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Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013


If it wasn't for disappointment,
I wouldn't have any appointment.





Grimey Drawer

Put down your remote control
Throw out your TV Guide
Put away your jacket
There's no need to go outside
Don't you know that we control the horizontal
We control the vertical, too
We gonna make a couch potato out of you
(That's what we gonna do now)


UHF (1989)
directed by Jay Levey
written by "Weird Al" Yankovic, Jay Levey, Charles Holloway
cinematography by David Lewis




It seems like a "Weird Al" Yankovic film was inevitable. By the time UHF was released, "Weird Al" had already released 5 albums (actually 6 albums, including his forgotten Peter & The Wolf collaboration with Wendy Carlos), which produced 18 singles and 11 inventive satirical music videos, including his Michael Jackson parodies "Eat It" and "Fat", a DEVO pastiche, and a James Brown parody, and his huge Madonna parody. "Weird Al" was popular with comedy fans, younger audiences getting their first taste of absurd counter-culture, and the celebrities and musicians he lovingly lampooned. This popularity wasn't just because of his abilities at crafting lyrics that fit onto other songs, but also because of his ground-up approach at building the songs--learning the production techniques that went into creating the songs he was satirizing and using them for his own songs, recreating the looks of music videos and creating sight gags based on them, and asking permission from the artists themselves.

Weird Al had started leaking more and more into the mainstream. The comedy film team of Abrams, Zucker and Zucker had given Al a hilarious cameo in The Naked Gun. There had already been five versions of AL TV aired to celebrate his album releases, which were half hour specials where Weird Al takes over MTV, including skits, songs, and "interviews" with celebrities (a format that would be used later with shows like Space Ghost: Coast To Coast and Fishing With John). He had written songs for a few films, like the theme song for the gangster comedy Johnny Dangerously, and his songs has appeared in films, including Transformers: The Movie.

Talks of making a Weird Al film had started as early as 1985, according to Levey, with the popularity of Al's 2nd album In 3-D. It developed along in the same way that Al had developed his songs as well as their albums and music videos, blending pointed parodies, original jokes, and absurd humor. Al, a huge fan of Abrams, Zucker and Zucker comedies (he still considers Top Secret! his favorite film) wanted to use their films as a loose blue print for his own film, with more emphasis on jokes and ideas and less emphasis on plot. Eventually they had a script which didn't see production for years, until Orion Pictures decided to give them chance with an incredibly modest budget. Jay Levey was given the chance to direct, since he had directed the majority of Al's music videos in the past.


Don't change the channel
Don't touch that dial
We got it all on UHF


UHF is reported as having the best audience reaction at any test screening for an Orion Pictures produced film. However, it failed to connect with audiences in July of 1989, against Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Road House, Burton's Batman, Do the Right Thing, Ghostbusters 2, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, Weekend At Bernie's, Lethal Weapon 2, License to Kill, When Harry met Sally, Friday the 13th Part VIII Jason Takes Manhatten, and Turner & Hooch also in theaters at the time, with The Abyss, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and Uncle Buck coming in August. It drowned in a sea of blockbusters.

In fact, it was such a failure that Weird Al wouldn't have a hit for three years, until a parody of a song called "Smells Like Nirvana" became another hit music video in 1992.

UHF was mostly forgotten for decades. It went out of print on VHS, and became a collectors item for "Weird Al" fans, and a few comedy fans and collectors of 1980's media. Even the soundtrack, which had a CD release, although not expenseive, was the hardest Weird Al CD to find. The cult following around it grew enough for MGM to release a DVD in 2002. I remember the announcement on Weird Al's website that UHF was finally coming back to print, and I went to Target the day it came out to buy my copy. I wasn't the only one. It was a top 10 bestseller the week it came out. Fans not only were happy to get the film, but with it, music videos and a new commentary by Weird Al and Jay Levey, as well as cameos and sight gags from various cast members.

It soon became a regular on Comedy Central, and IFC, as well as other movie channels.




Kick off your sneakers
Stick around for a while
We got it all on UHF


So why does UHF have such staying power? It's often joked that Weird Al has had a stronger career than many of the more successful bands he's parodied. Much of his lasting power is in the music. His albums are complimentary time capsules to the eras they are released in. What was the pop culture music scene in the mid 80's? Listen to Dare To Be Stupid. They are also perfect gateways to good music. Listening to Polka Party!, will give you a polka medley of Peter Gabriel, Lionel Richie, Aretha Franklin, Bananarama, Janet Jackson and Tears for Fears, in addition to style pastiches of Talking Heads (Dog Eat Dog), Phil Spector, country love songs, as well as parodies of Robert Palmer and Mick Jagger.

