Tuesday, 25 September 2007

What ever happened to cool Video Game related Television?

What ever happened to amusing, edgy cool and generally kick ass video game related TV?

Who remembers the now legendary Games Master (broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK) and perhaps less well known but equally kick ass Games World (broadcast on Sky TV)?

I do.

Now, the important part of the article is toward the end, but bare with me.

The other day while watching the Greatest 100 Kids TV shows for the 700th time on E4 (seriously, just do a new one, have another vote, use your web site or something, before I kill myself) I began to consider what my favourite 'kids TV shows' were and if indeed they were on the list – I am notoriously awkward and suspected they wouldn't be, and boom, what do you know, they were not.

It stuck me that perhaps those shows which I had liked the best, these being those of which I had the fondest memories were not 'mainstream kids TV' shows as such but semi-alternative productions - these being specifically DJ The Kat (which was on Sky, I had Sky before a lot of kids I knew at the time for some reason – I had access to German pornography long before your average bear), Round The Bend, Games World and Games Master.

Now DJ The Kat, in retrospect, was pretty shit. Unconvincing cat puppet named “DJ” with Fonzy complex, vaguely attractive totty for watching fathers (on a side note have a good think how many kids shows have obscenely attractive, but when you actually look, Porn Star like chicks presenting. Food for thought. And or fap) coupled with some albeit better cartoons than the BBC and ITV kids programming could muster at the time; MASK for example. Remember that? Brave Star I think was on there and a lot of shit like that. It had the Ninja Turtles too, before anywhere else in the UK. It was ok for a kids show.

Round the Bend on the other hand was simply awesome and still is. You'd think it's sheer political incorrectness would have made it extremely memorable; not to mention repeatable and DVD'able. Sadly this is for reasons that beat the fuck out of me, not the case. Hardly anyone remembers it; and I don't think it was repeated more than a few times on cable channels like Nickelodeon in the UK. The show even had a video game made about it for the Spectrum, Commodore and a few other formats like the Atari ST and Amiga. Legendary and ground breaking stuff, for the time.

The thing was set out like a pirate TV station set in the sewer manned by puppets of various less than cuddly animals. How can that be wrong? Who could forget the cast of Doc Croc, Jemimah Wellington, The cockney rat Vaudville Vince Vermin and the Italian Luchetti Bruchetti.

The show was probably most famous for it's parodies of other kids shows, such as;

  • Wee-Man And The Masters of the Looniverse.
  • Nursery Crimes.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Toilets.
  • Attack of the Atomic Banana.
  • Thunderpants.
  • Octopus Slime.

And not forgetting 'Wooly The Wonder Sheep'. Great stuff and in many ways representative of an embryonic culture of cynacism, sarcasm and mockery we now associate with the internet, maybe a lot of us got our somewhat twisted sense of humour, the type of which now dominates the web, from shit like this. Maybe it's their fault. Check it out.


And there are, all praise the lordz of the interwebs, now some You Tube clips too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZJQS3W_ml0 and follow the links through.

Aside from kids TV frivolity this train of thought got me thinking about something more interesting. How bloody brilliant was 90's mainstream 'Tech TV' (more actually, video games TV I suppose) in comparison with the dire rubbish out there now (if indeed, you can find any)? I know we all have the internet to gather round and lameass webcasts presented by spotty charisma less geeks to watch and giggle at (more so than we did then at any rate) but that's no excuse for anything tech related to have been done better in the past! WTF is wrong with us.

Cast your mind back to the heady days of 1993...

Games World presented by the dry and cutting Mr Bob Mills (a British stand up comedian and presenter famed for his wit and sarcasm) and often featuring the once notorious Dave “The Animal” Perry (who despite his babyface and homosexual bandana still appeared cool to a 14 year old Digital Nobody) and not to mention in later series David Walliams of Little Britain fame, and home to a troop of elite 'Videators' who were a bit like pro wrestlers, but who played games and didn't fling themselves around quite as much. Including such names as;

  • Big Boy Barry (played by Alex Verrey)
  • Electric Eddie (played by Rob J Nathan)
  • Colin the Console Cowboy
  • The Executioner (played by Gary Harrod)
  • Radion Automatic (played by Edward Laurence)
  • Letty Edwards "The Gaming Granny"
  • Combat Cal (played by Cal Jones)
  • Mr. Mathers (played by Martin Mathers)
  • The Violet Blade (played by Rik Henderson)
  • The Persian Prince of Perfection (played by Hussain Ghafoor)
  • Ragga D "The Games M.C." (played by Cecil Dyer)
  • Master Moriarty (played by Tristan Moriarty)
  • Trixie Belle "The Minx from Hell" (played by Pushpa Chopra)
  • The Game Messiah
  • Eddie Essex
  • Sir Marshall Mathers (played by Martin Mathers)
  • Metro

