UHF (film)

UHF (film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jay Levey
Produced by John W. Hyde
Gene Kirkwood
Written by "Weird Al" Yankovic
Jay Levey
Starring "Weird Al" Yankovic
David Bowe
Fran Drescher
Victoria Jackson
Kevin McCarthy
Michael Richards
Anthony Geary
Billy Barty
Trinidad Silva
Music by John Du Prez
Cinematography David Lewis
Editing by Dennis M. O'Connor
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date(s) July 21, 1989 (1989-07-21)
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5 million
Box office $6,157,157

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, in whose memory the film is dedicated.

The title refers to Ultra High Frequency broadcasting and the small, local, often rerun-oriented programs such stations often broadcast.

The film was directed by Jay Levey, Yankovic's manager, who also co-wrote the screenplay with him. It was released by Orion Pictures Corporation.

The film was distributed as The Vidiot from UHF in Australia, New Zealand and parts of Europe. On several parts of the DVD, Yankovic expresses how much he despises the international title. He suggested The Vidiot when producers suggested that overseas audiences wouldn't know what the title meant, and they combined the two titles.[1]



George Newman ("Weird Al" Yankovic) is a daydreamer whose hyperactive imagination keeps him from holding a steady job. His gambling uncle, Harvey Bilchik, wins the deed to Channel 62, a bankrupt UHF television station, in a poker game, and prodded by his wife, gives control of the station to George. George and his best friend Bob (David Bowe) 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), and eccentric engineer Philo (Anthony Geary). George attempts to introduce himself to the rival VHF network station, Channel 8, but its owner, the cynical R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) chases him out angrily. On his way out of the station, he encounters the janitor, Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards), recently fired by Fletcher, and offers him a job at Channel 62.

Though George creates new shows, including the kid-friendly but poorly named "Uncle Nutzy's Clubhouse" which he hosts, the workload and bad debt of the station get to him. Amid the stress, he forgets his girlfriend Teri's (Victoria Jackson) birthday, who breaks up with him over the incident. Despondent, George turns "Uncle Nutzy's Clubhouse" over to Stanley so he and Bob can go out for a drink. Arriving at the bar, they find that all the patrons are excitedly watching Stanley's antics on Channel 62. Realizing they have a hit on their hands, George and Bob are revived and inspired. They come up with ideas for more original shows in Channel 62's lineup, all spearheaded by the newly retitled "Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse."

As Channel 62's popularity grows, Fletcher becomes furious that a UHF station is getting better ratings than his network's programming. He learns that Harvey Bilchik is the owner of the station and has just gambled away $75,000 at the horse races. Fletcher makes Harvey the offer of covering his debt to his loan shark in return for ownership of Channel 62, which he would then happily shut down because legally he cannot own two stations in the same town. George learns of the deal and calls his aunt, who forces her husband to hold off, allowing George time to raise the money Harvey owes by selling investment stock in Channel 62 through a telethon.

The telethon starts off successfully, led by Stanley's boundless energy, but Fletcher sends his goons to kidnap Stanley. Without Stanley, the telethon grinds to a halt. George then leads a group to infiltrate Channel 8 and rescue Stanley. They return in time to successfully finish the telethon just before Harvey's debt comes due, saving the station and making it a publicly-owned company. Fletcher, on the other hand, finds out that the penny he mockingly gave to a beggar earlier in the film was rare and worth thousands, resulting in Channel 62 making its goal. He also discovers that a slanderous conversation of his contempt for his station's viewers was secretly recorded and rebroadcast by Philo, and that Channel 8 failed to file paperwork to renew its broadcast license with the FCC, which revokes his license and takes the station off the air. 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 of the time, through either George's imagination or shows specifically for Channel 62. For example, 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 2, Conan the Librarian and Spatula City are shown throughout the film.



UHF has an approval rating of 55% on Rotten Tomatoes from 22 reviews counted.[2]

According to Yankovic's Behind the Music episode, UHF enjoyed one of the most successful test screenings in Orion's history. Orion Pictures released UHF on July 21, 1989 as a hopeful summer blockbuster, hoping that Yankovic would pull them out of the water. However, critical response was negative, and it was out of the theaters by the end of the month.[citation needed] Yankovic has stated that it was not a "critic movie". As "Weird Al" states in his commentary of the movie, UHF was thought to be the movie that would "save the studio" for Orion. He was treated very well because of this. He states in the commentary: "Every morning I would wake up to fresh strawberries next to my bed. Then, when the movie bombed, I woke up and...no more strawberries!"

Within the month prior, and up to the release of UHF, blockbuster movies like "Ghostbusters 2", "Lethal Weapon 2", "Batman", "License to Kill", "When Harry Met Sally", "Weekend at Bernies" were also released by studios. [3] The draw to these blockbuster movies is also attributable to the lower attendance at "UHF's" premiere.

UHF has since become a cult classic, becoming very popular on cable and home video.[citation needed] The movie was rereleased in Europe and North America on DVD in 2002 by MGM, and in its debut week it became a top ten bestseller in Variety. The North American DVD contains numerous extras including a music video of the movie's theme song, a commentary track featuring director Jay Levey and Yankovic himself (with surprise guest appearances by costar Michael Richards and Emo Philips), and a deleted scenes reel with Yankovic's commentary.


Yankovic also released a quasi-soundtrack for the film in late 1989, entitled UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack And Other Stuff, which featured songs (and commercials) from the movie as well as his own new, unrelated studio material.


  • The station engineer is named Philo in an homage to Philo Farnsworth, inventor of television and the television camera tube.
  • The opening sequence references Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • In the scene where Raul receives his animal delivery, he says "Badgers? We don't need no stinking badgers!", referencing to Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles, in the line-up to Hedley Lamarr's army scene (Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!) which was itself an homage the line "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!" from the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
  • Stanley's rant about dirty floors was based on the "mad as hell" speech in the 1976 film Network.
  • A scene from "Town Talk", with Al getting beat up by the guests (which include Ku Klux Klan members and Neo-Nazis) parodies a scene from Geraldo, where a similar incident happened.
  • In the commentary, Al mentions that the 1956 Nash Metropolitan he drives in the film was the same one used in the "It's All about the Pentiums" music video.

See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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