From Cheat! To Cheaters: A Glance Back At G4

A long time ago, back before it became a channel that showed nothing but COPS and Ninja Warrior reruns, G4 used to be the go-to network for all of your favorite video game related programming. Shows like X-Play, The Electric Playground, Attack of the Show, and Cheat! were gifts from the television gods, as video game TV shows were, and still are for the most part, unheard of. Sure, those hungry for video game related news and commentary can now simply go to their favorite gaming site or YouTube channel, but back in the days of the early to mid-2000’s G4 provided entertainment for a relatively ignored demographic.

Nothing lasts forever…

G4 was always my default channel. No matter the time of day and whether or not I was actually watching TV, G4 was always on the screen. I can still remember all those DeVry commercials and that one where a guy in some parking lot was yelling at me to get off the couch and go to school. I found it rather threatening as well as insulting. All because I spent my days playing Halo 3 and watching Adam Sessler crap all over The Darkness doesn’t mean I’m some Dorito eating, Mountain Dew chugging, lay about! I had aspirations—I think.

Anyways, back in the early days of G4, the first shows to really get me into the channel were Cinematech and Cheat! Cinematech: Nocturnal Emissions in particular was a show that really intrigued me due to its showcase of suggestive video game content.

I don’t know what B-7 Bombs Over The Wrestle Kingdom is, but if I had to guess, it probably involved airplanes and half naked anime girls.

Cinematech was a show that simply showed cutscenes and trailers for current, past, and future video games, but at the wee hours of the night, during G4’s Midnight Spank block (eat your heart out Nick at Night), Cinematech would strip off its modest attire and slip into something a little more comfortable. It would evolve, or devolve, depending on how you wanted to look at it, into Nocturnal Emissions. Nocturnal Emissions was great for those of us without immediate access to a computer with internet, as it would often showcase Japanese and other foreign games, highlighting their sexual and violent content, with clips that would make my teenage mouth drop in awe—Thanks to Nocturanal Emissions, I know the game Raze’s Hell existed and I also got to see Christie’s butt from Dead or Alive Beach Volley Ball–By far the greatest clip show ever conceived on those two things alone.

Cheat! on the other hand was a little less suggestive, but just as informative—kind of—and for different reasons. I began watching Cheat! long after it was known as Cheat: Pringles Gamer’s Guide (Hack, crack, and snack!) and after Kristen Holt had begun hosting the show. The first episode I recall stumbling across was for the original Crackdown. Tips on how to upgrade your car and agent into building hopping super kangaroos were discussed and my interest in the game was legitimately peaked. So, I suppose from an advertising standpoint, Cheat! did its job.

Witty pun in 3… 2… 1…

As for the actual quality of the show, however, back when I used to watch it I did find enjoyment in its rather obvious “tips and tricks” and awfully pun-centric writing, but Cheat! has admittedly aged pretty badly. Despite the show’s title, the “cheats” that are featured are more common-sense game play mechanics that would either be described in an in-game tutorial or mission log. For instance, in the episode featuring Shadow of the Colossus, Holt explains how to take down three of the Colossi by pointing out that the player will need to climb the beasts and attack the glowing emblems on various parts of their body. Now, I haven’t played the original Shadow of the Colossus myself, but I would have thought that information would have been pretty straight forward—At the end of the day, I’m assuming the appeal was with Kristen Holt telling cringe-worthy jokes more than the central content of the show, because I’m pretty sure Gamefaqs was around at the time (Ascii art FTW!).

In hindsight, Cheat! definitely felt like a show created by corporate execs that didn’t fully understand their audience, complete with a host that felt out of her element and akin to how those infamous Nintendo Power VHS tapes embraced the stereotypically out-of-touch RaDiCaL attitude of the 90s. The simplicity of Cinematech on the other hand, with its lack of a host and absence of puns that involved comparing Big Bird to the flying Colossi, gave its viewers exactly what they wanted: Uninterrupted looks into the obscure, terrifying, sexy, and beyond, everything a gamer—scratch that—a human being could ask for.

Obscure, terrifying, AND sexy? I approve!

