Like last month's "Mom and Dad Save the World," "Stay Tuned" (citywide) is another elaborate misfired comedy fantasy from Warners dedicated to the proposition that there's nothing like high adventure to recharge a stale suburban marriage.
While Helen Knable (Pam Dawber) scales the heights of Seattle's advertising world, her husband, Roy (John Ritter), a struggling plumbing-supplies salesman, increasingly seeks escape in TV. Just as their marriage is on the verge of breaking up, Roy receives an offer he can't resist: a free trial of a 44-inch, 666-channel TV. The insinuating salesman in black (Jeffrey Jones, who, alas, also starred in "Mom and Dad") is easily recognized as Satan's emissary. He clicks his super-duper remote control and the Knables are sucked into their huge new back-yard satellite dish and propelled into television hell.
They've got 24 hours to survive adventures in a raft of game shows, series programs and old movies if they are to be passed back to reality. Ritter is going to have to once again become the "doer" Dawber married instead of the "watcher" he's become.
"Stay Tuned" is a more ambitious movie than "Mom and Dad Save the World," which was content mainly to spoof old Flash Gordon serials. Unfortunately, however, it's not any funnier. Its various writers attempt to send up some two dozen films and TV shows--e.g., a Clint Eastwood Western, a French Revolution drama, MTV, "Star Trek" and even "The Perils of Pauline." The best sequence is a Chuck Jones cartoon, in which the Knables' kids (David Tom, Heather McComb), while watching that infernal TV set, realize that their parents have been turned into mice. The big problem is that all this sending-up has been done before so many times; as always, too, it's tough to parody so much that's already self-parody, such as "Wheel of Fortune."
Ritter, Dawber and Jones are skilled comedians, and director Peter Hyams typically handles large-scale entertainments with aplomb. But it's hard to see how anyone could have made anything out of something as flat as "Stay Tuned" (rated PG for some standard action-comedy violence).
John Ritter: Roy Knable
Pam Dawber: Helen Knable
Jeffrey Jones: Spike
David Tom: Darryl Knable
Heather McComb: Diane Knable
A Warner Bros. release of a Morgan Creek production. Director-cinematographer Peter Hyams. Producer James G. Robinson. Executive producers Gary Barber, David Nicksay. Screenplay Tom S. Parker, Jim Jennewein & Richard Siegel. Editor Peter E. Berger. Costumes Joe I. Tompkins. Music Bruce Broughton. Production design Philip Harrison. Art directors Richard Hudolin, David Willson. Set decorators Rose Marie McSherry, Daniel Bradette, Lin MacDonald, Annemarie Corbett. Sound Ralph Parker, Daryl Powell. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.
MPAA-rated PG (standard action comedy violence).