And now, it's his basement, it's his rules, it's his game show. The quizmaster of 72 Whooping Cough Lane, KEN OBER!
(MTV's) Remote Control was a pop culture/variety-typed game show set in host Ken Ober's basement. This was the first ever game show produced by MTV. Three contestants selected categories from a giant Zenith TV and answered questions.
Three contestants sitting in lounge chairs would select one of nine channels, each of which represented some topic having to do with pop culture. Sample channels used on the show were "The Bon Jovi Network", "Brady Physics", and "Dead or Canadian". Contestants answered a series of questions from those subjects to earn points. There were three questions in each channel/subject.
Some of the other straight question categories included "Leave Out the Beaver," "Private Dicks," "Bad TV," "Celebrity Cellblock," "Babes and Assassins," "PhD-TV," "No Witness News," "Celebrity Flesh," and "Inside Tina Yothers." In season five, "Inside Tina Yothers" was changed to "Inside Joe Piscopo." Season five also saw the debut of "Brady Metaphysics," a philosophy-driven spinoff of the "Brady Physics" channel.
In the first round, the first question for each channel was worth 5 points. The second question for the same channel was worth 10, and the final question was worth 15. These values doubled in the second round.
Several categories were performance-driven, such as these:
- Fairy Pixie - Sheldon, the beleaguered Fairy Pixie, would read forlorn nursery rhymes about television shows.
- Celebrity Square - a cut rate version of the long-running Hollywood Squares game show. MTV could only afford one square instead of nine, but otherwise the rules were unchanged: contestants still had to get the X across, down, or diagonally.
- Beat the Bishop - this challenge forced contestants to complete a math problem within the time it took a man dressed as a Vatican bishop to race one lap around the studio. (Though depicted literally, the title of this channel is also a euphemism for masturbation. Later one-time variations of this channel included the similarly euphemistic "Beat the Bologna," as well as the straightforward religious spinoffs "Beat the Buddha" and "Race the Rabbi.")
- The Laughing Guy - a segment in which Ten Eyck played "Ken's cousin Flip", who dressed in nerdy attire and laughed the theme songs to various TV series, which the contestants had to then guess.
- The Anti-Flip - This channel worked the exact opposite as The Laughing Guy. Ten Eyck now played "Ken's evil cousin Skip", who was the exact opposite of Flip, dressed in drag and was a complete dullard; he would give the name of a TV show, and the contestant then had to laugh the theme song.
- Andy's Diary - in which a gurgling Denis Leary portrayed the Pop artist Andy Warhol.
- Stud Boy - a character who claimed to have had affairs with any number of famous women, and played by Adam Sandler. Contestants had to guess the woman that Stud Boy was describing.
- Trivia Delinquent - Stickpin Quinn, the Trivia Delinquent, another recurring Sandler character who was supposed to be Colin Quinn's cousin.
- Colin's Brother - played by Leary, which degenerated into an excuse for the two to pummel each other on-air.
- Survey Says - a Family Feud typed question with five correct answers to it was asked to the players.
- Casey's Big Poll - after Kari Wührer left the show, the premise of "Survey Says" was changed to make it a survey hosted by Ten Eyck imitating radio personality Casey Kasem, accompanied by a burly man in drag as "my lovely wife Jeannie". Otherwise, the rules remained the same.
- Match 'Em Up Real Good - a Match Game-type fill-in-the-blank statement is read, and if the contestant's answer matched that of Colin, Steve, or the hostess, they scored 10 points.
- Sing Along with Colin - in which sidekick Quinn would rasp the lyrics to a song and the contestant had to complete it. Sing Along was easily the most popular channel used on the show, to the point where in the final season, it was removed from the "channel" lineup and instead was done every show, as a request from "Ken's Mother".
- Dead or Alive - Simply put, contestants were given the name of a celebrity and had to guess whether he or she was dead or alive. Variations of this game have included "Dead or Canadian" and "Dead, Alive or Indian Food".
- Mr. Baggy Pants - this character asked juvenile riddles that are common in joke books such as "Why did the guy throw his clock out the window?" The contestant had to provide the punchline, in this case "because he wanted to see time fly."
- Rolling Stoned - in which Leary would portray a strung out, drugged out Keith Richards.
