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RIP Quizmaster 72: Ken Ober 1957-2009

Posted by evankessler on November 17, 2009

Li’l Evan Kessler wasn’t like the other kids.  MTV mattered and not much else did.  Sure, I watched shows like Perfect Strangers, Family Ties, and Growing Pains, but between episodes of Pinwheel, You Can’t Do That on Television and network appointment TV, most of that broadcast space was filled in by one channel.  That channel was MTV.  As one of the first kids on my block to have access to Music Television, I was transfixed by the endless stream of videos that would forever retain classic status and satisfy my need for nostalgia nearly 30 years later. From pop music stalwarts like Talking Heads and Madonna to lesser known one hit wonders like Luis Cardenas, I loved it all.

While most of the airtime over the first couple of years on the fledgling, soon-t0-be- iconic pop culture network was reserved for a steady stream of videos, band interviews and bantering VJs; perhaps my favorite half-hour in early days of MTV was the game show known as Remote Control.

Featuring unassuming host Ken Ober, the gruff announcing voice of Brooklyn-native Colin Quinn, comely Kari Wuhrer and budding talents like Adam Sandler and Denis Leary; MTV’s first original non-musical program was reflective of the off-the-cuff attitude embodied by an idea as crazy as “Music Television” was at the time.  Whether contestants were choosing to answer questions from silly categories like “Dead or Canadian”  ( I swear I remember someone answer Canadian for Elvis Presley once) and “Leave Out The Beaver”; listening to character driven soliloquys from Stud Boy or just singing along with Colin; the show reflected the notion MTV was an experiment that didn’t take itself too seriously and was more concerned with celebrating popular culture than being it’s sole arbiter.

Remote Control was a shining example of the MTV I fell in love with.  Between the snack breaks and losing contestants being sent hurtling through the backdrop still attached to their la-z-boy chairs, there was a clumsy charm, a tongue in cheek sense of humor, and ultimately MUSIC VIDEOS!

The people weren’t all pretty, but they were having fun.  I’m not sure when the current, glossy, self-important sheen that’s depicted in shows like “The Hills” took over the network (though my semi-guess is when the sex and immaturity based humor of ‘The Jenny McCarthy Show’ took the place of actual humor produced by “The State”) and maybe with the vain nature of the pop star it was there all along. But for me early MTV’s devil-may-care attitude  never shone as brightly as it did in those 30 minute romps from 1987-1990 hosted by Ken Ober.  Sure there were plenty of great videos that came after and a few great shows as well, but Remote Control might just have been the program that showed me just how fun it could be to watch TV.  So when I heard last night that the host of my favorite late 80’s game show had passed on before his time, I didn’t shed a tear, but I certainly felt like a small part of my childhood had died with him.  Rest in peace Quizmaster 72. You will be missed.

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One Response to “RIP Quizmaster 72: Ken Ober 1957-2009”

  1. […] Featuring unassuming host Ken Ober , the gruff announcing voice of Brooklyn-native Colin Quinn, comely Kari Wuhrer and budding talents like Adam Sandler and Denis Leary; MTV’s first original non-musical program was reflective of the …More Here […]

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