In the early nineties, FOX was still an upstart network, which regularly experimented with programming that the Big-3 networks wouldn’t touch– shows with edge, or targeting underserved audiences. A little-known performer named Ben Stiller, who came from a good comedic pedigree, had been given an MTV show in 1990 which involved short sketches and introductions to (*gasp*) music videos. A year earlier, Ben had been a “featured player” on Saturday Night Live, following the release of a comedy short he’d produced. Appropriated named The Ben Stiller Show, the episodes typically featured Stiller and his pal Jeff Kahn putting on parodies, and impersonations of celebs, such as Bono, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Cruise. Someone at FOX thought it looked like a good fit for them, and along came a deal for a more expanded version.
Stiller brought in a friend, Judd Apatow, to help run the show, and hired stand-up comedianne Janeane Garafalo, whom he had met over bagels; Andy Dick, who had appeared in a short film of Ben’s; and writer Bob Odenkirk, whom he’d gotten to know through SNL.
The Ben Stiller Show premiered on Sunday, September 27, 1992. Of all shows for that week, the bottom five in ratings were:
# VIEWERS SERIES LAST WEEK BROADCAST
94 7.1 Woops!* - Fox, Sunday, 10:30 p.m. 95 6.2 The Ben Stiller Show - Fox, Sunday, 7:30 p.m. 96 5.4 Rock The Vote - Fox, Wednesday, 9 p.m. 97 5.2 Likely Suspects 90 Fox, Friday, 9:30 p.m. 98 5.2 Parker Lewis 87 Fox, Sunday, 7 p.m.
(*Woops! was a dreadful adaption of Gilligan’s Island set in a post-nuclear apocalyptic world.)
Seeing these number, Fox ran a scant 12 episodes, half of which were shunted to the dreaded “Sunday 10:30″ timeslot, guaranteeing the show never picked up a sizeable audience. Years later, a “lost” episode appeared on Comedy Central.