Although Cheat! may have been a little on the nose with its gamer wannabe personality, G4 did have other shows that were both created and hosted by legitimate video game lovers (Not saying Kristen Holt didn’t like video games, it’s just it seemed a bit forced at times). And one such show was The Electric Playground, or EP Daily as it later became. The Electric Playground was a show produced by its host, Victor Lucas, where he and various other hosts would feature previews of upcoming games, industry news, interviews with developers, as well as segments that would cover tech related content. They would also feature a segment called Reviews on the Run, where they would review a newly released game. Eventually however, Reviews on the Run would split away from (only to later dissolve back into it) The Electric Playground and become its own show, Judgment Day. Many of the same personalities were still featured on Judgment Day, being hosted by both Victor Lucas and Tommy Tallarico. During the 30-minute block, the two of them would review a lineup of various games, categorizing them by handheld, console, classics, hardware, etc. For their time, Judgment Day, and by extension The Electric Playground, were very informative to a niche audience, as video game and gadget news/reviews were something of a rarity, at least by today’s standards.

The implied torment Victor would endure at the hands of Tommy.

The two hosts, Victor and Tommy would carry the show with a type of brotherly banter that painted Victor as the more mature and level-headed host and Tommy as the vulgar-yet-loveable one—Many a console controller were stuffed down the front of Tommy’s pants just to spite his poor co-host (I was going to make a rumble pack joke here, but I’m trying to keep this piece as PG as possible while still having to include terms such as midnight spank and nocturnal emissions—Also, side note: My wife told me what nocturnal emissions meant the other night… Well, it’s not what I thought it meant, let’s just put it that way). Shenanigans aside though, The Electric Playground/ Reviews on the Run/ Judgement Day were legitimately informative, and for those of us that craved reviews and information on not only new games, but classics as well as hardware, could find that on The Electric Playground.

If this didn’t cause ‘nocturnal emissions, I don’t know what would.

G4’s programming was not short for review related content, as Judgment Day was far from the only review show featured on the channel—Enter X-Play. X-Play was a review show hosted by Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb that would juxtapose its critical analysis of games with ‘edgy’ video game related humor and skits. I will give them an A for effort, but even at the time of watching X-Play during its original run, I found much of the comedy cringy. Not cringy like Cheat! though. Cheat! was a grandma posting a dog related pun on Facebook level of cringe, while X-Play was like that awkward kid in high school who confused randomness for humor (the two would eventually become one when Cheat! was absorbed by X-Play and became a single tip segment).

Regardless though, X-Play was still worth the watch, as both Adam and Morgan gave in-depth reviews for each of the games they would feature (except for that time they gave The Darkness a measly 2 out of 5 stars). It also helped that X-Play, like The Electric Playground, was hosted by two people that you could tell felt passionately about the industry they were discussing. In particular Adam Sessler, who would have a segment called Sessler’s Soapbox—at least that’s what I think it was called- where he would spend a few minutes ranting about a topic relevant to the current climate in the video game community. These rants ranged from arguments against the moronic anti-video game attorney Jack Thompson, the toxic nature of online gaming, to parents who blindly rallied against violent games despite research that contradicted their concerns. The Sessler’s Soapbox segments were not only great for breaking up the pace of the reviews, but they were insight into issues that one might have been ignorant towards in the gaming community. Ultimately, it was a breath of fresh air to see someone on TV that had a voice on the side of the gamers. You could only hear about how evil games were on the news and from uninformed family members for so long before you wanted to stick your head in a microwave just to escape the lemming-like behavior of the world around you.

The intro to Sessler’s Soapbox

As much as I loved to watch X-Play, Cheat!, and commercials for Education Connection, my favorite time to watch G4 was always in June. For 3 days, G4 would cover the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 for the laymen among us. I still recall the coverage of the E3s from 2005 and 2006 and salivating with excitement as the shows focused on highlighting a new generation of video games. The PS3 and Xbox 360 were taking the gaming community by storm at the time, and G4 was in the trenches showcasing hours of coverage that gave its viewers a preview of what direction the gaming industry was heading. It was glorious (except for you Killzone 2 trailer, you lying bastard). Halo 3 was where it was at. I can still feel the goosebumps and hairs stood on end from when the Halo 3 trailer was first shown. I assume the crowd at the event went wild, but I couldn’t see or hear past my own tears of joy and hyperventilating.

The television event of the year!

It’s been a while since I’ve felt that excited during an E3, and I think that does have a lot to do with it having been featured on G4. These days E3 can only be viewed through articles and various videos found on different websites, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as you’re still receiving, if not getting more coverage of the convention, but I guess I miss the idea of E3 being a television event. The way people get excited about Game of Thrones now was how I got excited about E3 then. It was more than a gaming conference, but hours of television that would keep me in unbearable anticipation during each commercial break. When E3 would completely take over G4, my eyes were glued to every minute of it.

Forget about the coming winter, television was made for moments like this!

