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Cheap Seats

Cheap Seats without Ron Parker (commonly shortened to Cheap Seats) was 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." Ryan Leaf was behind the Sklars on the depth chart. 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.

Regular segments

During the show, while not cutting in to add humorous comments or ironic insights, the show features several segments, such as Do You Care? (in which the Sklar brothers inform you of extremely obscure facts related to the show they are watching) and The Cheapies (in which awards are granted for outrageous categories, such as Most Uncomfortable Moment and Least Valuable Celebrity). Many times, the Cheapies category names lend themselves to jokes based on a play-on-words, for example one episode featuring boxer Joe Frazier had a Cheapie award for Best Knockout that went not to Frazier as one might expect, but to the wife of one of the other contestants. Sketches are also featured offering comic insight to a topic that would come up during a program.

Some other regularly featured highlights include a Breakdown (in which ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury will comedically break down an athlete's performance in a previously hosted segment), Do Not Lend Tapes to This Person (which is usually a pre/post-commercial close-up shot of a poster featuring a notorious celebrity as in Vince McMahon or George W. Bush , athlete or fictional character such as Big Foot or Freddy Krueger), What to Look For (in which the Sklar brothers point out certain happenings that they find ironic or personally amusing), Cheap Shot of the Week (which usually showcases an athlete featured earlier in the show at their worst), and What Got Cut (which shows the viewer at home what didn't make the cut due to time constraints, and also an acknowledgment that the show once ran in hour-long episodes, rather than the latter half-hour).

Source material

Most of the broadcasts are from ESPN's archives. Among them:

The show is influenced chiefly by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and MTV's Beavis and Butt-head, as the hosts comment on the material in the style of a peanut gallery. The "Creative Breaking/K-1 Fighting" episode featured Mike Nelson, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot from Mystery Science Theater 3000, in their "Theatre" silhouette form, cracking wise on sketches the Brothers performed.

Cheap Seats was shot in New York City (with segments filmed in Los Angeles) and had made use of local comedians as guest stars in its sketches, including Ed Helms of The Daily Show, Michael Showalter of The State and Ian Roberts of The Upright Citizens Brigade. Most of the bit parts were played by stand-up comics whom Jason and Randy met during their years on the road as standups themselves.

ESPN Classic broadcasted an all-day marathon of Cheap Seats episodes on Thanksgiving Day 2004, an homage to the similar marathons of MST3K that were frequently run on Comedy Central during Thanksgiving in the first half of the 1990s.

Many other comedians have made cameos on the show as characters, including Brian Posehn, Patton Oswalt, and Zach Galifianakis, who took a break from the Comedians of Comedy tour to tape their parts during the summer of 2005.

SportsCentury: Cheap Seats

After the first season, a SportsCentury mockumentary was produced about the show, and how its first season made a large impact on the world. Interviews from other athletes' SportsCentury episodes were cut and used as if the interview subjects were speaking about the Sklar brothers and the show. This was a half hour special. The title of this episode in online episode guides is "The Best of Cheap Seats."

Live studio audience era

Shortly into the second season, Cheap Seats slightly changed its format by giving Randy and Jason a live studio audience (and virtual "laugh track") to play off of. The first episode of this particular format focused on the 1980 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Fans of the show had by then already considered this particular moment as the period where Cheap Seats came the closest to jumping the shark. Only six episodes were produced this way, and the studio audience was gone by the premiere of the third season on September 19, 2005. The Sklars' opening segment joked on the fact that they had removed the audience and acknowledged the complaints from the fans.

It should also be noted that the episodes with the live audience have since been re-edited in the sound department so that they cannot be heard, or minimally heard, during the regular segments of the show. Repeat telecasts of episodes produced prior to and during this period still contain a graphic instructing viewers to go to the Cheap Seats website to obtain tickets for the show.

On the road

Two episodes were taped in locations other than New York or Los Angeles. In October 2005, ESPN Classic aired "Cheap Seats on the Road" from the Sklar brothers' hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, where the second Busch Stadium was being torn down because part of it was on the same land that Busch Stadium III was being constructed on. On the episode, the Sklars try to convince city officials to cancel the stadium's demolition by combining the two into a bizarre "superstructure."

During Season 3, Cheap Seats went to Hillsborough, New Jersey, after a contestant won a contest for the Sklars to do an episode on her couch. The episode was titled Cheap Seats' on the Road: A Fan's Couch'.

Utilityman - The Quest For Cooperstown

This particular episode, which is not officially a part of the Cheap Seats canon, was a 2004 ESPN special (produced by MLB Productions). It featured the Sklars going on a trip to St. Louis and then to Cooperstown. The Sklars went all the way to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on a campaign to get beloved 1980s and 1990s St. Louis Cardinals player José "The Utilityman" Oquendo inducted for his versatility to play almost any position on the baseball field (including a game in the 1988 season, in which Oquendo played all nine positions). The special included the Sklars receiving Oquendo's blessing to lobby for his spot in Cooperstown, collecting signatures for the petition, and giving a lackluster presentation to the HOF's committee. After initially denying their claim, the committee agreed to place his plaque in a spot that fits the man–the utility closet. This was a one hour special.

Season four and the end of Cheap Seats

The fourth season of Cheap Seats began airing on June 5, 2006. The season premiere was 1996 Spelling Bee: Part II. There was a special titled This is Inside Cheap Seats that aired on April 17, 2006 which looked at the behind the scenes of Cheap Seats (most of it was fictional). This special is part of Season 4 despite airing before that season's premier.

In the "Fall Preview" article in the September 25, 2006 issue of ESPN The Magazine, the Sklars announced that

after 77 episodes, we're bringing Cheap Seats to a close by cleaning out our video closet in a very special series finale.
The finale aired on November 19, 2006 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time and included racquetball, amateur bowling, curling, model airplane racing, and ping-pong. The episode's main focus was on the Sklars fictitiously getting a job as anchors on ESPN's SportsCenter. However, it turned out they weren't hired to be anchors, but as errand boys to the anchors. In the last sequence of the show, it featured New York Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon (a Cheap Seats fan) and the character the Score Settler as the apparent new hosts of the show, but it was a short stint because Damon stole one of the Score Settler's lines. Before the last episode, ESPN Classic presented 12 previous episodes in a six hour "finale-a-thon."

Cheap Seats was added back to ESPN Classic's schedule on September 16, 2007 with a day long marathon. It is now shown on weeknights at 2:00 AM EST on the network and sporadically at 1:00PM and 1:30PM on weekdays. Selected episodes from the first season are still available for purchase through the iTunes Store.


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