The Cable Guy

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The Cable Guy
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ben Stiller
Produced by Judd Apatow
Andrew Licht
Jeffrey A. Mueller
Written by Lou Holtz, Jr.
Judd Apatow[1][2]
Music by John Ottman
Cinematography Robert Brinkmann
Edited by Steven Weisberg
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 14, 1996 (1996-06-14)
Running time
96 minutes[3]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $47 million[3]
Box office $102.8 million[3]

The Cable Guy is a 1996 American black comedy film directed by Ben Stiller, starring Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick.[4] It was released in the United States on June 14, 1996. The film co-stars Leslie Mann, Jack Black, George Segal, Diane Baker, Eric Roberts, Owen Wilson, Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Andy Dick, Amy Stiller, and Bob Odenkirk.[4]

Despite a modest commercial reception, the movie received mixed reviews. Over the years, the film has been considered by many as one of the most underrated works of Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller.[5]


After a failed marriage proposal to his girlfriend Robin Harris, Steven M. Kovacs moves into his own apartment. Taking advice from his friend Rick, Steven bribes cable guy, Ernie "Chip" Douglas, to give him free movie channels, which he does, after fixing Steven's television and trying to find the electrical problem behind the wall while muttering sexual innuendos. Chip gets Steven to hang out with him the next day in the local satellite dish and makes him one of his "preferred customers".

Chip takes Steven to the satellite dish responsible for sending out television signals. Steven tells his problems with Robin to Chip, who advises him to admit his faults to Robin and invite her over to watch Sleepless in Seattle. Steven takes Chip's advice, and Robin agrees to watch the movie with him. Chip begins acting more suspiciously, running into Steven and his friends at the gym (Chip amuses Steven and his cohorts by destroying the backboard of the basketball hoop) and leaving several messages on Steven's answering machine. When Robin arrives to watch the movie, the cable is out, due to Chip, who intentionally sabotaged Steven's cable. Chip fixes the cable under the condition that they hang out again, to which Steven agrees.

Chip takes Steven to Medieval Times, where Chip imitates Hannibal Lecter by covering his face with turkey skin and arranges for them to battle in the arena, referencing the Star Trek episode "Amok Time". Chip behaves aggressively, nearly killing Steven, who eventually bests him in combat. When they arrive at Steven's home, Chip reveals that he's installed an expensive home theater system in his living room, which includes a television and a karaoke machine.

Chip and Steven later host a party attended by Chip's "preferred customers" (mostly elderly citizens). Chip sings the song "Somebody to Love" by Jefferson Airplane (clearly a reference to Chip's emotional desire for human contact) on the karaoke machine. Steven decides to enjoy the party and with Chip's help, Steven sleeps with a young party guest named Heather, who later Chip reveals is a prostitute and Steven throws Chip out.

Chip tracks down Robin, who is on a date with another man. Chip enters wearing a crudely fashioned disguise consisting of a mustache and sunglasses. When the man goes to the bathroom, Chip severely beats him while using puns about "freshening up" and tells him to stay away from Robin. He later upgrades Robin's cable, saying that it is on Steven, as well as telling Robin an anecdote about a loved one who died as a result of poor relationship communication. Robin decides to get back together with Steven as a result.

However, Steven tells Chip that they cannot be friends, which sets a hurt Chip on a series of vengeful acts. He gets Steven arrested for possession of stolen property at the moment that Steven makes a big business deal. During his time in jail, he is visited by his parents and Chip, who mocks him through a prison visitation window. Steven tries to alert a guard about Chip, but the guard is one of Chip's "preferred customers" and thus does not react. After a weekend of humiliation, Steven is released on bail.

During a dinner with his family and Robin, Steven is horrified to see Chip in attendance. Steven tells him to leave, but Chip tells him to play along or he will show everyone a picture of Steven with the prostitute. The evening goes from bad to worse when Chip manipulates the family, tells several bad jokes, and eventually pushes Steven too far by playing a sexualized version of the game show Password with the rest of the family. Steven flies into a rant about Chip's true intentions but nobody believes him. Chip whispers something disturbing about Robin into Steven's ear, which results in Steven punching Chip in the face, shocking everyone else. Chip complies and leaves, feigning depression. Steven is fired from his job the next day when Chip sends out a video of Steven insulting his boss that was recorded on a hidden camera in his apartment.

Steven has a nightmare about Chip breaking down his door and chasing him out of the window in the middle of the night, with eerie green eyes. After doing some investigating, Rick tells Steven that Chip has been fired from the cable company for stalking customers, and uses the names of television characters as aliases such as Chip Douglas from My Three Sons and Larry Tate from Bewitched. Chip calls Steven that night, telling him he is paying Robin a visit. After visiting Robin's empty apartment, Steven tracks them down to the satellite dish, where Chip holds Robin hostage in a rainstorm.

