|Starring||Randy and Jason Sklar|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||77|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original channel||ESPN Classic|
|Original run||February 4, 2004– November 19, 2006|
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.
During the show, while not cutting in to add humorous comments or ironic insights, several feature segments took place, 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. Original sketches were 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 would 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 such as Vince McMahon or George W. Bush, athlete or fictional character such as Bigfoot or Freddy Krueger; a picture of the Sklars on the board was the series' final shot), "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, also an acknowledgment that the show once ran in hour-long episodes, rather than the latter half-hour).
Most of the broadcasts are from ESPN's archives. Among them:
- Wide World of Sports broadcasts
- Professional wrestling
- National Spelling Bees
- World Series of Poker final tables
- Steve Garvey celebrity sporting events
The show was 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 theatrical silhouette form, cracking 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 standup comedians themselves.
ESPN Classic broadcast 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, Nick Swardson, Aziz Ansari, 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. The title of this episode in the online episode guide 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." 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".[according to whom?] 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 complaints from the fans.
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 on which Busch Stadium III was being constructed. 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 (in 1988, Oquendo became the first National League player since 1918 to have played all nine positions in one season). 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 best fit Oquendo and his skills: the utility closet.
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, though most of the content 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 do the anchors' bidding, causing the brothers to consider going back to the show, which was currently being hosted by then New York Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon (a Cheap Seats fan) and the "Score Settler," a character from the series, as the apparent new hosts of the show, but the stint was short when the Score Settler reacted furiously after Damon stole one of his lines. Before the last episode, ESPN Classic presented 12 previous episodes in a six hour "finale-a-thon."
Cheap Seats reruns currently air on ESPN Classic. The reruns appear quite sporadically, with no set time slot. Selected episodes from the first season are available for purchase through the iTunes Store.
- "Manager and Coaches: Jose Oquendo". cardinals.com. Retrieved 28 April 2012.