‘Cheap Seats’ brothers have new show
Ryan Summerlin September 25, 2008
Considering how funny the Sklar brothers are today, imagine what they were like when they were teenagers.
Years before they became television stars on the ESPN show “Cheap Seats,” Randy and Jason Sklar were involved in an incident they will always regret.
“When we were 17, we drove over the median in our mom’s Pontiac LE and just ruined the oil pan,” Randy said. “We had to sell a handful of our baseball cards just to pay for it so she wouldn’t find out. That was like tragic. We should have just told her and been grounded. Now we don’t have our Dale Murphy and Ricky Henderson rookie cards.”
Adversity has also plagued Leif and Leyland Topps, the characters played by the Sklars on the Web show “Back on Topps,” which begins Wednesday, Oct. 1 on www.topps.com. The brothers were heirs to the Topps card fortune but the have been demoted. A 25-episode first season features Leif and Leyland’s struggles with card-industry office politics, a jerk of a boss and possible romance.
As with “Cheap Seats,” educated sports fans will catch some esoteric pitches.
“Guys who are sports fans, they will get some real treats, but other people will enjoy it, too,” Randy said. “They may not get those little nuggets but there’s enough with relationships. They’ll get the workplace environment. Maybe there’s a boss they don’t like. There’s a lot in here for people to latch onto.”
In the first episode, the Topps brothers discover a card caper in a hair salon, and Leyland exclaims, “Sweet mullet of Gaetti!” Garry Gaetti was a slugging Minnesota Twins third baseman with the aforementioned hairstyle.
“If you know who Garry Giatti is, it will make you chuckle. If you don’t you’ll say ‘What does that mean?’ And you’ll move on tho the next part of the story,” said Eric Friedman, one of the show’s writers. “But any time a sports name makes us laugh, we’ll throw that in for the old faithfuls.”
Friedman, Matt Price and Anthony Delbroccolo ” each of whom worked on “Cheap Seats” ” contribute to “Back on Topps.”
“It’s like ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ if ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ took place in Jason’s kitchen,” Friedman said.
Friedman also wrote for Comedy Central’s “Little Bush” and “Crank Yankers.”
“Jay and I conceived a lot of the ideas, and these guys really helped us flush out the stories,” Randy said. “We brainstormed in five-episode chunks. Jay and I would write them based on what we came up with in the brainstorming sessions. We’re all into sports, and we try to keep the storylines relevant and current as best as we can.”
Randy said the actual Topps office is like the “Sports Center” commercials with professional athletes in the studio.
“Athletes come by there all the time,” he said. “If we’ve got Baron Davis in Los Angeles, let’s throw him in a scene. We shot with Andre Ethier and Russell Martin from the Dodgers and they were phenominmal. A lot of these guys have seen ‘Cheap Seats,’ and a lot of these guys are fans of ours.”
Disney CEO Michael Eisner and his Tornate Co. bought out Topps last year. The industry began losing popularity about 15 years ago, and companies like Fleer and SkyBox went out of business.
Eisner shouldn’t be underestimated for being successful with Topps or his idea for the Sklars’ Web-isodes, Friedman said.
“I think (Web TV) is growing,” he said. “People are still figuring out how to make money doing it. I’ve got a feeling if someone can crack it, Michael Eisner can. It’s fun to get stuff and watch it. I’m curous to see how they promote it. That will be the key, getting people to come to the Topps Web site.”
YouTube and MySpace have helped make Internet video popular.
“The world is changing so much ” I’m talking to you on an iPhone,” Randy said. “TiVO is great equalizer. It just makes TV viewing egalitarian.”