Category: Video games and pop culture

Video Games according to Life: A Civil War.

It’s time to the return of “Video Games According to TV/Movies.” After a several month long hiatus, we’re back with another one that hit the internet waves several years back. Previously, I looked at David Caruso chewing the scenery and giving us the most meme-worthy quotes as I checked out CSI: Miami‘s Urban Hellraisers episode. (You can check that out here.) As we bring the series out of moth balls, we look at another TV show that depicted video games in the silliest way possible.

This time, our suspect is Life, a short-lived police procedural that aired on NBC from 2007-09. Damian Lewis plays Charlie Crews, a former cop who was imprisoned for 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Now as a police detective, Crews must solve crimes while trying to solve the mystery of who actually caused the crime he was imprisoned for. It’s like Monk, but instead of an obsessive-compulsive man, we have an eccentric ex-con.

As opposed to Urban Hellraisers, which I watched without watching any prior episode of CSI: Miami, I actually did watch the pilot to understand the premise of Life.The acting is solid, Lewis does a fine job showing off Crews’ personality traits. Though, expect to see a lot of “haha technology has changed since he was in prison” jokes, where in the first episode, I saw him fumble with a cell phone and trying to understand how he’s answering phone calls from his new sweet-ass car.

But I’ve stalled enough. The episode in question is “A Civil War,” from the show’s first season. The episode starts with two Persian-American employees of a gas station killed and stored in a refrigerator, with “GO HOME” splashed on the windows in motor oil. Crews tries to find out who caused it, finding out it’s a hate crime by three perpetrators. Later on in the investigation, they find out there’s a third person, Amir Darvashi (Oren Dayan) who was kidnapped being held for ransom, and they ask for help from the gas station’s owner, Nina Myers Mary Ann Farmer (Sarah Clarke).

I'm sorry, but after watching so much 24, it's hard to see her as anything but a psychopath that might kill anybody at any moment, even in a show like this.

I’m sorry, but after watching so much 24, it’s hard to see her as anyone but a psychopath that might kill at any moment, even in a show like this.

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Music from the Xbox video game NHL Rivals 2004: A soundtrack review.

It’s really fascinating how popular licensed music in sports video games have become. For a good while in the 2000s, there was a sense of hype if your song got into the next Madden NFL or NBA 2K title. Nowadays we tend to gloss over it, being just another thing about these games that exist. They’re not particularly exciting these days, unless you’re like me and like cataloging every time Snoop Dogg’s been in something.

While EA and 2K Sports have become the big-name players for sports games these days, there are many companies willing to throw their hat in the ring and try to carve their own niche. For example: Sony with their MLB The Show series are considered by many to be the gold standard for baseball video games. Other times, some of this competition falls flat and ends up in the annals of obscurity, like the many times Midway tried to re-invent the wheel by making stuff like NHL Hitz. This time, we’re gonna briefly talk about Microsoft’s failed attempt at a sports video game brand called “XSN Sports.”

In 2003, Microsoft tried to make their own sports brand to rival then-competitors EA and Sega. They introduced XSN Sports as their flagship sports game brand, to make sports games for their exclusive Xbox console, much akin to what their competitors were doing. Under the XSN Sports banner, Microsoft’s sport-focused games featured tournaments and leagues that players could make in-game to share on the respective XSNSports.com website.

Microsoft’s sports games debut included XSN Sports titles like NFL Fever 2004, Links 2004, and Rallisport Challenge 2. Sadly, they couldn’t make a dent in the competition, and the XSN Sports brand was folded one year later, with only Amped and Rallisport Challenge lasting beyond the brand. The XSN service itself was later shut down in 2006, presumably to shift focus onto the then-new Xbox 360.

As a promotional tie-in for these games, they released a soundtrack, under the “XSN Sports Soundtrack CD Series,” featuring various songs that come from the game’s soundtrack. NHL Rivals 2004 was the featured soundtrack for Volume 1, and what turns out to be the only volume, as there was no Volume 2 that I could find online.

The soundtrack CD also comes with a bonus DVD, featuring some NHL highlights from the 2002-03 NHL season, some Wayne Gretzky promo videos, and some DVD-ROM exclusive features. Not much to say about all this, as my experience with hockey games begin and end at Blades of Steel.

I guess this looked good for 2003. The expression on his face is quite off-putting, though…

The main reason I’m covering this is primarily because of the track listing. Outside of two tracks, the rest of the album is… rather off-putting. Stuff like Boston’s “Long Time” (apparently the “Foreplay” half wasn’t available despite being the better part of the two), Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way,” REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You.”

As someone who has only been to one or two hockey games ever in their life, these songs seem rather out of place for a hockey game. Most of them are too slow, not evoking the fast-paced nature of ice hockey, or missing the sort of jock jam enthusiasm that you kind of need at a sporting event.

But what about those two interesting songs, you may ask? Well, they may not be that interesting, but they are to me, at least.

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A look back at Xbox: The Next Generation Revealed.