The same can be said of UHF and it's satire of 1980's cinema, which includes parodies of Rambo, Close Encounter of the Third Kind, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Indiana Jones, Jerry Springer, as well as public broadcasting, and the weirdly cut-throat television industry. Even though UHF stations have all gone away, there is weirdly something prescient about UHF's plot in a climate of streaming services battling each other and YouTube personalities trying to create bizarre brands and gain sponsors and viewers.

At it's heart is "Weird Al"'s character of George, a day dreamer, like the titular character from the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. He is given an opportunity born out of his uncle's corporate greed. George is supposed to run a UHF studio into the ground with his incompetence. However, by assembling a rag-tag group of like-minded dreamers and weirdos, George hits on a pulse that the American public adores. There is an optimism throughout that sincerity and creativity can actually be rewarded.

There are plenty of great quotes, gags, references and cameos to talk about, but if somehow you are an uninitiated viewer, it is best left for you to discover on your own. For everyone else that has seen UHF, I kindly invite you to revisit it and discuss this goofy hidden gem that is distinctly in the voice of an iconic comedic personality.

It can currently be streamed on Amazon Prime , Hoopla , and for free on TubiTV , Vudu and Pluto TV



Don't worry 'bout your laundry
Forget about your job
Just crank up the volume
And yank off the knob
We got it all, we got it all, we got it all on UHF


If you haven't listened to the UHF soundtrack, which is really just a Weird Al album that has a few of the songs featured in the film, I highly recommend it, especially for "The Biggest Ball of Twin in Minnesota" and "The Generic Blues".

Previous Movies of the Month

Franchescanado fucked around with this message at 18:04 on May 12, 2020

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caligulamprey
Jan 23, 2007

It never stops.



TrixRabbi
Aug 20, 2010

Time for a little robot chauvinism!



Sorry to be that guy right off the bat but the Jerry Springer Show didn't start until 1991. Town Talk was spoofing Geraldo Rivera.

Also, Comedy Central airings during the 90s went a huge way towards building the cult following in order to help get the movie back in print on DVD. It played heavy rotation during their daytime blocks iirc.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013


If it wasn't for disappointment,
I wouldn't have any appointment.





Grimey Drawer

TrixRabbi posted:

Sorry to be that guy right off the bat but the Jerry Springer Show didn't start until 1991. Town Talk was spoofing Geraldo Rivera.

THANK YOU!

I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was a parody of specifically, just Jerry Springer-esque shows.

TrixRabbi posted:

Also, Comedy Central airings during the 90s went a huge way towards building the cult following in order to help get the movie back in print on DVD. It played heavy rotation during their daytime blocks iirc.

Also didn't know this, but I wouldn't have started becoming aware of CC until 98ish.

King Vidiot
Feb 17, 2007

The video arcade made me what I am today!



I didn't even know that UHF went out of print on VHS. I still have my original copy that I must've gotten before then, I don't even remember when I got it because it seems like I've had it forever. I still have the DVD too, so I guess I need to buy it on blu ray now so I can own it on every form of physical media. It's one of those once-in-a-generation pieces of media that I have to re-buy every time it comes out in a new format.

I'm trying to remember where I saw it first, probably rented it on VHS until I got my own copy. I do remember seeing a brief snippet of an MTV interview where he talks about the movie coming out, and I think they played the music video for Beverly Hillbillies and I laughed my rear end off. I couldn't have been older than 6 or 7 at the time if it premiered in '89. What I wouldn't have given to have seen UHF in theaters alongside Batman, Ghostbusters 2 and Honey I Shrunk the Kids.

Edward Mass
Sep 14, 2011

The Timeless Child is THE DOCTOR? Oh, for God's sake!


Top Cop

You get to drink from the FIREHOSE!

*blasts child out of seat with water*

Linty Fresh
Oct 5, 2013


Franchescanado posted:



I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was a parody of specifically, just Jerry Springer-esque shows.


Also didn't know this, but I wouldn't have started becoming aware of CC until 98ish.

STUUUUUUUPIIIIIDDD!!! You so STUUUUUUUPIIIIIDDD!!!

