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Host
Ken Ober
Co-Host/Announcer
Colin Quinn
Hostesses
Marisol Massey (Season 1)
Kari Wuhrer (Seasons 2 & 3)
Alicia Coppola (Season 4)
Susan Ashley (Season 5)
Broadcast
MTVs Remote Control 1987 Pilot.jpg
Pilot: 11/20/1987
MTVremotecontrol.jpg
MTV (Daily): 12/7/1987 – 3/16/1990 (reruns aired from 4/29/1991 to 12/13/1991)
Remotecontrol Syndie.jpg
Syndication (Weekly): 9/23/1989 – 9/8/1990
Packagers
MTV Networks
Syndication Distributor
Viacom

After Theme Song: "And now, it's his basement, it's his rules, it's his game show. The quizmaster of 72 Whooping Cough Lane, KEN OBER!"

(MTV's) Remote Control was a pop culture/variety-typed game show set in host Ken Ober's basement. This was the first ever game show produced by MTV. Three contestants selected categories from a giant Zenith TV and answered questions.

Premise[]

The show's premise was that Ober desperately wanted to be a game show host and set up his basement (at 72 Woopingkof Lane; the spelling was indicated by a street sign prop seen on the set) as a television studio. The opening theme song sketched out the scenario: "Kenny wasn't like the other kids. (Remote Control) TV mattered, nothing else did. (Remote Control) Girls said yes, but he said no. (Remote Control) Now he's got his own game show (Remote Control!)"

Shows were sometimes interrupted by the disembodied voice of "Ken's mother," and the studio was indeed set up to resemble a basement, complete with a washer and dryer, cheesy bric-a-brac, and a giant Pez dispenser that resembled Bob Eubanks.

The basement was a mainstay of the show throughout its run; however, its cheesy decor was "rearranged" slightly every season. The contestants sat in leather La-Z-Boy recliners with seat belts (their purpose explained below), complete with retro kidney-shaped tables and scoreboards (the column polka dotted lamps above the players serve as buzzer lights), facing host Ober and his retro-styled Zenith television. Behind Ober were autographed pictures of his idols, game show hosts such as Eubanks, Bob Barker, Bill Cullen, Bert Convy, Monty Hall, and Tom Kennedy. Musician Steve Treccase set up his keyboard behind a cluttered bar, at which Quinn and the hostess usually sat for the duration of the show. More clutter could be found around and behind the audience, very frequently including props used in previous seasons. Finally, the contestants' chairs were placed in front of breakaway walls, through which they were pulled if they were eliminated.

Gameplay[]

Main Game[]

The First Two Rounds[]

Three contestants sitting in lounge chairs would select one of nine channels, each of which represented some topic having to do with pop culture. Sample channels used on the show were "The Bon Jovi Network", "Brady Physics", and "Dead or Canadian". Contestants answered a series of questions from those subjects to earn points. There were three questions in each channel/subject (although some of them occasionally had less).

Some of the other straight question categories included "Leave Out the Beaver," "Private Dicks", "Bad TV", "Celebrity Cellblock", "Babes and Assassins", "PhD-TV", "No Witness News", "Celebrity Flesh", and "Inside Tina Yothers". In the final season, "Inside Tina Yothers" was changed to "Inside Joe Piscopo"; It also saw the debut of "Brady Metaphysics", a philosophy-driven spinoff of the "Brady Physics" channel.

In the first round, the first question for each channel was worth 5 points. The second question for the same channel was worth 10, and the final question was worth 15. These values doubled to 10, 20 & 30 in the second round.

Categories/Channels[]

Several categories in each game dealt with specific television shows or genres. Categories such as "Brady Physics" (and later "Brady Metaphysics"), "The Today Show Time Machine", "Leave Out the Beaver", "Inside (celebrity's name)", and "The Bon Jovi Network" were standard academic categories with questions presenting humorous situations involving the characters or celebrities named in the category. Other categories included:

