Fall TV Preview 2009
G4, the TV Channel Where Every Dork Has His Say
Sunday, September 6, 2009
At the upper reaches of the cable guide loiters G4, a TV channel aimed at young men who don't watch that much TV. The home page of its Web site barely states that it is a TV channel, burying programming information beneath video game reviews and previews, tech news and dispatches from dork conventions.
One of its hosts recently introduced a segment on the death of newspapers by saying, "The Internet killed TV," then laughed at himself for it, although without retracting the statement. G4 claims to be the most popularly video-podcasted cable network in the land. Granted, it is not as if Bravo is falling all over itself to produce "Top Chef: Between-Meals Snack," but that superlative has got to be worth something.
The channel offers a window into the attitudes of a particular subset of young Americans. One detects a whiff of D&D in the air and also a bit too much Axe body spray. These aren't exactly dudes. That term connotes guys who get out a bit more often and have a greater interest in spectator sports. The athletic event of greatest interest to the G4 man is a ninja warrior obstacle course.
The G4 man can act juvenile, but the fact that he might be, literally, a juvenile mitigates the situation. He's possessed of fundamentally good taste. Upcoming highlights of G4's film series, "Movies That Don't Suck," include "The Goonies," "Fist of Fury," "Wayne's World," "Flash Gordon" and -- something for the art-house crowd -- "The Host," an elegant Korean film that features a giant monster.
The channel's signature program is a nightly blitz of infotainment called Attack of the Show! Its staples include soft-core pinup girls, hard-core gadget porn and discussions of sci-fi flicks and first-person shooter games that, unlike so much on television, appeal to reason.
In fact, the discussions are so articulate that they cause a viewer uninitiated in G4's slice of culture to question whether he's the dork. Panning the trailer for James Cameron's "Avatar," host Kevin Pereira said that it seemed to depict "the Blue Man Group playing a private party for Master Chief in 'Jurassic Park.' "
This sounds a ring of playfulness even to viewers who have to break out the OED to look up what a master chief is. Pereira's co-host is Olivia Munn, also thoughtful, slightly more goofy, and game for dressing up as Princess Leia (in the Jabba's Palace bikini, it should go without saying) and plunging into an oversize pie (chocolate with whipped-cream topping). While reviewing and/or product-placing a deodorant, Munn and Pereira sniffed the armpits of a sumo wrestler on a treadmill.
G4's latest TV program is "Two Months. Two Million.," a congenial reality show about a four-man posse of professional online poker players in their 20s. They less resemble the Marlboro Men of ESPN's "World Series of Poker" than the blackjack mathematicians of the book "Bringing Down the House."
In the premiere, the gentlemen settle into temporary lodgings outside Las Vegas and begin training to storm the Strip -- to come out of their virtual shells, as it were. It is a reflection of adolescent sexual anxiety that they have an in-house tournament to determine which loser has to inhabit a teddy-bear bedroom painted princess pink.
Early on, the guys sit shoulder-to-shoulder at a bank of screens rivaling NORAD's and play cards online, sometimes while slobbing around wearing boxers and pizza detritus. Occasionally, in interviews, they say the silly things that only young men can: "Dani being 22 and us being 25, 26, we're kind of old school."
At other times, they tick off the qualities of their dream girls: looks, brains, "the ability to prioritize her tasks." It is a credit to their likability that their executive chef vouches for them as down-to-earth guys. As if in reply, one of the castmates later urges the others to pull themselves away from the screens: The help "is gonna get offended if we don't."
Such nice manners, these boys. In its joystick, energy-drink, fanboy-ism, G4 is a positive sign for civilization.
Patterson is Slate's television critic.