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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 villains with 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 Cloudcuckoolander 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: R.J. Fletcher portrays this real well, when he's first seen & heard abusing his son R.J Fletcher Jr. for not acting intelligent enough.

 R.J: You idiot! Can't you do anything I tell you to do? Does this look like a Number 2 pencil?

Richard: Well... I-I just thought --

R.J: You thought?! I don't pay you to think!

Richard: But Dad --

R.J: Shut up!

  • Affectionate Parody: The entire movie is strewn with them, especially the opening sequence.
    • Conceptually, the movie as a whole is an Affectionate Parody of cheaply run UHF stations from the 70s and 80s.
  • A-Team Firing: Taken to a ludicrous extreme in the Rambo sequence.
  • 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.
  • And Starring: "and Victoria Jackson as Teri". She gets the extra mention because she's the last name listed on the opening credits. This may seem strange, but having been a prominent player on Saturday Night Live, she may have been the most famous person cast in the movie, other than Al himself.
    • 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 therof). Subverted in that the little girl is implied as an Enfant Terrible with a perpetual Slasher Smile.
  • Attention Deficit Ooh Shiny: George is this in spades, especially in the film's early scenes.
  • 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.
  • Berserk Button: Just try to take Stanley's mop away. I dare you.
  • Big Win Sirens: Used in "Stanley Spadowski's Funhouse" when the kid finds a marble in a sandbox full of oatmeal. His prize? Getting blasted in the face with a fire hose.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Spoofed in George's Rambo fantasy sequence, where he sweeps an automatic rifle along a line of Mooks on a hillside. A moment later, they bloodlessly collapse simultaneously.
  • Burger Fool: George and Bob work at "Big Edna's Burger World" before they are fired for George insulting Big Edna while, unbeknownst to George, she's right behind him, which leads to her literally throwing George and Bob out of the restaurant.
  • The Cameo: Dr. Demento appears for a split second during a montage of Channel 62's shows, getting whipped cream sprayed into his mouth by Stanley.
    • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun/Hoist by His Own Petard: The single coin Fletcher gives to the homeless guy winds up being his undoing, being rare and valuable enough to pay for the last couple thousand shares of stock in Channel 62.
  • Closer to Earth: George's girlfriend, Teri.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: "Hello. I'm Philo." Ultimately justified: he's an alien.
    • Stanley himself also exhibits Cloudcuckoolander tendencies.
      • It'd probably be quicker to list characters who don't exhibit these tendencies.
  • Contrived Clumsiness: One of the jerkasses from R. J. Fletcher's station trips the camera man for U62, and sarcastically chimes "Oopsie!" after. Later, the victim of this action enacts his revenge by doing the same thing to the Jerkass, except this time, the trip ends in a mud puddle.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: R.J. Fletcher and his goons.
  • 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.
  • Creator Killer: Often used as a scapegoat for Orion's current status as MGM's in-name-only subsidiary by its executives. To be fair, they brought it on themselves by pitting it against Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Licence to Kill, Star Trek V the Final Frontier, Ghostbusters II, Lethal Weapon 2, Do the Right Thing, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and, oh yeah, Tim Burton's Batman, and they probably wish to save face for this scheduling blunder as much as possible.
  • Cute but Cacophonic: Pamela Finklestein (she's plated by Fran Drescher, after all).
  • 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.
  • Defictionalization: Attack of the Show did a recreation of the "Find the marble in the oatmeal" segment by having Candice Bailey and Sarah Jean Underwood wrestling in oatmeal. Complete with the winner getting the drink from the firehose.
  • Dissimile:

 Bob: I dunno about this, George.. I don't know the first thing about what goes on in a television station.

George Don't worry, Bob! It's just like working in a fish market, except you don't have to clean or gut fish all day.

 R.J. Fletcher: This town 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 collective IQ, and multiplied it by 1,000, you might just 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 Old Folks: R.J. Fletcher, who else?
  • 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.
  • Fingore: The clumsy shop teacher, with a table saw, during George's interview with him.
  • The Fool: George Newman.
  • Free Prize At the Bottom: Stanley Spadowski, while hosting his show, goes through the process of digging a cheap plastic toy out from the bottom of a box of cereal.

  Stanley: Don't let your parents know that you do this.

  • 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).
  • Groin Attack: Part of the Humiliation Conga dealt out to Fletcher.
  • Grumpy Old Man: R.J. Fletcher himself.
  • 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.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Gandhi II.
  • Humiliation Conga: R.J. Fletcher goes down HARD.
    • HARD doesn't even begin to describe it! 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, which in turn becomes a late-breaking news story, to Pamela's glee; 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.
        • And yet, he DOESN'T get arrested for kidnapping! Then again, by the time the homeless man reveals his role in Fletcher's downfall, Al must've decided that there was only so much hell he could inflict on Fletcher without making him into a Jerkass Woobie.
  • 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...

*Cue sound of Bob being violently ill*

...With just a hint of cheese!"

  • I'm Your Worst Nightmare: George says this during his Rambo-parodying fantasy.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Sort of. During the dreaded phone call between Uncle Harvey & Mr. Big, Mr. Big detaches his hand, replaces it with a meat cleaver appendage & violently chops a big loaf of lunchmeat (since it's Weird Al, probably balogna), signifying he means business. Harvey staggers in the pool (where he's lounging when the call takes place) and says, "I'm dead meat!".
  • Indy Escape: Parodied in a dream sequence with a dauntless boulder. Averted since the dream was interrupted, killing the character in said dream.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Invoked by George, but Bob calls him on it, saying he doesn't drink; George says he's been meaning to start.
  • Japanese Ranguage: "Supplies!"
  • Jingle: Spatula City.
  • 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 Cars.
  • 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.
    • Who may or may not be Merv Griffin, according to the commentary.
  • Man Child: Stanley, so very much.
  • 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.
  • Media Watchdog: The FCC appeared in the end of UHF.
  • Metaphorgotten: George delivers many of these.