  • Private Dicks – about famous detectives.
  • Really Bad TV – usually critically panned TV series or short-lived programs.
  • Celebrity Cellblock – questions relating to celebrities and famous people who got in trouble with the law.
  • Babes and Assassins – where the host read a humorously-phrased question about a female actress and a famous criminal. To win points, the contestant had to identify the pair.
  • PhD-TV – television-related questions determined to be harder.
  • Just Say No – about celebrities who had abused drugs.
  • No Witness News – where the contestants were given the date and name of a supermarket tabloid, then shown three possible headlines. The contestants had to identify the one that actually appeared in the publication on that given date.
  • Celebrity CAT Scans
  • Celebrity Flesh – about celebrities who posed nude.
  • Bald Guys – about famous men who are bald.
  • Boy Were They Stupid – consisting of questions that were not answered correctly in an earlier episode.
  • Channel Number Five – models (almost always female) who later made it famous, almost always in acting or music.
  • Dr. Blister – questions pertaining to celebrity gossip.
  • Six Feet Under – about deceased famous people and celebrities.
  • Flab TV – about large and/or overweight celebrities and famous people.
  • TV Listings – a (fictional) risque TV Guide-type listing to a TV show is read, and from various clues given it was up to the contestant to name the show.
  • Whatever Happened To… – a statement is read about a celebrity (often a child star or a one-hit wonder) who had previously made it big but had since faded from the scene, and the contestant had to correctly guess the individual's name.
  • What's Their Line – a pun on the long-running game show, the contestants were asked to identify the career of a TV character. A variation saw the host name the show and the career(s) of a particular character, with the contestant then having to identify the character.
  • Dead or Alive – The name (and sometimes, a brief description) of a famous person or celebrity is read, and the contestant had to determine whether that person was living or deceased. Variations of this game have included "Dead or Canadian" and "Dead, Alive or Indian Food."
  • Prime Time (day of week) – Questions pertaining to TV shows that aired on a particular day of the week on network television.
  • After These Messages – Contestants had to identify products and slogans relating to classic and current TV commercials.
  • Short People – about famous people or celebrities who have a short stature.
  • The Genius Channel
  • Geek TV – about famous nerds.
  • The Gourmet Channel
  • How Dumb Can You Be – Simple questions on topics including civics, history and science with blatantly obvious answers.
  • Ken Goofed
  • MTV – questions relating to music and music videos; this was always one of the available channels.

Several categories were performance-driven, such as these:

  • Bossy Boy – Played by Quinn, the Bossy Boy—who played an assistant manager-turned-manager at a local fast food restaurant—shouted out degrading orders as the lead-in to questions about main characters' bosses and employers of TV shows.
  • Fairy Pixie Corner – Sheldon, the beleaguered Fairy Pixie, would read forlorn nursery rhymes about television shows. The contestants were then asked to ring in name the show to which the nursery rhyme referred to in order to score.
  • You Laugh, You Lose – Same in premise to the game show Make Me Laugh, where a member of the cast performed a comedy routine for the contestant. If he/she did not smile or laugh (in the judge's judgment) for 20 seconds, they won points.
  • Celebrity Square – a cut rate version of the long-running Hollywood Squares game show. MTV could only afford one square instead of nine, but otherwise the rules were unchanged: contestants still had to get the X across, down, or diagonally.
  • Beat the Bishop – This challenge forced contestants to complete a math problem within the time it took a man dressed as a Vatican bishop to race one lap around the studio. (Though depicted literally, the title of this channel is also a euphemism for masturbation. Later one-time variations of this channel included the similarly euphemistic "Beat the Bologna", as well as the straightforward religious spinoffs "Beat the Buddha" and "Race the Rabbi".)
  • The Laughing Guy – a segment in which John Ten Eyck played "Ken's cousin Flip", who was dressed in nerdy attire and laughed the theme songs to various TV series, which the contestants had to then guess.
  • The Anti-Flip – This channel worked the exact opposite as The Laughing Guy. John Ten Eyck now played "Ken's evil cousin Skip", who was the exact opposite of Flip, dressed in drag and was a complete dullard; he would give the name of a TV show, and the contestant then had to laugh the theme song.
  • Andy's Diary – in which a gurgling Denis Leary portrayed the Pop artist Andy Warhol.
  • Stud Boy – a character who claimed to have had affairs with any number of famous women, and played by Adam Sandler. Contestants had to guess the woman that he was describing.
  • Trivia Delinquent – Stickpin Quinn, the Trivia Delinquent, another recurring Sandler character who was supposed to be Colin Quinn's cousin.
  • Colin's Brother – played by Leary, which degenerated into an excuse for the two to pummel each other on-air.
  • Survey Says – a Family Feud typed question with five correct answers to it was asked to the players.
  • Casey's Big Poll – after Kari Wührer left the show, the premise of "Survey Says" was changed to make it a survey hosted by Ten Eyck imitating radio personality Casey Kasem, accompanied by a burly man in drag as "my lovely wife Jeannie". Otherwise, the rules remained the same.
  • Match 'Em Up Real Good – a Match Game-type fill-in-the-blank statement was read, and if the contestant's answer matched that of Colin, Steve, or the hostess, they scored 10 points.
  • Sing Along with Colin – in which sidekick Quinn would rasp the lyrics to a song and the contestant had to complete it. This was easily the most popular channel used on the show, to the point where in the final season, it was removed from the "channel" lineup and instead was done every show, as a request from "Ken's Mother".
  • Mr. Baggy Pants – this character asked juvenile riddles that are common in joke books such as "Why did the guy throw his clock out the window?" The contestants had to ring in and provide the punchline, in this case "because he wanted to see time fly."
  • Rolling Stoned – in which Leary would portray a strung out, drugged out Keith Richards.
  • Storytime with Uncle Quinn
  • Colin's Corner
  • Star Guts
  • Soaps – in which the hostess would read an episode synopsis about a TV soap opera and the contestant had to guess the soap
  • Remote Control Playhouse
  • Shakespeare TV – in which sidekick Quinn would perform some lines to a Shakespeare play and the contestant had to guess what Shakespeare play the lines were from.
  • Amazing Questions – 
  • Celebrity Roast
  • Talkin' Trash
Penalization channels[]

