Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Finally, Something Good on TV: "Anarchy TV" (1998)

Director Blank brings Frank Zappa's children onboard in a decadent ninety minute comedy that entertains.

Channel 69 is the local public access station that plays shows like "Political Jeopardy" and "Eat Me." The shows blast the establishment, and push free speech and individualism. It is run by cute couple Jerry (Jonathan Penner) and Natalie (Jessica Hecht), hilarious paranoid Frank (Matt Winston), Katie (Moon Zappa), and Sid (Dweezil Zappa). Natalie is also a teacher, working her political agenda into subversive elementary school plays, much to the principal's (Mink Stole) chagrin.

Natalie's dad is Reverend Wright (Alan Thicke), who buys the television station, disowns his daughter, and throws the group out onto the street. They try to protest their plight, but no one seems to care as no one was watching them in the first place. They hold a couple of disastrous rallies, where all their friends butt heads about their personal beliefs. They are thrown in jail, and eventually bailed out by Oriental prostitute/fan Tiffany (Tamayo Otsuki).

As the Christian station broadcasts on their station, the group hatches a new plan. They take the station by force and begin broadcasting their stuff again, much to the yawns and indifference of the viewing public. Even the police and press do not care. Frank discovers a safe in the station that holds the key to all his off-the-wall beliefs, and sets about breaking the combination.

**Spoiler Alert**Tiffany suddenly gets a great idea, and viewers begin tuning in- nude aerobics will do that. Soon, the little station terrorists find themselves to be media darlings, and people tune in, shedding their inhibitions and clothes as well. Eventually the film ends in Frank's shooting, as he discovers proof that the government executed radical Abbey Archer (George Wendt) with microwaves. **End Spoiler Alert**

The film plays like a goofball version of "UHF." The film makers wisely lampoon conservatives as well as liberals, but usually spends way too much time beating it into their audience. The final few minutes, featuring the shooting, brings down all the silly fun of the film, and really ends on a sour note. The entire government-as-assassins angle absolutely fails.

Moon and Dweezil Zappa are very funny in supporting roles, as is Ahmet Zappa as an abusive cop. Matt Winston is a riot as paranoid Frank, questioning everyone's motives. The sketches in the film run hot and cold, but it helps that a middle ground is found. If you are offended by a joke one minute, Blank finds something for you to laugh at the next. Actually, with free speech and personal freedom being preached, the political group who come off best in the film are the libertarians, not anarchists.

"Anarchy TV" is not great, but it has more laughs than some big screen successes, and contains off color humor that works better than any "American Pie" film. See it, unless full frontal nudity (both sexes) and anti-establishment humor really bothers you... (* * * *) out of five stars.