George Newman is a daydreamer whose hyperactive imagination keeps him from holding a steady job...until his uncle hires him as manager of Channel 62, a TV station that's losing money and viewers fast. But when George replaces the station's reruns with bizarre programs like "Wheel of Fish," "The Wonderful World Of Phlegm" and "Raul's Wild Kingdom" (where poodles fly from third-story windows), ratings begin to soar! But as the ratings rise, so does the wrath of TV mogul R.J. Fletcher, who wants to turn the station into a parking lot. Can George find the money he needs to stay on the air? Stay tuned!
For decades now, "Weird Al" Yankovic has been blessing us with the best parody songs out there. When it comes down to it, he's simply the best. My dad, being a fan of Dr. Demento and other audio comedy troupes, raised us kids on Al. For me, it began with his 1984 album "In 3D." After school, by brothers and I would race home from the bus stop to see who could fire up the record player first. We'd alternate between "Weird Al" and the Huey Lewis tracks from the 'Back to the Future' soundtrack. From then on, I bought my own "Weird Al" music. Not only does my old man still have his "In 3D" vinyl, but I've got my "Off the Deep End" cassette and many others on CD.
When 'UHF' hit theaters in 1989, we piled in the family car, hit up the dollar store for candy to smuggle, and trekked to the local theater for an unforgettable viewing experience. "Weird Al" proved to be just as amazing at parodying television and film as he was at parodying music and artists. His pop culture knowledge is astounding and his ability to pluck out the most relevant issues involving celebrities and news is unmatched. Satirical animated series 'South Park,' 'Family Guy' and 'Robot Chicken' are close, but "Weird Al" does it with such grace and without a hint of meanness that it's genuinely more enjoyable. As we watched 'UHF' for the first time, along with 'Hook,' 'Three Amigos' and many others, it instantly became a Hickman family classic.
Co-written by "Weird Al," he leads the cast of 'UHF' as George Newman, a unique guy who obliviously marches to the odd beat of his own wacky drum. His easily-distractable mind often strays from reality into quirky daydreams, causing him to make many mistakes and miss many events. The movie opens with a great 'Indiana Jones' daydream sequence that causes him to slip-up at work. When his buddy/co-worker, Bob (David Bowe), tells him to get his act together, George goes off on a rant about his boss, oblivious to the fact that she's standing right behind him. Of course, the two are fired on the spot and George's girlfriend Teri (Victoria Jackson) is not happy about it – but as fate would have it, George's greasy Uncle Harvey just won a UHF television channel in a poker match. With a nudge by his Aunt Esther, George is hired to manage the failing Channel 62.
With bland and overly serious programming, Channel 62 continues to tank – but when George hands a daytime kids show over the station's weirdo janitor Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards), the ratings quickly start to pick up. George and Bob begin with more wacky and ambitious original programming, causing their ratings to climb even higher than the local network affiliated. Troubles only arise when Uncle Harvey gets into some gambling trouble and the head of the network affiliate decides to take matters into his own hands and sabotage Channel 62.
The comedy of 'UHF' comes in many forms: character, puns, slapstick, prop, parody, situational, cringe, observational, etc. Without a single swear word or sexual joke, it's absolutely clean. The only possibly offensive aspect may be the silly over-the-top quick shots of violence, like Conan the Librarian using his massive broadsword to slice a guy in half for returning a book after its due date and "Rambo George" blowing people up with explosive arrows, machine guns and helicopter munitions. Those are the only bits that think parents may not like their kids to see - that and the usage of the term "lesbian Nazi hookers."
Re-watching 'UHF' 25 years later solidified my impression that nobody does it like "Weird Al." He's one of a kind and unmatched in every way. The comedy holds up and is only made more entertaining when you realize that no one does what he does. 'Saturday Night Live' attempts to make parodies, but they're typically fall flat and run four or five minutes too long. Adam Sandler attempts to mix silly and slapstick humor, but it only comes across as desperate, forced and un-fun. 'UHF' does more in one movie than what Sandler has collectively failed to do in dozens. If you've never seen it, now's your chance. If you're a lover like me, then it's time to applaud the release of 'UHF' on Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout Factory has given 'UHF' a 25th anniversary Blu-ray release that's not too shabby. The disc itself is a Region A BD-50 that locks into a standard blue Elite keepcase. A cardboard slipcover is included that features new artwork. The cover art for the actual case matches it, but the slip can be removed and rotated so to show the movie's classic VHS and DVD artwork. I personally found this to be an awesome bonus. When you pop the disc into your player, two unskippable videos play – an FBI warning and a Shout Factory vanity reel – prior to the main menu.
