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G4

With vidgames generating north of $20 billion a year, it's no wonder the creators of new cable network G4 are trying to build a lucrative biz around the time when gamers aren't playing games. However, while the concept seems like a good one, it doesn't pay off for the viewer.

With:
Hosts: Matt Gallant & Randy Kagan ("Game On"), Ronnie Lewis ("Sweat"), David Meinstein ("Portal"), Diane Mizota ("Filter"), Cory Rouse ("Cheat"), Scot Rubin ("G4.com"), Bill Sindelar ("Blister"), et al.

With vidgames generating north of $20 billion a year, it’s no wonder the creators of new cable network G4 are trying to build a lucrative biz around the time when gamers aren’t playing games. However, while the concept seems like a good one, it doesn’t pay off for the viewer.

Overwrought with flashy but often cheesy and endless graphics, G4 is basically a video version of the mags gamers have long subscribed to, featuring a programming slate of shows that offer tips, tricks and reviews of new releases.

Original hourlong shows, with most broken up into categories (covering sports or action, for example) are too long and appear more like awkward infomercials with amateurs as hosts. Much of the time is spent showing off game footage of titles — so much that it becomes boring for gamers who have already played the titles and moved on, and frustrating for those who haven’t and want to.

Yet there’s no question the programmers know their young audience of geeks. Hosts are young and shows are littered with an attractive cast of women, some scantily clad.

And the channel seems to have enough access to the major game publishers to be able to offer the latest imagery from upcoming titles.

But given its lucrative audience of 18- to 34-year-olds, the future doesn’t look bright. Shows have commercial breaks, but few advertisers have signed on so far other than Revolution Studios’ “XXX,” Pringles and the U.S. Army, forcing G4 to eat up time promoting its shows.

News show “Pulse,” which highlights the latest developments in the gaming biz, works well. Net’s other hits include:

  • “Icons”: A captivating profile of the vidgame biz’s leaders, including Shigeru Miyamoto (the man behind Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong and Zelda franchises).

  • “G4TV.com”: A quirky but watchable interactive talkshow with three charismatic hosts led by Scot Rubin who answer callers’ and emailers’ questions about games.

  • “Starcade”: Reruns of the 1983 gameshow where players compete to win their own coin-operated arcade machine is quirky and nostalgic.

Misses include:

  • “Sweat”: A rundown of sports games, that in one segment, shows two people squaring off in competition. Watching a show about games can be bad. Watching two people play a game is torture.

  • “Filter”: As host, Diane Mizota is trying to become the Carson Daly of a vidgame countdown show, but show’s trancelike format dulls down even topics such as the top 10 titles that should be turned into movies.

  • “Cheat”: Show about secrets and cheats works only if the viewer has the games being showcased.

Tech credits often mimic the cheap production values of a cable-access channel, with sets that look as if they were thrown together in someone’s apartment or garage. Video is poorly lit and shot using digital cameras.

Two good shows about vidgames would work. But an entire network? Not in G4’s case.

G4

Production: Produced by Comcast. Head of programming, Vinnie Longobardo; Reviewed July 31, 2002.

Cast: Hosts: Matt Gallant & Randy Kagan ("Game On"), Ronnie Lewis ("Sweat"), David Meinstein ("Portal"), Diane Mizota ("Filter"), Cory Rouse ("Cheat"), Scot Rubin ("G4.com"), Bill Sindelar ("Blister"), et al.

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