Revisiting ‘Cheap Seats,’ The ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ Of Weird Sporting Events

Cheap Seats was a sports comedy series that ran four season and a whopping 77 episodes on ESPN Classic from 2004-2006, which does not get nearly as much love as it deserves. Normally I’m the last person at UPROXX who should be covering anything sports-related — and yes, at times there were actual sport references that were probably lost on me. But thankfully an in-depth sports knowledge was not necessary to enjoy the brainchild of the comedic duo The Sklar Brothers, made up of identical twins Randy and Jason “the one with the glasses” Sklar.

The full title is actually Cheap Seats without Ron Parker, as the twins ostensibly replaced original host “ESPN sportscaster Ron Parker” after he was injured when a shelf full of tapes fell on him. Of course there is nobody named Ron Parker at ESPN, and the character was actually played by Michael Showalter. The premise is pretty simple: Jason and Randy watch tapes of old sporting events and make fun of them, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style. And by “sporting events,” as I mentioned earlier, I mean spelling bees, poker, World’s Strongest Man competitions, bowling, canine events (like superdogs vs. superjocks), and Coney Island hot dog eating contests — mostly taking place in the ’70s or ’80s.

Breaking up the taped events and voice overs were a variety of sketches. Like MST3K, these usually had something to do with whatever particular event they happened to be watching. Most notable about these sketches was the ridiculously impressive roster of comedian guest stars they landed, which in addition to Michael Showalter (who appeared on the series several times) included: Patton Oswalt, Paul Rudd, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Posehn, Aziz Ansari, David Wain, Matt Walsh, H. Jon Benjamin, David Cross, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Michael Ian Black, Nick Kroll, Kristen Schaal, and Eugene Mirman. Just to name a few!

Each episode also featured a fun facts in a segment called “Do You Care?” and wrapped up with an awards segment called “The Cheapies,” which gave random awards for categories like “Most Uncomfortable Moment,” and “Least Valuable Celebrity” — often times highlighting random spectators or people in the background.

Cheap Seats unfortunately never made it to DVD — probably in part because it would have been next to impossible to secure the rights for all of the random footage used — and the iTunes store even only released a handful of episodes from the first season shortly after the series ended.

Thankfully, it came to my attention recently that Jason Sklar uploaded most of the episodes onto YouTube a couple of years back. The quality isn’t great and season three and four are missing a bunch of episodes — including the “1998 & 1999 NCAA Bowling Champ” episode that had the hilarious Kelly Rapp Rap and remix (although I was able to find parts one and two here and here). But hey, at least it gives you the opportunity to go back and revisit the excellent series.

To close out with, here’s season one’s “Putt-Putt” to maybe get you started on a binge: