Pray TV (1980) – A Review

Pray TV 1980 Dabney Coleman comedy

After being enticed by spotting this movie in a dollar bin, seeing Dabney Coleman on the cover and it looking like him playing some kind of evangelical preacher who takes to the airwaves to rake in the cash, I figured why not? It’s only a buck and early 1980s Coleman was always arrogantly funny.

TV station KRUD is somehow just managing to scrape by with a few awful shows and performers. Then slick Marvin Fleece (Coleman) shows up to turn the station around.

His plan is for them to target religious viewers and focus all their programming around spreading the message of God and the teachings of Christianity. Once this strategy is implemented the station begins to attract attention and the new KGOD begins to make a lot of money.

Of course Fleece isn’t exactly planning on giving all that loot to the church or doing anything ‘Christian’ with it. Nope. He’s going to pocket the cash and sell out all the loyal TV station employees who placed their trust in him. They’re about to get fleeced by Fleece!

It sounds like the idea could have a dynamite time skewering the early evangelical TV personalities and programming that began popping up all over the place. The blind devotion of television audiences and religious followers willing to believe anything a slick guy in a fancy suit will tell them. That’s kind of what it sets out to do, but the laughs are way too few and far between.

The bulk of the movie is somewhat set up like Kentucky Fried Movie or The Groove Tube. We watch an assembly line of ridiculous parody programs, here all taking religious programming to the extreme. Religious faith healers, Christian game shows, different religious groups playing sports. At best some of the spoofs are mildly amusing, but most are simply not funny.

Away from the TV schedule there’s a thin storyline of production assistant Fletcher (Archie Hahn) trying to romance a co-worker who’s not too keen on the new direction the station has taken. All the characters working at the station are not engaging or memorable enough to add anything. There really isn’t much to see here.

Dabney Coleman in Pray TV 1980
Coleman giving a speech to the station employees –
that’s the best we see from him

There’s a lot less Coleman than I was expecting to see in this too. I was really anxious to see him take to a podium and pour out insincere lie after outrageous lie to his naive audience as they give him all the donations he asks for.

He looked ready to do it when he shows up in his slick suit and puffing a cigar. I thought that could be the big redeeming moment with watching this movie, but it never happens. This was a washout.

The story wraps up really quickly too. Fleece is found out, the station gets shut down, Fletcher gets the girl and that’s it. That all happens in a matter of minutes.

So the main attraction here are the spoof shows we see and they’re not good enough to warrant a viewing. There’s acouple familiar faces that pop up. Paul Reubens has a small role (I believe it was first film appearance). Roger E. Mosely plays a preacher and an ex-con who found Jesus. Deidre Hall has a fleeting appearance Dr. John plays himself and Devo plays a Christian rock band named Dove.

After watching this I understood why I had never heard of this movie and why it was resting in a dollar bin. A better alternative to this is the Weird Al movie UHF from 1989. It has a similar premise – a failing TV station being turned around with nutty programming and it is much funnier than Pray TV.


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4 Responses

  1. Capt Nemo says:

    I hope you used a "Where's George" bill so that the experience wasn't a total loss.

    Also, if you count blink and you'll miss it performances, Reubens first role would have been the Che Paul waiter in Blues Brothers.

    I guess its a shame that Dabney wasn't put to good use here. Seeing that trailer and Dabney giving part of his speech, you can see the movie show some life. He knows how to carry a scene and act like the most important guy in the room.

    Actually, I never got the concept of television stations doing their own shows. I always thought of stations as middlemen between Hollywood and the viewer. The only shows that have local color that can go national are PBS shows. Fred Rogers for example. So I don't get the joke when comedies show individual television stations producing high concept shows with insane production values. Maybe that's just me.

    I'll admit, the Jew-jitsu gag made me chuckle.

  2. Actually now I'm not sure which is technically Reubens film debut. I definitely know his part in the Blues Brothers, but he also showed up in Midnight Madness. All these flicks came out in 1980. According to his wiki page it lists Pray TV as first, but can't necessarily trust that.

    Not a good flick. I might watch Coleman's Buffalo Bill show to wash away this movie from my memory banks.

  3. CKulik says:

    You know I would watch anything with our old friend Mr. Coleman in, but it sounds like this was a total waste of time. Sorry about the waste of the dollar…you should have settled for SHORT TIME instead Talk about being fooled on April 1 lol 🙂

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