The Death of Ken Ober

Ken Ober is dead at 52. For all I know, Ken Ober was a nice guy. I truthfully hadn’t even thought about him for more than a decade until people fired the news my way. But since he is dead, his legacy — limited as it was to a somewhat forgotten and not terribly revered television show (well, that, and apparently writing and producing installments of Mind of Mencia) — will be framed around the talent he brought to said program. Like many who grew up during a particular era, I did catch several episodes. I even had a Remote Control T-shirt that I plucked from the Marshall’s bargain bin — largely for its bright hues and the affordability it presented to my parental units at the time. This sartorial decision resulted in me being severely ridiculed in the summer of 1989 by a girl I had a crush on (along with her friends). And even though this little anecdote doesn’t matter at all to me twenty years later, and I bear no malice towards the girl, the shirt, the program, or Ken Ober, I feel the need to preface any thoughts or feelings I bring to the table in order to avoid any possibility of prejudgment. It might indeed win me five points in the new game we are playing, which is certainly more complex than the older one.

What I can state, after reviewing the above clip, is that I’m not terribly interested in Remote Control now, nor am I particularly impressed. The terrible fashion sense embraced by the contestants cannot be helped, for it was of its year. But I find the vaguely stoned looks of this trio a bit troublesome. This is not the kind of condition, whether real or staged, that should be photographed. Unless you’re making a fun little movie like Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. There is a striving here without any real effort that absolutely resembles the Williamsburg hipster, which brings us again to the perpetuation of stereotypes without an effort to puncture these impressions. I’m also not sure if Ken Ober really brought anything other than a conventionally smarmy stand-up act.

This doesn’t resemble my memories from the late 1980s. I recall enjoying the program. But today, in 2009, I can find very little to like about it. As tenable concessions, I’ll single out Ken Olin’s striped shirt and the now extinct LED point system that they used to serve up in game shows of the period. But then I have a strange fixation on sounds and symbols that are antediluvian.

The snack breaks, featuring popcorn and other crud drifting from unknown heavens and making a mess onto the contestants, may have been a slight draw. But it was eclipsed by the sticky possibilities of Double Dare years later — a show, like Remote Control, presently in diminished standing. So why are we hanging down our heads? Is it name recognition? Brand recognition? Some galvanizing point for brain-dead television?

I will leave others who soak their noggins in this stuff to argue the possibly legitimate position that Remote Control is good television, or more worthwhile than my admittedly snapshot trip down a certain mnemonic ghetto, and happily read their viewpoints. I only ask this: Was Ken Ober necessary? Or could another man have filled his place? (I can see a young Kevin Pollack doing this much better.) And if the latter is true, then why bother to go to the trouble of spending serious time taking in the death of Ken Ober? Perhaps he was entertaining. And for those who mourn Ken Ober’s loss and who feel some stir inside the heart based on a tenuous cultural relationship, my condolences. But what did Ken Ober really do for anybody aside from suggest that we scarf down Hot Pockets and keep our heads into the sand? Maybe I’m just hostile to the sustained celebration of bad television, but I’m genuinely curious.

On the other hand, Edward Woodward is also dead. Now that’s a great equalizer.

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6 Comments

  1. I don’t see my comment posted, about your inhumane uncalled for attack on ken ober. may i assume you are a coward too?

  2. Bill: I don’t see any comments left by you awaiting moderation or in my spam filter.

  3. Here’s what your filter may have prevented you from seeing…

    “Is Ken Ober NECESSARY?” The real question is are YOU necessary. Ken Ober is not a collection of pixels existing for your amusement. He was a flesh and blood human. As a person who had an audience he had more fans than you EVEREVEREVER will. The people who know him only from TV “got” that he was a smart, funny, empathetic guy with a slight twist, but malice to none. Amuse, not abuse would describe him as a performer. His fans mourn (small “m”) because they just lost a guy they feel good about, who they remember as being assicated with a more innocent time in their lives, and a guy who was actually fun and funny.

