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Film / The Cable Guy

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Once you let him into your house, you'll never get him out of your life!

"I can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. You seem to prefer the latter."
Chip Douglas

The Cable Guy is a 1996 Black Comedy film directed by Ben Stiller, written by Judd Apatow, and starring Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick and Apatow's future wife Leslie Mann.

After his girlfriend Robin (Mann) flips out and gives him the boot, Steven Kovacs (Broderick) gets the very last thing he needed to fill the new void: an incredibly bizarre cable installer named Chip Douglas (Carrey) who latches on and insinuates himself into Steven's life. To his credit, Chip does lots of favors for Steven, up to and including helping him win back Robin, but his odd, off-putting and sometimes illicit behavior (including buying Steven a prostitute and then making it up to him by beating the crap out of Robin's date, and later getting him an overelaborate entertainment system via "connections"... which ends up being stolen) proves too much to take and Steven eventually has to tell him to take a hike. Things quickly turn sour after that, and Steven finds out just how weird his "pal" really is when Chip begins stalking him and pulling various strings to try and ruin his life.


When it was released, the big news around the film was that Carrey got himself a big payday ($20 million!) for his role in the movie. Today, it's incorrectly remembered as a flop. While it wasn't the home run the studio was likely expecting, it did make back its budget and, after worldwide receipts were added in, made over $100 million. And it's also picked up something of a following.

Has nothing to do with Larry the Cable Guy.


Tropes included:

