Not only were there advertisements on TV to inform us about what game to buy next, but there were TV shows about gaming. Be it either shows about a certain game such as the Super Mario Super Show, or a show that reads out reviews and challenges it’s audience to games such as Games Master.
Let’s start off with that one cartoon…
What is a “Pizanos” anyway? :/
The Super Mario Super Show appeared on TV in the UK just about as I got into the Mario games when I was 6 years old, and it got me pumped to know there was a cartoon on it. Now with the likes of Netflix and Youtube showing these episodes they’re definitely in the class of “Yeah… it’s a Saturday Morning cartoon that seriously didn’t age well”. Plus with Charles Martinet as Nintendo’s official voice for Mario, hearing Lou Albano (an ex WWF Wrestler who looks like he’s taken more drugs than Randy Savage) as Mario is just a little weird…
And hey, check this out! Mario Starring in a game show?!? …not quite, it’s John Lenahan, who ever the hell he is… After looking on Wikipedia he’s some American magician who was semi-popular in the mid eighties… Moving on… This was Super Mario Challenge, broadcast in 1991 on The Children’s Channel. I remember seeing this game, and for whatever weird reason whenever a new season of this appeared, so did a new season of Super Mario Super Show would turn up… Funny that huh? But again this is a weird moment in my childhood memory thinking this was cool, to find out this video decades later to discover that it use possibly the cheapest film set in human history by painting on car board boxes, then get people to play on air that honestly played Mario as if it was their first time playing it… You squandered my precious rose-tinted memories Lenahan!
Then came the Daddy of them all! Games Master! To me this was Epic Gaming TV viewing! Presented by Dominik Diamond and Sir Patrick Moore, it was just mind blowing to watch this as a kid in the early 90s. Dominik Diamond plays the role as the nerdy, yet dapper host, whilst Sir Patrick Moore has his face digitised onto a huge electronic CGI monument, where he becomes “The Games Master” with his posh, booming voice!
However in series 3 of Games Master, Dominik Diamond got replaced with the street wise Dexter Fletcher, however it just didn’t feel the same, and ratings went really low. The fans demanded Dominik Diamond back, and he would be the host for all the future episodes.
The show lasted for 7 series’, it’s final episode was broadcast on the 3rd of February 1998. To be honest though, the intros for both series 6 and 7 had depictions of death and nightmares, and seeing the ageing Dominik Diamond turn from a young nerd into a 30 something beer guzzling lager lout wasn’t a pretty sight, and it was pretty clear that he wasn’t too into the whole television broadcasting thing. When he left Games Master he became a journalist for the *COUGH*porno*COUGH* Daily Star, but he soon took on being a radio host as a career, appearing in a few Scottish Radio Stations, and now he lives in Canada where he’s a host on the Q104 Nova Scotia Radio Station.
After the popularity Of Games Master launch back in 1991, plenty of other shows ran with the same “Review and Challenge” format. One of which was Games World, Run by Bob Mills, and ex Games Master commentator and proud head band wearing silly man, Dave Perry, this Games Master clone was no where as good as what they tried to copy from, and ultimately lost my interest…
One of the “other shows” that did grab my interest was Children’s ITVs Bad Influence. Hosted by Violet Berlin and Andy Crane, they made a more kid friendly video game TV show by using bright colours and animated dinosaur characters rather then the dank, dark, moody themes used in Games Master. It was more of a news and review show, it didn’t feature any of the challenges as seen in Games Master or Games World, however Violet Berlin did get to host Head to Head…
Oh look! It’s Guru Larry in his pre teen years! check out that mullet! lol!
Head to Head was a very short show (Never longer than ten minutes) that concentrated on a single challenge, the idea being that champion from the challenge before, would take on new challenger, and see if he can keep his place on the Head to Head show. I did see a few of these shows, but when I said above that Super Mario Challenge was the cheapest film set ever, maybe I was wrong, THIS has to be the cheapest! It was just a pair of TVs with chairs in the middle of a darken room! Personally I wouldn’t send a kid to this show! The set itself sounds dodgy!
Out of all the the rubbish video game cartoons that came out. Sonic was cheesy, Zelda was even worse, Captain N looked like the eighties red headed step child. There was only one that was only mildly amusing in short bursts, and that was Earthworm Jim. Only because it was the only game cartoon I could think of that felt that the artists and the script writers had actually played the game! Mind you, it did receive the typical American Saturday morning cartoon affair where everything had to be cheery, bright, and kid friendly, when in the game, it was pretty dark, moody, and Jim’s gun packed quite a punch, when he never used it in the cartoon. However there was a sense of that the company behind the cartoon had paid attention to the game and made sure that even with it’s kid friendly censoring, they didn’t do any silly crap like renaming characters, adding weird continuity that made no sense to the game, or inventing plot that makes no sense… wait, remove that last one! The Earthworm Jim Cartoon was fairly faithful to it’s game despite the fact they took the route or no guns aloud, when a gun was Jim’s main weapon!
Later on in the late nineties and early two thousands, TV shows about video games pretty much disappeared, Games Master continued as a magazine that would eventually turn into some pretty bad reading material, there was a CGI Donkey Kong cartoon made by some French animation studio, and the Pokemon anime came in to tell the world that Japanese animation was going to rule. However, there were a few odd late night video game TV shows that I attempted to tape using my TV/VCR combo. One of which was called Cybernet, and another called Thumb Bandits. These were shows that were broadcast on Channel 4 at 1 or 2 am and were geared towards more adult viewers. But to be perfectly honest we were starting to get our gaming news from a thing called, “the Internet”, so shows like these never really took on. Even Thumb Bandit’s male host, Iain Lee, thought it was a terrible show!
In this modern age where Youtube is almost destroying TV, at least for our generation, maybe not so for generations older than us. There’s more gaming video content online than what the mind could handle with shows such as the Angry Video Game Nerd
, Classic Game Room
, and the pretty recent Game Grumps
, all make a new generation of Gaming video viewing all to the command of our finger tips…
However… …there is one more TV show…
What happens when you add cynical comedy, video games, and the BBC? You get Charlie Brooker’s GamesWipe. Broadcast on BBC4, and aimed again towards Adults, but aired at a better time of 11 pm, Charlie Brooker’s GamesWipe is the latest in television Gaming viewing where he take political views on gaming and smashes them with his sarcastic comedy, whilst delving in his own nerdy nostalgia of gaming gone by. Definitely worth watching if you can see it!
But, before I end this blog, I must give my respects to the late Games Master, Sir Patrick Moore…
|4 March 1923 – 9 December 2012
Rest In Peace Games Master!