After a physical altercation and a chase, Steven is able to save Robin. As the police arrive, Chip goes into a speech on how he was raised by television and apologizes to Steven for being a bad friend. Chip dives backwards from the top of a ladder above the satellite dish, falling onto it and knocking out the television signal to the entire town, just as the verdict in a highly publicised trial similar to the "Lyle and Erik Menendez" killing is about to be revealed. One viewer, realising that his television is unfixable, decides to read a book instead.

Ben Stiller portrays the killer, a former child star in a fictional sitcom about twins. The murder trial has several references prior to this scene, including a cheesy commercial about a sensationalized docudrama based on the trial which bears resemblance to sketches from The Ben Stiller Show, as well as a news clip which replays Stiller's phony call to 911 following the murder of his identical twin brother.

Chip survives the fall and avoids the satellite's middle spike, much to his dismay, and injures his back. As Steven and Robin reunite, Steven forgives Chip and asks for his real name. Chip jokingly replies "Ricky Ricardo". Chip is then taken to the hospital in a helicopter, while the I Love Lucy theme plays in the background. When one of the paramedics addresses him as "buddy", Chip asks the paramedic if he is truly his buddy, to which the paramedic replies "Yeah, sure you are", causing Chip to smile deviously, hinting that the paramedic is about to be his next victim.



First time screenwriter Lou Holtz, Jr. had the idea for The Cable Guy while working as a prosecutor in Los Angeles, declaring that he once saw a cable company employee in the hallway of his mother's apartment building and started thinking, "What's he doing here so late?" The screenplay became the subject of a bidding war, won by Columbia Pictures at a price of $1 million. The role of the Cable Guy was originally written for Chris Farley, who turned it down due to scheduling difficulties.

Jim Carrey joined the production, receiving a then record $20 million to star. Following Carrey's signing, Columbia hired Judd Apatow to produce. The studio rebuffed Apatow's interest in directing, but accepted his suggestion to invite Ben Stiller, star of his eponymous show on which Apatow had worked.[6][7]

The original screenplay by Lou Holtz, Jr. was a lighter comedy, described by Apatow as "a What About Bob? annoying friend movie" where the Cable Guy was a likeable loser who intrudes upon the cable subscriber's life, but never in a physically threatening way. Carrey, Apatow and Stiller liked the setup of "somebody who is really smart with technology invading somebody's life", and opted to add slapstick and darker tones, changing into a satire of thrillers such as Cape Fear, Unlawful Entry and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. The dialogue would also fit Carrey's style of comedy.[8]

Holtz wrote four additional drafts, each one darker than the previous, before leaving the project and giving Apatow the opportunity to take over the writing.[8] Apatow and Stiller visited Carrey as he was filming Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls in South Carolina, and over a few days, riffed a lot of the set pieces that were added to the script, and further explored how Carrey wanted to perform the character.[7]

The final script had elements so disturbing that Columbia heard many complaints regarding certain scenes. In turn, Apatow declared that the studio did not specifically order removals, "but we took [the scenes] out as part of the natural evolution of our creative process". Stiller stated that he shot every scene with "a dark version and a light version", and that he was surprised that the studio did not object to the violent ending.[8][9]

The fight sequence at Medieval Times between Chip (Jim Carrey) and Steven (Matthew Broderick) is an homage to the Star Trek episode "Amok Time" — including the use of Vulcan weapons (lirpa), the dialogue and the background music.[10] Director Ben Stiller is an admitted Star Trek fan.[11]


The film grossed $19,806,226 on its opening weekend. It grossed a total $60,240,295 in the North American domestic market, and $42,585,501 outside the United States, making a total of $102,825,796 worldwide gross, but failed to reach domestic projected numbers Jim Carrey brings to most movies. Despite the critical perception that the movie was a flop, it made a profit in excess of its $47 million production budget.

It has gained cult like status among moviegoers.[7][9] The film was released in the United Kingdom on July 12, 1996, and opened on #2, behind Mission: Impossible.[12]


The Cable Guy has been regarded as having a darker tone than most of Carrey's previous work.[13] Audiences had mixed reactions to this change of tone for Carrey and film critics gave mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 53% based on 58 reviews.[14]

The film was on J. Hoberman's Top 10 best of the year.[15] Roger Ebert included The Cable Guy in his worst of the year list for 1996,[16] though colleague Gene Siskel disagreed, calling it "a very good film. (Carrey's) best since The Mask".[17] Ebert's main problems with the film were that he found Carrey's performance so bizarre and creepy that it undermined the entire story, and also that the movie was more of a dark comedy than was necessary for it to work.

The film was also noted for its similarities to the Australian telemovie The Plumber (1979), which was written and directed by Peter Weir, who would later direct Carrey in The Truman Show (1998).

The Cable Guy was released on VHS on December 3, 1996, DVD on September 15, 1997 and Blu-ray on March 1, 2011.


