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  UHF What's On TV
Year: 1989
Director: Jay Levey
Stars: Weird Al Yankovic, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Richards, David Bowe, Stanley Brock, Anthony Geary, Trinidad Silva, Gedde Watanabe, Billy Barty, John Paragon, Fran Drescher, Sue Ane Langdon, David Proval, Grant James, Emo Philips
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 3 votes)
Review: In the depths of the jungle, George (Weird Al Yankovic) is venturing forth to claim the lost treasure of the ancients, but if only it were as easy as walking up to it and putting it in his pocket. He has already been advanced upon by one of his companions, but fended him off by taking his machete arm with his whip, and now, as they enter the abandoned temple, his other companion hysterically warns him against continuing only to be knocked over by a speeding train. But George does indeed find the treasure - an Academy Award - and walks out, triumphant. Or he would if it were not for that huge stone globe rolling towards him...

The above, if you haven't worked it out, was a dream sequence in the form of a parody of a well known movie, and who better to bring us an example of the spoofer's art than Weird Al Yankovic, who came up with UHF off the back of a decade spent sending up the pop music of the day. Perhaps the secret to his popularity was his insistence on fashioning pinsharp accurate versions of the accompanying videos, which would play on music channels and shows, often to the delight of the people who had liked the originals. Therefore moving into the motion picture business was the next obvious stage in his world domination plans.

Well, it didn't quite work out that way, as this was swamped by the huge, mega-blockbusters that it shared cinemas with in the summer of '89, and it didn't do too well overseas either thanks to nobody there knowing what the title meant. But what we had here was that old favourite of the comedian's art, the spoof television channel, and you got the impression that if Al could have dispensed with such complications as a plot that had to make narrative sense, he would have been happier filling up his ninety minutes with parody after parody. As it was, he played George, a dreamer who had difficulty holding down a job.

That is until his Uncle Harvey (Stanley Brock) wins a tiny television station while gambling, and agrees to hand over the manager's duties to George. Now, as we all know in movies of this type, every group of misfits has to have an evil, humourless and conniving villain or two to pit their wits against, and it turns out that the station - called Channel 62 - has a rival, even if that rival has never heard of it before (but then, few people have). This broadcasting company is headed by R.J. Fletcher, played with lipsmacking relish by Kevin McCarthy, and when we meet him he has just fired a janitor, Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards), who happens to be hired by the hapless but eager George.

Stanley turns into Channel 62's big star, earning them huge ratings and gaining the attention of Fletcher who works out a way to sabotage them, and so forth, well, you could write this stuff in your sleep, complete with the baddies getting their comeuppance at the finale, but what Weird Al's fans really wanted to see were those mock trailers, clips and ads. There are perhaps not as many as you might have liked, as the plot keeps getting in the way, though once you've seen Conan the Librarian or Gandhi II (reimagined as a hardhitting action movie), you won't forget them in a hurry. These bits border on the surreal, such as the overenthusiastic commercial for "Spatula World", or the lengthy take off of Rambo: First Blood Part II featuring a heavily muscled Al blowing as many things up as he possibly can. It could be that UHF lacks a killer instinct, being too goodnatured for that, but it has a puppy dog charm that wins you over.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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