and Ritter has pretty much given up watching TV. There’s a lesson here about watching too much TV… but screw that, TV rules!
*Clicks stop and flicks on the TV*
Jeez, what’s this crap? Bloody TV, there’s never anything good on!
*Clicks TV off*
Stay Tuned isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good either. It is one of those movies which has a lot of potential but it just doesn’t live up to the premise. The parodies and references to old TV shows are fun to begin with, but they quickly wear thin. That said, I am surprised this film doesn’t get more air time, as the concept at least makes it memorable, and perhaps more suitable for the small screen.
The important thing here is that I have finally watched Stay Tuned. I probably won’t watch it again for at least another couple of decades but that is OK with me, I got it watched, eventually, and it was mildly entertaining.
If you have a strong desire to see a vast collection of television shows getting the parody treatment, then you might want to give Stay Tuned eighty-eight minutes of your time.
If you enjoyed reading about my first brush with Stay Tuned, then you might like to know this is just one of 100 movies which appear in my new book: Rewind to the ’90s – A Journey Through 100 Movies of the 1990s.
The book is available as a digital edition from Amazon and features an exhaustive collection of movie discussions, including Poison Ivy, Quigley Down Under, Mo’ Better Blues, and Mannequin on the Move, alongside numerous (and humorous) anecdotes.
Disclaimer: I earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.