Stay Tuned makes its debut on Blu-ray as part of Sony’s MOD program, licensed from Morgan Creek, with an above average transfer.
The Production: 2.5/5
Roy Knable (John Ritter) is stuck in a dead-end job selling plumbing supplies, and the only enjoyment he gets out of life is watching television. So much so, that he is addicted, ignoring his kids and wife, Helen (Pam Dawber). Fed up with Roy choosing television over spending time with her, Helen smashes Roy’s television set, leaves a note for the children, and packs her bags. Enter Spike (Jeffrey Jones), chief salesman for satellite service HVTV offering 666 channels, who not only offers Roy the service on a trial basis, but throws in a brand-new 44-inch 900 line resolution television with matrixed Dolby Stereo! But HVTV is a sham – it is really a recruitment device for Satan to take innocent souls by having its “subscribers” try to survive 24 hours of interacting with the many different programs after they are sucked into that world by the satellite dish. And that is the rather thin plot that the hit or miss TV spoof skits are hung on, everything from game shows, quirky dramedies (Northern Overexposure), cartoons (one of the better skits directed by the legendary Chuck Jones), public access shows (Duane’s Underworld, a spoof of SNL’s public access spoof Wayne’s World), 1940’s detective noir, westerns, 1970s sitcoms (Three’s Company), music videos, classic commercials, etc., many of which fall rather flat. Helping Roy and Helen navigate the world of programming is Crowley (Eugene Levy), one of Spike’s minions that he banished.
I remember seeing a trailer for this film shortly before its theatrical release in 1992 and thinking that the film could go either way – be very funny, or mind-numbingly bad. I missed the theatrical run, but did eventually rent it on VHS a few years later, and realized it was the latter, which was a shame as I had enjoyed many of director Peter Hyams’ films up to that point (Running Scared, 2010, Capricorn One, Outland, The Presidio, and even Narrow Margin). The jokes fell flat in 1992, and seem very dated today (although Jeffrey Jones’ pitch about the free television and its specifications likely gets a bigger laugh today). Stars John Ritter, Pam Dawber, Eugene Levy and Jeffrey Jones do their best with the material at hand, but at the end of the day, Stay Tuned has you wanting to change the channel to something, anything else.
3D Rating: NA
Stay Tuned was shot on 35mm film with Panavision cameras in anamorphic 2.35:1. I have a feeling the transfer on this disc was provided to Sony by Morgan Creek, since it doesn’t quite live up to Sony’s catalog standards. It is not necessarily horrible, but is a bit soft at times, with drab colors and passable contrast. The print used does show some very minor instances of wear with occasional specks of dirt. It is no doubt a major improvement over the now out-of-print Warner DVD release from 2000.
Sony and Morgan Creek have opted to provide a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track with matrixed surrounds rather than include the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix found on the prior Warner DVD release. Stay Tuned was released theatrically with a Dolby Stereo Spectral Recording 2.0 matrixed track, and that is likely what this track is based upon. The track has a nice and wide front soundstage with excellent stereo separation and well-prioritized dialogue. Surrounds are used to good effect, offering a sense of partial immersion with crowd noises, atmospherics such as wind, and other background effects. Bass response is also surprisingly good for a stereo track of this vintage, particularly during the Salt-N-Pepa music video sequence. Oddly, there are no subtitles or closed captions on this disc.
Special Features: 1/5
The Making of “Stay Tuned (1080i; 6:11): A typical 1990s era EPK behind the scenes featurette, obviously upscaled to 1080i from a standard definition source.
Stay Tuned is a movie that has not aged well, mostly because the technology around us has changed enormously, but also because the shows and movies it is spoofing were part of the culture at the time the movie was conceived. Fans of the film (of which there are quite a few) will likely want to upgrade to this Blu-ray release.