Once again, I’m coming in hot with a last minute blog entry. In my defense, I am traveling for work and just settled into my room and remembered that today was the last day for this event. Not wanting to miss a deadline, I am going to do my best to write something. It’s only 9:00pm Pacific Time, so I have three hours.
Recently Al “Weird Al” Yankovic released a biopic about his life. Of course, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, is a parody film that spoofs all the tropes of other biopics that have come out previously. Playing Weird Al is Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe, because of course, he is the obvious choice. Evan Rachel Wood (Across the Universe, Westworld) plays Weird Al’s girlfriend, an up and coming star named Madonna. Weird Al’s film is hilarious and deserving of all the praise that it has received.
Weird Al’s movie making efforts have not always gone over well–case in point, 1989’s UHF. UHF is an absolutely ridiculous movie, but ridiculous in all the best ways. It bombed at the box office due to the distributor, Orion Pictures, going bankrupt right after production completed, and because it was released during the summer. The summer is traditionally reserved for the big blockbuster films and UHF got lost in the shuffle. Orion’s financial problems led to a non-existent publicity campaign for the film. UHF also received mixed reviews. Critics complained about the style of comedy, lack of plot, lackluster gags, etc.
However, per usual, the critics are wrong. This film is hilarious.
UHF tells the story of George Newman (Weird Al) who is given Channel 62, a UHF television station, after his uncle Harvey wins it in a poker match. Currently working at Burger World with his friend, Bob (David Bowe). George and Bob are fired by their boss, “Big Edna,” after George is caught daydreaming again. George’s need of a job is what motivates Harvey to unload Channel 62. George and Bob drive up to the Channel 62 station out in the middle of nowhere. They meet Pamela Finklestein (Fran Drescher), the station secretary who dreams of being an on-the-air reporter.
It’s obvious from the start that Channel 62 is failing and nearly bankrupt. The only programming consists of reruns of old television shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and Mister Ed. At this time, the post office misdelivers a package meant for their big network competitor, the VHF Channel 8. George decides to deliver the package himself in an attempt to ingratiate himself to the bigger channel. However, he is rudely tossed out of the building by the network’s CEO, RJ Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy). Outside of the station, George meets Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards), the former janitor at Channel 8. It seems that RJ just fired him. Taking pity on him, George hires the good-natured Stanley to work for UHF 62.
George and Bob decide that to save the station, they need to come up with a variety of new, original programs, to attract viewers. Right now, I’d like to say that if there was a real station that showed all these bizarre shows, I would watch it in a heartbeat. First, George tries to host a children’s show, “Uncle Nutzy’s Funhouse.” It’s going okay until George breaks up with girlfriend Teri (Victoria Jackson), after he forgets her birthday. While hosting “Uncle Nutzy’s Funhouse,” George has a meltdown and leaves in the middle of the show. He gives Stanley permission to fill-in. Stanley’s crazy slapstick antics are hugely popular with children and he is a massive success. ‘Uncle Nutzy,’ goes away and “Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse” takes its place. Hoping to capitalize on Stanley’s success, George and Bob start creating the craziest shows and commercial spots.
The montage of shows being shown on Channel 62 is the funniest part of the movie. There are classic shows like “Wheel of Fish,” where contestants spin a wheel covered in real fish. The contestant will win the fish selected on the wheel and then have the option to trade the fish for what’s in the box. Usually the box is empty, which leads to the host telling the contestant that they’re “stupid, so so stupid.” Another funny show that I like is a Town Hall-style talk show, called “Town Talk.” The teaser for this week’s episodes promise, “lesbian nazi hookers abducted by UFOs and forced into weight loss programs.”
Other hilarious programs that they come up with: Underwater Bingo for Teens, Strip Solitaire, Bowling for Burgers, Name That Stain, The Young and the Dyslexic, Secrets of the Universe, The Lice is Right, Traffic Court, Raul’s Wild Kingdom, Fun with Dirt, Eye on Toxic Waste, just to name a few. Of course, The Beverly Hillbillies and Mister Ed are still on the schedule.
Another one of my favorite shows they have is Conan: The Librarian. In the teaser, Conan cuts a kid in half for turning his book in late and chastises another kid for not knowing the Dewey Decimal System. There’s a hilarious commercial for a spatula store called “Spatula City.”
“Hello, this is Sy Greenblum, president of Spatula City. I liked the spatulas so much, I bought the company.”
“And what better way to say ‘I Love You’ than, with the gift of a spatula?”
“Spatula City. Seven Locations. We’re in the Yellow Pages under ‘spatulas.’ “
“My, where did you get that lovely spatula?”All hilarious quotes from the Spatula City commercial.
Then, there’s Joe Earley who comes onto one of the UHF shows to demonstrate how to use various tools. He tries to demonstrate a table saw and chops off one of his fingers.
Then, if that wasn’t funny enough, then Joe makes this face and it’s even funnier.
As can be expected, Channel 62 is a runaway success as word of mouth gets around about all these crazy shows. The channel is making money hand over fist and is outperforming the bigshot Channel 8. RJ Fletcher cannot believe that a meager UHF station, let alone a meager UHF station operated by George and his former janitor, is more popular than his VHF network station. RJ presents the conflict of UHF as he is determined to find a way to shut the channel down.
This entire film is bonkers. It doesn’t make any sense. It has a ridiculous ending. But it’s a feel-good, hysterical, good-natured film. I highly recommend it.
3 thoughts on “The “So Bad, It’s Good” Blogathon–UHF (1989)”
Somehow, I have managed to miss this crazy movie all these years! But your text and screenshots had me chortling, so now this is my number one priority to see!
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Oh golly, that Twinkie. I can never bring myself to watch this movie but I always like hearing people’s reactions to it. Thanks again for joining the blogathon–this was great! 🙂
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Saw this in the theatre when it first came out. At one point, one of my friends literally fell out of his seat he was laughing so hard. As you say, it is completely non-sensical and ridiculous but that was exactly what made it so funny. Getting Kevin McCarthy to play the curmudgeonly villain was a brilliant casting choice, as was comedian Emo Phillips as Joe Early. “Spatula City. We sell spatulas…and that’s all.”
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