  • Antagonist Title: It's Chip's job, after all.
  • Anti-Villain: Chip is a creepy obsessive stalker, but only because he's really lonely.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Chip takes Steven to a Medieval Times restaurant. The film takes place in Seattle, Washington, where there are no Medieval Times restaurants. (The movie was shot in California, with the Medieval Times restaurant shot there being located in Buena Park.)
  • Aside Glance: Chip at the end of the film.
  • Ax-Crazy: Chip Douglas. The beatdown he gives Robin's date (and his rambling as he does so of things like Dizzy Gillespie) and his "role-playing" on the Medieval Times (which apparently had him fantasizing Star Trek (specifically the TOS episode "Amok Time") at one point) are pretty good examples of how this Trope fits him.
  • Bathroom Brawl: Chip beats up Robin's date in the men's room of a restaurant.
  • Battle in the Rain: The climax on the satellite dish.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Chip implies that he feels this.
    Steven: You don't have to do this! We all get lonely!
    Chip: Yeah. But I get really lonely. I mean, look at me, come on!
  • Black Comedy: One of the reasons the film didn't take off as big as expected. At the time, Carrey was known for his wacky characters, and audiences were not prepared to see him as a creepy stalker.
  • Blackmail: Chip gets a prostitute for Steven at the party, while Steven and Robin are on a break. Chip takes pictures of their encounter, and uses it as leverage to attend a dinner party with Steven's family.
    Steven: I should just take you to the police right now!
    Chip: You can if you'd like. [produces Polaroid of Steven and "Heather"] But I'd hate to have to show Robin this.
    Steven: Bastard!
  • Celebrity Paradox: Chip makes a reference to Waterworld, which Jack Black had a cameo in.
  • Character Name Alias /I Have Many Names: His name isn't really Chip Douglas. Or Larry Tate. Or Ricky Ricardo. Or George Jetson. Or even The Big Ragu.
  • The Charmer: Chip Douglas is this to pretty much everyone around Steven, by using some goofy lines and a little smooth-talking, on top of giving free cable to the right people. Steven knows Chip's just doing this to get control of his life, and he's helpless to watch.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A few of them, to establish what kind of control the cable guy has. Such as one of the guys at Chip and Steven's party turning out to be a cop. The cruelest one, however, is when Steven has Robin over to watch Sleepless in Seattle. Before the movie starts, he blows off some steam by trash-talking his boss. Turns out Chip recorded the conversation, and after Steven punches him at his family's party, he gets revenge by playing the conversation on all the computers where he works, which gets him swiftly fired.
  • Climbing Climax: The climax occurs on the scaffolding surrounding the massive satellite dish Chip takes Steven to earlier in the movie. Lampshaded to hell and back by Chip as a very good place for a "final battle" to occur.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Chip. Deconstructed in that other people realistically react to him like he was dangerously insane (and he is).
  • Creator Cameo/Talking to Himself: Ben Stiller plays twin brothers Sam & Stan Sweet. Eric Roberts plays them as well in a Show Within a Show "based on a true story" movie-of-the-week advertisement.
  • Cringe Comedy: Chip getting Steven and his family to play Porno Password. The family thinks it's all in good fun, while Steven looks like he'd rather be back in prison.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Chip to Robin's date in the men's room.
  • Deconstruction: Carrey gives the exact same performance that he always did at the time, except this one shows just how weird and creepy normal people would find it in real-life.
  • Dirty Cop: The cops who arrest Steven are the same Chip's "preferred customers" from the karaoke party, implying that they were in on Chip's plan of framing Steven.
  • Disappeared Dad: Chip was raised by a neglectful mother alone (well, mostly by the TV), and his father never appears in the flashbacks we see. Given what we've seen, his mother was pretty promiscuous, and possibly isn't aware of who it even was.
  • Disney Villain Death: Averted. Chip lets himself drop, hoping he will get impaled on the antenna's tip, but misses. His reaction to that is along the lines of "Dammit, I pulled an Epic Fail!".
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Not even Chip likes that Sam Sweet committed Sibling Murder:
    Chip Douglas: (watching the news on Sam Sweet, dead serious) I hope they fry this bastard.
  • Former Child Star: The Sweet twins. The backstory to the trial shows that neither Sweet sibling ended in a good place mentally after they grew up (just that one was more standard "became an asshole" about it).
  • Freudian Excuse: Chip's mother was so neglectful that he was practically raised by television.
    Chip: I learned the facts of life...from watching The Facts of Life!
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Loneliness has not been good for Chip's mental health.
  • Heel Realization: At the film's climax, Chip argues with his dead mother. He comes to the conclusion that lack of human interaction has turned him into a maladjusted lunatic, but there is still time to keep the rest of the world from ending up as he did. He throws himself onto a powerful satellite dish, which cuts off everyone's cable and forces them to read books.
  • Here We Go Again!: "Hey, am I really your buddy?" Bear in mind, Chip is reacting like this to something a paramedic said as a knee-jerk reaction (typical "hang in there" pep talk).
  • Hypocritical Humor: In the Medieval Times scene.
    Steven: Can I get a knife?
    Melinda: There were no utensils in medieval times, hence there are no utensils at Medieval Times. Now, would you like a refill on that Pepsi?
    Melinda: Dude, I've got a lot of tables.note 
