‘Stay Tuned’: Can You Survive or Will You Cancel Your Subscription to Hellvision?

By  · Published on June 29th, 2012

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; even our coach potatoes are fried and covered in gravy. You have flopped yourself down on to the Internet’s second most comfy food-based movie column; damn you, Lay-Z-Boy’s Overstuffed Film Blog. Every week, while barely moving at all, we rerun another bad movie that always manages to get low ratings…everywhere…from everyone. We will flip through all the reasons for its poor reception and then, interrupting our regularly scheduled snark, we turn the volume way up on our irrepressible love for said movie; hoping to make you laugh until it megahertz. Then we bring you a message from our sponsors, morbid obesity, and offer a junkfood item paired to the film.

This week’s episode features a lost gem of a middling early 90s comedy: Stay Tuned. The film stars John Ritter (damn you for taking him from us, god) and Pam Dawber as a married couple whose relationship is on the rocks thanks to Ritter’s obsession with television. He literally can’t turn himself away from the TV long enough to notice he’s married to 90s-hot Pam Dawber for crying out loud. One night a terrifying figure appears at his doorstep, and not just because he’s played by Jeffery Jones. Spike, as he is called, is an agent of Satan and offers Ritter a satellite TV package so affordable it’s criminal…in fact it’s pure evil. In short order, the unhappy couple is sucked into the diabolical broadcasting system known as Hellvision through their satellite dish; sort of a reverse Terrorvision. They must then survive twenty-four hours of death traps, monsters, and bad hell puns centered on classic TV, early 90s shows and commercials, and the occasional movie that would turn up on the ol’ boob tube.

We get everything from Northern Overexposure to The Fresh Prince of Darkness!

I unabashedly love this ill-conceived, barely-functioning pun casserole. Ritter is just as funny in schlock as he is in anything of a higher caliber, and if you don’t laugh heartily at the Three’s Company reference, you may not have a soul…in which case you’ve already lost. Plus, how often do you get a music video from Salt-n-Pepa sewn into the narrative of your film? Never! That’s…probably for the best! This is a movie that is absolutely hurting for a remake. Shut up, it IS totally hurting for a remake. With that in mind, we’ve put together a lineup of shows for the new Hellvision. If you can think of a better way to spend our time, leave us alone, dad!

Dancing on the Stars

An amateur dancer/damned soul is partnered with a third rate celebrity and then launched onto the molten surface of the nearest star. Sure, the drama may not be as potent, but you can be guaranteed an explosive elimination every time.

If we may suggest the “celebrity” cast for the first season: Rush Limbaugh, Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, and Charlie Sheen. Though somehow we can’t shake the feeling that Sheen would survive and just keep showing up season after season.

Actual Mad Men

Set in the 1960s on Madison Avenue, Actual Mad Men is a hard-hitting, highly fascinating drama about advertising executives…who kill people and eat their flesh to obtain the power of a Sumerian god. The girls of the steno pool don’t last long in this office, and this time around it has nothing to do with the wanton sexual harassment.

Don Ripper, a partner at Surly Shooter Ripper Vice, uses his position to jet-set around the world; wooing prospective clients and leaving a trail of stylish, gruesome death in his wake. His schedule of sacrifices is handled by Joan, his secretary/voluptuous vixen of darkness. The woman playing Don’s ex-wife is a little stiff, but at least in this version there’s a reason.

So You Think You Can Stab

Much like the TV we watch, Hellvision audiences just can’t get enough game shows. In this version of a purportedly popular program (alliteration: always awesome) the entire dance element in eliminated in favor of one-on-one deadly combat. The two contestants are tossed into a pit that slowly fills with water, and one must kill the other before they both drown.

Eventually, a knife is thrown into the pit to give the more tenacious of combatants the upper hand. It’ll be bloody, it’ll be savage, and it will be hosted by Ryan Seacrest…on retainer from Fox.

How I Met My Maker

Five quirky, late-twenty-somethings living in New York are but the pawns in protagonist Dead Mostly’s long-winded recollection of his eventual successful suicide, after many failed attempts. While his buds spend their time going to bars and having various sexual exploits, he stays at home and mixes prescription med smoothies. The comedy of the show is that he’s such a loser, that he can’t even seem to off himself. What a dope! The rope holding his noose snaps, he keeps stepping in front of trains after they stop, and his aim is so terrible that he can’t even shoot himself.

He teases us several times, but we keep waiting for the series finally in which he finally gets what he wants. Just by reading this synopsis, you’ve now been put on suicide watch and will be contacted by mental healthcare professional…played by NPH.

Night of the Living Glee

On their way to Regionals, a high school glee club’s bus careens off a cliff and they are killed. Years later, a group of seniors are spending their last night before graduation in the local cemetery and accidentally perform an ancient incantation that resurrects the bodies of the dead.

Now not only are they being chased by ghouls out to devour their brains, but they must suffer eardrum-wrenching renditions of pop songs as these appear to be the zombies only form of communication. It’s bad enough that I have to run for my life, do I really have to hear an a cappella molestation of “Bad Romance” too? Oh no, they’re coming, I hear a cheap imitation of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” screeching down the street!

The Jersey Shore

Somethings are evil enough as they exist in our world. This would be a simple syndication. Abandon all hope.

Junkfood Pairing: Ritter’s Frozen Custard

As this is the first appearance of the late, great John Ritter here at Junkfood Cinema, we thought the snack food pairing should be a celebration of this fallen hero. When I was growing up, in the metropolis of Indianapolis, Indiana (one of the best cities in…Indiana), the summer months meant no more school, cruising around town in my wife’s orange Ford Tempo, and the reopening of the Ritter’s Frozen Custard stand.

It was a glorious establishment that served the tastiest, most heavenly, most screw-you-Dairy-Queen frozen deserts I had ever tasted. While it is a franchise, I’m not sure how far south Ritter’s extends, but isn’t the drive worth it for John Ritter? And deliciousness?

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.