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"It's his basement! It's his rules! It's his game show!"—Colin Quinn, introducing host Ken Ober.
Game Show about TV trivia that was MTV's first venture out of music videos (and thus the very beginning of Network Decay to some). The premise was that host Ken Ober grew up addicted to television and longed to host his own game show, so he set one up in his basement and bombarded contestants that dared to enter with questions about television, junk food, and threats to their well-being. The supporting cast was shockingly good for a low budget cable show of the era and featured Adam Sandler and Colin Quinn before they made it to Saturday Night Live; Denis Leary before he developed Rescue Me; actresses Kari Wuhrer and Alicia Coppola, who have worked consistently in film and TV since then, and future TV writer Rick Rosner.
Contestants played by selecting one of nine channels on the "Big Zenith", each of which represented a category; Ober would then ask questions related to that category for increasing amounts of points. Of course, some of the channels were less pleasant than others: "Ranger Bob" and "Home Shopping Zone" took away points, and others such as "Wheel of Torture" and "Beat the Bishop" required the contestant to complete (or endure) a challenge to earn the points.
Losers were ceremoniously thrown "Off the Air" and yanked through the back wall while still in their chairs. This part was copied from Adam Wade's version of Musical Chairs, albeit in a much more violent manner.
The show originally aired from December 7, 1987, until December 13, 1991, with a concurrent syndicated version running for the 1989-90 season. Two episodes (one each from the first and last seasons) were aired by MTV in tribute after Ober's death in late 2009.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Big Win Sirens: Alternating burglar alarm sirens were used whenever the Bonus Round was won. Inverted if it was lost, as one of the two sirens was used as the time-up buzzer instead.
- Bonus Round: In the MTV version, players had to identify artists in music videos while strapped onto a Craftmatic Adjustable Bed; in the syndicated version, players had to answer TV questions while being spun around on the "Wheel of Jeopardy!".
- Carried by the Host: The show's entire premise revolved around Ober and his obsession with TV.
- Confetti Drop: Bonus Round winners were showered with confetti and streamers while still strapped to the bed or wheel.
- Consolation Prize: Losers got a "Television's Greatest Hits" CD and a Zenith remote control.
- Double the Points
- Home Game: A Board Games, a PC version, and a Video Games for the Nintendo Entertainment System were all produced.
- Mystery Box: Integrated into the "Snack Break" in Season 1; "Let's Pick a Fridge" thereafter.
- Product Placement: Zenith, Craftmatic and PEZ, just to name a few.
- Promotional Consideration
- Speed Round: "Think Real Fast" (also called the "Lightning Round"), with 10-point questions asked for 30 seconds. Changed in the final season to "This, That, or the Other Thing" and shortened to 20 seconds.
- Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: Played with in the "Public Television" category.
- Whammy: "Ranger Bob" and "Home Shopping Zone".
- Zonk: The product you were forced to "buy" with your points if you hit "Home Shopping Zone".
- Camera Abuse: Employed for "Off the Air" during Season 1. The camera would shake and "snow" would appear on the screen as the contestant was being ejected.
- Catch Phrase: Many.
- Cold Open: Used before some notable episodes.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: The contestants' recliners.
- Crowd Song: "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye", "Hit the Road, Jack", or one of several others, whenever someone went Off the Air.
- Deadpan Snarker: Both Ober and Quinn.
- Double Entendre: "Beat the Bishop", anyone?
- Expository Title Theme Tune: "Kenny wasn't like the other kids... Remote Control!"
- Ms. Fanservice: Kari. The other hostesses, to an extent.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar
- Half-Hour Comedy
- Hey, It's That Sound!: A good number of them were used on some of Nickelodeon's game shows (naturally, since they were also produced by MTV). For example:
- Long Runner: It ran for four years, but the show claimed it had been around for much longer.
- Missing Episode: Parodied, when Ken supposedly unearthed an episode from 1975.
- Obvious Beta: The two "test" episodes, recorded on a different set than the series. The first "test" show had Off the Air as a category, eliminating whoever picked it right then and there.
- Point and Laugh Show
- Promoted Fanboy: Ken Ober.
- Prop Recycling: The show used props from earlier seasons as decorations in the Studio Audience during later seasons. Props from Finders Keepers (also a Nickelodeon game) occasionally appeared, but usually as basement clutter.
- Pungeon Master/So Unfunny It's Funny: Played for Laughs with "Mr. Baggy Pants".
- Rule of Three: Three contestants.
- Scare Chord: Used in the first season (and shortly into the second) when at the beginning of the second round Ober said, "The points are doubled...and so is the danger!"
- Shout-Out: Constantly, to game show hosts, other shows, etc. Parodied on some episodes which were themed "salutes" to random objects.
- Signature Sound Effect: The "come and get it" signaling the Snack Break, and the bizarre air raid sirens signaling Off the Air.
- Special Guest: The Newlywed Game and Card Sharks host Bob Eubanks paid a visit to the show in season 2, ostensibly to give Ken some pointers on how to host. The episode is especially hilarious for when one of the contestants began heckling Bob ("You got your own show - let Ken do his business here!"), and Bob responds in kind ("Don't let your mouth write a check your butt can't cash!") The Speed Round then consisted of one word from a TV show's title being replaced with "Whoopie", and the contestants having to supply the correct word.
- Stylistic Suck: Played for laughs with "Sing Along with Colin" and the aforementioned Mr. Baggy Pants.
- Take That: Jeopardy! in particular seemed to invoke Ober's wrath.
- Taking You with Me: The TV does this to the losing contestant when it goes Off the Air. Ober explained it this way on more than one occasion.
- The Jimmy Hart Version: The Theme Tune had a very suspicious resemblance to The Ohio Players' "Fire".
- Timed Mission: Here's a wall of nine TV sets, haphazardly oriented. Now identify the artists in the music videos. You have 30 seconds...
- Troperrific: It's only natural that a show about TV trivia with the world's biggest fanboy as host and parodies of nearly every game show in the book is going to fall under this category.
- ↑ 2 in the wee hours of the morning