There were a handful of "negative" channels in which contestants would be penalized:

  • Home Shopping Zone – where the unlucky contestant to choose that channel would see a video of a smarmily cheerful TV salesman (played by Craig Vandenburgh), "selling" some ridiculous product for a deduction of 10 points (20 points in the first season).
  • Ranger Bob – a thick-headed park ranger (played by John Ten Eyck) would offer a "camping safety tip" for 10 points.
  • Public Television – None of the contestants would be penalized, but "because only 3% of the population actually watches public television," this category consisted of questions that no average contestant would be able to answer. On a first season episode, however, a contestant did correctly answer a question about Coulomb's Law, earning him 10 points and a full 20 seconds of wild cheering from the audience.
  • Wheel of Torture (fourth and fifth seasons) – The contestant could choose to lose 10 points, or submit to "Colin's torturous whims" and gain 10 points. If the contestant took the torture, the hostess would spin the Wheel of Torture (with sections including "Noogie," "Wet Willie," and "Purple Nurple"), and Quinn would administer the torture to the contestant. Some of the tortures were changed during the final season. Notably, the Purple Nurple was not administered to female contestants (if the wheel looked like it was going to land on Purple Nurple for a female contestant, the spinner quickly and noticeably directed the wheel to a different option). Its predecessor, Wheel of Jeopardy (not to be confused with the bonus round), made a few appearances in the first three seasons; depending on where it landed, a contestant's score could be altered, or he or she could face a bit of humiliation or torture.
  • Off the Air (pilot only) – In the pilot episodes, if a contestant selected it, he/she was immediately eliminated from further play. When the show went into production in December of 1987, the rule was dropped in favor of the rules explained below.
Off the Air[]

After Round 2, the TV went "Off the Air" (accompanied by a siren effect and the studio lights flashing on and off), and the contestant in last place at that moment was also thrown "Off the Air" and eliminated from the game. Eliminated contestants were removed immediately, chair and all (hence the seat belts). The ejections were accomplished in a variety of ways.

The setup in the first season was very basic. All three contestants were seated in front of breakaway sections in the wall behind them. Upon elimination, the losing contestant was simply pulled in their chair through that section of the wall, which would fall backward allowing the chair to continue sliding behind the stage. Upon being pulled through, a black curtain was dropped concealing the contestant. Most of the time this was accompanied by the camera shaking violently and a "static" effect to simulate the TV (and the contestant, as mentioned by Ober) going "Off the Air." On occasion, the chair would return through the wall with the contestant replaced by a skeleton or something else indicating that he or she had been "killed."

