By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Running a TV Station.
George Newman (“Weird Al” Yankovic) cannot hold down a steady job, but finally seems to catch his break when given an opportunity to be program director of a little known UHF TV station. George comes up with all sorts of oddball programming ideas that soon send the ratings soaring, which angers R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) who runs a competing TV station and will do anything to take George’s station off the air.
The film, which was shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was written by Yankovic and his longtime collaborator Jay Levey and it took over 3 years of them constantly shopping the script around to various producers and studios before Orion Pictures decided to pick it up, but only if Yankovic/Levey could guarantee that the budget would remain under $5 million. Upon its initial release the film did quite poorly both at the box office and with the critics, but has since gained a strong cult following.
The humor is quite hit-or-miss. Some of it is indeed clever, but at other times it’s incredibly lame and kiddie-like. My biggest beef is the fact that they incorporate this dumb side-story dealing with a competing station that isn’t funny. The film would’ve worked far better had they not felt the need to have any conventional narrative or plot and instead structured it around a quickly edited collection/snippets of weird TV shows, which is the only time when the film gels and is actually creative.
As much as I love McCarthy I felt his character here was unnecessary. Word is that he really enjoyed the part and would crack-up between takes, but his over-the-top one-dimensional caricature of a rich, capitalistic asshole quickly becomes quite boring. Yankovic himself is equally dull and shows no acting ability whatsoever, but fortunately he wisely steps back and allows his supporting cast to get all the laughs, which they do especially Michael Richards as a freaky janitor turned children’s TV host as well as Trinidad Silva, who tragically died in a car accident before filming was completed, as a man with a houseful of exotic animals.
The best moment in the movie is the ad for spatula city, which is far and away one of the funniest segments I’ve seen anywhere and worth catching just for this. What’s even funnier is that the producers put up a giant billboard along a highway advertising this phony supermarket, which they used as a prop for the segment, but then after they were done filming they decided to leave it up. They presumed it wouldn’t be a problem as they figured no one would actually be interested in a place that sells only spatulas, but apparently in reality for several months afterwards many motorists drove off the exit listed on the billboard looking for the spatula city and inquiring as to where the place was located.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: July 21, 1989
Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes
Director: Jay Levey
Studio: Orion Pictures
Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Region B/2), Amazon Video, YouTube