A troubled couple with 2 children is trapped inside of a seemingly endless dimension of television channels. The television programs are overseen by a demon named Mephistopheles.
Just a few months ago, I bet you would have thought I was describing WandaVision right? The hit debut series on Disney Plus was the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first official foray into television and it took the world by storm. Although it didn’t live up to the endless amount of fan theories that flurried about on the internet during the weekly series, it nonetheless was a triumphant return for the MCU after a year long drought of content.
As episode 2 ended, my friends and I wondered endlessly what could be the endgame of the series? The subtle Twilight Zone-like surreal mystery and the horror-esque moments created a very unique tone and vibe never before seen in the MCU. Personally, one film came to my mind immediately. ..
The underrated and not often talked about 1992 comedic satire called Stay Tuned.
In this all-new first edition of Remember Whensday, now exclusively on Geekly Goods, we will be taking a look back at this channel-jumping nightmare that is definitely worth revisiting!
Welcome to Hell
In 1992, Peter Hyams directed a trippy fantasy comedy called Stay Tuned. After obliviously signing a contract with a demon, Roy Knable and his wife Helen get sucked into a television satellite dominated by mean-spirited and downright evil television programs. Their only chance for escape was simply to not get killed in those comically sadistic television shows. Staying alive for 24 hours would free their souls per the demonic contract.
It was a fun play on the state of early 90’s television as well as what was popular at the time. Take a look at the slate of upcoming fictional programs for the TV network appropriately titled “Hell Vision”:
- The Golden Ghouls
- Fresh Prince of Darkness
- Driving Over Miss Daisy
- I Love Luficer
Although not as recognizable nowadays as Elizabeth Olsen or Paul Bettany, the late John Ritter was a brilliant comedic actor best known for his TV roles in Three’s Company and Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. In one of his few cinematic starring roles, Ritter shines as the laughably lazy couch potato Roy who is trying desperately to keep his family together. The film is memorable for its elaborate television fantasies but it works well in large part due to Ritter’s performance.
A Little Bit of Deja Vu
While the general setup of each television universe is absolutely completely different, Stay Tuned and WandaVision had some interesting similarities that were hard for me to shake.
For starters, both stories had an amazing attention to detail in the respective show or time period they were spoofing or satirizing. From the excellent animated cartoon sequence that was overseen by the legendary Chuck Jones in Stay Tuned to the Modern Family style episode seen in WandaVision, the likeness and spirit captured in each show was uncanny.
One part in particular that sparked my brain to make the comparison was when Darcy and FBI agent Jimmy Woo hack the signal of The Hex and are able to communicate with Wanda. In the Stay Tuned film, Roy’s tech whiz son similarly is able to send a signal through the television satellite that his parents can hear.
Lastly, both stories are also anchored by diabolical villains and terrific side characters. Although he is honestly a horrible person in real life, Jeffrey Jones always delivers on screen especially in Stay Tuned as the demon who runs the Hell Vision network. Comedy icon Eugene Levy is a riot in a brief but memorable role as well.
As Marvel fans and causals all saw in WandaVision, Kathryn Hahn was an absolute gas as Wanda’s neighbor “Agnes” who actually turned out to be the wicked witch Agatha Harkness. My personal favorite character from the series was newcomer Teyonah Parris who delivered a heartfelt performance as hero Monica Rambeau.
Stuck on Television
A few similarities aside, the obvious connective tissue of being imprisoned inside of television is the draw for both of these properties. The mystery and suspense of WandaVision and the overall adventure of Stay Tuned are very entertaining through and through, albeit in very different and creatively exciting ways.
I highly recommend seeing both if you haven’t. They’re both 100% products of their time (especially Stay Tuned) but they both offer fun surprises for those willing to open their minds to them.
[Spoiler Alert Sidenote: Unfortunately, Mephisto isn’t the big bad in WandaVision like a lot of fans hoped but HOW COOL would that have been huh?]
In the end, both stories have their central characters trapped in a television world and at the end of it all, I love that what ends up mattering most is…