Heh, and I'm old enough to remember Geraldo Rivera and his broken nose showing up on the cover of Newsweek after taking a chair to the face. Good times!

Splint Chesthair
Dec 27, 2004



Who’d have thought that 30 years later the Nazis would be signing Geraldo’s paychecks? Heyooooooo!

UHF is a formative movie for me. I can’t see Kevin McCarthy in anything without hearing “festering bowl of DOG SNOT” ricochet around in my brain.

Egbert Souse
Nov 6, 2008



Linty Fresh
Oct 5, 2013



One of the great little details about this scene? Watch when Weird Al first opens the door to walk out of the fake house. It opens from the wrong side, the side with the hinges painted on, not the doorknob. Just one tiny reminder that these guys are clueless.

I didn't catch that until maybe the fifteenth time I watched the movie. Just an instant classic. I actually watch it if I'm feeling down or had a bad day at work. It's like a chocolate-Prozac milkshake. :-)

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013


If it wasn't for disappointment,
I wouldn't have any appointment.





Grimey Drawer

Linty Fresh posted:

I actually watch it if I'm feeling down or had a bad day at work. It's like a chocolate-Prozac milkshake. Twinkie Wiener Sandwich :-)

Fixed that for you.

Linty Fresh
Oct 5, 2013


You. Ruined. My. Life.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.



I rewatched this a few weeks ago when a leftist magazine article reminded me of it. I was very, very pleased with how well it held up.

I think I learned about it from a VH1 special on Weird Al, where he took it in stride. "I had to get the medium-sized jacuzzi! Waaah!"

Roth
Jul 9, 2016


I feel like this must have been a huge influence on Don't Hug Me, I'm Scared.

fenix down
Jan 12, 2005



TrixRabbi posted:

Sorry to be that guy right off the bat but the Jerry Springer Show didn't start until 1991. Town Talk was spoofing Geraldo Rivera.

Also, Comedy Central airings during the 90s went a huge way towards building the cult following in order to help get the movie back in print on DVD. It played heavy rotation during their daytime blocks iirc.
And another Geraldo reference with the ROAD MAPS scene:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_M...pone%27s_Vaults

egon_beeblebrox
Feb 29, 2008

WILL AMOUNT TO NOTHING IN LIFE.



Let me be your hog
Let me be your hog, now (snort, snort)
I said baby baby baby baby baby
Baby baby baby baby baby baby

Jose Oquendo
Jun 20, 2004

At the end of 2018, a study was published by London Metropolitan University showing that certain bacteria, normally present only in intestinal tracts or feces, were found on McDonald's self-service screens.


fenix down posted:

And another Geraldo reference with the ROAD MAPS scene:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_M...pone%27s_Vaults

I wonder how anyone under the age of, 25 or so, would think of this movie? Nearly everything parodied in the movie is either gone, not relevant, or otherwise no longer a part of pop culture. Hell, even the idea of a locally owned independent UHF station doing original programming is extinct.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013


If it wasn't for disappointment,
I wouldn't have any appointment.





Grimey Drawer

Jose Oquendo posted:

I wonder how anyone under the age of, 25 or so, would think of this movie? Nearly everything parodied in the movie is either gone, not relevant, or otherwise no longer a part of pop culture. Hell, even the idea of a locally owned independent UHF station doing original programming is extinct.

I agree about the parodies, but as I mentioned in the OP, an independent UHF station is no different than YouTube based indie production companies, plus streaming content creators for every niche market you can think of, and weird experiments like Quibi.

Roth
Jul 9, 2016


Jose Oquendo posted:

I wonder how anyone under the age of, 25 or so, would think of this movie? Nearly everything parodied in the movie is either gone, not relevant, or otherwise no longer a part of pop culture. Hell, even the idea of a locally owned independent UHF station doing original programming is extinct.

I imagine if you're aware of UHF you're probably at least somewhat familiar with quite a few of the parodies of various movies from the 80s.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013


If it wasn't for disappointment,
I wouldn't have any appointment.





Grimey Drawer

Roth posted:

I imagine if you're aware of UHF you're probably at least somewhat familiar with quite a few of the parodies of various movies from the 80s.

We did just get a new Rambo movie last year. And Jason Momoa was Conan in 2011, and Marvel just started making Conan comics again. Money For Nothing is still on the radio all the time (although the music video jokes are probably flat for younger audiences). There are still shows like Geraldo. The only joke that really falls flat (even the first time I saw it) was the Close Encounters joke.

