An Ode To “Remote Control”

MTV’s first foray out of music videos came in 1987, when host Ken Ober launched a hysterical hybrid of sketch comedy meets game show called “Remote Control.” For five seasons, in a studio tricked out to look like his mother’s basement, Kenny carried out his lifelong dream of hosting a game show. Contestants sat in arm chairs with seat belts buckled around them, and got ejected, recliner-style, out the back (with their chairs) when they were eliminated.

Kenny went on to produce “Mind of Mencia” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” but has clicked the off button for the final time. He was found dead yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. This loss has us looking back at his debut effort, a show which reshaped a network and shaped us in a lot of ways. “Remote Control” has kind of been on our mind since “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” was being marketed on every flat surface we saw in early September. Did the idea of spaghetti rain remind anyone else of Snack Break, when chips or cupcakes would rain on the “Remote Control” contestants, who were provided with bowls for catching their munchies—which they then mostly threw at each other? Does anyone remember Adam Sandler’s guest appearances as Stud Boy, the vaguely foreign club geek, who would make contestants guess what celebrity he’d been hitting on recently?

And thank you, Kenny, for helping to launch the career of Colin Quinn, by making him your announcer, and for mocking clueless sensors with quiz questions from the well-stocked categories like “Leave Out the Beaver” and “Inside Tina Yothers.” Primitive fun like this paved the way for MTV shows like “Road Rules” and even “The Hills.”

If you have a remote in Heaven, we hope it’s universal. [CNN]