Very much in the spirit of The Groove Tube (1974), this lowbrow comedy anthology uses a thin premise to connect a huge number of sketches, all of which are parodies of TV programming. The noteworthy cast includes John Candy; Chevy Chase; the team of Tom Davis and Al Franken; Joe Flaherty; Howard Hesseman; David L. Lander; Laraine Newman; William Schallert; Ron Silver; and Betty Thomas. (Most perform in just one sketch each, so some appear and disappear within a minute of screen time.) The premise is that in the year 1985, a Senate committee investigates TunnelVision, the country’s most popular TV channel and the beneficiary of a Supreme Court decision that outlawed censorship of TV broadcasts. The reason for the hearing is that the government blames TunnelVision’s debauched shows for a number of social ills, including the economy-depleting apathy of those who spend hours on end watching the channel instead of working. After a senator (Hesseman) grills a TunnelVision executive (Phil Proctor), those in attendance at the hearing are shown a condensed sampling of one day’s content from the controversial channel.
At their worst, the sketches comprising this content are offensive—such as ad for the “National Faggot Shoot.” Others are merely crude, like the ad for proctology education. Some of the sketches fall flat simply because the jokes aren’t funny, including the ad for a product that allows people to consume great books in the form of pills. Most of the sketches suffer as much for brevity as they do for lack of real wit; the ideas are too lightweight to make an impact in 30 or 60 seconds. As for the extended scenes, about the best that writers Neal Israel (who also codirected) and Michael Mislove can conjure is “Ramon and Sonja,” a riff on All in the Family and/or The Honeymooners featuring the world’s most disgusting family. Two words: incest jokes.
Tunnel Vision isn’t outright awful, inasmuch as the piece has a brisk pace, skilled actors, and some technical polish, but it’s never laugh-out-loud funny, and it lacks anything resembling pointed satire. (This just in! Excessive TV watching is bad for you!) Furthermore, Tunnel Vision lacks a standout sketch—everything is equally underwhelming, resulting in monotony. An 80-minute cavalcade of bargain-basement jokes is hard to take, especially since so many similar films exist: The Groove Tube gets points for being the first flick made in this style, The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) is much funnier, and Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979) is much weirder.
Tunnel Vision: FUNKY