Summaries

UHF (1989)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In UHF, George Newman is a daydreamer whose hyperactive imagination keeps him from holding a steady job. His uncle decides George is the perfect man to manage Channel 62; a television station losing money fast, and viewers even faster. However, when George replaces the station’s reruns with bizarre programs such as “Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse”, “Wheel of Fish” and “Raul’s Wild Kingdom”, ratings begin to climb. This news enrages R.J. Fletcher, the mean-spirited and cynical mogul of a rival station. Unfortunately, gambling debts force the uncle to consider selling the station to Fletcher, who in turn would shut Channel 62 down (legally, he wouldn’t be able to own two stations in the same town). George and friends organize a 48-hour telethon with the goal of selling investment stock from the station in order to save it.

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‘UHF’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains many spoilers and feeble attempts at humor.
UHF Movie PosterOnce upon a time, before there was cable TV – before satellite TV – there was broadcast television. The early stations aired in the very high frequency or “VHF” spectrum. These stations were found on channels 2 through 13 on your television dial. You see kids, back in the day, before remote controls, people had to get up and walk over to their TVs to change the channel. That was why people used to be thinner and in better shape. So what if they died in their fifties of liver cirrhosis?

The VHF stations were usually major network affiliates like NBC, CBS, and ABC. In order to create greater competition, the FCC eventually started to license television stations using the Ultra High Frequency spectrum, or “UHF”. These stations were found on channels 14 through 83. The existing television stations and networks did not like the added competition and even went so far as to pressure television manufacturers to make the UHF dial a free flowing dial, similar to radio dials of the time, so viewers would have to tune-in the UHF station, as compared to the set, clicking dials for the VHF stations. This created a rivalry between the two spectrums, which is the basis for 1989’s UHF.

The movie starts with our hero, George, played by Weird Al Yankovic, daydreaming while working at a fast food place. He manages to get himself and his friend, Bob, fired. George and Bob go back to their shared apartment and learn their neighbor, Kuni, is teaching a bunch of stooopid karate students. The plot thickens when George’s Uncle Harvey wins Channel 62 in a poker game, and George’s aunt convinces Uncle Harvey to let him manage the station. George and his girlfriend, Terri, go to the station. They meet Pamela, the receptionist/wannabe reporter/wannabe nanny, and Philo, the station’s engineer and resident resident.

We next see RJ Fletcher, the owner of rival Channel 8, chastising his employees, and firing Stanley the janitor, played by KKK Kramer himself, over a misplaced file. George shows up at the station to deliver a package that was brought to Channel 62 by mistake as a gesture of goodwill. He has the misfortunate pleasure of speaking with RJ who threatens to have George arrested for trespassing, so he leaves. On the way out, George sees Channel 8’s people abusing Stanley, and watches them take Stanley’s prized mop. George has a soft spot for orphans of crusty mops and decides to offer Stanley a job at his station.

George also hosts his own kids show, Uncle Nutzy’s Clubhouse – a cheaper and less fun version of the Bozo the Clown Show. Hell, it didn’t even have a Grand Prize Game. George’s show was awful and the live studio audience hated it. In fact, the whole town seemed to hate the channel as it was a big money loser. George and Bob stay late one night trying to figure a way out of the financial mess, causing George to forget about his dinner date with Terri and her parents. Terri calls and breaks-up with George. George is distraught over the turn of events and his performance on Uncle Nutzy reaches new and depressing lows. George and Bob leave the show while it’s still in progress to go get a drink at a bar leaving Stanley to host the kids’ show. While at the bar, the other bar patrons are enthralled by Stanley’s performance, and George and Bob realize a star is born.

This small success inspires them to start new shows for their channel to go along with the new Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse. Wheel of Fish, hosted by Kuni, Philo’s Secrets of the Universe where Philo teaches how to make plutonium from everyday items, Raul’s Wild Kingdom where Raul teaches poodles how to fly, and Conan the Librarian are a few of their hilarious creations. They incorporate a philosophy that some unnamed podcasters tend use – start a show and con all your talentless friends to help you for free. With these new shows, Channel 62 becomes number 1, much to the ire of Fletcher and the rest of the Channel 8 crew.

Back at the pool, Uncle Harvey, remember him, finds out he has lost $75,000 gambling on horses and needs to pay his bookie in two days. Conveniently, Fletcher finds it necessary on the same day to buy Channel 62 to keep his station number one. How much should Harvey sell it for? If you guessed the price of his gambling debt, then you too are as weird as Al. Fletcher, of course, will have to close Channel 62 since one person cannot own two TV stations in a single market…and forget FCC approval. This deal will take place in two days whether you like it or not.

George convinces Uncle Harvey to hold off on the sale to Fletcher to see if he can raise the money. George gets the brilliant idea to rally his employees and hold a telethon. Fletcher’s goons kidnap the rising star, Stanley, and as a result, the donations fall. George and Kuni rescue Stanley in one final brawl, and bring him back to make the telethon a success! Uncle Harvey’s bookie gets paid off. The town learns what a slime ball Fletcher is, and George gets the girl.

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