While I love this release of 'UHF' and am glad to finally have it on Blu-ray, I'm sad that Shout Factory didn't put a little more love into the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of the film. While they've genuinely converted the film to high-def, they didn't take any time to have dirt and debris removed. Countless specks – black specks, white specks, stationary long-lasting specks and quickly flashing specks – come and go throughout the entire movie. Along with that, instances of shaky frames appear when there's something on the screen that should appear in a fixed place, like the movie's title card. During the Bobo The Clown "look up, look down..." bit, a vertical run places a line down the center of the screen. Unfortunately, these dating elements remain.
On the positive side, the amount of detail that we can see can be staggering. I say that it can be staggering because the movie isn't always entirely in focus – but no matter where the focus lies, whatever is in focus can be seen in detail. Be it the wild hairs on Al's head, pores of Al's face, or even the scarring on the faces of Michael Richards and our network villain and his son, there's richness to the details of the video quality. When an actors' face isn't the object in focus, you can see the detail of whatever is in focus – be it hairs that sneak out from behind their heads or an object that stands between them and the camera, something can always be seen in great detail.
Colors are very vibrant and appealing. Big Edna's big red shirt is as red as you'd get from a fast food restaurant's theme colors, as is the blue of plastic trays upon which their food is delivered. Vibrancy especially take off when Stanley's kids show becomes wildly popular. Uncle Nutso's Playhouse set becomes Stanley Spadowski's Playhouse and explosive primary colors fill the frame.
As you'd expect from a 35mm print, there's plenty of grain for the celluloid afficionados to savor. Light amounts of noise can be seen from time to time, but no artificial noise reducing or edge enhancing pops up. There are no instances of bands, aliasing or artifacts.
The original stereo audio track of 'UHF' has been given the uncompressed treatment with a two-channel LPCM mix. The first third of the movie carries a mostly plain sound. It doesn't do much to utilize the stereo space, but the second and final thirds of the movie step it up. I first noticed the better usage during the faux "Spatula City" commercial. As the announcer repeats the store's name, it playfully bounces around from left to right. As Stanley's shows take root, the loud kid's program warrants nice full sound. And my favorite usage comes in the climax when Stanley retrieves his mop from the mobsters that function as the network channel's "muscle." As he and his trusty mop are reunited, he waves it around like a sword while the classic 'Star Wars' lightsaber sound bounces around from side to side.
The voice track is pretty good, only a few times featuring slightly blown-out distortion from too-loud set audio. These moments typically occur when George or others have unexpected outbursts. Music is consistently full and clear. While it's not too dynamic, it at least fills the air.
Luckily, no pops, thumps, cracks, warping or hissing can be heard.
While all special features are presented in HD, they're still just HD transfers of highly flawed (often times video tape) SD content.
Finally, "Weird Al" Yankovic's comedic gem 'UHF' has arrived on Blu-ray. This style of comedy is absent in modern movies, so it's an especially warmly welcomed treat to have it in high-def. The jokes and gags have aged well – although the video and audio qualities haven't. The video is sharp and detailed, but also riddled with aging flaws like specs, jutter and one solitary run. No clean-up work appears to have happened. The uncompressed stereo audio is void of aging flaws, but the two-channel mix is less than lively for at least a third of the picture. The movie's DVD special features have been brought over to the Blu-ray. Although presented in HD, they're still flawed SD videos. But along with them, we get a nearly hour-long Blu-ray exclusive inclusion of "Weird Al"'s 2014 Comic Con panel. Sure, more could have been done to make this anniversary edition of 'UHF' something special, but being a big fan, I'll gladly take whatever I can get.