Throwback Thursday – Cheap Seats: Without Ron Parker
Several years ago, ESPN Classic developed a television show that was a complete stop-down for me. A stop-down means you will ‘stop whatever you are doing and sit down and watch.’ It is possible to have multiple stop-downs at a time, as long as they never conflict. My stop-down was called “Cheap Seats: Without Ron Parker.”
The premise of Cheap Seats was simple enough. Sports anchorman Ron Parker (Michael Showalter) was chosen to host a new show that showed classic sports from the ESPN Vault. If it had ever been on ESPN or ABC’s Wild World of Sports, it was game. Ron Parker had two interns, Randy and Jason Sklar. During the first episode, Ron Parker is crushed by a book case so Randy and Jason take over hosting duties. While Ron Parker was going to present these classic sports in a serious manner, Randy and Jason turned the show into an amalgam of SportsCenter and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Cheap Seats showed clips of everything from college football to professional wrestling to spelling bees.
At one time, ESPN not only broadcasted the Scripts-Howard National Spelling Bee, but people watched it! ESPN still broadcasts it, just on the internet now. Cheap Seats covered so much more than your average sportscenter. Juggling? Covered. Darts? CHECK. Competitive Eating? Of course. Beard and Moustache Championship? YUP! Golf? Well, Putt-Putt golf.
While the show did cover sports, it was a comedy show. It was a who’s who of hot alternative comics. Randy and Jason Sklar as hosts were perfect. Any episode could have guest stars like Jon Benjamin (Archer, Bob’s Burgers), Ed Helms (The Office, The Hangovers), Zach Galifianakis, all three members of Stella, the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000, David Cross (Mr. Show, Arrested Development), and others.
Looking back at some of the episodes, some of the jokes are a bit dated. Jokes about Russell Crowe or Tom Sizemore are not as relevant any more. If you can look past some of these jokes, you discover a gem. Sadly, it only last four seasons. ESPN Classic will still show episodes occasionally, or you can just click over to YouTube and do a search for Cheap Seats.
“Sounds cool, but why would you write about this on a nerd website,” you might be thinking to yourself. That is a great question and one that I will address now. I don’t want to go with the easy answer – “I’m nerdy about sports!” Sports are great, but I am not really nerdy about them. (OK, so we can’t count when I could rattle off the stats of the entire 1989 Texas Rangers or used to make up songs about outfielder Pete Incaviglia or my Dallas Stars fan-fic. That fan-fic is personal and private.) The thing that I really loved about the show is that it treated sports the way they should be treated, as a way to just pass the time. It made sports fun by laughing at it when it took itself too seriously, and many times it did it in a super-nerdy way. For instance, at one point there is a big guy with dark hair and a beard and one of the brothers made a comment about “Kneel before Zod!” which caused them to go off on a tangent about how the guy did not look like Zod, but instead resembled Zod’s silent sidekick, Non.
So next time you find yourself with some time to kill and you think, “Hey, I would love to see two semi-famous comics make fun of Steve Garvey,” check out Cheap Seats: Without Ron Parker.