Stay Tuned (film)

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Stay Tuned
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Hyams
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Jim Jennewein
  • Tom S. Parker
  • Richard Siegel
Produced byJames G. Robinson
CinematographyPeter Hyams
Edited byPeter E. Berger
Music byBruce Broughton
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • August 14, 1992 (1992-08-14)
Running time
88 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$15-20 million[2]
Box office$12 million[3]

Stay Tuned is a 1992 American fantasy comedy film directed by Peter Hyams and written by Jim Jennewein and Tom S. Parker, with an animated sequence supervised by Chuck Jones. The film stars John Ritter, Pam Dawber, Jeffrey Jones, and Eugene Levy. Its plot follows a suburban couple who are sucked into a television world by an emissary of hell, and must survive for 24 hours in order to be released from it.

Stay Tuned was released in the United States on August 14, 1992, by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics and grossed $12 million.


Struggling Seattle plumbing salesman, former fencing athlete, and couch potato Roy Knable lives with his neglected wife Helen, a vitamin product senior manager. After a fight (which involved Helen smashing the family television screen with one of Roy's fencing trophies as a wake-up call to reality), Mr. Spike, a mysterious salesman, appears at the couple's door, offering them a new high-tech satellite dish system filled with 666 channels of programs one cannot view on regular television (with titles including "Three Men and Rosemary's Baby" and "Sadistic Hidden Videos"). But Helen showed up when she discovered a TV set and later plans to divorce. Unbeknownst to Roy, Spike is an emissary from hell who wants to boost the influx of souls by arranging for TV junkies to be killed in the most gruesome and ironic situations imaginable. The 'candidates' are sucked into a hellish television world, called Hellevision, and put through a gauntlet where they must survive a number of demonic satirical versions of sitcoms and movies. If they can survive for 24 hours, they are free to go, but if they get killed, then their souls will become the property of Satan.

The dish sucks Roy and Helen into this warped world, where they are put through a hellish game show, wrestling match, and a parody of Northern Exposure (titled "Northern Overexposure"), in which they meet Crowley, an exiled former co-worker of Spike's, who explains to them how this world works. Through tenacity, improvisation, and sheer luck, the Knables stay alive and escape into different channels through portals hidden within the shows and movies. While watching the TV, their young son Darryl recognizes his parents fighting for their lives as animated mice in a Tom and Jerry-style cartoon in which they are pursued by a robotic cat, after which they become separated. Roy appears in a parody of Wayne's World ("Duane's Underworld") featuring the titular characters as zombies, in which he is nearly burned to death with hot pokers, but manages to escape. Roy eventually finds Helen in a black-and-white gangster movie, and the two escape into a miniseries about the French Revolution ("Off With His Head") in which Roy is captured and nearly beheaded. Darryl, a tech geek, is able to use radio equipment to patch into the miniseries and convince the characters he is God, demanding they let his parents go, which infuriates Spike.

Roy's 24 hours are up at this point, but since he was the only one who signed Spike's contract, this activates a loophole wherein he can make Helen remain in the TV world and use her to lure Roy back in. Spike enters the TV world and kidnaps Helen, changing channels again. She finds herself tied to a cart sitting across the railway track in a town straight out of a Western movie, with Spike gleefully informing her that the 3:10 to Yuma is due soon, and then sadistically adding that it isn’t scheduled to stop. Helen subsequently sees that the cart is stacked with barrels labelled dynamite, meaning she risks being hit by a speeding train and blown up. Spike, in the guise of a newsreader, informs Roy and his kids - watching from their home - that Helen has been kidnapped and is being held captive on Channel One, in an attempt to lure Roy back in.

Roy goes back in and has a gunfight with Spike wherein he is shot. However, the bullet is stopped by Roy's remote control. He and Spike then fight over the other remote and this causes the two to be zapped through demonic and twisted parodies of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Driving Miss Daisy (titled "Driving Over Miss Daisy"), a violent ice hockey game, a crash test dummy demonstration in which Spike cheerfully informs the audience that Roy has neither a seatbelt or an airbag, and finally an episode of Three's Company, the latter of which completely horrifies Roy. Every so often the action switches back to Helen in the Wild West, as she struggles to free herself from her ropes, as the speeding steam train approaches.

Roy finally confronts his enemy in a medieval swashbuckling movie and they proceed to have a fencing match. They then get zapped into a Salt-N-Pepa music video, where Roy gets hold of Spike's remote, sends him back into the swashbuckling movie. Returning to Channel One, Roy tries to save Helen by changing channels, only to find that the demonic production team at Hellevision have locked out any escape options. At the last moment Roy and Helen realise they can escape once and for all by turning the remote off, doing so moments before the speeding steam train crashes through the cart, creating a fiery explosion as the dynamite explodes.

Roy and Helen arrive back in their garden. Their neighbour’s ill behaved and vicious Rottweiler appears about to attack, but ends up getting sucked into the dish just before it destroys itself. In the end, Spike gets eliminated by the Rottweiler on the command of Crowley, and is then succeeded in his executive position by Pierce, a younger upstart intern. Having learned a valuable lesson after his adventure, Roy dramatically cuts back on his TV viewing, quits his job as a plumbing salesman, and opens his own fencing school, in which he advises one of his students that watching too much TV can get you into trouble.