Cable Guy:
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released May 21, 1996 (1996-05-21)
Recorded 1995–1996
Genre Soundtrack
Label Work
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic2/5 stars[18]

The Cable Guy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the official soundtrack.[19] It consists of previously unreleased songs, largely of alternative rock and heavy metal bands, and includes the first solo recording by Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains fame. The soundtrack includes Jim Carrey's version of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" which was performed by him in the film. It also includes a song from $10,000 Gold Chain, a side project of Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready. White Zombie's "More Human than Human" is featured in a dramatic scene of the film but was not included on the soundtrack release.

Cantrell's "Leave Me Alone" served as the soundtrack's promotional vehicle and was released as a single, peaking at No. 14 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[20] It had a music video that featured various footage from Cable Guy in a dark manner typical of Cantrell's style. It also had Jim Carrey's haunting face reaching out of a television screen observing Cantrell..[21] The music video was included as a bonus feature on the 15th anniversary edition Blu-Ray of The Cable Guy in 2011.[22]

While the album as a whole was not well received, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic noted that "Leave Me Alone" positively "rocks as hard as any Alice in Chains track".[23] The track "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand" gained popularity for its appearance in the film and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in 1996.[24]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "I'll Juice You Up" – Jim Carrey
  2. "Leave Me Alone" – Jerry Cantrell
  3. "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand" – Primitive Radio Gods
  4. "Blind" – Silverchair
  5. "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" (The Velvet Underground cover) – $10,000 Gold Chain
  6. "End of the World is Coming" – David Hilder
  7. "Satellite of Love" – Porno for Pyros
  8. "Get Outta My Head" – Cracker
  9. "Somebody to Love" – Jim Carrey
  10. "The Last Assassin" – Cypress Hill
  11. "This Is" – Ruby
  12. "Hey Man, Nice Shot" (Promo-Only Remix) – Filter
  13. "Unattractive" – Toadies
  14. "Download" – Expanding Man
  15. "This Concludes Our Broadcast Day" – John Ottman

In popular culture[edit]

  • In The Simpsons episode "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?", Homer and Bart criticize the quality of the film's script when seeing it on display at the Planet Springfield restaurant. Homer then proceeds to angrily tear up the script as it "nearly wrecked Jim Carrey's career", much to the shock of the restaurant's patrons.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Judd Apatow Tells Us the Legend of The Cable Guy, the Bomb That Wasn't". Vulture. 2011-03-01. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  2. ^ "13 Hooked Up Facts About The Cable Guy". 2016-06-14. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  3. ^ a b c "The Cable Guy (1996)". Box office mojo. IMDB. 1996-08-30. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  4. ^ a b "The Cable Guy". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "The 1996 Summer Movie Preview: June". Entertainment Weekly. May 24, 1996. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c Rabin, Nathan (March 1, 2011). "INTERVIEW: Judd Apatow". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Welkos, Robert W. (June 25, 1996). "Humor Too Dark for Its Own Good?". The Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ a b Sellers, John (March 4, 2011). "Judd Apatow Tells Us the Legend of The Cable Guy, the Bomb That Wasn't". Vulture. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  10. ^ "''Cable Guy'' trivia". Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  11. ^ Star Trek 30th Anniversary Special, October 6, 1996
  12. ^ "Weekend box office 12th July 1996 - 14th July 1996". Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  13. ^ Kehr, Dave (February 25, 2011). "Jim Carrey as the Id Unleashed a Bit Before Its Time". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "The Cable Guy". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  15. ^ "J. Hoberman's Top Ten Lists 1977-2006". Eric C. Johnson. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (host); Siskel, Gene (host) (January 11, 1997). "The Worst Films of 1996". Siskel & Ebert. Season 11. syndicated. My next big star in a bad movie is Jim Carrey, who got one of the year's biggest paychecks for The Cable Guy but forgot he became a top box office star by being a likable nut in funny comedies. The Cable Guy was an exercise in hatefulness with Carrey playing a pathological character who seemed not funny but obnoxious and annoying. [...] Jim Carrey has generated a very real comic talent but he can't work with material as negative as it is in The Cable Guy.
  17. ^ "Siskel & Ebert - The Cable Guy (1996)". Tribune Broadcasting. Retrieved 2013-12-15.
  18. ^ "The Cable Guy - Original Soundtrack". AllMusic.
  19. ^ The Cable Guy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Retrieved March 24, 2008.
  20. ^ "Jerry Cantrell "Leave Me Alone" Chart History". Billboard. July 6, 1996. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  21. ^ "Jerry Cantrell - Leave Me Alone". YouTube. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  22. ^ "The Cable Guy - 15th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. February 18, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  23. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "The Cable Guy - Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  24. ^ "Primitive Radio Gods "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand" Chart History – Alternative Songs". Billboard. July 27, 1996. Retrieved July 25, 2018.

External links[edit]