THANXFDR: G4/Tech TV
In the heartwarming seasonal series THANXFDR, the Crossfader staff will be running you through some of the media-related things that they’re most thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!
Ah, to be a kid again. Like most folks, I fondly remember puberty for Legos, Gatorade, Cheetos, and not much else. My pubescent years were like being back in the trenches, and between my orthodontic headgear and publicly (and rightfully) ridiculed love for BUTT UGLY MARTIANS, there is a lot that I’d rather forget. But the light at the end of the tunnel was middle school, a personal oasis that I could escape to. I’d come home, plop down in front of the TV, and switch it to channel 73. That was the place where I’d find G4techTV, the only thing that understood me. The merger of the gadget channel TechTV and video game network G4 lasted less than a year, with the channel finally becoming G4 in early 2005, but whatever it was called, I loved it.
I didn’t discover the channel on my own accord. My dad and I were really into remote-controlled model airplanes at the time and one of his hobby buddies recommended a show called ROBOT WARS. It sounded too good to be true: teams would construct killer robots and make them fight to the death on TV. We finally got around to checking it out one day after dinner and were immediately greeted by a garishly track-suited Craig Charles bellowing out to the crowd a foreign tongue I came to know as “British.”
Finna drop the most epic bants of 2003
ROBOT WARS was a competitive game show that had just finished its BBC run in the UK and was now being broadcast in the US on TechTV. Of course, the show didn’t quite live up to my preteen imagination of bipedal war walkers melting each other with lasers, but that didn’t mean ROBOT WARS wasn’t absolute insanity. The “robots” were essentially armored RC cars equipped with hooks, dozer blades, and chainsaws, and they would proceed to shred each other to tiny bits of metal in an arena. And what an arena it was! Traps included spike pits, flame jets, and spinning saws on the walls. But the main attractions were the house robots. The show had their own dogs in the pit with some rather deadly, and impressive, bots that would attack any competitor that went out of bounds. Fights were short but very, very destructive, and I was instantly a fan.
ROBOT WARS could have been all TechTV had to offer and I would still have been a fan. But what came immediately after that show cut to credits was even better. X-PLAY was the final iteration of a game review show that began as GAMESPOT TV and later EXTENDED PLAY. The host from each of those versions, Adam Sessler, was joined by Morgan Webb to create X-PLAY. I couldn’t believe that there was show about video games on TV and better yet one that told me which ones were good. The closest thing I’d ever seen to this previously were the 30 second game-reviews on TOONAMI. X-PLAY was my first real introduction to video game journalism. This show was the big kahuna. By the time G4 absorbed TechTV, X-PLAY had already cemented itself as the top show on the channel.
And with hosts like these, who could complain?
The key to X-PLAY’s success was its leading duo. Adam and Morgan began with next to no experience in gaming and it’s really apparent in some of their earliest work. But they did have charisma, an ace in the hole at a stage where game journalism was still in its infancy and most journalists had the personality of a urinal cake in a Papa John’s restroom. They talked about games in a way that engaged the viewer and any unseasoned views on them were more than rectified over their decade-long tenure on the show. The two were the lynchpin of G4 and they would regularly fill in on other shows on the network. It’s no surprise that G4 closed its doors almost immediately after firing Adam in 2012.
The early G4 lineup included a great series of gaming related shows. JUDGEMENT DAY, helmed by Victor Lucas and Tommy Tallarico, offered dual verdicts from differing perspectives. ARENA was an early look at esports, with teams appearing on set to play LAN matches of multiplayer shooters. CHEAT! had cheat codes, easter eggs, and strategies for the latest games. CINEMATECH was nothing more than a series of trailers, cutscenes, and gameplay segments from video games, which, before I discovered the internet, was the only way I could discover obscure or foreign games.
That’s not to suggest that all shows on G4 were gimmicks. ATTACK OF THE SHOW was a live news program for all things tech and gaming. ICONS was a standout series of documentaries and interviews with some of the key figures in gaming. I certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time, but learning about how some of the greats reached the positions they’re known for today, or watching the evolution of a series, are stories that cannot be found anywhere else.
Sadly, G4’s good years weren’t without number. As the internet became more widespread, many of the gaming programs became obsolete. Reviews, trailers, and cheats were only a Google search away, meaning the original lineup no longer made a profit. Changes had to be made to the schedule in order for the channel to stay afloat. The first replacements, like the original NINJA WARRIOR and various anime series, were welcome additions. But soon enough, the channel was overrun with garbage like CHEATERS and COPS, and tuning in eventually became more of an annoyance than anything.
Still, I remember G4 mostly for it’s golden years, before it went to hell. It was my entertainment stop before the web, and it helped mold me into the model citizen I am today. You’ll never hear me wax nostalgic more than for the channel that helped me discover my biggest passion. Thank you TechTV, and thank you G4. I don’t know where I’d be without you.