Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Kenny wasn't like the other kids
I was very sad to hear that former MTV game show host and comedian Ken Ober passed away the other day. He was only 52. He was the host of "Remote Control," which was a postmodernist phenomenon in the late 80's. It was sort of like Jeopardy or Split Second or any one of those game shows hosted by slick unctuous hosts in the early TV days, but with a witty twist.
The show's setting, and its entire setup, was that it took place in the fictitious Ober basement, at young Ken's house (address: 72 Whooping Cough Lane) The set had easy chairs for the contestants, and whoa! watch out! If you were the first player to get eliminated, you and your recliner went flying out into the ozone void, off stage literally and figuratively.
I say it was postmodern, because while the premise had everything to do with mocking, gently, the cheesy game shows of the past, the overall sum of its parts was a tribute to the cheesy game shows of the past. Ober's dais was overlooked by framed 8 x 10s of legendary show hosts Bob Barker, Bill Cullen, Bert Convy, Monty Hall, and Tom Kennedy. And who can forget the episode in which Bob "The Newlywed Game" Eubanks sat right at Kenny's side, coaching him in the finer points of quiz- mastery? Well, I can't, is all I know!
But all this wittiness took place on MTV - it was the first non-musical show they had - from 1987 to 1990. That was a long time ago. People who were conceived while their parents were watching that show are now driving cars, stuffing iPods full of Lady GaGa, and becoming parents themselves. Perhaps someone should start a new game show that somehow gently mocks and honors Ken Ober at the same time.
Think about this: Happy Days was a big hit in the 70's, sending up the 50's. That was a 20-year gap. It's now been over 30 years since the heyday of Happy Days, so it's high time for a show in the 2010's about people in the 70's watching people in the 50's.
Or maybe not. But if someone told you there was a show in which Martha Stewart's daughter and her daughter's friend watch Martha's show and try to duplicate Martha's recipes and crafts, all the while goofing on Martha on camera, and you thought they were goofing you, I'd tell you to watch "Whatever, Martha" on the Fine Living Network, Tuesdays at 9.
There are a lot of networks and they need a lot of shows to fill the time!