Stay Tuned Given the Royal DVD Treatment

John Ritter, Pam Dawber, Jeffrey Jones, Eugene Levy. Directed by Peter Hyams. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French). 89 minutes. 1992. Warner Home Video 16886. PG. $24.98.

When I popped Stay Tuned into the DVD player, I really didn't know what to expect. I recalled having seen trailers for it back in 1992, but I'm not sure it got beyond the major markets during its theatrical run, and it's on no one's list of the decade's 10 best.

I suffered through the first half hour, as TV-obsessed Roy Knable (John Ritter) nearly destroys his marriage and family because he can't pull himself away from the boob-tube any longer than it takes to earn the money to pay his cable bill. Roy's new satellite dish promises even more thrills, but, as it turns out, those thrills aren't exactly what he'd planned on. He and his wife (Pam Dawber) are sucked into the microwave ether and begin a seemingly endless journey as active participants in a succession of inane programs, jumping from one channel to another, controlled by a demonic host (Jeffrey Jones) who has designs on their souls.

If the concept of crossing over into TV Land sounds familiar, it should be noted that Stay Tuned predated the vastly superior Pleasantville by seven years. But after a tedious first act, Stay Tuned plays less like a coherent story than a series of loosely connected Saturday Night Live skits. That was likely its downfall in the theater, but it works better, up to a point, on video. As on SNL, not all of Stay Tuned's humor clicks. But I found enough here to keep me amused in a guilty-pleasure sort of way, particularly a bit in which the villain is a mechanical cat. I'll say no more, to avoid spoiling the film's funniest and most clever sequence.

For a movie with no buzz, Stay Tuned has received elaborate treatment from Warner. Most movies with similar track records turn up on DVD, if at all, in cheap pan&scan editions. But this disc includes a "making of" featurette, trailers, and a good if unexceptional anamorphic video transfer. The biggest surprise—for what is clearly a B- or even a C-movie—is the all-new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. But it doesn't sound particularly special—it's listenable, but not noticeably better than a good Dolby Surround mix.

I'm not sure I can recommend buying Stay Tuned without risking a pitchfork- and torch-bearing siege by the townsfolk, but there's enough mindlessly diverting fun here for an evening's rental.