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Series / Cheap Seats

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Jason and Randy Sklar. Or is it the other way around?

Cheap Seats is a show on ESPN Classic that is hosted by twin stand-up comedians Randy and Jason Sklar. The two watch old campy sports and make funny comments about them.

The Back Story goes that a long time ago (on February 4, 2004) a man named Ron Parker (Michael Showalter), "an anchor with attitude", was filming the first episode of Cheap Seats with Ron Parker. The show was slated to go big. However, moments into filming, he was buried under a stack of tapes and his loyal but poorly treated assistants, the Sklar brothers, had to fill in for him ("like Gehrig for Pipp or Brady for Bledsoe") as they were the next people in line before Ryan Leaf. Thus the show became Cheap Seats Without Ron Parker.

The show itself ran for 77 episodes and the finale aired on November 19, 2006. The first ten episodes were an hour long, with the remaining running 30 minutes. The hour-long episodes were edited down, with some scenes reshot, to allow reruns in the shorter time slot. Occasionally, this leads to orphaned jokes or other discontinuity note .

The show featured several recurring segments:

  • "Do You Care?", used in every single episode, in which the brothers provide obscure facts about the show's subject or participants — in extreme facial close-up, preceded by a dizzyingly fast zoom-in.
  • "The Cheapies", in which awards are granted for outrageous categories, like "Least Valuable Celebrity" and "Weakest Drop".
  • "What to Look For" and "What Got Cut", which show clips that the Sklar brothers find ironic or funny. "Look For" acted as a preview for the show, and "Cut" highlighted things that got clipped for time.

Guest segments were also common, either with recurring characters like The Answer Dog or The Score Settler, or with characters tangent to the action (as portrayed by comedians). Other segments took more of a documentary approach, but were still fictitious and played for laughs, like the history of a labor strike in the world of professional miniature golf.

"Just the tropes, and do you care?":

  • Call-Back: Frequently made back to earlier episodes, and occasionally to the Sklars' stand-up routine.
  • The Cavalry: In "Steve Garvey Celebrity Skiing", the Sklars run out of money and are reduced to broadcasting by flashlight in an empty studio. Michael Floorwax rides in to save the day. Seems like a Deus ex Machina, but is actually foreshadowed in the hour-long version of Floorwax's first episode, "Steve Garvey Fishing/Bobby Bonilla Bowling". The earlier episode ends with the Sklars talking about Floorwax, noting that he's now a radio DJ in Denver and earns more money than they'll ever see.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first ten episodes were an hour long. The rest of the series were thirty minute episodes. Also, the "Do You Care?" theme didn't appear until Episode 4.
  • Expository Theme Tune: The fourth season has one; it's sung by David Cross.
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent: From Ep. S2 E9 (1980 MLB All-Star Game): Hideki Ichimo, a Japanese man who moved to America in hopes of becoming a baseball announcer. Except he didn't speak a word of English (Outside of Huey Lewis and the News lyrics) and refused to learn. And when his calls were translated to English, they made no sense anyway. He also refused to adapt to American culture, greeting a United States Postal Service collection box by bowing to it before putting his mail in.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag: Jason's the one with the glasses.
  • Jerk Jock: Competitive juggler Jason Garfield from the "Sport or Hobby" episode comes off as this, but his friends have come forward to explain that it's meant as a parody of other competitive jugglers who treat their hobby as Serious Business.
  • Opening Narration: The first season's Title Sequence explained the show's premise. This was dropped starting with Season 2.
  • Running Gag:
    • "Helobious" - one of the words from "Spelling Bee"/Episode 0105. Either used as a synonym for "hilarious" or menacingly pronounced Hannibal Lecter style.
    • Singing a version of the first line of "The Sounds of Silence" adopted to the current scene.
    • In season 4, the Sklars "gained" a long-lost older brother named David, whom Randy has never met.
    • Going to commercial, one camera would often zoom in on an old Dutch door that had a sign that read; "Attention ESPN Staff:" at the top, and, "Do not lend tapes to this person" at the bottom, with enough space for a picture in-between. Most of the time, this picture would be of a celebrity, or a politician such as George W. Bush. The final shot of the series finale was this sign, now containing a picture of the Sklars themselves.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • This show owes much to Mystery Science Theater 3000. Made explicit when Mike Nelson and The Bots did an extended cameo in the Season 2 premiere.note 
    • MST3K creator Joel Hodgson was a fan of rising comedian Michael Floorwax, who appears in two episodes of Cheap Seats; references to his "All over the world!" bit can be heard in several early episodes of MST3K.
  • Serious Business: Ultimate Frisbee player Ken Dobbins.
    Ken: This isn't a game out here! This is your life!
  • Studio Audience: Brought in during Season 2, became a recurring gag for a few episodes, then Put on a Bus.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The Sklars reveled in throwing in obscure sports and pop culture references.
  • Wham Episode: The episode when Ron Parker comes to take his show back. He doesn't succeed thanks to Beamy.