Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Groove Tube (1974)

Noteworthy for its tangential relation to the origin story of Saturday Night Live, this cheaply made and deliberately vulgar comedy anthology contains two future stars (Richard Belzer and Chevy Chase), lots of outrĂ© drug- and sex-themed humor, and plentiful failed joke attempts. That said, until the movie hits a lull during the longest sequence (a spoof of cop shows called Dealers, depicting street crime from the pushers’ perspective), The Groove Tube moves along at a brisk pace and overflows with counterculture irreverence. However, the best material hasn’t aged well, and the worst material probably didn’t generate much excitement during the picture’s original release. Glimmers of playfulness appear once in a while (especially when (The Groove Tube forgoes shock value), but it’s hard to soldier through the whole 75-minute flick. Produced, directed, and cowritten by Ken Shapiro, The Groove Tube comprises unrelated sketches, including several fake commercials and fake newscasts. One of the best bits is “The Koko Show,” about a TV clown who tells his young viewers to shoo their parents from the room for “Make-Believe Time,” then lights a cigarette and sits down to fulfill viewer requests by reading excerpts from pornographic books. Similarly, “Wild World of Sports” features announcers providing color commentary over a stag film: “The West Germans have chosen the Hamilton insertion . . . there’s a trust, a double-thrust, a rotary combination!” And the silly sequence of Chase singing “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover” while an accompanist slaps Chase’s head to create a rhythm track is subversive without being sleazy. Alas, way too much of The Groove Tube comprises crass stupidity. The newscast about a Vietnam-style conflict that features the names “Long Hwang” and “Phuc Hu.” The gross-out commercial for a fecal-looking product called Brown 25 from the Uranus Corporation. The PSA with the real penis trussed up to appear as if it’s speaking. Yet the lack of restraint is ultimately less bothersome than the lack of inspiration—this type of stuff was done better subsequently, in Kentucky Fried Movie, Saturday Night Live, SCTV, and myriad other places.

The Groove Tube: LAME


D said...

Before it was a film, it was a theatre event in both New York and Boston ( and probably other cities as well). I forget the price but you paid the money and sat in a theatre space where there was a giant ( for the time - maybe 32 inches) tv and they played the video tape. I think it ran for nearly a year off-broadway in the East Village and the Boston version ran for two months or so.

jf said...

I always get this confused with "Tunnel Vision." Both are TV-themed sketch comedy films, both feature Chevy Chase.