UHF (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

UHF (released internationally as The Vidiot from UHF) is a 1989 American comedy film starring "Weird Al" Yankovic, David Bowe, Fran Drescher, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Richards, Gedde Watanabe, Billy Barty, Anthony Geary, Emo Philips and Trinidad Silva; the film is dedicated to Silva who died shortly after principal filming. The film was directed by Jay Levey, Yankovic's manager, who also co-wrote the screenplay with him. It was released by Orion Pictures and is currently owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Yankovic stars as George Newman, a shiftless dreamer who stumbles into managing a low-budget television station and, surprisingly, finds success with his eclectic programming choices, in part spearheaded by the antics of a janitor-turned-children's television host, Stanley (Richards). He provokes the ire of a major network station that dislikes the competitive upstart. The title refers to the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) analog television broadcasting band on which such low-budget television stations often were placed in the United States.

Yankovic and Levey wrote the film after Yankovic's second studio album, looking to apply the musician's parody and comedy to film, and chose the approach of George being a straight man with a vivid imagination to support the inclusion of parodies within the film. They struggled with finding a film production company for financing the film, but were eventually able to get Orion Pictures' support after stating they could keep the film costs under $5 million. Principal filming took place around Tulsa, Oklahoma, with many of the extras for the film from the Tulsa and Dallas, Texas areas.

UHF earned mixed critical reviews, and was further impacted by being released in the middle of one of Hollywood's largest blockbuster summer periods. While only a modest success during its theatrical release, it became a cult film on home video. Shout! Factory released a special 25th Anniversary edition of UHF on November 11, 2014 on DVD and Blu-ray.


George Newman ("Weird Al" Yankovic) is a Walter Mitty-esque daydreamer whose hyperactive imagination keeps him and his friend Bob (David Bowe) from holding a steady job. George's uncle Harvey Bilchik (Stanley Brock) wins the deed to Channel 62, a UHF television station on the verge of bankruptcy, in a poker game. His wife Esther (Sue Ane Langdon) talks him into giving control of Channel 62 to the out-of-work George. George and Bob meet the Channel 62 staff which is made up of the receptionist and wannabe reporter Pamela Finklestein (Fran Drescher), dwarf photojournalist and cameraman Noodles MacIntosh (Billy Barty), an unnamed overweight cameraman (Lou B. Washington), and eccentric engineer Philo (Anthony Geary). George attempts to introduce himself to the rival VHF network station Channel 8, but its owner, the grumpy and mean-spirited R. J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy), angrily chases him out. On his way out of the station he encounters childlike janitor Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards), who had just been unfairly fired by Fletcher for supposedly pitching a very valuable research report, which had been in Fletcher's desk chair all the time. George offers him a janitorial job at Channel 62.

Though George creates new original programming (along with running standard independent station fare like The Beverly Hillbillies reruns and Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons) in an attempt to revive the station's fortunes, ratings stay flat and Bob determines that Channel 62 is days away from insolvency after going through the station's books. George and Bob stay late at the station brainstorming ways to keep it afloat, which causes George to accidentally stand up his girlfriend Teri (Victoria Jackson) on her birthday, causing her to break up with him. The next day a despondent George walks out in the middle of the live kid's show "Uncle Nutzy's Clubhouse" so he can go to the bar and drown his woes in drink. He flippantly hands hosting duties to Stanley, whose bizarre antics are an instant hit with the audience by the time George reaches the bar; "Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse" becomes a massive ratings smash that saves the station from bankruptcy. Channel 62 finds success with a line up of bizarre original shows and Spadowski as its flagship star.

Fletcher is initially dismissive of reports of channel 62's popularity (believing that such a station could never be a threat to a major network VHF outlet like Channel 8) but is infuriated when he learns of the upstart independent overtaking Channel 8 in the ratings and plots revenge. Bilchik then receives a call from his bookie, informing him that he lost all of his bets on that day's horse race; as a result, Bilchik has $75,000 of gambling debt that he must repay within two days. Fletcher offers Bilchik the $75,000 to buy out Channel 62. George learns of the deal and calls his aunt Esther, who forces Bilchik to give George a chance to match Fletcher's offer. Philo, clandestinely observing George's predicament of raising $75,000 and his understandable fears of Fletcher possibly undermining his efforts, wiretaps the Channel 8 offices late that night, in order to keep tabs on Fletcher and his goons. George, in a deleted scene, tries taking out a bank loan to cover his uncle's debt and save the station, but to no avail; the bank president, although impressed with George's initiative, denies him the loan while a thug from Channel 8 watches with interest. George is despondent and worried as to how to raise the money...until he suddenly hits on a brilliant idea: the station will air a telethon offering the people of the community a chance to buy stock in Channel 62. The goal is to sell 7,500 shares at $10 apiece to the people by 10 pm this Friday evening, and if they succeed, Channel 62 will become a publicly-owned station.

Led by Stanley's boundless energy, the telethon gets off to a quick start but grinds to a halt after he is kidnapped by a group of Channel 8 henchmen. Eventually Philo, in watching taped footage of the Channel 8 news office, spies Stanley on the screen, thus officially confirming everyone's suspicions: Stanley was abducted by the Channel 8 news goons. He shows George, who then leads a group to infiltrate Channel 8 and rescue Stanley. Fletcher airs an editorial criticizing Channel 62 as counter programming to the telethon, which Philo replaces with a recording of when Fletcher insulted the townspeople to Teri earlier in the movie through broadcast signal intrusion. Despite Stanley's return, the telethon ends with the station $2,000 short of its goal, and Fletcher arrives to pay off Bilchik's bookie Big Louie. However, their deal is scuttled by the timely arrival of a bum that Fletcher insulted earlier in the film, who buys all the remaining shares, thereby allowing George to pay off Big Louie instead, just in the nick of time, and Channel 62 is not only saved, it officially becomes a publicly-owned company. The bum later explains to Fletcher that the penny he mockingly gave him earlier was a rare 1955 doubled die cent worth a substantial fortune, which explains how he was able to buy the remaining $2000 worth of Channel 62 shares (and a Rolex watch, to boot), while public backlash from the candid video of Fletcher causes the FCC to revoke Channel 8's broadcast license. As the film ends George and Teri rekindle their relationship, while the rest of the employees and fans of Channel 62 celebrate.

Throughout the film, there are cutaway scenes that are comic homages to popular shows, through either George's imagination or shows specifically for Channel 62. A dream sequence includes a music video for Yankovic's "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*" in both the audio and visual style of the Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing", and fake commercials for Plots 'R Us Mortuary Service, Gandhi II, Conan the Librarian, and Spatula City are shown throughout the film.


See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "UHF (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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