Rewind to early 1992 when on British television station Channel 4, during the end of the 8-Bit Era and the beginning of the 16-Bit Era of the Video-Game Console War, a new hip video-game-themed show came out called GamesMaster.
When I first heard about it, I didn’t know what to think. The VG-based game show genre had already been a massive success in America with shows such as Starcade, Video Power, etc. Anyway, I decided to check out what all the hype was about and give this new show a watch. Instantly, I was hooked, and GamesMaster became one of my favourite childhood TV shows for years to come. It ran for seven seasons, racking up a total of 126 episodes from January 1992 to February 1998.
And so, just for your reading pleasure, I will be doing a seven-part retrospective on GamesMaster, the TV show. I will go over the formats of each season, and all the episodes they had.
For Part 1, I will be taking a look at the first season. This is my GamesMaster TV Series Retrospective.
First, we must start off with how the show came to be.
In July 1991, ex-LWT employee Jane Hewland, who had just set up her own television production company called Hewland International, started taking an interest in her son Harry’s love of video-games. This encouraged her to put together a pitch for a TV show that would translate the excitement of games playing into watchable television. Mike Miller of Channel 4 became interested in the concept and green-lit the production, with Adam Wood as the producer and Cameron McAllister as the director.
Now then, let’s talk about the first season of GamesMaster, which ran for 10 episodes every Tuesday at 6:30pm from January 7th to March 10th of 1992. The CGI-based intro, armed with an awesome theme song composed by Julian Wastall, showed someone sitting on a throne.
After the intro, we begin the very first episode of the show by cutting to this season’s setting: a Church (filmed at St. Paul’s Church in Dock Street, London from November 11th to 16th of 1991), packed with children, teenagers, and adults.
We’re then introduced to both the show’s host, Scottish comedian Dominik Diamond (who was offered the part after failing to pass auditions for Channel 4’s teen gossip show The Word)…
…and the throne-sitting titular techno-wizard called “The Games Master”, a giant floating wisecracking head played by famous astronomer, the late great Sir Patrick Moore.
Dominik tells us that GamesMaster is going to become television’s first ever video-game magazine show, especially designed for people out there who find Pictionary pointless and KerPlunk a waste of marbles. Each episode would have three game playing challenges introduced by The Games Master, in which players have to either beat a certain level under a strict time limit, collect a specific number of items, or defeat another player one-on-one, in order to win a very special trophy called…
The GamesMaster Golden Joystick (which was manufactured by Richard Sekula of Spectravideo)!
These would be handed out by Dominik’s assistant, The Monk, who is aged 78, according to the Official GamesMaster Book released in late 1993.
The first and third challenges would be for average joe contestants of all ages, while the second challenge would be reserved for big-name celebrities at the time. During the challenges, Dominik would do commentary with three of five different video-game journalists each week, consisting of…
…Julian “Jaz” Rignall…
…and “The Games Animal ” Dave Perry (who became another series regular for six seasons).
In between the challenges, we would also get news, previews, and reviews of the latest games, handled by randomly-selected staff members from the biggest UK video-game magazines at the time (such as Frank O’Connor, Jeremy Daldry, Steve Carsey, Jane Goldman, etc.), even if they were biased sometimes, as well as a tips and tricks segment called the “Consoletation Zone”, in which random gamers put on a virtual reality helmet and teleport to see good old Games Master himself on his throne, who would answer their questions on anything like how to find a hidden door, obtain infinite lives, get past a difficult stage boss, etc.
After all the challenges of the week were done, each episode would end with The Monk bringing Dominik his smoking jacket and a nice cup of tea.
That’s enough of the episode layout. Let’s go over the episodes, shall we?
Airdate: January 7th 1992
1.Average Joe Challenge #1: Daniel Blake managed to collect 50 coins in Level 1 of Grass Land on Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) in under 1:50
2.Celebrity Challenge: Simon Reynolds (Liverpool) defeated John Fashanu (Manchester United) 2-0 on Manchester United Europe (Amiga)
3.Average Joe Challenge #2: Tony Wright beat Mad Dog McCree (Arcade) by saving the town’s sheriff
Feature: A look at customised Game Boys, plus details on how to join the GamesMaster Club
Reviews: The Terminator (Mega Drive), The Addams Family (NES), & Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (PC)
The first episode got the series off to a great start when the first ever contestant, Daniel Blake, won the first ever Golden Joystick by beating a two-minute challenge on Mario 3. Then, Ipswich supporter Simon Reynolds cleaned the clock of the first ever celebrity contestant on the show, John Fashanu (who would go on to host another awesome UK game show called Gladiators), on Man Utd. Europe. And finally, Tony Wright showed us that even old folks can hold their own in video-games when he turned all the bandits on Mad Dog McCree into swiss cheese. Then after the credits, we are shown the details on how to join the GamesMaster Club.