There were a handful of "negative" channels in which contestants would be penalized:
- Home Shopping Zone - where the unlucky contestant to choose that channel would see a video of a smarmily cheerful TV salesman (played by Craig Vandenburgh), "selling" some ridiculous product for a deduction of 10 points (20 points in the first season).
- Ranger Bob - a thick-headed park ranger (played by John Ten Eyck) would offer a "camping safety tip" for 10 points.
- Public Television – None of the contestants would be penalized, but "because only 3% of the population actually watches public television," this category contained questions whose answers were considered to be almost impossible to come up with.
- Wheel of Torture (fourth and fifth seasons only) - The contestant could choose to lose 10 points, or submit to "Colin's torturous whims" and gain 10 points. If the contestant took the torture, the hostess would spin the Wheel of Torture (with sections including "Noogie", "Wet willie", and "Purple Nurple") and Quinn would administer the torture to the contestant. Some of the tortures were changed during the final season. Notably, the purple nurple was not administered to female contestants.
- Off the Air (pilot only) - In the pilot episodes, if a contestant selected it, he/she was immediately eliminated from further play. When the show went into production in December of 1987, the rule was dropped in favor of the rules explained below.
Off the AirEdit
After round two, the TV went "Off the Air" (accompanied by a siren effect and the studio lights flashing on and off), and the contestant in last place at that moment was also thrown "Off the Air" and eliminated from the game. Eliminated contestants were removed immediately, chair and all (hence the seat belts). The ejections were accomplished in a variety of ways.
The 2nd season was the first to feature 3 different kinds of eliminations. The player on the left side of the stage was sitting in front of a seemingly normal brick wall. If they lost, their chair was pulled backwards and upon hitting the wall a trap door would swing open to allow the player to be pulled backstage. The door was then shut to "trap" the player behind the wall. The player in the middle was in front of a doorway lined with blue wallpaper. If they lost, their chair would be pulled back and rip through the wallpaper. Because you could still see the player after they went through it, a black sheet was dropped down to keep them hidden from view. The player on the right was in the infamous "flipper" chair. Their chair would be yanked upwards and backwards so that the stage floor was now the wall from the vantage point of the audience. So they would be strapped in their chair literally hanging almost upside down on the backstage side of the wall.
Seasons 3 and 4 had some minor modifications. The "flipper" chair was now on the left side of the stage. The middle chair was in front of a fake brick wall. This was similar to the setup from season 2 except when their chair hit the wall there was a breakaway section that would fall backwards allowing the chair to continue behind the stage. Just like in season 2, a black sheet was dropped down to conceal the player from view. The player on the right side was in front of a typical looking wall decorated with shelves, pictures, and a dartboard. When this player lost, their chair would be flung backwards, hitting the wall and spinning it around 180 degrees. The backside of the wall (now seen on stage) looked like the outside of a house, with siding and a garden hose (as to imply that the player had been ejected from The Basement to the outside).
In Spring Break episodes, players were seated on the edge of a swimming pool. The losers would be thrown into the pool by stagehands. Male contestants were pushed into the pool, while female constants were generally picked up and tossed in.
This concept was dropped in later Spring Break episodes and replaced with the contestant in folding lawn chairs which were placed on platforms on the edge of the pool. All 3 contestants were eliminated in the same manner if they went "Off The Air." The platform would sink forward slightly folding up the lawn chair a little bit (and making it more difficult for players to run away if they chickened out as they were not strapped in for safety purposes). The hostess would then walk over to a lever in front of the contestant, wave bye-bye to them and pull the lever which released the platform, sending the seated contestant tumbling backwards into the pool.
Beginning in the Spring Break episodes before the second season, the audience would also sing a "goodbye song", typically "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," "Hit the Road Jack," or "Get Off My Show" (to the tune of "Get Off My Cloud"), while said player was being ejected. After a contestant was ejected, he/she would be tormented by stagehands playing various annoyances behind him/her while an unrealistic screaming sound effect played.
In seasons 2-4, the two remaining contestants competed in a 30 second speed round entitled "Think Real Fast". Typically, this was a fill-in-the-blank or spot-the-errant-word format. For example, Ober would read movie, TV show, or song titles that had one word replaced with a different word, and contestants had to come up with the correction. The high scorer moved on to the bonus round, while the runner-up was eliminated in a manner similar to the third place contestant.