TrixRabbi
Aug 20, 2010

Time for a little robot chauvinism!



I feel like young people who get really into Weird Al will still find the movie funny, but it's always going to be a cult oddity. I think it existing as more of a time capsule is part of its charm today, but yeah I can imagine in another 20 years it will look pretty foreign to young kids.

caligulamprey
Jan 23, 2007

It never stops.



I've shown UHF to a room full of 20-somethings and Geraldo knowledge or not, everyone loves to watch a KKK member get his head caved in.

TrixRabbi
Aug 20, 2010

Time for a little robot chauvinism!



Yeah, I mean I saw UHF when I was probably 12 or 13 and didn't understand most of the references but I think the jokes are funny enough on their own to stand up. I had no idea who Geraldo was when I saw it. Like, Raiders of the Lost Ark is likely to remain an eternal reference point, but most of the other gags are just really well done to not necessarily need to get the reference. Conan the Librarian, Gandhi II, Town Talk are all absurd enough on their own. The only thing I can think suffering is just that the gags might seem tame by modern standards.

Splint Chesthair
Dec 27, 2004



My brother showed it to my 10-year-old niece and she loved it, but I’m sure she has no idea what The Beverly Hillbillies or Dire Straits even were.

Even though we have atomized YouTube channels and all that pumping out weird content, that doesn’t equate to what UHF is. Channel 62 is still very much what television was to the monoculture, just bent like 45 degrees off its axis. It’s not like George was doing Ernie Kovacs style experimental stuff. The media landscape of the time just doesn’t exist anymore. It might always be funny, but the further we get from that specific period of time it loses something.

TrixRabbi
Aug 20, 2010

Time for a little robot chauvinism!



Assuming society keeps functioning, I don't know where UHF will be at in 100 years, but for now at least it's going to remain a cult classic and I think new generation of fans will come to it for at least as long as people still care about Weird Al. He's already proved he has way more staying power than half the people he's parodied and is sure to go down as a significant figure in the history of American comedy.

edit: In the same way I Lost on Jeopardy has endured, I'm sure the various TV references in UHF will stand strong. And even if they don't, the film throws so many gags at you if you miss one there's another right around the corner. Teaching poodles how to fly is timeless.

TrixRabbi fucked around with this message at 21:45 on May 18, 2020

King Vidiot
Feb 17, 2007

The video arcade made me what I am today!



It loses something, sure, like when I saw "Beverly Hillbillies" for the first time I was doubled over laughing but I had seen the original video and my boomer parents loved The Beverly Hillbillies. Twenty years from now? Yeah, I doubt that kids would get it, and the kids now wouldn't get it when they reached adulthood. The Beverly Hillbillies had a brief period in the 80's and 90's where younger people were aware of them because of Nick at Night or that Jim Varney movie, but that was 20 years ago.

I think it'll age like old Looney Tunes cartoons from the 40's. Kids still laugh at the absurd, broad comedy moments but when they start referencing Clark Gable and W.C. Fields the kids won't get it. It just won't matter because they've already moved on to the next sight gag, and so it goes with UHF. There's just so many silly moments that even if a joke doesn't land there's another one coming right after. If you'd somehow never in your life heard of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Weird Al getting flattened with a boulder is still funny, and the Rambo bit where he's shooting bullets out of his mouth. Conan the Librarian has a sight gag of a guy getting split in half with an axe. That stuff's funny no matter if you get the reference or not. Future generations will probably still laugh at Spatula City even if, god willing, we've somehow moved so far past capitalism that commercials no longer exist.

TrixRabbi
Aug 20, 2010

Time for a little robot chauvinism!



That's a good point though. This movie is slightly older than I am, but I knew the TV references cause I grew up watching Nick at Night and TV Land a lot so I had seen all those old sitcoms, or at least knew about them in passing (don't think I was ever a big Beverly Hillbillies fan but I knew the theme song by heart). I think that bridge to our parents' childhood entertainment is looser now. Or its moved perhaps to kids maybe being familiar with Rugrats and the such but probably not The Brady Bunch.

Egbert Souse
Nov 6, 2008



I'd highly recommend people check out The Compleat Al, which is an obscure made-for-video mockumentary/compilation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kParAzbFNaY

Lots of funny recurring gags like interviews with his parents barely concealing their contempt or photos of Al's girlfriends always covering their face from the camera.