Airdate: January 14th 1992
1.Average Joe Challenge #1: Alex Verrey managed to collect 160 rings in Act 1 of the Green Hill Zone on Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive) in under 1:37
2.Celebrity Challenge: Paul Turner (332 tons) defeated Gary Mason (331 tons) on the Meteorite stage of Sonic Blast Man (Arcade)
3.Average Joe Challenge #2: Robert Clark failed to beat Lemmings (Amiga) when he only got 87% of the Lemmings to the exit door (the quota was 91% under two minutes)
Feature: A look at the Mattel Power Glove for NES, the Quickjoy Foot Pedal for home computers, and the Sega Action Chair for Mega Drive, plus another promo for the GamesMaster Club
Reviews: First Samurai (Amiga), Pit-Fighter (Amiga), & Double Dragon 2 (Game Boy)
Before he was Big Boy Barry on Hewland’s other show Games World on Sky 1, Alex Verrey really wanted to push himself to the limit by collecting 160 rings in under two minutes on Sonic 1. As for the feature on video-game accessories, while I can’t comment on the Foot Pedal and Sega Action Chair, I don’t need to tell you more about the Power Glove if you’ve seen The Angry Video Game Nerd’s review of it. Who would believe that Paul Turner could beat former British Heavyweight Champion, the late great Gary Mason by one ton on Sonic Blast Man, huh? And finally, Robert Clark was the first ever contestant on the show to fail his challenge after getting only 87% of the Lemmings to safety.
Airdate: January 21st 1992
1.Average Joe Challenge #1: Nick Kierancroft failed to beat the Heat Man stage in under three minutes on Mega Man 2 (NES) when he fell into a pit
2.Celebrity Challenge: Annabel Croft defeated Sahid Hersey by three games on Pro Tennis Tour 2 (Amiga)
3.Average Joe Challenge #2: Scott, Dolatt, & George (three random spectators) all failed to complete the first grid on Zoom! (Mega Drive) in under one minute
News: Don’t forget to join the GamesMaster Club
Previews: Dune (PC & Amiga)
Reviews: Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 (Amiga), Formula 1 Grand Prix (Amiga), & OutRun Europa (Master System)
Nick Kierancroft was doing so well on Mega Man 2, until he fell into that blasted pit. Second, Annabel Croft became the first ever celebrity contestant on the show to win a Golden Joystick after she curb-stomped Sahid Hersey on Pro Tennis Tour 2! To top it all off, because Scott, Dolatt, and George all failed at their challenge on Zoom!, Dominik had to grade them all “Plank”.
Airdate: January 28th 1992
1.Average Joe Challenge #1: Richard Wilchar failed to beat the Redwood Forest track in 1st place on Road Rash (Mega Drive), instead coming in 2nd place
2.Celebrity Challenge: Eric Bristow failed to save a maiden from a stock by cutting off all her braids on Heimdall (Amiga)
3.Average Joe Challenge #2: Lisa Poseall defeated her brother Jason Poseall on Panza Kick Boxing (Atari ST)
Feature: An interview with Sega Europe’s marketing director Philip Ley and WCRS Advertising executive Robin Weeks on Sega UK’s campaign spokesman called Jimmy (played by Peter Wingfield), plus another reminder to join the GamesMaster Club
Reviews: Shadow of the Beast (Mega Drive), Populous 2: Trials of the Olympian Gods (Amiga), & King’s Quest 5: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder (Amiga)
Wow, we had two back-to-back failures when Richard Wilchar and Eric Bristow both blew it on their respective challenges. However, it was nice to see the Poseall siblings settle their differences when Lisa beat Jason on Panza Kick Boxing. Also, Jeremy Daldry sounded like an absolute muppet when he said that he doesn’t like King’s Quest 5 because it was made by Americans, as well as the lack of sex and violence.