The second season was the first to feature three different kinds of eliminations. The player on the left side of the stage was sitting in front of a seemingly normal brick wall. If they lost, their chair was pulled backward and upon hitting the wall a trap door would swing open to allow the player to be pulled backstage. The door was then shut to "trap" the player behind the wall. The player in the middle was in front of a doorway lined with blue wallpaper. If they lost, their chair would be pulled back and rip through the wallpaper. Because you could still see the player after they went through it, a black sheet was dropped down to keep them hidden from view. The player on the right was in the infamous "flipper" chair. Their chair would be yanked upward and backward so that the stage floor was now the wall from the vantage point of the audience. So they would be strapped in their chair literally hanging almost upside down on the backstage side of the wall.

The third and fourth had some minor modifications. The "flipper" chair was now on the left side of the stage. The middle chair was in front of a fake brick wall. This was similar to the setup from Season 2 except when their chair hit the wall there was a breakaway section that would fall backward allowing the chair to continue behind the stage. Just like in Season 2, a black sheet was dropped down to conceal the player from view. The player on the right side was in front of a typical looking wall decorated with shelves, pictures, and a dartboard. When this player lost, their chair would be flung backward, hitting the wall and spinning it around 180 degrees. The backside of the wall (now seen on stage) looked like the outside of a house, with siding and a garden hose (as to imply that the player had been ejected from The Basement to the outside).

For the final season, the curtain behind the breakaway wall was replaced by a black wall with a pattern of jail cell bars, and the wall behind the contestant on the right rotated vertically instead of horizontally.

In Spring Break episodes, players were seated on the edge of a swimming pool. The losers would be thrown into the pool by stagehands. Male contestants were pushed into the pool, while female constants were generally picked up and tossed in.

This concept was dropped in later Spring Break episodes and replaced with the contestant in folding lawn chairs which were placed on platforms on the edge of the pool. All 3 contestants were eliminated in the same manner if they went "Off The Air." The platform would sink forward slightly folding up the lawn chair a little bit (and making it more difficult for players to run away if they chickened out as they were not strapped in for safety purposes). The hostess would then walk over to a lever in front of the contestant, wave bye-bye to them and pull the lever which released the platform, sending the seated contestant tumbling backward into the pool.

Beginning in the Spring Break episodes before the second season, the audience would also sing a "goodbye song", typically "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," "Hit the Road Jack," or "Get Off My Show" (to the tune of "Get Off My Cloud"), while said player was being ejected. After a contestant was ejected, he/she would be tormented by stagehands playing various annoyances behind him/her while an unrealistic screaming sound effect played.

Lightning round[]

During the first season, after the TV went "Off the Air", gameplay continued as normal with the remaining two contestants until time expired. Beginning with the second season, this format was scrapped for a "lightning round" to determine the winner.

In Seasons 2-4, the two remaining contestants competed in a 30 second speed round entitled "Think Real Fast". Typically, this was a fill-in-the-blank or spot-the-errant-word format. For example, Ober would read movie, TV show, or song titles that had one word replaced with a different word, and contestants had to come up with the correction. The high scorer moved on to the bonus round, while the runner-up was eliminated in a manner similar to the third place contestant. In the event of a two-way tie for second place or a three-way tie when the TV went "Off the Air," no one was eliminated at that point; all three contestants played Think Real Fast, and the second- and third-place scorers were both removed at its end (this was referred to as a "double-yank" by Ober).

In the fifth season, as well as the second season of the syndicated version, all three players played a different version of the lightning round called "This, That or the Other Thing," but it was not the last round in the game. All questions now had one of three answers that Ober would list before the round started. These were usually people or characters who shared a common name, for example: "Andy Taylor, Andy Warhol, or Andy Rooney." Contestants had 20 seconds to ring in and answer as many questions as possible; after this round, the TV immediately went "Off the Air" and the third place contestant was eliminated.

Final question (Season 5/Syndie Version Season 2)[]

The two remaining players bet any or all of their current score on one final question. Host Ober read a question (usually a math problem), and the players had 20 seconds to write down their answers while a strange act was performed. When time expired, the players' answers and wagers were checked; a correct answer awarded the wagered points to the contestant, while a wrong answer deducted said points.


