Sunday, February 14, 2016

UHF (Jay Levey, 1989)

Watch out Rambo, Indiana Jones and 1980s-era Dire Straits, Weird Al Yanković is about to mock your ass with extreme prejudice in the mildly amusing UHF, the Fran Drescher film with not as much Fran Drescher as I would have liked. Don't you just hate it when that happens? No, not when 1980s-era Dire Straits gets made fun of by Weird Al Yanković. I'm talking about when you sit down to watch a Fran Drescher movie, but what you get instead is a Victoria Jackson movie. Granted, Victoria Jackson isn't in this film all that much either. However, as most sane people will tell you, any time screen time is taken away from the never not adorable Fran Drescher, Yum-Yum gets angry. Oh, and, yes, you're not seeing things, Victoria Jackson is the female lead. I know, who in their right mind would cast Victoria Jackson in anything, let alone the lead in a major motion picture? This is Orion Pictures (Desperately Seeking Susan and Making Mr. Right) we're talking about, not some dinky ass TV show on public access. At any rate, think about all the people who could have played Weird Al's girlfriend instead. Personally, I would have gone with Julie Brown or Judy Tenuta, as they're both... well, they're both awesome. But in reality, just about anyone would have been a better choice. I know that's a harsh thing to say, but Miss Jackson is about as interesting as a shoddily upholstered chair that only comes in beige.

On the bright side, we do get four separate and distinct Fran Drescher outfits in this movie. Yeah, yeah, we get at least five separate and distinct Fran Drescher outfits in your average episode of The Nanny. But I'll take whatever I can get, Fran Drescher outfit-wise.

Of course, I realize that back in 1989, when this film came out, it wasn't promoted as the film to see that summer for fans of Fran Drescher's unique sense of fashion. But this isn't 1989, is it? No, it isn't. Which means if I want to judge the film strictly from a Fran Drescher-related point of view, I'm going to. Who's going to stop me? Exactly. Nobody.

In fact, Fran Drescher is all I could think about, as I watched a fake commercial for Spatula City, a store that only sells spatulas, and a post-Fridays Michael Richards blast children in the face with a fire hose. Actually, this applies to my everyday as well, as Fran Drescher is never far from my mind. Can you believe that I don't own the complete series of The Nanny on DVD? What the hell is wrong with me? Don't answer that, by the way, it's one of them rhetorical question thingies.

If the idea of Michael Richards blasting children in the face with a fire hose sounds sexual to you, then I'm afraid you ain't hooked up right. Believe or not, I'm talking about an actual fire hose. And get this, it's the reward you get for finding a marble in a kiddie pool filled with oatmeal on Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse, a re-tooled version of Uncle Nutzy's Clubhouse, a kids show on Channel 62, a struggling UHF television station.

Well, I should say, formerly struggling UHF television station. You see, when George Newman (Weird Al Yanković) and his friend Bob (David Bowe) take over Channel 62, it's in shambles. But that all changes when... Well, um, actually, it's not all that bad. I mean, look who's working at the front desk... (Let me guess, is it Fran Drescher?) Careful, man. I'm not digging your derisive tone. But, yeah, it's Fran Drescher.

Playing the delightfully named Pamela Finklestein, Fran Drescher openly complains to George and Bob upon their arrival about the lack of advancement at this TV station (she figures, since she's worked there for two years, that she should be the station's lead roving reporter by now).

I'm not sure about this, but the way the camera would focus on George and Bob's stunned faces every now and then as they listened to Pamela whine about her lack of advancement seems to imply that Fran Drescher's voice is annoying. They, co-writer and director Jay Levey and co-writer Weird Al Yanković, wouldn't do that, would they? Nah, they wouldn't do that. Even if they did, so what? She has the voice of an angel.

I don't mean to alarm any Frannies... What? No good? How 'bout Dreschers? Franophiles? No, Frannies is the way to go. As I was saying, I don't mean to alarm any Frannies (fans of actress Fran Drescher) out there, but Fran Drescher doesn't appear in UHF (a.k.a., believe it or not, "The Vidiot from UHF") until the sixteen minute mark. Of course, any true Franny worth their weight in gourmet mustard would already know that.

