US movie (1992). Morgan Creek. Pr James G Robinson. Exec pr Gary Barber, David Nicksay. Dir Peter Hyams. Spfx George Erschbamer, John Thomas. Mufx Alex Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. Vfx Rhythm & Hues Inc. Anim sv/character design Chuck Jones. Screenplay Jim Jennewein, Tom S Parker. Starring Pam Dawber (Helen Knable), Jeffrey Jones (Spike), Eugene Levy (Crowley), Heather McComb (Diane Knable), John Ritter (Roy Knable), David Tom (Darryl Knable). 87 mins. Colour.
High-flying executive Helen is on the verge of leaving husband Roy because of his addiction to tv. Kids Diane and Darryl, the latter an electronics whiz, leave their parents overnight to sort things out; instead Spike, a latter-day Mephistopheles, persuades Roy to sign the Contract for an extravagant satellite system boasting 666 channels (> Great Beast). Shortly thereafter Helen and Roy are sucked through the reception dish into Hellvision, the tv station catering to the Devil: mortals who survive 24 hours' channel-hopping between the scores of lethal shows on offer earn Redemption, but almost always succumb, sacrificing their Souls. Sometimes aided by sacked executive Demon Crowley, the Knables endure 24 hours of programmes like You Can't Win (a quiz) and Duane's Underworld, and Roy is returned to earthly existence; Helen, however, is retained – she signed no contract and thus, according to Spike, is a trespasser (> Quibbles). Roy returns to rescue her and is whipped through a string of further parodied programmes before, aided by Darryl's electronics genius from "outside", vanquishing Spike.
Though the theme of people being dragged into tv shows (and video Games) has been overworked, this surprisingly funny Technofantasy misses few bases. A highlight is an excellent animated mid-section by Chuck Jones, with Helen and Roy as cartoon mice being pursued by a robot cat. There is also a fine Parody of film noir. Some of the trailers and ads are inspired, notably those for Three Men and Rosemary's Baby and the prison drama thirty-something-to-life. Though Ritter is no Robin Williams, it is perhaps a pity, given Dawber's previous career, that a version of Mork and Mindy is missing from the list. [JG]
see also: Reality.