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Chip's driving motivation.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Chip decides he's going to free the town from the grip of TV by jumping into the satellite dish and impaling himself on the central antenna. Subverted in that he misses the antenna and hits the bottom of the dish, survives the fall, and is disappointed when he sees the antenna next to him.
  • Karaoke Bonding Scene: Chip Douglas goes all-out at karaoke with a rendition of "Somebody to Love" to try and impress his new "friend" and client Steven.
  • Kubrick Stare: The poster.
  • Large Ham: Chip, and it only makes sense - spending his whole life constantly watching TV and movies, instead of forming any real friendships, has warped his worldview so much that it's become his only frame of reference for how to behave. Of course, such a character is all the more justification for Jim Carrey to blow poor Matthew Broderick off the screen for most of the movie.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In addition to referencing the climax's similarity to GoldenEye (see Made of Iron, below), Chip has the odd habit of humming musical scores as if he were in a movie, illustrating his loose grip on reality. The score in the background likes to go along with it.
    Chip: You know, the trouble with real life is, there's no danger music! Dada da dum...
  • Logo Joke: The Columbia Pictures logo at the movie's beginning goes into static from Steven's cable TV.
  • Loony Friends Improve Your Personality: This is deconstructed here. Early on, Chip helps Steven loosen up more by taking him to Medieval Times and throwing a karaoke party. Eventually, Steven learns that Chip isn't just wacky, he's downright dangerous and clingy.
  • Made of Iron: Chip, apparently, since he survives a drop over the tower above the satellite dish onto the dish itself, flipping twice in mid air and landing on his back, just inches away from the needle protruding from the dish. He does break his back, however, although the fall would likely kill or at least mortally cripple someone in real life. Oddly enough, this element seems like a parody of GoldenEye as well, as Janus/Alec Trevelyan didn't die from the fall, either.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Although Filter’s "Hey Man Nice Shot" was used during the basketball sequence, the song was about the live suicide of a corrupt politician on television.
  • New Media Are Evil: Played for Laughs. The movie doesn't outright say that television is evil, but it does take shots at the sensationalist trash programing it often boasts, not to mention the titular cable guy's mental instability being largely due to his inattentive mother just letting him watch TV all day as a kid. In the end, when everyone's cable goes out, one disappointed viewer happily picks up a book and starts reading it.
  • Nice Guy: Steven. Part of his character arc is finding the guts to stand up to Chip, and then dealing with Chip going on the warpath.
  • Old Media Are Evil: The film is crawling with paranoia about mass media, and its simultaneously invasive and alienating effects on people's lives.
  • One-Book Author: This is Lou Holtz Jr.'s only screenwriting credit, but his original script was heavily rewritten by Judd Apatow (who was denied credit by the Writer's Guild).
  • Prison Rape: Based on their come-on lines to Steven, it's implied the other prisoners want to do this.
  • Reference Overdosed: Considering that one of the main characters is a guy whose profession is to install a source of entertainment, it's no surprise that there's an inordinate amount of TV show and movie name-dropping, but this one is unique in that it's actually a plot point.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: For a guy desperate for friendship, Chip has a lot of people at his disposal. Free cable installation is one hell of an ice breaker.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The movie references several movies and shows, such as Waterworld and Star Trek. Even the aliases he uses are from TV shows like My Three Sons, I Love Lucy, and Bewitched.
    • During Steven's nightmare, when Chip breaks the door down, his eyes became green ala The Incredible Hulk.
    • While Chip is being the crap out of Robin's date in the bathroom, he shoves the guy's mouth onto a hand dryer and remarks as his cheeks puff up, "You look just like Dizzy Gillespie!", while the Gillespie classic "Salt Peanuts" is playing in the background.
  • Show Within a Show: Double Trouble, which has a looming presence throughout the movie, due to the closing trial of former child actor Sam Sweet for shooting his twin brother Stan. Also Brother, Sweet Brother, a "movie of the week" cashing in on the trial's media circus (and starring Eric Roberts as both Sweet brothers).
  • Slasher Smile: Chip on the movie's poster.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Chip Douglas. He just wants to be Steven's friend, and he will do anything (even putting Steven in jail and beating the crap out of someone dating Steven's girlfriend) to be that role. Unless...
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Chip is sometimes prone to this.
    Chip: So I'm the tardy one?
    Steven: Yeah, I was gonna go to that bed and bath place and now it's closed.
    Chip: Well maybe I shouldn't have come at all, JERK-OFF! ...I'm just jokin' with ya.
  • Themed Aliases: Chip uses the names of TV characters as aliases. See I Have Many Names above.
  • The Trickster: Chip Douglas. Deconstructed slightly in that this attitude makes him look utterly insane (and not in the Crazy Awesome manner, either).
  • The Un-Reveal:
    • We never find out if Sweet was found guilty.
    • Or the real name of the Cable Guy.
  • Window Love: Chip tries to get Steven to do this. He refuses.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Chip invites himself to a get-together with Steven's family and girlfriend Robin. Steven's frantic attempts to convince them that Chip is nuts paint him as paranoid and ungrateful, which is exactly what Chip wants. Finally, Steven punches Chip after he furtively insults Robin, which makes Steven look even worse.
  • Yandere: Chip is a "friends" (instead of "lovers") version.

"This concludes our broadcast day. Click."

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