Burned Retinas: Game Over TV series Part 1- The Confusing Concept

Game Over logo

  Long before video games became near cinematic masterpieces that can potentially outclass some television shows and movies and didn’t nearly make as much money or push such huge numbers in revenue, creating jobs to a lot of aspiring independent developers, gaming was always misunderstood to the mainstream and were generally regarded as kids toys. As I’ve mentioned before in my Anime-Based category, the time comes when a medium becomes big enough to branch out to a wider range audience, appealing to  familiar fans while potentially making new ones.  The 80s and 90s ran rampant with this out-of-control nonsense, what with Nintendo slapping its name brand logo all over everything from blankets and lamps to breakfast cereal. That’s easy enough to market to such a young audience, companies like Hasbro, Mattel making whole cartoons to advertise toys. The success of the 1989 movie The Wizard, an 88 minute commercial for Super Mario Brothers 3, Gamepro, the Saturday morning TV show that offered Secret Weapons and Tactics and upcoming releases (Yeah, this existed and it rocked!!) and Video Power (a similar concept with a more game show approach) showed that these could be marketed on the same level with action figures.

GameProTV logoThe success of the Playstation in the mid 90s introduced a more mature appeal to games that were mostly for the PC at the time. Publishers, marketers, and developers weren’t catering to grade school students anymore, but to teenagers, which is always cause for disaster. Even in the earlier stages of the millennium and after the success of the Playstation 2, advertising and pitching material based off or inspired by gaming just never came off right. I remember the first Video Game Awards Show on Spike TV hosted by David Spade in 2003 and it just felt awkward. I really like David Spade, but was this the guy you wanted to hear do a monologue about Halo and Grand Theft Auto? Get Seanbaby in there!! This was a strange period in which console gaming was just on the cusp of succeeding consistently in the mainstream field enough to get its own channel (which is dead, but that’s unrelated), but still needed a little nudge. Along the way, some foolish people would try to jump on the coattails of the video game gravy train and fall off, and who better to stumble over their own clumsy feet than the doomed network formerly known as UPN (now known as the CW) with their flavorless, unentertaining television show, Game Over.

Meet the Smashenburns. Of all of sitcom TV families, they were one of them.

Meet the Smashenburns. Of all of sitcom TV families, they were one of them.

When UPN wasn’t greenlighting run-of-the-mill “urban” comedy shows that Tyler Perry writes today with inspiration by watching his dog poop, they were desperately trying to nab that 14 to 26 demographic that eluded them. Not realizing that the problem wasn’t time slots or stronger competition from other networks, but rather the fact that they were wholly incompetent and aired unwatchable television shows like science fiction dud Jake 2.0 and the decaying husk of whatever Star Trek series they were still in charge of at the time. Their failed attempt at primetime action/drama didn’t work, so their plan was not to fire their entire staff and liquidate all assets and sell shares of the network to salvage something, but try to create primetime comedy, including a HORRENDOUS chemical disaster called The Mullets, a show centered around fish-out-of-water comedy with a father/son duo of backwoods rednecks being trashy and annoying towards their more suburban neighbors. Hey, if it’s broke, keep hitting it with a hammer.

THE CONCEPT

Created in the spring of 2004 and lasting only five episodes, with one unaired, Game Over was a comedy show that was only occasionally funny while utilizing video game material…well not all that much. The Smashenburns, a prototypical sitcom family of four with a housepet, reside in what I assume is a digital suburbia, or is it real? This was one of the first issues about Game Over that got on my nerves. To recall a TV show with a similar concept, Reboot, it was established in the opening theme that they were programmed data and they battled creations and participated in “games” provided by the “User”. Bob, Dot, and Enzo were destined to find out where this mysterious data came from, why it disappeared, and who is causing it. This is called a theme, a backdrop. Something the viewer keeps in the back of his mind during weekly programming that will come to head as the series plays out (Like in Sonic the Hedgehog, will he rescue his roboticized grandfather?) This knowledge is never shoved down your throat, but you are cognacent of the subplot throughout the run of the title. It’s a very common, yet effective tool utilized to keep people entertained while watching a TV show. In Game Over’s universe, you are never told the rules as to how this works. Are the Smashenburns programmed bytes of information carrying out their predestined functions, or are they sentient and capable of altering their own reality? Or perhaps there are two different universes, one where we humans live and a parallel world where the video game characters live, and there is this joint partnership with gaming companies and the digital world to use their likeness in the human world’s entertainment software? Or perhaps the digital world sprites “work” as video game characters and, like Reboot, have to drop what they are doing to go partake in the active game? No, wait, that wouldn’t work. Assuming that these video games are doing gangbuster number sales with individual units sold world-wide, that would mean Raquel and Rip would never be home to be parents because everyone is playing the videogame, and as the opening theme eludes to is that these “videogames” are indeed their occupation and does, in fact, take time out of their personal lives!! Millions of people play video games, but in Game Over, we see the Raquel and Rip only playing out, at the very least, one gaming session!!! Does that mean if someone in Nova Scotia is playing Rip’s racing title, thousands of other gamers have to wait in some lobby for him/her to finish before Rip has to clock in to the next gaming session with another gamer? That violates laws of general relativity, and I might be over thinking this, but this is what happens when you fail to explain the basic laws of how your show works!! This ate at my brain and kept me from focusing on the alleged comedy.

I am greatly over thinking a simple comedy show, but I have seen this done better in titles targeted towards younger demographics, like Digimon, Medabots, even shows I hate, like Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters layed this multiverse philosophy better (I’ve some things to say about Kaijudo, but I’ll get to you soon), so why couldn’t this be even slightly more explained. With the ridiculousness of that aside, Game Over has to play itself out, and what you are treated to overall is a sitcom with a low ceiling, at best. Even by 2004 standards, the comedy is paltry. Nearly all of the primetime comedy clichés are burned out in the entire six episodes (battle of the spouses, a misunderstood son, daughter is dating a roughneck, you get the idea) and does absolutely nothing different that you haven’t seen in Family Matters or Full House. Once again to reference another, more successful title, Futurama took the hot button issue on gay marriage and put the spin on it by legislating the morality of a relationship with robots and humans. Wow, that was easy!! Not bad for a show that was cancelled twice!!! To be even lazier, Game Over doesn’t even resolve these stereotype issues so much as they just drop it halfway through and wrap things up in a paltry exchange near the epilogue. I’ll get into that in more graphic detail when I go through an episode-by-episode recap in part 2 when I discuss the central cast and further prove that Game Over has about as much to do with video games as Amish Country does building a GameStop in their village. Besides, this could get really lengthy if I don’t break it up, and I’ve put this project off too long in the first place.

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About ColonelFancy

Comedy writer, video game reviewer, retro gaming enthusiast, artist and cartoonist, otaku. Advocate of science, logic, and reasoning.
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