English: Leo Laporte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last week marked the end of an era. At least for nerds, geeks and gamers. G4TV ceased being whatever it was supposed to be. The last episodes of Attack of the Show and X-Play, two shows that were all that was left of the once great TechTV channel. It’s interesting that none of G4’s original shows made it as long as these two did.
For those who may now know, TechTV, formerly known as ZDTV, was a 24 hour channel devoted to technology, mainly computers. It featured a programming block in the evening that consisted of shows like the Screen Savers, a news show, X-Play (video games), a roundtable discussion show called Silicon Spin (with John Dvorak of PC Magazine) and other similar shows. Paul Allen bought the channel from Ziff Davis and rebranded it as TechTV.
TechTV’s staple show, the ScreenSavers, featured mostly computer and video game related material and was hosted by Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton. It also featured people like Sarah Lane and former Internet poster child, Kevin Rose.
Allen got bored with the channel and sold it to Comcast, who had a 24 hour game channel called G4TV. On it’s own, G4TV was OK. Some of its shows were actually well done while others, well, not so much. Comcast merged the two and G4TechTV was born. It was a short lived name, though. Eventually, all of the G4 programming was killed. And the only TechTV programming the remained was the Attack of the Show, which was the rebranded ScreenSavers show minus Laporte. Norton was offered a role on the new show, but declined. Rose and Lane were the initial hosts, but they left the channel. Lane eventually landed on Laporte’s “TWIT.TV’” podcast company (more on that in a moment) and Rose went on to start up Digg.com and Revision 3. Digg, for a brief time, was THE place to go on the Internet for hipster crap. It’s pretty much dead now. Hipsters don’t stick around for long. Eventually, Kevin Pereria and Olivia Munn hosted the show. Munn left to pursue what appears to be a successful Hollywood carerr and Pereria left.
Leporte, who went on to host his own ‘network’-which was really just a series of video podcasts, was never very kind to G4, even though many of the people he had worked with were still there. G4 was mostly gracious to him, though. They helped him cover several E3 shows and got his input on archiving of TechTv shows in which he starred. He was, nonetheless, a little bitter at his treatment there. He was, after all, the star of TechTV and he was pushed aside when Comcast took over. Comcast wanted a younger, hipper crowd and the middle aged Laporte-who was the best host they had-was pushed out.
For the last episode of Attack of the Show, Laporte and Norton were asked to do a cameo. They would sign off the show and, indeed, what was left of G4 (which is around for a few months until Esquire-its replacement channel-come online. No new programming, however, will air on the channel.) The segment they did is akin to Bob Newharts last episode where the entire series was a dream. Laporte wakes up from a nap at a café where Norton was sitting. He explains that he had a bizarre dream. He then describes the whole run of Attack of the Show. The two get up and proceed to host the Screen Savers. It was funny and ironic. You can view the sequence here. Watch the whole video, the first half is a good bye from the current staffers.
And, so the great experiment in tech and gaming oriented television is over. Over the years, the channel relied more and more on mainstream programming and less and less on it’s core subject matter and, indeed, abandoned it’s core audience (which went from more affluent 25-54 year old males, to teens.) It proves, however, that niche programming does not have a place, even on cable. Sci-Fi Channel is gone (SyFy is but a sad remnant of what once was a terrific channel) and channels like MTV, VH-1 and even Headline News abandoned the formats that got them started. But, I digress.
So, farewell G4/TechTV. It was fun.