YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollections

Remotely Amusing


January 24, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

The shows will only be on the air for a few weeks but in those few weeks Imperial Valley TV viewers will have the unique opportunity to make a decision usually reserved for death row inmates: "The Chair" or "The Chamber."

Both new shows debuted this month on the Valley cable system; "The Chair" on ABC and "The Chamber" on FOX.

Don't have cable? The choice is easy. You're watching "The Chamber" or standing on the roof, working the antenna in a vain attempt to eek out the ABC signal from Palm Springs.

For those with cable the choice is a tough one.

The shows are practically identical. In fact, they are so similar that their respective production companies are suing each other over the format similarities.

The only big difference between the shows: different white men host.

"The Chair" features tennis legend John McEnroe ranting and raving at contestants strapped into a … yeah … a chair. The contestants must answer trivia questions and keep their heart rates below a certain level. The drama!


"The Chamber" features contestants strapped into a chair, that's inside a chamber. (Genius!)

The contestants have to answer trivia questions while they are bombarded by physical impairments such as wind and fire.

For those who consider McEnroe's heated diatribes against chair umpires to be the best thing to happen to tennis since they stopped requiring female players to wear floor- length evening gowns, "The Chair" would seem to be an easy remote click.

But hold on a sec, there, before you choose "The Chair."

"The Chamber" is hosted by Rick Schwartz.

Puzzled? No one here knows who the hell he is, either.

According to "The Chamber" Web site, "Schwartz began his career as a production associate at Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment."

Since fetching coffee for the midget in the E.T. suit isn't much of a resume, the Web site bio continues, "Later, an interest in journalism compelled him to lead an international fact-finding mission to Yugoslavia during the Persian Gulf War."

What? Come again? "Hmm, I'm interested in journalism but I'm trapped in a dead-end job here at Amblin. I know! I'll head off to Yugoslavia to find facts!"

First of all, wasn't the Persian Gulf War based in the Persian Gulf? Did I miss something? Did Kurdish refugees hoof it up to Yugoslavia? If they did, what the hell was Schwartz going to find out? How they took their coffee?

A lot of questions, huh? (That was another one.)

The rest of the bio sheds some "answers," although Schwartz's story is more convoluted than a "Love Boat" plot.

"By bringing CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Jerusalem Post with him, Rick was able to land interviews with then Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman," according to the site.

OK … (throws hands up in the air.) Seriously. George O'Leary's resume was less fanciful.

How did Schwartz "bring" journalism organizations with him? "Come on guys, hop in my invisible private jet!"

Why couldn't the respective reporters of CNN, the Times, the Journal and the Post "land" their own interviews? "Rick … uh … we hate to admit this but … uh … we are having trouble securing interviews with world leaders. Could you call Steve and pull some strings?"

More from the site's bio:

"On that trip, (Schwartz) was detained in Austria as a terrorist and held at gunpoint for hours. Luckily the authorities realized the mistake."

What about all those people he brought with? Were they detained, too?

Doesn't say.

The bio goes on to detail his "career" after returning to the states.

Schwartz hosted a show on ESPN2 while working for Prime Sports West at the same time. He then worked for "EXTRA" as a "news" correspondent.

The bio doesn't mention what big stories Schwartz broke during his four-year tenure at "EXTRA."

"This just in! Britney Spears enjoys low-fat Snackwells!"

After his stint at "EXTRA," Schwartz moved on to TBS, hosting "Movies for Guys Who Like Movies."

That's it.

Impressive, huh? Makes you wonder. Was Jay Thomas busy?

So … to wrap up … watch "The Chair" with John McEnroe.

Break out the aluminum foil for the bunny ears if you have to.

Watch the show if for no better reason than "Mac" is a hard-ass New Yorker who vitalized the world of professional tennis and never, ever, claimed to have an interest in journalism.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

>> Rick Schwartz's bio can be found at

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles