Milton Berle: Mr. Television
A TV special
I was the co-writer and associate producer of this one-hour public television biography-documentary that grew out of the 1985 Milton Berle exhibition at The Museum of TV & Radio (where I was a curator). In one comic bit I'm showing Milton the Museum's individual viewing booths; all are playing his old "Texaco Star Theatre" programs. He asks, "Who gave the order to show my programs?" I reply, as per Milton's direction, (with a pregnant pause ala Jack Benny) "You did."
Not too many people can say that Milton Berle threw them a straight line!
I wrote the 40-page program guide and was programming consultant for this Nick-at-Nite/TV-Land like network of UHF stations that aired classic TV shows (and some obscure favorites) from the '50s and '60s including one of my faves as a kid: "I'm Dickens, He's Fenster." (ABC, 1962-63; slapsticky sitcom starring Marty Ingles and John Astin as bumbling carpenters. Former "Honeymooners" and future "Get Smart" and "Dick Van Dyke Show" writers worked on this show!)
A TV talk show guest appearance
When this show aired in 1990, I had recently left the Museum of TV & Radio and was reviewing TV shows (old and new) for various publications. So, as an "expert" on TV history, I was trotted out to join the host and cast members from "My Three Sons" to discuss the nostalgic appeal of vintage TV -- and give the insipid blather the semblance of credibility. Notice that I'm wearing my best Bill Cosby-as-Cliff-Huxtable sweater.
The Freestyle Sofa Flop
Sofa Spud Olympix
A tongue-in-cheek media stunt/guerilla theatre
When I learned that a suburban Chicago hotel was holding a convention for Couch Potatoes I thought, "That's ludicrous." My satirist's dander was up, so I contacted a fellow comedy writer/TV historian friend in Chicago, and we turned the ridiculous into the sublime. We created the Sofa Spud Olympix: a series of pseudo-athletic events celebrating the couch potato lifestyle such as the "Junk Food Triathlon." My motto as Commissioner and host of the games (think post-modern Borscht Belt tummler): "We're putting sloth on a pedestal, but it keeps slipping off."
Our antics elevated the convention from a local hostelry promotion into a media event. We got coverage from CNN, MTV, " A Current Affair," local TV news shows, German and Japanese networks, et. al. An Associated Press photo of me demonstrating the "Freestyle Sofa Flop" -- hurdling the back of a couch -- (dis)graced the pages of dozens of newspapers.
Who Is Dr. Robert M. Batscha, Ph.D.,
and How Do You Spell His Name?
A behind-the-scenes "mockumentary"
about The Museum of TV & Radio
I wrote and produced this 17-minute video spoofing a day-in-the-life of the Museum of TV & Radio (then called the Museum of Broadcasting) as a surprise birthday present for the Museum's President.
I had no budget and about two days to shoot it, but everyone on staff (except the President) was in on the joke and played along, gladly. The piece relentlessly pokes and zings the President -- our boss! -- but the good-natured gags never cross into dangerous territory. (The tricky part was being insubordinate without being perceived as being insubordinate.) I was told years later that the President still enjoys showing this piece to new staff members.
Showing all work for full credit
Three Minutes Twenty-Two Seconds
with J.B. Fuerst
"You know what I hate? I hate those yelping TV curmudgeons who waste minutes of valuable television time each week just to complain about the little things in life. . . "
I felt it was time for someone other than Andy Rooney to get paid (according to my calculations) $184,000 per minute to bitch and moan in front of a national audience. So I wrote and performed this video send-up and offered "60 Minutes" my services with the provisio that if, indeed, I got the job and outrageous salary, I might have to decline because, "I wouldn't have anything left to complain about -- except not having anything to complain about."