(Shout! Factory released a DVD after it being out of print for decades, but it's on digital too)

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013


If it wasn't for disappointment,
I wouldn't have any appointment.





Grimey Drawer

I organized a remote group watch of this last night with four friends who had never seen it before, and it was a hit. One of my friends and I couldn't stop laughing.

One of them mentioned that Money For Nothing (Beverly Hillbillies) goes on for too long and slows down the movie, making the 2nd act a little slower to pick up steam again (which it does, in about 7 minutes or so). But two other friends liked the song parody and thought it was really good, and were impressed that Al had managed to put the theme songs lyrics on the Dire Strait songs. The theme song is also a banger. I'm personally a little frustrated that they wouldn't just make the end credits the music video for the theme song, since it's one of my favorite Weird Al music videos, with rapid-fire costume changes and musician parodies by Al.

This movie cleverly never gets too dark or heavy. The homeless man showing up with the $2k feels more earned than the average deus ex machina, because the simple joke of a homeless man freaking out over a penny pays off as karmic justice against the villain. There are so many quick pay-offs in the last few minutes, Macintosh tripping the villain's son, Fran Drescher getting to gloat via a news broadcast, Terri and Al making amends; it just feels really good.

Overall, it was a huge success, with one friend saying he laughed so hard his eyes teared up. The power of UHF, man.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013


If it wasn't for disappointment,
I wouldn't have any appointment.





Grimey Drawer

This was a favorite joke for everyone, conveniently made into a GIF!

Franchescanado fucked around with this message at 13:57 on May 20, 2020

Splint Chesthair
Dec 27, 2004



That homeless guy also participates in one of my favorite bits:

“Is this it?”
“Nope.”
“Is this it?”
“Nope.”

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013


If it wasn't for disappointment,
I wouldn't have any appointment.





Grimey Drawer

Splint Chesthair posted:

That homeless guy also participates in one of my favorite bits:

“Is this it?”
“Nope.”
“Is this it?”
“Nope.”

He gets several of the best jokes. The Rubix cube joke you mentioned, the coin joke from my point, and the brilliant "Do you have change, Mister?" joke.

Another great joke that got everyone.

TrixRabbi
Aug 20, 2010

Time for a little robot chauvinism!




This really is one of the most brilliant quick gags in a movie full of them.

As for Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies I'm pretty sure the studio demanded he have a song parody somewhere in the film and so that was their solution, which is why it ultimately feels shoehorned in since it's hard to just sort of drop a music video into the middle of a movie that's not a musical. For as wacky as the world of UHF is, it would probably break the mood of the world around it -- dour and downtrodden, strangely hostile and mean, drowning in the kitschiest Gates-of-Heaven-esque Americana schlock -- to just have an in-continuity song and dance number with the cast.

King Vidiot
Feb 17, 2007

The video arcade made me what I am today!



TrixRabbi posted:

... dour and downtrodden, strangely hostile and mean, drowning in the kitschiest Gates-of-Heaven-esque Americana schlock -- to just have an in-continuity song and dance number with the cast.

Except the movie Toys did exactly this with the music video scene.

TrixRabbi
Aug 20, 2010

Time for a little robot chauvinism!



King Vidiot posted:

Except the movie Toys did exactly this with the music video scene.

Which is why we're always talking about Toys 30 years later.

TrixRabbi
Aug 20, 2010

Time for a little robot chauvinism!



Rewatching the UHF music video and in the interest of getting this conversation into deeply uncomfortable territory, no one ever talks about how hot clean shaven, young Weird Al was.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013


If it wasn't for disappointment,
I wouldn't have any appointment.





Grimey Drawer

TrixRabbi posted:

Rewatching the UHF music video and in the interest of getting this conversation into deeply uncomfortable territory, no one ever talks about how hot clean shaven, young Weird Al was.



Even with the glasses and stache and perm, Al's lookin' pretty good in UHF.

egon_beeblebrox
Feb 29, 2008

WILL AMOUNT TO NOTHING IN LIFE.



King Vidiot
Feb 17, 2007

The video arcade made me what I am today!



Just call me Mister Butterfingers!

I went and ordered the blu ray and it's coming today, can't wait to rewatch this drat movie it's been years.

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Olympic Mathlete
Feb 25, 2011



gently caress, I remember bits from this film but not actually the film itself. I saw it at a friend's house when I was maybe 10? Anyway that was 20+ years ago and all I remember is Conan the Librarian and Spatula City. I need to rewatch!

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