It was only in recent years that I have really opened up about the films I enjoy and the ones which are dear to my heart. I discovered at a young age that I do not have the same pop culture influences my peers had or even still have. It was a usual day at school when a group of girls came up to me and asked if I had heard the latest Destiny’s Child song and that’s when I gave them the old ‘who and what nonsense are you talking’ look. I mean I was listening to Marilyn Manson and deciding whether or not I liked Jack Off Jill (in fact the album was sexless, demons and scars). I grew up in a house where if you were not familiar with the works of Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd you might as well not have even bothered talking. Movies and series were treated exactly the same way. I clearly had a very different education when it came to popular culture.
Most of the movies we watched were cult films and rarely something anyone I met around my age knew about at all. There were some more mainstream movies included in the mix as well, such as Jaws and Police Academy. That is how Stay Tuned came into our lives and I just loved it so much that to this day it remains a part of my film collection.
The film follows an American family dealing with the increasingly trapping lifestyle of the couch potato. Roy Knable (played by John Ritter) is your average American husband/dad except that he has an uncontrollable urge to constantly watch TV. While Roy’s wife, Helen Knable (played by Pam Dawber), wants to reconnect and bring some spark back into their marriage. After Roy’s inability to peel himself away from the television him and his wife are sucked into the world of television. However, though familiar it is no Pleasantville. They have to get through treacherous tasks to save themselves from the unforeseen reality they have fallen into. Released in 1992 the film doesn’t exactly have the kind of special effects that we are used to today. So you might not find yourself thinking of this as a great piece of art, since the current consensus on what is a good movie seems to be entirely based on what one can create on a computer. Don’t get me wrong, films have only improved and given us some amazing work to keep us invested in the world of cinema. We are creatures of storytelling telling after all. Plus Stay Tuned is by no means a work of art.
It is a rather an enjoyable piece of satirical comedy much overlooked due to John Ritter finding much better success on the TV screen rather than the big box office. Being just at the beginning of the 90s it was also one of the first films I remember which looked at the dangers of TV and being consumed by mindless watching over and over and over again. There are many of us who know what it is like to have someone in the family or you yourself be taken in by the big screen. Your whole world becomes this fictitious place where you start to adhere to the rules of the TV shows and/or movies. You simply begin to live for the show that will be on next and you know every line in every movie you have ever watched because you have watched it more times than you are able or willing to count. Stay Tuned takes you on this ride in such a fun and exciting way that you are happy to go along for the adventure. Amused and mesmerized by the family style comedy that overlays the hints of the iconic movies and shows you have seen over the years. Such as Helen’s constant need to scream Roy in the fashion of Indiana Jones’ infamous ‘Indie!’ throughout the film’s obstacles towards survival. It is in these moments that you realize your whole life has become a pop culture reference and you are living the lines that some other person wrote for you to say in each and every situation.
It remained a truth through my childhood into adulthood until it became apparent to me that over-consumerism actually has nothing to do with what is being consumed. Today we talk about social media being the reason that we are anti-social, before it was TV and so on. Consumerism has to do with the person’s desire to get lost in something totally different, something that moves your soul or something that simply repeats the mundane. It is about forgetting and not wanting to be in your own present moment.
Stay Tuned become my favourite representation of this desire to get lost in it all and where it takes you in the end. How close we all actually are to our own destruction.
It is also important to keep in mind that though we as a society desire to constantly get lost in these stories there just as much desire to constantly create and tell the stories of the world three times over. We learn, teach and experience the world and how to manage our way through it using the stories we have been given. It is part of what keeps our memory flowing as we continuously tell our very own narrative.