Saturday, November 21, 2009

RIP Ken Ober

By Rick Morris

I'm dating myself horribly by mentioning this, but MTV's REMOTE CONTROL used to be playing all the time back in the dorms at Ohio University. It was a revolutionary show, the first game show to really embrace the irony in that genre and not take itself so seriously. It was also the first non-musical program on MTV, thus setting the stage for its present-day descent into no music and all-crap programming (but we won't blame the show for that!).

Great talents like Adam Sandler, Colin Quinn and Denis Leary got their first big breaks on the show. But it was built largely around the talents of comic Ken Ober, whose sarcastic-yet-smooth style made the show what it was, even more than the creative MTV gadgets that populated so much of the set.

Ober was just so great in that role on a show that really never got a chance to overstay its welcome, remaining forever attached to our memories of the end of the 1980s. He was so talented that many people almost took him for granted because he made it look so easy. I know that when I examine the people who helped shape my persona and approach for our FDH LOUNGE program that I've tended to overlook him myself (generally citing Tony Bruno, Steve Czaban and Glenn Beck -- when his show was goofier and less political), but I can see now how much I absorbed from him. I can't imagine how many other broadcasters of my generation can say the same.

It's tremendously sad that he passed away suddenly this week at age 52, with natural causes being strongly suspected. It is at least comforting to read that he had to know how respected he was based on the outpouring of people who did apparently have the opportunity to tell him that.

In the realm of giving credit where credit is due, we at FDH salute Matt Berry for an eloquent piece about what Ken Ober meant to him. We disagree with Berry's fantasy advice from time to time, particularly when we feel that it crosses over into advocating overmanaging, but he hit a bulls-eye with this tribute and it backs up what I said about how Ober influenced the broadcast style of our generation.

Ken's colleague at MTV Kurt Loder wrote a wonderful piece about his friend and co-worker.

And also, just to make this piece concrete and demonstrate just how easy Ken Ober made his job look, here's a clip from the first-ever edition of the show on MTV back on December 7, 1987. Take a trip back 22 years and relive the fun of that great program. There was only one REMOTE CONTROL and there will only ever be one Ken Ober. RIP to a true great and, from what his friends say, a truly nice man off the air.

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