UHF is a 1989 movie starring "Weird Al" Yankovic, written by Al and his manager Jay Levey (who directed). Al plays George Newman, a young man with an all-too-fertile imagination adrift in life. After getting fired from yet another job due to excessive daydreaming, he is appointed by his uncle Harvey as manager of Channel U62, a local UHF television station that Harvey won in a poker game.George and his friend Bob soon discover that U62 is a near-abandoned station with a staff of three, almost no reception to speak of, and nothing but stale reruns for programming. With optimistic enthusiasm, George tries to revitalize the station's schedule, but quickly realizes that the channel will soon go bankrupt; the local airwaves are dominated by Channel 8, a network affiliate VHF station whose owners are card carrying villainswith good publicity.Things change when a depressed George carelessly puts station janitor Stanley Spadowski in charge of the channel's early-morning kids' show; to everyone's surprise, Stanley's Cloud Cuckoolander antics become an instant hit across all demographics. Emboldened, George unleashes the full force of his creativity with a line of unique, oddball shows to fill out the rest of the schedule, with Stanley as their flagship superstar. These moves quickly catapult U62's ratings to #1 in town — which prompts Channel 8 head honcho R.J. Fletcher to take them down by any means necessary...Like Weird Al's music, the film focuses its comedy on oddball humor and satire, parody, and pastiche of pop culture. Released in 1989, at the height of Weird Al's popularity, the film was expected to be a summer blockbuster, but barely broke even at the box office (opening against the 1989 Batman movie, after all) and instead became a Cult Classic.
Trope examples include:
Abusive Parents: When R.J. Fletcher is introduced castigating an employee ruthlessly for not giving him the right type of pencil, it turns out that the employee is also his son!
Affectionate Parody: The film is a parody of cheaply run UHF stations from the 70s and 80s. It also features a number of parodies of well-known shows and movies.
A-Team Firing: Taken to a ludicrous extreme in the Rambo sequence.
All There in the Manual: Bob and Teri's last names (Speckler and Campbell), and the names of two of Fletcher's thugs (Frankie, the head thug, and Eddie, the killer thug). (Teri previously had the last name Moore, and Pamela had the last name of Taylor.) All of this was provided by Al in the DVD commentary.
Almighty Janitor: Broken into two roles. Stanley lives for being a humble janitor even after becoming famous as a show host (and God help you if you try to take his mop from him). Philo's the somewhat spacey engineer of this run-down station who proves to be a damn sneaky bastard when needed, possibly a Mad Scientist, and definitely an alien.
Ambiguously Gay: R.J. Fletcher's son, Richard. The voice, the mannerisms...
And Starring: "and Victoria Jackson as Teri". Apparently, Al and Victoria were dating at the time, which couldn't have hurt.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The human version...during the "Town Talk" promo, a bunch of weird guests are on the panel. They are, in order, A Neo-Nazi, A Dominatrix, A Klansman...A little girl with blond pigtails...and Jason Voorhees (or a Captain Ersatz thereof). Subverted in that the little girl is implied as an Enfant Terrible with a perpetual Slasher Smile.
Aside Glance: Right at the end of the film, George and Teri seemingly spontaneously act out Gone with the Wind. Then when Teri says "Because tomorrow is another day!", George glances at the camera and says to the audience "I knew she was gonna say that."
Author Existence Failure: Trinidad Silva, who played Raul, died in an auto accident before shooting all his scenes. The film is dedicated to him. The movie also had to abort his subplot, where the poodles got revenge.
Axe Crazy: The "Killer Thug" is implied to be this.
Dr Demento appears for a split second during a montage of Channel 62's shows, getting whipped cream sprayed into his mouth by Stanley (this was actually a portion of a larger scene that was cut, but was put in to provide Dr. D a cameo).
The Kipper Kids, a performance art duo, appear during the telethon doing a strange song-and-dance routine to the tune of 'The Umbrella Man'.
Emo Philips is the accident-prone high school shop teacher George interviews.
Contrived Clumsiness: One of the jerkasses (in this case, his own son, Richard) from R. J. Fletcher's station trips the midget camera man, Noodles Macintosh for U62, and sarcastically chimes "Oopsie!" Later, Noodles enacts his revenge by doing the same thing to Richard, except this time, the trip ends in a mud puddle.
Crazy Homeless People: The bum who ends up saving the station. In an often-missed gag, his first appearance has him hitting up George for change; not as a handout, but because he needed to break a dollar.
Its hinted at that he's not homeless but is just a crazy coin collector.
Deleted Scene: Included, along with Al's reasoning on why they were deleted... "Because they suck!"
Several of the deleted scenes involved a subplot with Teri's (Victoria Jackson's) secretary, who was completely taken out of the movie. Unfortunately, the actress playing the secretary wasn't told this until she saw the premiere.
When R.J. discovers that his office has been wrecked and his Mooks disarmed, he screamed after that, but that portion was trimmed. Oddly enough, it ended up in the theatrical trailer as part of a montage of screams.
R.J. Fletcher: This community means about as much to me as a festering bowl of dog snot! You think I care about the pea-brained yokels of this town?! If you took their combined IQ, and multiplied it by 100, you might have enough intelligence to tie your shoe, if you didn't drool all over yourself first! I can't stand those sniveling maggots! They make me want to puke! But, there is one good thing about broadcasting to a town full of mindless sheep: I always know I have them exactly where I want them!(maniacal laugh)"
Evil Laugh: R.J. Fletcher has a grand old time with these. His son takes a few cracks at it too, and has quite possibly the most pathetic evil laugh you will ever hear.
Excited Kids Show Host: Stanley Spadowski proves to act like this all the time. Putting him in front of the camera was just lucky. Subverted beforehand in that George tried to fill this role and failed miserably.
The Gambling Addict: Uncle Harvey, who regularly plays the horses and poker - the latter got him the station, and the former nearly resulted in him selling it to R.J. Fletcher.
George Jetson Job Security: The janitor, Stanley Spadowski got fired from Channel 8 by R.J. Fletcher who accused him of throwing away some very important files. They were later discovered right where Fletcher had left them, but Stanley wasn't un-fired.
There's even a slight implication that R.J. Fletcher did this deliberately to rid of Stanley.
Gilligan Cut: From Uncle Harvey saying "no way" about George becoming the manager of a TV station, to George and Teri on their way to the station for the first time.
A package meant for Channel 8 (Fletcher's station & lair of doom) arrives at Channel 62 (George's UHF station) by accident. George offers to deliver it personally to Fletcher. Pamela warns "...he's not the nicest guy in the world." After George scoffs and says "You just have to know how to talk to those guys..." CUT TO Fletcher berating his son about a pencil (see Abusive Parents example above).
Harpo Does Something Funny: Aside from one action sequence, Michael Richards' part is entirely ad libbed because "it was funnier than anything we could write."
Hey, It's That Guy!: The cast includes Michael Richards and Fran Drescher before either was well known, though, prior to this movie, Michael Richards was a cast member on the ABC sketch show Fridays, one of many sketch shows made as competition for NBC's Saturday Night Live (and, according to many fans and TV historians, the only one that would have been a perfect replacement for SNL had ABC not screwed with its timeslot and SNL not have recovered from having Jean Doumanian as a showrunner).
David Proval from The Sopranos is one of the kidnappers of Stanley.
Humiliation Conga: R.J. Fletcher. First his true beliefs about the community are revealed, making him the most hated man in the city; then he loses his contract because a random homeless person purchased enough stock to save U-62; gets his license revoked; gets called a "worthless slobbering pig" by Pamela, who overheard the revoke; gets kicked in the nuts by an old lady; learns the one coin he gave the already mentioned homeless person was what caused his downfall; and the homeless man was able to get the same watch Fletcher wanted. Weird Al states in the commentary that he put this in because he doesn't like it when a movie has a Karma Houdini.
I Ate What?: George accidentally feeds dog biscuits to Bob during filming of a Product Placement segment during the kids' show. As Bob is in character as "Bobbo the Clown", he has to fake a smile even as he's grossed out by the taste of the "cookies" he's eating.
"That's right, Yappy's Dog Treats! Your dog will love that real liver and tuna taste...
Kitschy Local Commercial: There are a few of these, including the Spatula City ad ("we sell spatulas, and that's all!") and the ad for Crazy Eddie's Used Car Emporium.
Large Ham: Kevin McCarthy's performance is so hammy that some major religions forbid eating watching it.