In the meantime, we have to endure a steady barrage of lame sight gags. I will say this, I did make a laughing sound when George Newman drops a dog in the punch bowl at a party. He just drops it... in the punch bowl. Classic.

The reason he drops the dog in the punch bowl is because his Uncle Harvey (Stanley Brock) and Aunt Esther (Sue Ane Langdon) have some good news for him. Well, I don't know if it's good news. Nevertheless, Uncle Harvey is going to let George run the rundown television station he just won in a poker game.

After checking out the place, and meeting Philo (Anthony Geary), the station's eccentric chief engineer, George, along with his pal Bob, set about turning around Channel 62's fortunes.

And... we have Fran Drescher! What a relief.

While the scene where George hand delivers a package that was supposed to go to Channel 8, a network affiliate, seems pointless at first. It does set the stage for the meeting between George Newman and Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards), the second most important character in the UHF universe. Do I have to say who the most important character is? I didn't think so.

On top of establishing that the owner of Channel 8, R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy), is a dick (he thinks people like Stanley Spadowski should be put to sleep), and that Stanely Spadowski loves mops, the scene shows that treating people shabbily can have unforeseen circumstantial consequences. Fired as the Channel 8 janitor for misplacing a file he didn't misplace, Stanley Spadowski ends up working as Channel 62's janitor. Which sets the stage for Channel 8's downfall.

I know, you're thinking to yourself: How can a slightly retarded janitor with an unhealthy obsession with mops bring down the number one television station in the city? It's simple, really. After being dumped by his girlfriend Teri (Victoria Jackson), he stood her up on her birthday, George is too depressed to perform as Uncle Nutzy on Uncle Nutzy's Clubhouse (a demented kids show). As he's heading out to a local bar with Bob to drink his troubles away (one blueberry daiquiri, please), he suggests that Stanley Spadowski finish the rest of the show.

To everyone's surprise, Stanley Spadowski is quite the performer, and the show, now obviously titled, Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse, becomes a smash hit. Brimming with confidence, this new-found success causes George to create more hits shows, such as: Wheel of Fish (hosted by the hilarious Gedde Watanabe... "Stupid! You're so stupid!") and Raul's Wild Kingdom (an animal show hosted by Trinidad Silva from his apartment... "We don't need no stinkin' badgers!").

Getting back to Fran Drescher for a second. Unless Fran Drescher's character is dating Noodles the cameraman (Billy Barty) behind everyone's back, why doesn't George ask her out? With Teri now out of the picture, this is the perfect time for him to make play for Fran Drescher. If I had to point out one major flaw in UHF, it would have to be George's taste in women. Granted, some people will tell that Fran Drescher and Victoria Jackson are equally annoying. But you can't sit there and tell me with a straight face that you would rather hook up with Victoria Jackson over Fran Drescher. Of course you can't.

When word gets around that Channel 62 is now number one in the ratings (thanks to shows like, Strip Solitaire and Bowling For Burgers), Channel 8's R.J. Fletcher plans to put Channel 62 out of commission once and for all. The fact that  R.J. Fletcher didn't laugh maniacally when he hatches his plan seemed out character. Anyway, will George Newman and his plucky band of boob-tube troublemakers be able to resist the corporate shenanigans of Channel 8? Probably.

For the best results, make sure to watch UHF alongside Tapeheads, as these films are like kindred spirits. Colourful films that satirize and/or ridicule pop culture from the late 1980s, these movies are your best bets for understanding the spirit/mood of that particular period of history. In order to make it a trilogy (why watch two films when you can watch three?), I'd throw Earth Girls Are Easy in there as well. Yeah, why not? And unlike UHF and Tapeheads, Earth Girls Are Easy had the sense to cast Julie Brown (though, to be fair, she did write that movie). Seriously, though, what were you thinking, Weird Al? No Julie Brown?!? Unacceptable!


  1. This movie was fantastic. I have been wanting to rewatch it to see if it stands up today.