Stay Tuned [1992]

Long before Pleasantville, this 1992 comedy featured a family taking its problems out of the real world and into the loopy fictions of television entertainment. John Ritter and Pam Dawber star as Roy and Helen Knable, a suburban couple with a host of marital problems, most of which have to do with Roy's couch-potato attachment to his TV's remote control. Things take a hellish turn when the devilish Spike (Jeffrey Jones) turns up at the Knable house offering Roy a great deal on the ultimate satellite-TV system. Surprise, surprise: The contract signed by the less-than-cautious Roy actually requires a one-time payment of his soul. He and Helen find themselves sucked into their own television set, where they are kept on the run through such monstrous fare as "I Love Lucifer" and "Northern Overexposure." Eventually, their disenchanted kids (David Tom, Heather McComb) discover mom and dad are on TV, in a whole new sense of the term, and they set about rescuing them. A genuine novelty, Stay Tuned is powered along by a chain of imaginative sequences, most memorably an original cartoon by Warner legend Chuck Jones that cleverly integrates Ritter and Dawber's characters. The script's implicit social satire about the overbearing nature of television on underachieving lives isn't lost on the lively cast or director Peter Hyams (Timecop), easily one of the most imaginative action filmmakers around. The old rivalry between television and movies carries on in this clever parody, and the feud has rarely been so much fun. With tons of supporting players, including SCTV legend Eugene Levy, Saturday Night Live announcer Don Pardo, and hip-hop performers Salt-n-Pepa. --Tom Keogh

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