The remaining player after all rounds won the game and advanced to the Grand Prize Round. In the event of a tie after the last round, a final question was retrieved from a giant Bob Eubanks Pez dispenser and asked to the players, with a correct answer winning the game. On the syndicated version, a question was pulled out of the Pez dispenser to determine control of the TV for Round 1.

Grand prize round[]

MTV Version (first four seasons) – The contestant was strapped to a Craftmatic Adjustable Bed, facing a wall of nine TV sets (a couple turned sideways; the ninth upside down) on which music videos were playing. Before the clock started ticking, the contestant was given a split-second glimpse of every video at once. The contestant had to identify the artist in each video, with a prize being awarded for every correct answer. The contestant could pass on an artist if they couldn't identify him/her and would return to him/her if there was time left. With each correct guess, a music video would be turned off making it easier to identify the renaming artists. Correctly identifying all nine artists within 30 seconds won the grand prize, usually a car or a trip to a beach resort.

Syndicated Version ("Wheel of Jeopardy") – Due to copyright issues, music videos could not be used on the syndicated episodes. Instead, the contestant was strapped to a spinning horizontal wheel surrounded by 10 numbered television monitors and was asked 10 questions (usually about TV). For each question successfully answered, the contestant won a prize and the message "Grand Prize" appeared on the corresponding screen. The contestant had three seconds to answer each question, and could not return to passed or missed questions. After all questions had been asked, the wheel was allowed to slow to a stop, and if the contestant's head pointed to a screen that displayed "Grand Prize", he won the day's top prize in addition to any prizes for his/her correct answers. A contestant who correctly answered every question automatically won the grand prize. A similar bonus round was used on the British version.

MTV Version (Season 5) – The "name the artist" round was modified to more resemble the syndicated bonus round. The player was strapped to a metal wheel placed at a 45 degree angle, with a single TV above and below it. The nine videos were shown in succession, and the player had to guess all the artists in 40 seconds instead of 30 to win the grand prize. (The metal wheel also replaced the carnival wheel in the syndicated version; because it was lighter than the carnival wheel; it also spun quite a bit faster, making it even harder for the contestant to concentrate.)

On celebrity episodes, the grand prize was $5,000 to the winner's charity.

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Theme Song Lyrics[]

Kenny wasn't like the other kids. (REMOTE CONTROL!)
TV mattered, nothing else did. (REMOTE CONTROL!)
Girls said "yes" but he said "no". (REMOTE CONTROL!)
Now he's got his own game show. (REMOTE CONTROL!)
(Futuristic Robotic voice: REMOTE CONTROL!)

Music[]

Main - Steve Treccase
Lightning Round Cue - "Time" by Pink Floyd

TV Guide ads[]

Merchandise[]

A Board Game based on the show was released by Pressman in 1989.

Games for the MS-DOS, Apple IIGS and Commodore 64 were released in 1989 while the NES version was released in 1990 by Hi-Tech Expressions. (NOTE:The game remains quite similar to the show, although the NES version has no end game)

Various T-Shirt's based on the show have come out at times.

Studios[]

Matrix Studios, Manhattan, New York City, NY (Seasons 1-2, 4-5)

Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios), Orlando, FL (Season 3)

International Versions[]

Countries that have previously aired their versions of (MTV's) Remote Control include:

  • Australia – as The Great TV Game Show airing on Network Ten in 1989, hosted by Russell Stubbs.
  • Brazil – as Controle Remoto airing on Rede Globo in 1989, hosted by Fausto Silva.
  • Greece – sharing the same title as the American version (again minus the "MTV's" part in its title) airing on Star Channel briefly in 1996, hosted by Petros Philippides.
  • Italy – as Urka! airing on Italia 1 in 1991, hosted by Paolo Bonolis.
  • Puerto Rico – as Control Remoto airing on WAPA-TV in 1989, hosted by Xavier Serbia. It was cancelled after three months due to the fact that MTV threatened a lawsuit against the show because of "copyright infringement".
  • United Kingdom – sharing the same title as the American version (minus the "MTV's" part in its title) airing on Channel 4 from 1991 until 1992, hosted by Anthony H. Wilson.

Trivia[]

Phil Moore was an audience warm-up man on this show.

The opening sequence featured on the show featured clips from Truth or Consequences and The Price is Right on the TV.

Colin Quinn would later be a featured performer on Saturday Night Live then be promoted to full-time cast member.

Links[]