Now, I know G4’s programming extended far beyond what I actually watched, but towards its later years, I started to drift away from the channel as the video game content began to dwindle. The last bastion for me as far as game and tech related news were concerned was Attack of the Show. Attack of the Show had been around on G4 for a while, but I didn’t start to watch its daily airings until much later. I still recall the episode in which Kevin Pereriria and Oliva Munn, the hosts, unboxed and reviewed the original iPhone. Little did I know he future of technology was staring me in the face from Kevin Pereriria’s hand—and my television screen. It’s interesting to look back at Attack of the Show now because of all the famous names it produced. Olivia Munn is now an actress—for how much longer is anyone’s guess—and Chris Hardwick is a household name thanks to AMC and The Talking Dead. Both Munn and Hardwick, amongst a slew of other hosts, would run segments that covered a lot of the same ground that other G4 shows from the past had already. In hindsight, Attack of the Show was just another source for tech info, just without the charm that Electric Playground had. Reviews, parodies (it wouldn’t be a G4 show if there weren’t parody segments!), pop culture, digital and film news, Attack of the Show had it all, albeit with a more modernized and sleek presentation.

An episode of Attack of the Show

Admittedly, Attack of the Show was my least favorite of the game/tech related programming on G4. I’m not sure what it was exactly about the show, but for some reason the hosts never resonated with me like Victor and Lucas, or even Morgan Webb and Adam Sessler. Heck, even Holt’s cringy jokes had some appeal over the meh-ness I had for Attack of the Show. And I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with Attack of the Show either—at least from what I can remember—but at the time of watching it, I think the biggest factor was fatigue. My interest in G4 was waning, as I had started utilizing the internet more and sites like IGN and Gamespot had taken over as my primary sources for pop culture news. G4 at this point had sort of just become background noise, and the programming it would begin to show in its later life definitely reflected that…

It always felt like a last-ditch effort to try and revive a dying channel, but towards the end of G4, at least the G4 that we used to know and love, the channel began to air animated shows like its original Code Monkeys, as well as anime versions of Blade and Iron Man. I had never watched G4’s Blade and Iron Man, so I can’t comment on them from personal opinion, although I have heard mainly negative things about them, but for some unknown reason—probably just morbid curiosity and chronic boredom—I did actually sit through the entirety of Code Monkeys. Animated in the style of an 8-bit video game, Code Monkeys’ humor comprised of pot jokes and various forms of uninspired toilet humor. Watching the show really drove home the fact that G4 didn’t know what to do anymore. It had completely lost touch with its audience, because apart from edgy 12 year-olds—and me—I can’t imagine very many people raced to their televisions to catch another episode of an 8-bit video game developer smoking a bong and going on a date with a hooker. South Park it aspired to be, but South Park it was not, I assure you.

I like to this my toleration for certain television shows has reduced…

I would sit in my room and watch episodes of Code Monkeys on my tiny television, wasting my life away as G4 seemingly did the same. Little did I know though, this was only the beginning. As bad as Code Monkeys was, at least it was original programming. What came next truly was the nail in the coffin and the end of an era for video game programming… The syndication of old daytime television shows had begun.

The end was nigh…

In the final years of G4, the channel had become little more than a place to dump old television shows that you would normally find airing on daytime television. Ninja Warrior, a show that has actually found life beyond G4, COPS and Cheaters had taken up most of the time slots on the channel, having pushed out most, if not all, of the video game related content in favor for syndicated repeats. Now, I’m not disputing the raw entertainment of Joey Greco being stabbed on a boat by a cheating spouse, or topless rednecks arguing with their grandmas, but G4 had gone from nerd friendly to something seedy.

The new face of G4.

G4, at this point, had become truly lost and there was no turning back. The consumption of tech media had shifted to the internet and G4 sadly no longer had a real reason for existing outside of being a novelty channel. If I can recall correctly, there was a final attempt at turning G4 into a young male-centric network in the vain of Esquire Magazine, but I don’t think this ever truly panned out, or it at least didn’t last for long. It is sad to have seen G4 go out like this. Once television catered directly to gamers that gradually lost its way, eventually turning into a place where you could binge nonstop episodes of Cheaters.

Sad but inevitable.

From 2002-2014. From Cheat! to Cheaters, rest in peace G4. Whether it was Adam Sessler tearing Jack Thompson a new one, or your coverage of E3, your programming provided me with some of my fondest television memories– You are missed.

Jarreth Golding

Jarreth loves many things: movies, writing, and sculpting characters from his favorite anime out of clay, but most importantly, he loves video games. And more importantly than that, he loves watching his wife play video games because she's better at them than he is.

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