[1997 Spelling Bee - a guy in a bee costume is consoling a runner-up in the "comfort room"]
Spelly The Bee:
It's OK, kid. Spelly The Bee says, not everyone can win. Someone has got to lose, and that someone just happens to be you.
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It's like "Beavis and Butthead" or MST3K, but with sports: Two geeks watch some old game while making snide jokes about it. It could be great, but the writing seriously sucks and the twin co-hosts are not at all likeable.
Take the infamous final moments of the 1982 Cal/Stanford football game. The hosts fixate on a guy in the crowd leaving before the big upset. Some fine mocking could have been had, but what do the hosts do? They bring in that fan (not really him) for a studio interview to ask him why he left before the end. His response? He wanted to beat traffic. Wow, guys, that's brilliant - I peed my pants, it was so funny. Since that probably was the real reason the fan left early, why not concoct some elaborate lie for him to tell before he succumbed to the humiliation and buried his face in his hands, weeping?
The other show I caught part of was a wrestling clip from 1980. One wrestler was playing an Iranian Sheik, so one of the hosts dressed liked him in front of a blue screen while blabbering in the same dodgy Arab accent. FYI, guys: Acting funny is not funny.
After the clip the writers thought it'd be funny to see this Sheik wrestler's resumé, which showed to include a stint as a playground bully. Hardee har har. Is there anything deadlier than comedy that isn't funny?
But the mediocrity of "Cheap Seats" can't be solely pinned on the writers. Jason and Randy may be superficially attractive, but neither show any ability in comedy, and their combined lack of screen presence makes the show that much unbearable. Earlier this week I saw them on an episode of "Action," where they were almost but not quite as annoying. (It didn't really bother me then since a) they were in only one scene, and b) that show had kickass writing.) They lack the timing and delivery necessary to make a joke work even if it were funny. They're not as cretinous as B&B or as erudite at Joel/Mike and the 'bots; they fall somewhere in between, which, as seen here, is deathly boring.
Shame, since the show has potential. It's got a good premise, and, being on ESPN Classic, a bottomless archive of sports clips. I'd love to see what could be done with, say, the '62 Mets or a shot of Pete Rose on the dugout phone. Get better writers and truly funny sports geeks/pop-culture savants to host (how about Bill Simmons? His column on ESPN.com's Page 2 is always good for a laugh), and I'll give "Cheap Seats" another shot.
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