Friday, June 22, 2012

Case Study No. 0401: Jason and Randy Sklar

Cheap Seats S1E01: Mid-South Wrestling 1980 part 1/5
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Tags: Cheap Seats ESPN Classic Randy Jason Sklar
Added: 2 years ago
From: mopete118
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[scene opens with a male sports anchor standing in a large room (full of shelves with old VHS tapes) speaking directly to the camera]
RON: Hello, my name is Ron Parker. Welcome to my show, "Cheap Seats with Ron Parker." I'm usually a sports anchor, but this is my new gig, so I'm ... really excited about that.
[he puts his head down in disgust, then continues speaking directly to the camera]
RON: I guess I should introduce you to my research assistants. You might recognize them from their parents' basement, because they still live there.
[he points at two men standing in the background, one carrying a clipboard while the other holds a large stack of tapes]
RON: Jason and Randy ...
JASON: Actually, I'm Jason and that's Randy.
[he ignores them and continues speaking directly to the camera]
RON: For our first episode, we're going to be taking a look at the world of professional wrestling ... which I don't personally consider to be a real sport. This is coming to you from the Southeastern Conference--
RANDY: Actually, it's the Mid-South Region ...
RON: Okay, I don't remember asking you for advice on the host intro!
[they take a step back, then Ron composes himself]
RON: Today we're going to be taking a look at the Iron Sheik. He is from Iraq, which is--
JASON: He's from Iran, actually ...
[Ron turns and screams at them]
RON: Whatever! Y'know what, this is my show, and I don't even wanna do professional wrestling! Go get me a tape of a game, let's watch a game ...
JASON: We only prepared the wrestling.
RANDY: Yeah.
JASON: I guess we could lay something off ... upstairs.
RON: Okay, fine! Fine! You guys are obviously nincompoops, and you don't know what you're doing! So I'll do it ... I know where the tapes are.
[he walks over to one of the shelves filled with tapes]
RON: I'll just do it myself ...
[he tries to climb up on the shelves like a ladder, but the whole thing falls down on top of him]
RON: Ahhh!
[the camera zooms in on the Sklar Brothers' shocked faces]
RANDY: Oh god ... Dude, you know what we hafta do?
[cut to a closeup of Ron pinned underneath the shelving]
RON: [weakly] Call 911 ...
[cut back to the Sklar Brothers]
JASON: Yeah ... We're gonna have to host this show!
RON: [from off camera] Don't host my show!
[cut to various shots of the hallways of the ESPN Archives]
DAN PATRICK: [in voice over] Deep in the ESPN tape library, the worldwide leader in classic sports launched a series designed to take a new look at old games. They called it "Cheap Seats with Ron Parker."
[someone holds up a black and white photo of Ron Parker in front of the camera]
DAN PATRICK: [in voice over] Parker, an anchor with attitude, was helped thanklessly by tape librarians Randy and Jason.
[camera pans over to the Sklar Brothers with exasperated looks on their faces, then someon holds up a magazine cover featuring Ron ("Ron Parker & Cheap Seats - The Next Big Thing?") in front of the camera]
DAN PATRICK: [in voice over] The show was slated to go all the way, but moments into the first show, tragedy struck.
[cut to an overhead angle of the shelving falling on top of Ron]
DAN PATRICK: [in voice over] With Ron on the DL, somebody needed to step up ... Like Gehrig for Pipp, or Brady for Bledsoe.
[someone holds up a yellow notepad ("Cheap Seats Hosting Depth Chart - 1. Ron Parker 2. Randy 3. Jason 4. Ryan Leaf") in front of the camera]
DAN PATRICK: [in voice over] Sitting two and three on the hosting depth chart, that someone was Randy and Jason.
[cut to Ron being carried off on a stretcher (giving the camera a thumbs up) then the camera focuses on the Sklar Brothers]
DAN PATRICK: [in voice over] That is their story, and this is "Cheap Seats, without Ron Parker!"



Cheap Seats without Ron Parker, commonly shortened to Cheap Seats, is a television program broadcast on ESPN Classic hosted by brothers Randy and Jason Sklar. The brothers appear as fictional ESPN tape librarians who amuse themselves by watching old, campy sports broadcasts and wisecracking about them.

Cheap Seats debuted on February 4, 2004, with an episode that showed ESPN sportscaster "Ron Parker" (played by Michael Showalter and supposedly the intended host for the show) getting buried under a shelf full of tapes, forcing the Sklars to fill in, as they were behind Parker on the "hosting depth chart" (with Ryan Leaf behind the Sklars, a reference to his overwhelming lack of success in the NFL). The founding production team behind "Cheap Seats" included Mark Shapiro, Showrunner, Todd Pellegrino, James Cohen and Joseph Maar. Cheap Seats was originally an hour-long program. There were about 10 one hour-long episodes in the first season, all of which were subsequently cut down to fit a 30 minute time slot.



In the title sequence for the first season of the ESPN Classic series Cheap Seats, narrator Dan Patrick spins a Mystery Science Theater-esque origin story for this Mystery Science Theater-esque show, explaining how the original Cheap Seats host Ron Parker was crushed by a shelf of old videotapes, leaving librarians Jason and Randy Sklar to take on the gig of introducing clips from the ESPN archive, which the boys then proceeded to mock. This was all fiction, of course. The Sklars weren't really tape librarians, and weren't really second and third on the Cheap Seats depth chart (behind Ron Parker and ahead of out-of-work quarterback Ryan Leaf). No, in the real world - our world - the Sklar brothers got the job from their old Sunday school teacher.

Jason and Randy Sklar had a fast start in the comedy business. While still in their mid-20s, not too long after moving from their native St. Louis to New York City, they landed their own MTV sketch series, Apt 2F. But that show only lasted a season - and wasn't all that well-received - so by 2002, the brothers were on the verge of quitting the business. Then they happened to have breakfast with Gary Belsky, whom they'd known as kids. At the time an editor at ESPN: The Magazine, Belsky had been asked to pitch shows to ESPN Classic, and when he met up with his old Sunday school students for breakfast, he told them about the "watching comedians watch old sports" concept that would become Cheap Seats. "Then he said, 'Pass the syrup,'" Jason Sklar told me in a recent phone interview. "And we just stared at him with our mouths open. We were like, 'Gary, is there some reason why you're not asking us to be part of the show?' Right about then, we would've done any show. And this sounded like something we would watch even if we weren't on it."

And so Cheap Seats Without Ron Parker became the second Sklar-hosted TV comedy series, and ran for four seasons and 77 episodes on ESPN Classic, from 2004 to 2006. (Cheap Seats repeats still pops up on the network, albeit sporadically.) During those three years, Jason and Randy saw their show cut down from an hour to a half-hour, and they endured a brief run of episodes in which they performed before a live studio audience. Throughout, they put on a show that borrowed heavily from the MST3K format - as many comedy series have - but managed the difficult trick of being playful and knowledgeable, which few MST3K clones have been able to execute.

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