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Stay Tuned Effectively Warns Against the Evils of Too Much TV

Poster for Peter Hyams' Stay Tuned.
poster for Stay Tuned.

Stay Tuned finds Roy Knable and his wife Helen on the verge of divorce. They no longer communicate and Roy has a constant preoccupation with television. After their TV set breaks, Roy purchases a new entertainment system from a door-to-door salesman. What Roy fails to notice is that the new setup has literally cost him his soul. After the system is installed, Roy and Helen are unwittingly transported via satellite to a television network from Hell. Once there, they have 24 hours to redeem themselves and save their souls.

Stay Tuned is directed by Peter Hyams (End of Days) and written by Tom S. Parker, Jim Jennewein, and Richard Siegel. The concept is both inventive and entertaining. It serves as a cautionary tale; warning against the perils of too much television but is also perfectly entertaining without any of the subtext factored in.

Stay Tuned, while technically not a proper horror film, is rife with horror overtones. It combines sci-fi, fantasy, and a touch of horror to make a family-friendly viewing experience.

As a young horror fan, Stay Tuned was a childhood favorite of mine. Upon revisiting Stay Tuned as an adult, it still holds up. The subtext regarding the perils of too much television are laid on a little thick at times but the film still effectively makes its point. And since the feature is geared towards younger viewers, there is reasonable justification for being a little more heavy handed with the subtext.

John Ritter (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and Pam Dawber (Aaahh!!! Real Monsters) have a natural onscreen chemistry that is perfectly befitting to early nineties cinema. David Tom (Stepfather III) and Heather McComb (Apt Pupil) are a touch obnoxious as the Knable children but they are never unbearable and they become less annoying as the film progresses.

The special effects, though dated by today’s standards, were state of the art for the time. The film employs the use of both practical and digital effects. When revisiting it, the FX look very primitive but one cannot help but feel a pang of nostalgia for the simpler time in which Stay Tuned was made.

Stay Tuned is the kind of film that a horror fan can safely show his or her children of appropriate age. Even the more intense scenes are fairly tame. However, it is films like this that make it possible for us to share our love of the macabre with the next generation without scarring them or inducing nightmares.

If you have somehow missed out on Stay Tuned, it is a highly enjoyable film. It may not offer the same magic to someone seeing it for the first time as an adult but it should still provide a memorable viewing experience even for the un-inducted.

The home video release contains the film’s theatrical trailer and an entertaining behind the scenes featurette. It is currently out of print on DVD but a used copy can still be had for under $20.00 via leading online resellers. If you’re a fan of this early ‘90s classic, I would suggest picking up a copy before it’s commanding a king’s ransom.

WICKED RATING: 7/10 

Director(s): Peter Hyams
Writer(s):  Tom S. Parker, Jim Jennewein, and Richard Siegel
Stars: John Ritter, Pam Dawber
Year: 1992
Studio/ Production Co: Warner Brothers, Morgan Creek
Budget: Unknown
Language: English
Length: 88 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Fantasy

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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dogs, and cat hat(s).
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