Laugh with Me: When R.J. Fletcher starts laughing, the two managers under him realize, after a short pause, that they'd better start forcing themselves to laugh along with him.
Like Reality Unless Noted: The town. It's a normal city with normal people watching their normal Channel 8... but when you see the odd content being aired on Channel 62 and realize all these people and things must have been out there already before they got TV shows, it makes you wonder what anyone found weird or odd about George at the beginning of the movie.
Loan Shark: Uncle Harvey owes $75,000 to an unseen shark who has a detachable cleaver for a hand.
Major Injury Underreaction: The shop teacher on "Town Talk" who reacts with sheepish embarrassment when he chops his thumb off with a table saw.
Market-Based Title: Since the concept of UHF stations are not commonly known overseas, they asked Al for an alternate title. He suggested "The Vidiot". The film was then released in some countries, much to Al's chagrin, as "The Vidiot From UHF", succeeding only in transforming an incomprehensible title to a terrible one. The Latin-American Spanish dub is known as "Los Telelocos" ("The TV Crazies" in English).note Which seems to be a fairly common practice, with Caddyshack being renamed Los locos del Golf (The Golf Crazies), and Police Academy being renamed Locademia de Policia (Crazy Academy of Police).
Completely Different Title: It had quite a plethora of foreign language titles in general; In Hungary it was released as Az őrület hullámhosszán, loosely translated as Wavelength of Madness. In Finland it was titled Kaapelit irti!, or Cable, Go!. In Norway it was Lufta er for alle (Air for Everyone), the Greece release had the mouthful of a title Ο πιο κουφος σταθμος στην πολη (The Most Deaf Station in the City), and Germany added a subtitle of Sender mit beschränkter Hoffnung (Broadcast of Limited Hope).
Most Common Card Game: The bad guys guarding Stanley Spadowski spend their time playing jacks and making string figures. Al mentions in the commentary that there was also a scene of them playing Candyland which had to be cut.
Parody Commercial: Contains a number of commercials for various U62 shows, including "Gandhi II", "Conan the Librarian", and "Wheel of Fish", as well as a few fake businesses, such as "Spatula City" and "Crazy Ernie's Used Car Emporium". The audio for some of these commercials was included on Weird Al's UHF CD.
Conan: Don't you know dah dew-ay dec-ihm-ahl sys-tahm?
Science Marches On: An interesting tidbit in the very beginning at Big Edna's. You can see a sign in the background saying that they cook all of their meat "medium with a pink center unless otherwise specified". This was in 1989 and not a joke, as it was before the 1993 Jack-in-the-Box E. coli disaster in which four children died and hundreds of others became sick in the Seattle area as well as California, Idaho and Nevada, after eating undercooked and contaminated meat from Jack in the Box. These days all meat is cooked well done unless specified, and menus have warnings against eating undercooked meats.
George's show, "Uncle Nutzy's Clubhouse" takes its name from a skit in an issue of MAD.
Stanley's speech about running to a window and shouting "These floors are dirty as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore! is a reference to the famous scene in Network''. The whole concept of a station/network rising to instant unscripted prominence could be considered one, too.
Philo is named after Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of the television.
The final scene is a fantasy sequence with George and Teri as Rhett and Scarlett in "Gone with the Wind".
Stanley waves his mop like a Star Wars light saber, complete with the sound effects.
One of the unseen shows on U62's lineup is "The Volcano Worshipers Hour". The Volcano Worshipers were a made-up group Al created in high school just so he and his other friends on the yearbook committee could get an extra picture of themselves in the yearbook.
The "Money For Nothing" parody is all about The Beverly Hillbillies. It contains scenes from the show as well as parodies of the song video.
When George is threatened by Fletcher's henchmen while attempting to rescue Stanley: "Redrum! Redruuum!"
Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Although the station's location is never mentioned, it is clearly filmed in Tulsa, with several landmarks making appearances. There's an entire fan page listing these locations. Al lists off the addresses for many of the locations as they appear during his commentary track.
Your Favorite: The "Twinkie Wiener" sandwich, a hot dog cut into a Twinkie and topped with spray cheese, offered by Al to his friend Bob. These remain Al's Trademark Favorite Food in real life, though as a vegetarian he uses tofu dogs now.