Okay, I might be pushing it with the whole “video game blog” angle with this one. Granted, it’s video game-adjacent, and had a major game sponsor, so it counts.
Just about anyone who was born in the late ’80s to early ’90s may remember Nick Arcade, that awful Nickelodeon game show with an annoying host, rejected Double Dare contestants, and two episodes featuring an unreleased prototype of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. (Check it out on The Cutting Room Floor if you’re curious.) If you’re older, you might remember Video Power, that weird “video game tips” show turned average game show in its second season.
And for all the old farts out there, you probably remember Starcade when was new. Or you’re like me and remember it when G4 reran it constantly, before the network was total garbage. But I bet you don’t remember this weird video game-meets-game show entity: Throut & Neck, a Game Show Network original that briefly ran in 1999.
The late 1990s was a weird time for Game Show Network. Before they had aired bad Candid Camera knockoffs in Foul Play, before they reran The Amazing Race daily and going through the first seven seasons in a month, even before that weird “We’re not just game shows” phase where they thought giving Scrabble host Chuck Woolery a reality show was a good idea; they were on this ridiculously weird interactive TV kick. Interactive versions of The Price is Right were broadcast among other call-in and win shows based on Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. This was continuing a trend that was prevalent throughout the first few years of GSN’s life, trying to make it more than just old game shows.
Throut & Neck is one of the last shows where GSN was experimenting with these interactive call-in shows. And it’s quite the fascinating one.
The titular characters, Throut (that’s not a typo for “Throat,” that’s his actual name) and Neck are computer-generated characters on a TV monitor that occasionally animate. They’re basically two bumbling idiots who try to do evil and dastardly things, because, after all, it’s the late 1990s and everything has to be extreme. Also, for some reason they both hate sheep, which is another angle for the show that’s not really explained well.
Throut is a blue thing with a ponytail beard and weird straps on his mouth and feathers on his head. He seems to be the tough guy in this scenario, judging by his gruff dude-like voice and physique. Neck is a green monster with a weird nose and teeth, an outfit that looks like prison garb, and sounds like a cross between Zorak from Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Beavis from Beavis & Butt-Head. Sadly, neither C. Martin Croker or Mike Judge contributed to the voices of this show. Hell, I don’t even know who voiced these characters, the show credits them as “themselves,” so it’s a mystery that will likely remain unsolved.
Our co-host is Rebecca Grant, a person who doesn’t have much experience before or after this show. Grant’s role is basically to be the “straight woman” to Throut & Neck’s dumb insanity, as well as being the one who introduces the call-in players. In a sense, this was an early sign for GSN to try to appeal to the sex appeal market with superfluous woman co-hosts, like Cram and Lingo would do a few years later.
To become a contestant, all you had to do was call in one of two phone numbers to play either Throut or Neck, or to go online on the (now defunct) website to register. Once the players were chosen to be Throut or Neck, they would play one of two (later four) mini-games for a prize.
The mini-games were simple in nature. For example, “Sheep Slam” shown above requires the player to attack sheep or their opponent. 1 and 3 on your phone moves your character, 2 attacks. Slamming sheep got you 3 points, attacking your opponent got 1. Whoever had the most points won. Another game, “Sheep Heaven,” required the player to duck and jump over obstacles and take little damage. 2 jumped, 8 ducked, and 4 and 6 could be used to attack or defend, depending on who’s playing.
The winner of the game won a prize, usually stuff like t-shirts, backpacks, and some gimmick prize that ties into some dumb story Throut and Neck came up with during the episode. One episode had them talk about this mysterious “Fat Johnny” character, and the third game of the is always where the “gimmick prize” showed up, thus the winner won a tacky jumpsuit allegedly worn by this Fat Johnny.
An episode I have on tape had Throut and Neck wanting to start a “Chain letter” service, with the gimmick prize in game 3 being a “chain letter starter kit.” I assume the players who got those prizes got a $50 gift card or something instead, but even then it isn’t really funny.
It gets even weirder. Remember when I said this was video game adjacent? Their major sponsor for this show was Nintendo, and Game Boy Colors were given away as prizes.
This may seem weird now, but for 1999 this isn’t too far out of reach. Throughout the late 90s to about the mid-2000s, Nintendo was going through a strange identity crisis during the Nintendo 64 era, with that extreme “Get N or Get Out” branding. It was that time where Nintendo had strong competition with Sony (and to a lesser extent, Sega), and clearly wanted to be like their competition where they try to be edgy and cool with the kids. It didn’t really work.
Not only was Nintendo the primary sponsor of the show, there were also commercials featuring Super Smash Bros. and other Nintendo products during the show.
Honestly, this is the only reason I’m writing about this. Did Nintendo think they would make decent bank on sponsoring this crummy interactive game show, in which the only appeal was silly phone games and a host we got purely for sex appeal? It’s the most bizarre business decision out there. I must know who thought this was gonna be a good idea.
The biggest problem with Throut & Neck was that GSN was often something you could only get via satellite, which caused a slight delay in input. Not only that, there’s zero interactive value. You’re watching people play dinky Shockwave games – this was made before Flash was a thing – with nothing for the viewer to do except to root for certain players. At least the most basic of game shows like Jeopardy! give you play along factor, this show did not have anything like this. Even the commentary between the hosts just feels like dumb stupid “dude” humor, and has not aged especially well.
Thankfully, the viewers weren’t too interested in this, and the show was gone after a few months. After its cancellation, you could buy Rebecca Grant’s wardrobe on eBay. That’s probably the only major highlight this show had after its short-lived run.
No matter how you slice it, this show wasn’t good. It was boring, it was dumb, it was trying to go to the extreme 90s angle and just looks hilarious in retrospect. Though, when you realize this was on the same network that had wonderful hits like Extreme Gong, All New 3’s a Crowd and Burt Luddin’s Love Buffet, this looked like Emmy material in comparison.
I will give the show credit, it’s an interesting idea, surely. It probably would work better in this day and age, just get rid of the goofy “extreme 90s” angle and pump up the prize budget, you could make something out of it. Weirdly, I think the concept of “interacting with your television to play games” would’ve worked had they waited 10 years, because this probably would’ve worked better as a smartphone play-along app. I mean, other game shows would try that idea after this. I’m not saying this would’ve lasted longer, but I’m bummed GSN has abandoned their interactive game shows. That was pretty neat.
If you want a blast from the internet past, the Wayback Machine has salvaged what was left of the old website. It’s too bad the game no longer works. It was a Shockwave-powered shooting game that looked sub-par even by Shockwave standards. But if you’re curious to see the show yourself, there are a few episodes of the show on YouTube. It has to be seen to be believed.
(All screenshots were captured from YouTube videos.)