Thursday, August 8, 2013


Usually when a star's show is cancelled after one season, they fall off the radar for a while, and sometimes they might recover quickly, as Tom Hanks did with his string of hits post "Bosom Buddies," with "Bachelor Party" and "Splash."  But in the case of Ben Stiller, his show was the first show to win an posthumous Emmy after the show was cancelled after its first season.  After that Stiller went onto become a prolific writer/producer/director and star in his own right.

Stiller and the writing staff on a local talk show the night after winning an Emmy after being cancelled (bonus appearance by Olivia Newton John)

It seems everyone has their favorite version of Stiller.  Some like him during his "Permanent Midnight"/"Cable Guy" days.  Some remember him only as "That Fokkers guy," and others still remember him for portrayal of the mentally challenged male model Derek Zoolander.  But the progenitor of all things Ben Stiller, including going full retard, is Stiller's titular "Ben Stiller Show."

The Ben Stiller show is interesting as there are TWO versions of the show.  The first (MTV) version is one of those "Oh, yeah! I forgot about that!" moments.  A Wiki stub for MTV version says that The original MTV version of The Ben Stiller Show aired in 1990-1991 and ran for 13 episodes. It is not available on DVD, although excerpts from the program are featured as a bonus on that release. Produced by Jim Jones, who would go on to produce the Fox series and starring Ben Stiller and co-writer Jeff Kahn, it was a self-effacing show-within-a-show format. Part of MTV's experimental Vid-Com season, it was interspersed with music videos that Ben and company would introduce in their short comedy sketches. Regulars included Harry O'Reilly and Ben's sister Amy Stiller. Guest stars included Ben's parents Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, as well as John F. O'Donohue, Run DMC, Melina Kanakaredes, Al Lewis and MTV regular Martha Quinn.  
RARE MTV Ben Stiller "Dog Day Star Trek" sketch  
 The Fox version of the BSS aired for only 12 episodes during the 1992-1993 season.  It was a straight up sketch comedy format that unlike other Fox shows, did not have a live audience, nor a laugh track.  Several comedic greats either got their start, or fully blossomed during the Ben Stiller's show run. Ben Stiller, Andy Dick, Janeane Garofalo and Bob Odenkirk. and John F. O'Donohue were the primary stars of the show, with Judd Apatow, Robert Cohen, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Brent Forrester, Sultan Pepper and Dino Stamatopulos as the main writers on the program. David Cross and Bob Odenkirk would go onto create a more advanced sketch comedy program with Dino Stamatopulos with "Mr. Show with Bob and David."  

Whereas the BSS relied heavily on parody, "Mr. Show" would rely heavily on satire. The BSS version of Stiller showed that Stiller literally ABSORBED everything from the time spent around his two showbiz parents Anne and Jerry Stiller.  Ben Stiller's impressions were often dead on of the persons he was parodying.  And apparently some of them didn't go over so well with some people, so post-BSS, Stiller has refrained from hardly any impressions of stars of late. The sketches lampooned the absurdness of American television.  

One of the best sketches on the program involved Faux Fox show called "Skank!" which starred a (dirty) sock puppet as the father of a typical American "family" sitcom.  Voiced by Andy Dick, Skank's trademark was, "Shut your stinkin' trap!"
The Skank "Waste water" episode saw the early version of Bob Odenkirk's "Senator Tankerbell" character.
Mr. Show's Senator Tankerball
One of the most acclaimed sketches was Bob Odenkirk's "Lassie"/Manson crossover.
The BSS even predicted one day we would get to Die Hard 12.
"Cops: In Medieval Times" still holds up today.  I still laugh at the line "Drop the wand, Houdini."

But one of the best crossovers/crossing the streams moment was when Ben Stiller parodied his own father's 1985 "Tales From the Darkside" episode, "The Devil's Advocate," with the "Low Budget Tales of Cliched Horror" sketch.  Not many people realize the joke within a joke with this sketch.  It was actually a good "Tales from the Darkside" episode, but Ben Stiller excoriates the cheap sets, and his father's less than stellar t.v. "devil" makeup job.  

Stiller Sr.
Stiller Jr.

Stiller also made fun of the commercials of the time, such as Wilford Brimley pushing Quaker Oats.

You can watch all 13 of the episodes of Fox version of "The Ben Stiller show" for FREE.  Ironically, it is availble on the "WB" network's website here:

The show is also available for purchase on dvd from most retailers.

No comments:

Post a Comment