The Ben Stiller Show  

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Episode 2

The opening sketch features Stiller doing one of his favorite and most accurate impressions: Tom Cruise. In "Tom Cruise Dress Casual," the superstar takes to the stage to re-enact some of his most famous roles. He segues from "Rainman" to "Born on the Fourth of July" to a dance montage of scenes from "Top Gun," "Cocktail," "The Color of Money" and "Risky Business." Stiller perfectly captures Cruise's nasally snicker and smart-aleck smile.

Stiller introduces guest Bobcat Goldwaith, who is confused about the content of the show. They introduce "Melrose Heights, 90210-2402." a parody of the glut of Fox programming aimed at young adults. The show's cast is introduced:

"Devin...handsome, attractive and good-looking" (Stiller).
"Britton...she's beautiful, pretty and gorgeous" (Garofalo).
"Tank...he's just as attractive as Devin, only with slightly different sideburns ...they're...less pointy" (Stiller again).
" exchange student who's learning that 'America' is more than just a language" (Angela Visser).
"Spider...all he's ever had is his music...kind of" (Dick, playing the guitar very poorly.)
"Vaughn...a sassy, English prankster...with a twinkle in his eye...and a secret" (Odenkirk).
"And Akeem...the black guy" (DeVeau Dunn).

This particular episode of "Melrose Heights" deals with the school's prejudice after Devin reveals he has a headache. Although he becomes a social outcast from people who fear they'll catch it, his friends stand by him and they end the episode with a rousing song. Devin sings: "I had a headache, but I'm okay...I am a young adult, and I am in love..."

Ben and Bobcat discuss the best way for Ben to promote his new show. This leads to a discussion of how Johnny Carson, the father of comedy, never helped Bobcat's career by letting him on the show. Ben consoles Bobcat as he wails: "My daddy doesn't love me!" This leads to a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the auditions for the new host of "The Tonight Show". Along with Jay Leno (Judd Apatow), celebrities from Todd Bridges (as himself) to William Shatner (Stiller) try out. Steven Seagal (Odenkirk) wants to open the show by kicking down a door, while Sinead O'Conner (Garofalo) doesn't want to tell a joke "when there's so much suffering in the world". The auditions turn bloody when Shatner and Seagal break into a traditional "Star Trek" fight. Shatner wins, but cries out to the judges: "Look at us! Is this what you want? you've pitted us against each other, like animals in a cage! For what? a silly, late-night talk show. Do you know what it is to love?"

There is a promo for the new Fox sitcom "Skank", starring a dirty sock puppet (voiced by Dick) with an attitude. Constantly berating his wife (Garofalo) and guest star Normal Fell (as himself), Skank introduces his catchphrase: "Shut yer stinkin' trap!!!"

ESPN and the World Tennis Organization team up to bring us the made-for cable movie "Advantage Agassi," starring tennis pro Andre Agassi (Stiller) as a crime fighting athlete. Martina Navaratilova (Garofalo) plays Cyborg 40-Love and Ernie Hudson (as himself) plays Agassi's captain, prone to spouting such cliches as: "This is a game of've been playing singles way too long!" And perennial villain Armand Assante (Odenkirk) finds a creative way to torture Agassi, by chaining him to a wall and letting an automated pitching machine pelt him with tennis balls. The advertisement promises the show to be "a high-strung, grand-slam, scruffy-faced, line judge, ground-stroke winner!"

Bobcat and Ben introduce the "Video Diary," where a 16 year-old Ben is about to go to a VanHalen concert. Literally bouncing off the walls, the long-haired, tie-died Stiller plans to make his move on Sarah Dalton during Eddie VanHalen's "Jaime's Crying" guitar solo. When Stiller returns a few hours later, he's covered in mud and states: "All I can say know, if you have your blanket down, that means that's where you're sitting, right? And you shouldn't lose your spot when you go to the bathroom! You know, nobody owns grass!"

There's a brief commercial for the "Skank Hotline," telephone number 1-900 123-SYST. (Shut Your Stinkin' Trap).

"Cops In Salem, Mass" tracks Constable Miles DeSipio (Stiller) and Lt. Constable Josiah O'Donohue (John O'Donohue) investigating a witch sighting in 1640. The "Witch" (Garofalo), is arguing with two men (Dick and Odenkirk), and swears she's innocent. When Dick reveals the woman is no more than a simple prostitute and the argument began because they refused to pay her, Odenkirk claims: "Of course he'd say that, he's a witch, too!" The two "witches" are hauled off to be dunked in a cauldron of water and "if they drown, we'll know they' weren't witches".

Bobcat wants to direct the show, and takes over the hand-held camera following them around. He ends up making a run for it, with Ben chasing after him. The closing credits feature more "Tonight Show" try-outs, including a crazed Todd Bridges pulling a gun when his audition is cut short.


Stiller not only looks and sounds like Tom Cruise, but he perfectly captures all of the actor's cutesy mannerisms--especially his tendency to rely on a killer smile to win audiences over. One of Stiller's few contributions during his brief tenure on "Saturday Night Live" was a hilarious short film parodying "The Color of Money", the 1986 sequel to the pool hall classic "The Hustler". As "Wince", Stiller plays Cruise as a bowling phenomenon who hustles small children. The Paul Newman role is assumed by John Mahoney, who Stiller later cast in a small but memorable role in "Reality Bites".

The "Cops" sketches were a regular feature on "Ben Stiller", and were always set in a different time period. However, the two officers were always thoroughly 90s. With slicked-back hair, a thick New York accent and yellow shooting glasses, Stiller's Officer DeSipio is prone to bursts of obscenities and other such modern behavior.

Evidence of Stiller's influence on today's entertainment can be found in even the most obscure places. Case in point: the character of "Skank", the grouch sock puppet. In 1993, Bobcat Goldwaith (a special guest on this episode) appeared in a wonderful, little-seen comedy called "Freaked". His character was a young man who is turned into a freak show attraction when his head is replaced by a talking sock that looks remarkably like Skank. And in the WB Network's sitcom "Unhappily Ever After", Bobcat lends his voice weekly to the character of...a talking stuffed toy of some kind. Either this is one of the strangest examples of typecasting in entertainment history, or there are a lot of speaking roles for laundry out there.


"Talk to him the way you always did...only not as loud."--Spider's advice to Britton on how to deal with Devin.


"The 'Cops' thing cracks me up because it's just like an episode of the show. They even scrambled the faces of the people in the background!"--Joy

Overall Show Quality....7

Stiller's Tom Cruise impersonation was rabidly received by everyone, but most people felt the show went downhill from there. The "Melrose" and "Cops" parodies tested highly, but the "Skank" sticom seemed to really confuse people. The biggest laugh probably came during Stiller's "Video Diary", when he first appears in a long-haired wig.

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