Airdate: February 4th 1992
1.Average Joe Challenge: Scott Andrew beat the Himalayas stage by finding both Bubba the Cave Duck and Launchpad McQuack on DuckTales (NES) in under 1:51
2.Celebrity Challenge #1: Archer MacLean (37 points) defeated Christian Price (31 points) by six points on Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker (Amiga); Jimmy White provided guest commentary for this challenge, as well as pulled off an impressive Trick Shot on said game
3.Celebrity Challenge #2: Ashley Paske failed to win a race on Neighbours (Amiga) because it’s a virtually unplayable game
News: An “Impressive Goal” competition on Kick Off 2 (Amiga), with another reminder to join the GamesMaster Club
Previews: The Chaos Engine (Amiga)
Reviews: ToeJam & Earl (Mega Drive), Top Banana (Amiga), & Bart Simpson’s Escape from Camp Deadly (Game Boy)
Well, Scott Andrew breezing through the DuckTales challenge like it was nothing really fit the bill. Also, this was the first episode to have a celebrity guest doing commentary with Dominik, as Jimmy White provided his analysis on games designer Archer MacLean cleaning Christian Price’s clock on Whirlwind Snooker. And don’t worry folks, we’ll be seeing Mr. White again in three seasons time.
After that, we got a second celebrity challenge when Ashley Paske failed to beat the awful game based on the soap opera of the same name, Neighbours.
Airdate: February 11th 1992
1.Average Joe Challenge #1: Mark Budawano failed to beat Top Player’s Golf (Neo Geo) when he went over par on the third hole of the Country Club Course
2.Celebrity Challenge: Mick Brown (54.5 points) defeated Pat Sharp (40.6 points) at Acro Aerials on Ski or Die (Amiga)
3.Average Joe Challenge #2: Michael Merryn failed to beat Level 1 of Stage 5 on Brat (Amiga)
Feature: A look at the Neo Geo, and please remember to join the GamesMaster Club
Reviews: Alien Breed (Amiga), SpeedBall 2: Brutal Deluxe (Mega Drive), & Wing Commander 2: Vengeance of the Kilrathi (PC)
Mark Budawano may be a good golfer in real life, but he really lost his nerve at the end of the Top Player’s Golf challenge. Mick Brown proved he was the better man at Acro Aerials on Ski or Die than Pat Sharp, who at the time was also the host of the UK version of Fun House. Michael Merryn also became just another loser thanks to making the wrong move on Brat.
Airdate: February 18th 1992
1.Average Joe Challenge #1: Mark Wright (26,500 points, got killed in under 29 seconds), Julie Marlowe (31,800 points, got killed in under one minute), & Claire Kleeney (23,900 points, got killed in under 30 seconds) (three random spectators) all failed to collect 50,000 points in the first level on James Pond 2: Codename: Robocod (Amiga) in under one minute
2.Celebrity Challenge: David Kay (as Hulk Hogan) defeated Kendo Nagasaki (as “Yourself”) by pinfall on WWF WrestleMania Challenge (NES); not only does David win a Golden Joystick, he also gets a toy replica of the WWF World Championship belt as a bonus
3.Average Joe Challenge #2: Jeremy Gomez failed to beat the planet Seiren on Thunder Force 3 (Mega Drive) on the Mania difficulty
Feature: Another GamesMaster Club reminder, as well as a Top 5 list on video-game music:
5.The Peter Gunn theme from The Blues Brothers (Amiga)
4.”Smooth Criminal” from Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (Mega Drive)
3.Betty Boo’s “Doin’ the Do” from Magic Pockets (Amiga)
2.Cold Cuts’ “Global Chaos” from Top Banana (Amiga)
1.Bomb the Bass’ “Megablast” from Xenon 2: Megablast (Amiga)
Previews: Alien 3 (Mega Drive)
Reviews: The Immortal (NES), Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (PC), & Heroes of the Lance (Master System)
You know, if I was on the show, I would’ve done that James Pond 2 challenge much better than Mark Wright, Julie Marlowe, and Claire Kleenley combined. Anyway, it must’ve been so humiliating for Kendo Nagasaki to lose to a small fry like David Kay on WWF WrestleMania Challenge. Lastly, Thunder Force 3 on the Mania difficulty was too much for poor Jeremy Gomez.
Airdate: February 25th 1992
1.Average Joe Challenge #1: Chevron Harte managed to fight his way through the city of Kafazu on Strider (Mega Drive) in under 2:15
2.Celebrity Challenge: Pat Cash (Cosmic Astroboys) defeated his wife Emily Cash (Wild Flowers) 5-0 on Baseball Stars Professional (Neo Geo)
3.Average Joe Challenge #2: Martin Mathers failed to solve the “rearrange the T-800’s face” puzzle on Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Amiga) in under one minute and forty seconds
News: Join the GamesMaster Club… right now!