The group's manager and primary producer Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor (credited under his birth name "Herby Azor") and his brother Steve Azor appear as dancers during the "Start Me Up" segment.


In 1990, Jim Jennewein and Tom S. Parker wrote the entire story for the film, under the working title Terrorvision (not to be confused with TerrorVision), inspired by the idea of "The Evil Dead meets Monty Python".

Tim Burton was originally chosen to be the director on account of his art and style, but left to direct Batman Returns.[4]

The script was purchased by Warner Bros. for $750,000.[5]


The film was not screened for film critics.[6] The film holds a 47% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 17 reviews, with an average score of 4.6/10.[7] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 41 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[8]

Stephen Holden of The New York Times called the film a "cleverly plotted movie" based on a "nifty satiric concept" but said that "most of its takeoffs ... show no feel for genre and no genuine wit."[9] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post called the film "wonderfully silly" and a "zippy action spoof."[10] Variety reported the film was "not diabolical enough for true black comedy, too scary and violent for kids lured by its PG rating and witless in its sendup of obsessive TV viewing...a picture with nothing for everybody"; it noted that the "six-minute cartoon interlude by the masterful Chuck Jones, with Ritter and Dawber portrayed as mice menaced by a robot cat...has a grace and depth sorely lacking in the rest of the movie."[6] Time Out called it "pointless 'satire'" with the "emotional depth of a 30-second soap commercial."[11]

Box office[edit]

Stay Tuned opened at #6 in the US, which the Los Angeles Times called a "fuzzy reception".[12] The film grossed $10.7 million in the US and Canada and grossed only $1 million internationally for a worldwide total of $12 million.[13][3]

Television adaptation[edit]

In August 2020, it was reported that AMC Studios was developing a television series adaptation of the film with Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing as writers, a part of Goldberg's overall deal at AMC Studios.[14]


Stay Tuned
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedAugust 29, 1992
GenreHip hop
LabelMorgan Creek

The soundtrack to the film is made up entirely of hip hop songs with the exception of the last two tracks, which were themes composed by Bruce Broughton. Tracks in bold are used in the movie.

Track listing[edit]

1."Start Me Up"Salt-n-Pepa4:45
2."The Choice Is Yours"Black Sheep3:22
3."Taste"Auto & Cherokee4:07
5."Strobelite Honey"Black Sheep3:07
6."Message From the Boss"Ultramagnetic MCs4:47
7."The Mic Stalker"Doctor Ice2:57
8."Bad, Bad, Bad"Kool Moe Dee4:48
9."Darryl's Dad"Bruce Broughton1:17
10."Stay Tuned (Main Theme)"Bruce Broughton2:07

Score album[edit]

Broughton's score was released in 2011 by Intrada Records.

1."Main Title"2:57
2."Meet Darryl"1:03
3."The Dish"2:56
4."A Bumpy Ride"2:12
5."Sayonara, Mrs. Seidenbaum"0:33
6."Field Work"0:55
7."Gordon Bashing"2:04
8."It Ate My BMX"2:01
9."Wolf Attack"0:45
10."That's My Bike!"2:53
11."Offering to Help"1:47
12."You Have Tits"1:35
13."Aim The Dish"0:30
14."Off With Your Wig"3:34
15."Darryl Breaks Through"0:52
17."Roy Goes Back"1:10
18."The 3:10 to Yuma"1:55
19."Roy Gets Shot"0:53
20."Crashing In"0:32
21."The Big Sword Fight"1:19
22."Turn It Off!"1:50
23."So What Can I Tell You..."0:53
24."The Game Show"1:29
25."TV Theme Medley"3:32
26."Roy Knable, Private Dick"3:26
27."We're Cartoons"6:42


  1. ^ "Stay Tuned (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. October 1, 1992. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  2. ^ "Stay Tuned (1992)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films.
  3. ^ a b "Morgan Creek Prods. Box Office". Variety. February 15, 1993. p. 46.
  4. ^ Childs, Paul (February 22, 2018). "Looking back at Stay Tuned". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on October 17, 2021. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  5. ^ Ayscough, Suzan (January 12, 1993). "MGM 'Geting Even' for 500G". Variety. Archived from the original on October 9, 2021. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  6. ^ a b McBride, Joseph (August 17, 1992). "Stay Tuned". Variety. Archived from the original on August 26, 2022. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  7. ^ "Stay Tuned". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on January 1, 2022. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
  8. ^ "Stay Tuned Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on September 12, 2022. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  9. ^ Holden, Stephen (August 15, 1992). "Review/Film; Bedeviled Suburbanites With a 24-Hour Deadline". The New York Times. Retrieved August 4, 2023.
  10. ^ Kempley, Rita (August 18, 1992). "'Stay Tuned' (PG)". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 6, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  11. ^ "Stay Tuned". Time Out. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011.
  12. ^ Fox, David J. (August 18, 1992). "Weekend Box Office : Eastwood Still Tall in the Saddle". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 3, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  13. ^ "Stay Tuned". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  14. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (August 6, 2020). "'Stay Tuned' TV Series Based On 1992 Film In The Works At AMC Studios From Ian Goldberg & Richard Naing". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on August 18, 2021. Retrieved August 6, 2020.

External links[edit]