Sunday, January 22, 2017

What Might've Been: The Ben Stiller Show (1990)

It was the winter of 1990, and there were changes at MTV. Remote Control was winding down, and would begin its final season. The network realized that The Half Hour Comedy Hour was not a strong enough bridge to their primetime video block, which at the time started with an oldies block hosted by original VJ Martha Quinn (Classic MTV was rechristened Martha's Greatest Hits and expanded to a hour-long, twice daily format), so they needed some fresh programming.

The checkerboard block, as memory serves, went a little something like this:

Mondays: Colin Quinn's Manly World
Tuesdays: Kevin Seal: Sporting Fool
Wednesdays: Just Say Julie (the only survivor)
Thursdays: The Ben Stiller Show
Fridays: Pirate TV (hour-long show)

As noted above, Just Say Julie was the only one that remained after the others were cancelled, but not for much longer, as "Hollywood" Julie Brown eventually left for Fox.

Second generation comic Ben Stiller, son of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, was given his first chance to star in his own series. Skewering pop culture icons and trends both past and present, Stiller and his on-air collaborator, Jeff Kahn, by all rights, should've been the breakout stars of the Class of 1990. Instead, the series lasted the minimum 13 weeks, and was gone. Undaunted, Stiller followed Brown to Fox, and rebooted, with Andy Dick and Janeane Garafolo joining him. However, his Fox run met the same fate.

Luckily, Stiller has fared very, very well since then, thank you, thanks to making the transition to movies such as "Zoolander", "Meet The Parents", and the "Night at the Museum" series. We'll look at the 1992 Fox series another time, but right now, we can finally finish MTV's Class of 1990 with this sample clip.

It can be suggested that Stiller believed he was ready, but MTV suits and viewers saw things differently. Maybe if his parents had appeared at least once on either his Fox or MTV show, things could've been different.

Rating: B-.

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