 Come on, Bob. You gotta grab life by the lips, and just yank as hard as you can.

    • Stanley squeezes in a couple as well.

 And now they're throwing me out like a bag of moldy...tangerines.

  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In Brick Joke form.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: as a parody of Geraldo and other 80's talk shows that lead the way for Jerry Springer, a bruised George tells us about what could be described as the ultimate controversial matter: "Lesbian Nazi hookers, abducted by UFOs and forced into weight-loss programs... all this week onTown Talk."
  • No Budget: While this limited who could be hired and where shooting takes place, this shows up most with the props. They couldn't afford to have any lead time on, leading to such things as a helicopter helmet with a Channel 8 logo made out of tape.
    • Used In-Universe, too, as U62 had a shoestring budget until "Uncle Nutsy's Clubhouse" got turned into "Stanley Spudowski's Clubhouse".
    • In the commentary Al jokes that they blew half the budget on the scene with the kid spitting in George's face on CG spit from Industrial Light and Magic.
  • Old Shame: Apparently, if you bring this film up to Michael Richards, he will not react well, though he did appear in the cast commentary.
    • For a couple of minutes... at a time. Of course after his infamous outburst in late 2006 he hopefully will recall this movie as a happier time.
    • Well, given his role...
  • The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: R. J. Fletcher's Engineered Public Confession ends with "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!"
  • 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 companies, such as "Spatula City" and "Crazy Ernie's Used Cars". The audio for some of these commercials was included on Weird Al's UHF CD.
  • Periphery Demographic: In-universe, this is what turns around U62's fortunes.
  • Prop Recycling: The producers struck a deal with KOED to build a news set in their studio. The Tulsa network used the set for their own broadcasts for a couple years afterward.
  • Punctuated for Emphasis: "A U! H! F! Station!"
  • Real Trailer, Fake Movie
  • Red Right Hand: Although he's technically not the main villan, Mr. Big is a spooky unseen loanshark/crime boss with a detachable meat-cleaver hand. Also, Evil Sounds Deep applies to him as well.
  • Sassy Secretary: Pamela Finklestein.
  • Scary Librarian: CONAN: THE LIBRARIAN

 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.
    • Though to be fair, pink beef can still be hot enough to kill bacteria. It's red beef that's trouble.
    • Technology Marches On: The UHF band in general.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: R.J. Fletcher
  • Severely Specialized Store: Spatula City.
  • Shouting Shooter: In the Rambo parody.
  • Shout-Out: George's show, "Uncle Nutzy's Clubhouse" takes its name from a skit in an issue of MAD.
    • The scene where Stanley first goes on air has a shout-out to Network. The whole concept of an station/network rising to instant unscripted prominence could be considered one, too.
    • Philo is named after Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of the television.
    • George molds mashed potatoes into Devil's Tower like Richard Dreyfus in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

 George: This means something. This is important.

    • The final scene is a fantasy sequence with George & Teri as Rhett & Scarlett in "Gone with the Wind".
    • Stanley waves his mop like a light saber, complete with sound effects *WHOOM WHOOM WHOOM*.
    • 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/Beverly Hillbillies segment.
    • When George is threatened by Fletcher's henchmen while attempting to rescue Stanley: "Redrum! Redruuum!"
  • Smug Snake: RJ Fletcher.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: Parodied. In the opening sequence, a rock bounces right off George Newman's head mid-fantasy and does nothing to him.
  • Temporary Substitute: Anthony Geary wasn't originally planned to play Philo; one of Al's favorite comics, Joel Hodgson, was. But he couldn't accept the role. Before you go "aw, man!" keep in mind that Joel had turned it down due to being burned out in Los Angeles and returning to Minneapolis, where he ended up starting his own little show on its own UHF station KTMA.
  • They Just Didn't Care: Parodied with Gandhi II, which deliberately misses the entire point of the original movie (and, for that matter, Mahatma Gandhi's way of life).

 "No more Mr. Passive Resistance... he's out to kick some butt!"

    • Aside from the obvious, he's also depicted ordering a steak.[1]
  • The Unseen: Mr. Big. Picture "Dr. Claw" from Inspector Gadget but with a white jacket, smoking a cigar, no cat & a hand that detaches & can be replaced by a meat cleaver.
  • Trailers Always Spoil
  • What Could Have Been: Sylvester Stallone was going to cameo as the helicopter ride ticketer during the Rambo parody scene, but had to cancel due to schedule issues.
    • And as mentioned above, Al originally wanted Joel Hodgson to play Philo.
    • After Hodgson turned down the role of Philo, Al asked Crispin Glover if he wanted the role, and Crispin said he would only be in the movie if he could play Crazy Ernie. Al turned him down.
    • David Spade was one of the people who auditioned for the role of Bob.
    • Christopher Lloyd would've been another choice for Stanley if Michael Richards turned the role down.
    • If the movie hadn't been picked up, Yankovic would have toured Europe opening for Michael Jackson.
  • 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.

Notes

  1. Hinduism considers practice of the consumption of beef taboo.
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