    Those of us who knew him knew he was a kind, funny smart guy who was wonderful interesting company. He loved and was loved. The world is a less nice place today without him. So you picked on his pre-mature death at 52 to fart on his grave in a blog which clearly exists only to provide you with sufficient intellectual masturbation to delude yourself into thinking that YOU are necessary. News: You’re not. Anyone that has the arrogance, and smugness and lack of insight to write the self important, oh what’s the word – oh yeah, horseshit – you write is clearly unnecessary. Your tude leads us in that “race to the bottom”. Nice work, prick. As Benjamin Franklin said to Aaron Burr, “You sir, are a compleat (sic) Asshole.”
    Proudly unanonymous,
    Bill Grundfest
    Go ahead, print that – and an apology, and maybe you’ll even things up. Maybe

  4. Mr. Grundfest, I’m glad that you have the decency to remain unanonymous. But the difference between you and me is that I couldn’t possibly give a shit about how many fans I have, although I’m perfectly friendly and accommodating to those who get what I do. And I truly don’t give a shit about your opinion of me. Relying on such a vile eyeball statistic is more the mark of a callow businessman than a bona-fide artist.

    The real question is whether any of us are necessary. Will humanity in 50 years time even remember MAD ABOUT YOU or anything that I write? Perhaps not. The point you missed with this post, Mr. Grundfest, which was a clear satirical riff on the kind of hollow personal connection that comes with some B-list celebrity dying (also missed), is that we must produce the best possible material we can if we have only a narrow chance of being remembered. And I’m asking the perfectly legitimate question of whether Ken Ober, who may have possessed some talent, lived up to the task of offering the best that he could.

    I should likewise ask the question of you, Mr. Grundfest. Is MAD ABOUT YOU the best you can do? I think it’s an okay show. Not great, not bad. The kind of thing that one can fold laundry by. But I think you can do better, and I think you have a duty to do better. You have a duty to take more chances. You have a duty to fight the television sausage factory as hard as you can. So did Ken Ober.

    If exploring such an uncomfortable truth makes me an asshole, so be it. That’s just your opinion, and I won’t apologize from broaching territory that you’re too much of a pussy to consider.

  5. 1. That I am a pussy is a long established truth, so fine 1-0, yours.
    2. Your self proclaimed “satirical” take was invisible. satire is like funny – its not funny just because the writer proclaims it thus. It has to induce a laugh or a satirical response. so we’re 1-1.
    3. Noting Ken had fans is a callow? Even you stoop to admit some minor positiive inclination for those who “get” you. Fans are those who “got” him. No callow/ 2-1 mine.
    4. You dont give a shit about my opinion of you? Do you know how many people can say that? So fine, 2-2.
    5. You may think the real question is whether any of us are necessary. But a) that was not at all a thought included in your rant, and b) that is
    cynical to the point of being totally untrue. We and our work will ALL be forgotten, and yet we are ALL necessary. 4-2 mine.
    6. My “work”, writing etc bears no relationship whatsoever to whether I am necessary. Nobody’s work does.How much have you loved and been loved. That’s as close as anybody gets to a scorcard if one insists on keeping score. 5-2
    7. Ken had no “duty” to fight the susage, eat the sausage or shove the sausage up your ass. His duty was to try and be the best human he could. He tried. 6-2

    Finally, come on the only truth around here that somebody is too much of a pussy to consider is that SOMEbody had the chutzpah to publicly ask, for the sake of a blog posting, if a man, a human being, who just died at 52! was necessary. As if he was a thing. Dehumanized. How much dehumanizing does this species need to do to each other before we all get it? Are you totally aneasthetized? As they said finally to Joe Mccarthy – Have you no decency, sir?”
    Game. Set. Match
    Bill Grundfest

    cynical to the point of having no truth

    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\cynicism to the
    The real question is whether any of us are necessary. Will humanity in 50 years time even remember MAD ABOUT YOU or anything that I write? Perhaps not. The point you missed with this post, Mr. Grundfest, which was a clear satirical riff on the kind of hollow personal connection that comes with some B-list celebrity dying (also missed), is that we must produce the best possible material we can if we have only a narrow chance of being remembered. And I’m asking the perfectly legitimate question of whether Ken Ober, who may have possessed some talent, lived up to the task of offering the best that he could.

    I should likewise ask the question of you, Mr. Grundfest. Is MAD ABOUT YOU the best you can do? I think it’s an okay show. Not great, not bad. The kind of thing that one can fold laundry by. But I think you can do better, and I think you have a duty to do better. You have a duty to take more chances. You have a duty to fight the television sausage factory as hard as you can. So did Ken Ober.

    If exploring such an uncomfortable truth makes me an asshole, so be it. That’s just your opinion, and I won’t apologize from broaching territory that you’re too much of a pussy to consider.

  6. The Real World, which preceded Remote Control on MTV, is what signaled the end of music videos on the network, not Remote Control. I mean, MTV is full of reality crap now, not gameshows, right?

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