If you are of a certain age, you will fondly remember sprinting home from school as your LA Gears flashed behind you in order to land yourself in front of the TV in time for GamesMaster, CyberNet, Games World and the weekend delight that was Movies, Games and Videos. Yes for a gamer in the 90s, it didn’t get any better than this. However, as the decade came to a close, those old favourites soon began to disappear from our screens. There were attempts to rejuvenate the genre, with the likes of Ginx TV still looking like a try-hard emo kid as well as X-League.tv and the less said about Gamezville, the better.
Ok so there are a handful of watchable and, more importantly, non-condescending video game shows still out there, but none of them have the warmth that good ol’ Patrick Moore had as he told you how to unlock the secret bonus level in Donkey Kong Country. So, I decided to take a wee stroll down memory lane and discuss the best and indeed worst video game TV shows of all time.
Yes rather unfortunately we have to kick things off with the dire Gamezville series. The remarkable thing about this dross is that although it ran for only two series, it featured 192 episodes! Yes, 192 episodes of these gurning, put a jumper on it’s freezing, male model eejits. However, to blame the shows poor reception on the presenters would be unfair. You see, for some reason the powers that be over at Sky decided that all gamers are aged 14 and under. In doing so, the show came across like Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock…
It featured a poor man’s GamesMaster in the form of the Games Guru, who looked like he spent the vast majority of his time sniffing glue and drinking cans of Dutch Gold down the park. Oh, and called everyone “maggots” because that’s how you get a character over with the crowd. In an interview with GamesMaster Magazine, Dominick Diamond had this to say about the show; “Gamezville is the equivalent to eating your own shit”, while former GamesMaster producer Johnny Ffinch added: “I have more respect for suicide bombers than I do for the people who are involved with Gamezville… it’s all fucking ‘Yo mate…’ I mean these guys can’t even speak fucking English! “. A bit harsh? Not by a country mile.
When it launched back in May of 2007, XLeague.tv was ahead of its time. Perhaps, too far ahead. The problem with XLeague is that it didn’t really know what to focus on, darting from one show to the next. As the first and only channel dedicated entirely to video game coverage, XLeague looked promising and it featured some great original shows such as Guru Larry’s Retro Corner, Inside Gaming, Games Night and Wez and Larry’s Top 10. The problem with that list is that it features the wonderful Larry Bundy twice. Now, that’s not at all a bad thing but it does highlight how devoid the channel was when it came to a deep talent pool and yet the channel seemed to go from strength to strength. That is, however, until the channel decided to focus far too much attention on competitive gaming. Ok, so maybe do a 5 minute highly video of a tournament, but don’t dedicate nearly 90 ruddy minutes to a couple of lads playing Gears of War or FIFA 08. Poor XLeague, it promised so much and yet delivered so little.
Launched in 1993 in an attempt to rival Channel 4’s GamesMaster, Games World would go on to become Sky One’s third highest rated show behind only The Simpsons and WWF programming. Although it was more cartoonish than GamesMaster, Games World did spawn some memorable moments including the incredibly talented and well-rounded performer Diane Youdale (who many will remember as Jet from Gladiators) as The Games Mistress. However, it was the Games World spin-off series BTV (Barry TV) which gained the most traction as it featured memorable forfeits including a boy who had to tear up his Pamela Anderson poster for losing a game of Street Fighter and he’s (probably) been in therapy ever since. But the wheels soon began to buckle when plans for a fourth series in 1995 was scrapped. The series did make its highly anticipated return in 1998 but it had changed its format dramatically. Gone were host Bob Mills and Dave Perry would soon follow suit. With ratings bombing and a format as outdated as Tiswas, Games World fizzled out by the years end.
Movies, Games and Videos
If you were to sum up the 90’s in one TV show, it would be this. Gawdy neon graphics and featuring news that broke weeks ago and yet, I loved Movies, Games and Videos. Although the format rarely changed from week to week, it had a surprisingly long run having lasted for 10 years. The odd thing about the show is that production company Capricorn Programmes and distributor HTV sent local broadcasters copies of the script in case they felt the need to re-voice the show if need be. Surprisingly, this was an option that UTV never bothered with. Speaking of which, UTV is where the show would wind up and with the advent of the internet age, became obsolete and was eventually cancelled.
Before we get to our top pick, an honorary mention must be given to CyberNet (for the simply fact it had a great theme tune) and Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe,which nearly did make the list but with it being a once off from 7 years ago, didn’t make it a candidate for the list. SO with that being said…
Truly the greatest ever video game TV series to have blessed us with its presence in our living rooms across the land. GamesMaster was everything a TV series about gaming, by gamers and for gamers should be. Hosted by Dominick Diamond, who came across as that uncle who let you away with blue murder as a kid, the show was in essence TFI Friday before it ever existed. It was somewhat anarchic, at times felt amateurish and had a shoestring budget and yet, that’s what made it so memorable. Featuring Patrick Moore in his now iconic role as The GamesMaster, celebrity guests, news, reviews, challenges and the highly coveted Golden Joystick, GamesMaster found success as it did something which no other series on our list was capable of doing…it changed with the times. With the dawn of the PlayStation, Dominick Diamond and show producers wanted to make it even grittier and aim it a more adult audience. Although that idea was shot down and viewing figures were consistently strong, a change in seniority at Channel 4 meant that the series was on borrowed time. New head at Channel 4 Michael Jackson (no not that one) had clashed with show producer Jane Hewland numerous times in the past and having already been the head of BBC Two, wanted far less entertainment programming on Channel 4. With that, the show was axed and although there have been rumours of a revival ever since, it looks as though the series and video game programming in general, is dead and buried.