Last year, The A.V. Club conducted a Random Roles interview with Paget Brewster, an occasion which led to the uncovering of a video clip believed to have been lost to the ages, one which featured Brewster wearing a self-described “homemade fur bikini” while grinding and lip-syncing her way through a performance of “Killing Time,” by Gun Bunny.
While its importance in the pantheon of pop culture may be negligible, the video—an artifact from the 1994 San Francisco cable access show Strange America—nonetheless helped to paint a picture of Brewster’s career in the days before she successfully pried her way into prime-time, but even at that, it only told half of her pre-breakthrough story. In the wake of Strange America, Brewster found herself in the middle of a decidedly more mainstream television endeavor: hosting a talk show, a gig which she more or less lucked into, as she explained to The A.V. Club:
I was bartending at a bar called The Slow Club in Potrero Hill, and a guy hung out in my bar—because he lived around the corner—and he was a manager. So I said, “Manage me!” And I just kept bugging him to manage me, as I was going to acting school at the Actors’ Lab in San Francisco, and I think I plied him with a lot of martinis and free French fries, but he said, “Okay, I’ll send you on three auditions.” But I didn’t understand that he represented on-air talent like anchor people, correspondents, and journalists. So I went on three auditions to host stuff… and I got a pilot to host a show! [Laughs.] I had no intention of hosting a show. I just made a video of me at the supermarket juggling, I think, and interviewing people in the street, because I had nothing to lose. I was 24 years old, maybe 25, and I was, like, “Well, why not?” And I got a show!
Sadly, efforts to hunt down even so much as a clip of Brewster’s talk show—the cleverly-named Paget—to accompany her Random Roles interview proved unsuccessful. This was no surprise to Brewster, who admitted to The A.V. Club that she’d also tried and failed when she’d embarked upon her own search while also acknowledging that the swing and miss didn’t exactly break her heart:
I can’t find The Paget Show on YouTube anywhere, either, which is probably good, because I looked like Ralph Macchio—I had a flattop—but they dressed me in, like, Cosby sweaters. So it was just a bad look all around. Oh, and lots of rings! [Laughs.] You know, it was the ’90s. And a San Francisco Giants hat. I mean, I looked ugly.
In closing, Brewster added, “Oh, God… I hope you don’t find it!”
And we didn’t, because it wasn’t out there to find… until February 27, when it suddenly was, thanks to the YouTube channel Bay Area ’90s TV.
There’s a temptation to play conspiracy theorist and suggest that Brewster somehow played puppet master and made sure that the one episode of her talk show to surface featured a topic that would make it very, very difficult to point and giggle at the none-more-1995 elements of the show: “Triumph Over Tragedy,” as the installment is called, features interviews with the widow of one of the victims of the 101 California Street shooting, a doctor who rescued a child that had been trapped under the body of his dead mother in the wake of the Loma Prieta earthquake, and other stories which in no way qualify as “a laugh a minute.”
But Brewster was clearly as surprised as anyone when the episode popped up, taking its appearance in stride and happily sharing the link with her legion of Twitter followers, a decision which quickly resulted in a bit of teasing from a few of her friends.
Interestingly, the man who brought this treasure to the masses—Scott Rayer, curator of Bay Area ’90s TV—had no idea what a holy grail he had on his hands.
“I’ve been searching for a plausible reason why I recorded that TV program in the first place—the VHS tape was unlabeled, and finding it came as a surprise to me—and the only thing I can think of was that Tom Snyder on CBS came on after Paget, and when I went to bed around 1:00 a.m., I put a tape in the VCR, hit record, and went to sleep,” Rayer told The A.V. Club. “In the days afterward I viewed the Tom Snyder segment, then placed the tape aside. Once it was a part of a tape clutter, I boxed it away along with over a thousand other VHS tapes accumulated over 13 years, and it came along with me to Henderson, Nevada, when I moved in the year 2000.”
Rayer described the reaction to his Paget upload as “jaw-dropping,” having expected maybe a few dozen views over the course of a few weeks rather than the thousand-plus views the episode received within a few days. But aside from the fact that it was an episode of an obscure talk show from the mid-1990s, there’s another reason why Rayer might’ve been dumbfounded by the burst of interest: He didn’t actually know who Paget Brewster was.
“Embarrassingly to say, I was completely clueless about Paget Brewster prior to finding that tape,” said Rayer. “And I knew nothing about her KPIX talk show prior to playing the unlabeled VHS tape in my player machine a couple of weeks ago. When playing the tape, the TV program’s significance that struck me was the fact of it being a locally produced talk show; which by the mid-1990s was becoming a rarity with Bay Area local TV.”
When Paget premiered in 1994, Brewster told The Advocate, “I’m like this wiry freak they pulled out of a bar two months ago and said, ‘Let’s throw it on the wall as see if it sticks.’” Sadly, it did not—it was kicked to the curb by KPIX at the end of its 65 episodes—but Brewster managed to triumph over that tragedy, and thank goodness she did. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be nearly as funny to look back at it now.