What a master piece of TV! This show was on everyday Monday through to Friday with Wednesday and Friday shows being completion shows involving the public (Wednesday the public would face each other, the show was called 'The Eliminator', on various 16-bit classics, the winner going on to face the Videators on the Friday show amazingly named, 'Beat The Elite')

Above: Beat The Elite, seriously, how fucking cool is that show.

Other shows being review and cheat nights. A highly entertaining and relatively innovative show for it's time in terms of presentation – it was also clearly done on a low budget and still managed to pull it off soundly. The characters were fun not to mention pretty awesome at what they did, in terms of actually playing the games – the show itself was like a game in many respects, with different Videators representing different difficulty levels, Big Boy Barry for example, I don't think was beaten very often as oppposed to the Granny, who got beaten every time.

Now here is the important part as regards this article:

News Flash establishment: Video games are far more entertaining to watch now, the original 'Mortal Kombat' may have been a ball to play – but it was pretty lame to watch, why the shit isn't someone doing a show like this for mainstream TV now? You can't tell me there isn't an audience (although trolls no doubt will try) – Video Games are more appealing to new demographics every year – just look at the success of the Wii as 'family entertainment' - Just imagine kids and young adults alike fighting it out on Wii games – hands up who's dad doesn't think he is great a Tiger Woods golf? TV video game competition, against colourful characters commentated upon by men of wit interspersed by reviews by people who actually know what the fuck they are talking about (sorry Cybernet on ITV, you can suck my balls, you could at least pretend to be interested – and you don't know. Standard).

Whoa whoa, we are getting sidetracked; Just imagine the FPS tournaments... for Gods sake... Imagine the endless possibilities of a show like Games World on TV now. We even have more potential channels to air it on!


And so far I've only mentioned Games World, subordinate in many ways to the wonder that was Games Master. I saved the best until last because if we need proof that a show mainly about video games can be cool, edgy and successful in the mainstream. Here it is.

Games Master was without a doubt a heavy influence on 90's pop culture – broadcast on Channel 4 I can remember sitting around with my mates just to watch it before writing our own games or playing Sensible World Of Soccer on the Amiga – witty, cool and 'on the ball' summed it up. Just take some of the guests who appeared during the shows epic run:

Jimmy Whit, Frank Bruno, Rory Underwood, Take That, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Vinnie Jones, Dani Behr and Randy Savage to name but a few... a complete list here

Make no mistake ladies and gentlegeeks, This show was huge.

It ended up cancelled because viewing figures were dropping and Dominik Diamond, the shows original host not to mention the shows producers wanted to take the show to a different level (following it's demographic I assume, a sensible move) by having it on later and more adult themed. This proposal, in what I can only imagine was on a crack-cocaine fueled TV executive scale whim of disastrous ramifications turned down by Channel 4.

Why the bollocks did no one listen to Dominik Diamond? The man is a God.

It's not as if there has ever been anything half decent on TV in the late late slots that would possibly appeal to gamers and tech freaks alike (ie. Those people up at that time of night) more than Games Master. Other than perhaps Games World – or a show which did a mixture of both in an equally stylish manner.

It's shocking that Games Master was never ever given a chance on a later slot, perhaps more shocking is the fact that nothing of the sort has ever even been tried again. Other than 'Cybernet'. Which is shit beyond belief – I don't want to lay into it too much as that's not what the article is about, but even the name oozes lame and the words “production think tank” (consisting of parents, teachers, a gamer and a priest) – wtf is a 'Cybernet'. It's wank that's what it is. Lets just all forget it even exists. Just like late night TV viewers.

So the point of this article; why has the concept of either Games World or Games Master (I say put your hands together – take a little from both) never be revisited given the sheer magnitude of the Games Industry as we stand in 2007 (consider how much more money it and those associated with it have now) – not to mention the sheer effectiveness of television as an advertising tool for said industry. What has anyone got to loose?

So here is the campaign; bring Games Master back. Bring Games World Back. Bring back game and tech related late night or prime time TV!

On no level, does it not make sense.

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