It is the future year of 1985 and American society is going down the drain. What is being blamed for this? The free television station called Tunnel Vision, the "No-Bullshit Network", which is attracting up a huge share of the audience, even to the extent that people are giving up their jobs to stay at home and watch it. A Congressional Hearing is called to address the problem, and the head of Tunnel Vision (Phil Proctor) agrees to show examples of the broadcasts, taken from a random day's schedule, for the senators to make up their minds on whether the station should be closed down or not.
Resembling a very long trailer for a bigger movie, Tunnel Vision was written by Michael Mislove and co-director Neal Israel, and one of the short lived cycle of sketch movies that were released in the seventies and eighties, which ranged from the very good, like The Kentucky Fried Movie, to the mostly mediocre, like The Groove Tube. The film is like a version of the upcoming Saturday Night Live with more near-the-knuckle humour, all at the expense of what your average American would be treated to on an average day's television viewing.
Despite being set in the future, Tunnel Vision says more about the era it was made than about what TV would be really like years later. The opinion seems to be that TV will be seriously dumbed down, which, right enough, is what TV is accused of today, but this is less ahead of its time than what the critics have repeatedly been saying since the medium was invented. Contemporary concerns such as political corruption, pollution, sexual liberation, war and crime inform the humour, making this a time capsule of the hip, cynical attitudes of 1976.
Spoofs of TV genres make up the larger part of the film, rather than take offs of specific shows. There are plenty of news reports, read out by serious sounding men, saying supposedly outrageous things (although the anti-Polish joke comes across as sincere), and an ever-present continuity announcer presents previews for the ridiculous prime-time winners, such as the self-explanatory "The Pregnant Man", or "Get Head" (a cop show starring a disembodied head). And don't forget the ads, including one for the church which has an archbishop disrobing to reveal he is a woman.
Some of the jokes, not many, but some of them, are pretty funny in a smartass way. A wholesome sitcom seeing its Mary Tyler Moore-style heroine end one scene giving an out-of-character blowjob, or the brief trails for shows like Celebrity Wrestling (Jackie Onassis vs Sammy Davis Jr) are amusing enough. There are two running gags, one which sees two candidates for mayor attempting campaigns of oneupmanship that escalate to murder, and another which has a French chef blindfolded for a margarine taste test, only to wander through the rest of the film at odd moments. More historically interesting than anything else, especially as it features some celebrities-to-be, Tunnel Vision at least doesn't outstay its welcome: it's just over an hour long. Music by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.