Previews: A.T.A.C. (PC)
Reviews: Birds of Prey (Amiga), F-22 Interceptor (Mega Drive), & Knights of the Sky (Amiga)
It was quite a piece of cake for Chevron Harte to breeze through Strider. Also, the 1987 Wimbledown Champion Pat Cash really lived up to his potential by defeating his wife Emily on Baseball Stars Professional.
Finally, the puzzle level for the Terminator 2 game on Amiga was just too much for the then-unknown Martin Mathers, but don’t worry, he’ll be back in four seasons time with much more gaming experience.
Airdate: March 3rd 1992
1.Average Joe Challenge #1: Adam Bolton defeated his father Nigel Bolton on Zany Golf (Amiga); Nigel originally won, but was disqualified for “being far too old to play video-games in the first place”
2.Celebrity Challenge: Gary Wilson (as Cool Shaun) defeated Barry McGuigan (as Detroit Kid) in the second round on Final Blow (Atari ST)
3.Average Joe Challenge #2: Danny Curley beat Levels 2 and 3 of the Burning Downtown Brooklyn stage on Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Mega Drive) in under 1:21
Feature: Another GamesMaster Club reminder, plus the winners of the Kick Off 2 “Impressive Goal” competition:
1.Robert Ross, who receives two tickets to the Romulus Cup Final
Previews: Cyberfight (PC)
Reviews: John Madden Football ’92 (Mega Drive), NBA All-Star Challenge (Game Boy), & Graham Gooch World Class Cricket (Amiga)
I call foul on Nigel Bolton being disqualified when he cleanly beat his son Adam on Zany Golf! Gary Wilson gave Barry McGuigan quite a pasting on Final Blow. By the way, Barry will return in two seasons time. On a side note, it really shocked me that Jane Hewland’s son Harry got to help out in reviewing John Madden Football ’92 and NBA All-Star Challenge.
Finally, Danny Curley lived up to his title of “Sega European Games-Playing Champion” when he breezed through his Shadow Dancer challenge. This won’t the last we ever see of him, no sir.
Airdate: March 10th 1992
1.Average Joe Challenge #1: Paul Gammon managed to shoot 9 out of 10 ducks, but only managed to shoot 8 out of 10 clay pigeons (the required quota was 9), thus failing his challenge on Duck Hunt (NES)
2.Celebrity Challenge: Suni Nayah (Brazil) defeated Emlyn Hughes (England) 5-0 on Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (Amiga)
3.Average Joe Challenge #2: John Veverage beat Levels 1 and 2 of Abdomainland on Decap Attack (Mega Drive) in under 1:48
Feature: A look at the upcoming SNES, one more GamesMaster Club reminder, and a Top 10 list on best-selling video-games since the show began (censored repeat only):
10.Spider-Man (Mega Drive)
9.John Madden Football ’92 (Mega Drive)
8.James Pond 2: Codename: Robocod (Mega Drive & Amiga)
7.PGA Tour Golf (Mega Drive)
6.QuackShot, starring Donald Duck (Mega Drive)
5.EA Hockey (Mega Drive)
4.Streets of Rage (Mega Drive)
3.Road Rash (Mega Drive)
2.Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
1.Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive & Master System)
Reviews (original uncensored broadcast only): Deluxe Strip Poker 2 (Amiga), Geisha (Amiga), & Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work (PC)
The first season finale really meant something, since we all thought this was the end for such a short-but-great show like GamesMaster, so they were determined to go out with a bang! Paul Gammon got a little too trigger-happy and blew it on Duck Hunt. For a former Liverpool and England team captain, Emlyn Hughes sure stank at his own International Soccer game after Suni Nayah took him to the cleaners. And for the final challenge of this season, John Veverage managed to triumph over his Decap Attack challenge.
After the challenges were done, the final scene had The Monk show up, and Dominik put on his smoking jacket one last time and said goodbye to the fans, before the two walked off. After the credits, The Games Master also bidded us farewell.
I must say, the first season of GamesMaster was pretty good. It really helped a lot of young gamers like me with its reviews and tips, as well as keep us entertained with those really cool challenges. Not to mention, Dominik and The Game Master were both hilarious with their snappy one-liners and everything, especially the “nerds at home waggling their joysticks” knob joke. Us British children at the time were lucky to get such a mind-blowing game show. This was the classic first season: a unique little show that blew up into a franchise!
While reading the June 1992 issue of the UK Nintendo magazine Total!, I found out to my surprise that GamesMaster was green-lit for a second season. Next time, we’ll see if GamesMaster has the potential to become a household name in gaming.