In the fifth season, as well as the second season of the syndicated version, all three players played a different version of the lightning round called "This, That or the Other Thing," but it was not the last round in the game. All questions now had one of three answers that Ober would list before the round started. These were usually people or characters who shared a common name, for example: "Andy Taylor, Andy Warhol, or Andy Rooney." Contestants had 20 seconds to ring in and answer as many questions as possible; after this round, the TV immediately went "Off the Air" and the third place contestant was eliminated.
Final question (Season 5/Syndie Version Season 2)Edit
The two remaining players bet any or all of their current score on one final question. Host Ober read a question, usually a math problem, and the players had 20 seconds to write down their answers while a strange act was performed. When time expired, the players' answers and wagers were checked; a correct answer awarded the wagered points to the contestant, while a wrong answer deducted said points.
The remaining player after all rounds won the game and advanced to the Grand Prize Round. In the event of a tie after the last round, a final question was retrieved from a giant Bob Eubanks Pez dispenser and asked of the players, with a correct answer winning the game. On the syndicated version, a question was pulled out of the Pez dispenser to determine control of the TV for Round 1.
Grand prize roundEdit
MTV Version (first 4 seasons): The contestant was strapped to a Craftmatic Adjustable Bed, facing a wall of nine TV sets (some turned sideways or upside down) on which music videos were playing. The contestant had to identify the artist in each video, with a prize being awarded for every correct answer. Correctly identifying all nine artists within 30 seconds won the grand prize, usually a car or a trip to a beach resort. Before the clock started ticking, the contestant was given a split-second glimpse of every video at once.
Syndicated Version ("Wheel of Jeopardy"): The contestant was strapped to a carnival wheel surrounded by ten television monitors, and was asked ten further questions (usually about TV). For each question successfully answered, the contestant won a prize, which would be displayed on one of the monitors. After 10 questions, the wheel was stopped, and if the player's head landed on a screen that had a prize on it, or if they answered all 10 questions correctly, he won the day's grand prize, as well as all the other prizes offered that day. After a few episodes, the monitors displayed "Grand Prize" instead of an actual prize.
MTV Version (season 5): The "name the artist" round was modified to more resemble the syndicated bonus round. The player was strapped to a metal wheel placed at a 45 degree angle, with a single TV above and below it. The nine videos were shown in succession, and the player had to guess all the artists in 40 seconds to win the grand prize. (The metal wheel also replaced the carnival wheel in the syndicated version; because it was lighter than the carnival wheel; it also spun quite a bit faster, making it even harder for the contestant to concentrate.)
On celebrity episodes, the grand prize was $5,000 to the winner's charity.
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Theme Song LyricsEdit
Kenny wasn't like the other kids.
TV mattered, nothing else did.
Girls said yes, but he said no.
Now he's got, his own game show.
Futuristic Robotic voice:
Main - Steve Treacase
Lightning Round Cue - "Time" by Pink Floyd
A Board Game based on the show was released by Pressman in 1989.
Games for the MS-DOS, Apple IIGS and Commodore 64 were released in 1989 while the NES version was released in 1990 by Hi-Tech Expressions. (NOTE: The game remains quite similar to the show, although the NES version has no end game)
Various T-Shirt's based on the show have come out at times.
Countries that have previously aired their versions of (MTV's) Remote Control includes:
- Australia: as The Great TV Game Show airing on Network Ten in 1989, hosted by Russell Stubbs.
- Greece: sharing the same title as the American version (again minus the "MTV's" part in its title) airing on Star Channel briefly in 1996, hosted by Petros Philippides.
- Italy: as Urka! airing on Italia 1 in 1991, hosted by Paolo Bonolis.
- Puerto Rico: as Control Remoto airing on WAPA-TV in 1989, hosted by Xavier Serbia. It was cancelled after three months due to the fact that MTV threatened a lawsuit against the show because of "copyright infringement".
- United Kingdom: sharing the same title as the American version (minus the "MTV's" part in its title) airing on Channel 4 from 1991 until 1992, hosted by Anthony H. Wilson.
Phil Moore was an audience warm-up man on the show.