It’s 2013 as of this writing, which means it’s time for the next Xbox to be revealed. The third generation of Xbox is a rather confusing name: It’s called the Xbox One, it’s heavy on TV, media features, and Kinect stuff. It plays games too.

But let’s go back, shall we? Before the Xbox One, there was the Xbox 360. Eight years and one week ago, Microsoft used MTV to announce the unveiling of the new Xbox with a TV special titled Xbox: The Next Generation Revealed. Which later gets changed to Xbox 360 Revealed partway through the broadcast, but that title isn’t nearly as catchy.

Our host for this evening is Elijah Wood, which you may know from some series of movies about Hobbits. Along with Wood, our co-host is MTV2’s Jim Scherer joining along in the festivities, being the primary interviewer for most of the special.

Before they show off what the new Xbox looks like, they start out with the typical “video game history” video that talks about what’s happened in gaming. Goes through all the common beats: Video games weren’t a thing until people got crazy for Pong, then Nintendo came around and made video games relevant in America again, and then a bunch of other stuff up to now. The competition isn’t nearly mentioned as much directly, which is probably a good idea since they didn’t want people to get hyped for the next PlayStation or the Nintendo Revolution.

It seems every major video game-related TV special has to mention the history of video games, and it’s always hackneyed every time I see it. I mention this because me and friend of the site Bobinator watched Cybermania ’94 a while back before writing this, and even though it’s almost 20 years old as of this writing, it’s just as ridiculous as this event. Even Cybermania said Pong was the first video game, which I guess is a bit more punchy to say compared to SpaceWar.

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Snoop Dogg’s video game hizzistory.

I found out recently that Snoop Dogg has a new game out called Way of the Dogg. It looks to be a brawler featuring his likeness. This got me thinking about previous games that Snoop has been in. While it’s not a metric ton of games, it is more than the game history of other rappers like Dr. Dre and 50 Cent. So let’s check out Snoop’s history in video games, because why the hell not?

Note this may not be a complete list. I likely have left out a game or three, so if I did, let me know through the usual channels. That being said, let’s get started.

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (PS2 – 2001)

I never really enjoyed the Gran Turismo games. Sim driving games never were my thing, I don’t want to maintain my cars by changing the oil and tires, I just want to pick a car and drive on a track. It’s why I kinda enjoyed Forza Horizon more, they straddled the line from being a sim racing game and a fun racing game. Gran Turismo 3 was one of my first PS2 games I got, along with such wonderful games like NBA Hoopz and Contra: Legacy of War.

Snoop contributed a song to the game’s soundtrack, called “Dogg’s Turismo 3.” It’s… something alright. He needs to make another one for the next Gran Turismo. Let’s make it a tradition.

True Crime: Streets of LA (Xbox, GameCube, PS2, Windows – 2003)

Developed by Luxoflux and published by Activision, True Crime: Streets of LA was a decent free-roaming action game that mixed gun play, driving and fighting in a facsimile of Los Angeles, CA. Released during the boom of Grand Theft Auto clones, it boasted big stars like Russell Wong, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman and James Hong. It got a sub-par sequel, True Crime: New York City, and a spiritual successor in Sleeping Dogs. Highly recommend Sleeping Dogs by the way, it’s an awesome game.

Not pictured: His ride, which is pretty gangsta.

Snoop Dogg is a playable character in a bonus game mode. To unlock it, you have to find 30 Dogg Bones scattered around the city. Once you find them all, you unlock “Dogg Patrol,” which features Snoop stopping criminals around LA, much like Nick Kang does in the main game. You’re given an hour to stop crimes until you die or time runs out, whichever comes first. It’s little more than a score attack, but the novelty of playing as Snoop is worth a look.

Some of his music is also in the game, along with a bevvy of other west coast rap artists. The soundtrack itself got a CD release, and I bet the soundtrack is pretty good.

Need for Speed: Underground 2 (Xbox, GameCube, PS2, PC — 2004)

Snoop really likes making songs for video games, doesn’t he? He contributed another song to a driving game, this time a Need for Speed title. Except this is probably the most bizarre thing I’ve heard.

It’s a mashup of The Doors “Riders on the Storm”, with Snoop contributing rap vocals. This is the second time I’ve heard “Riders on the Storm” mixed with another song or artist. I wonder what the surviving Doors thought of this creation…

(Thanks to andlabs and LanceBoyle for pointing this one out! I missed this in the original article’s publication.

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Hollywood Hellfire: A movie tie-in game? In 2013?!

Licensed titles. You know what I’m talking about: Movie games, games based on TV shows, even one based on a book series because the publisher got the book rights and not the movie rights. The lesser-known licensed titles are the movie tie-in games. The ones done by a small team usually done just to tie in with the game, and is enjoyable for about 30 minutes. A few examples that come to mind is that flash platformers of films like Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid or modifications of existing games like the Underworld modification for Half-Life by the same people who brought us They Hunger.

While reading my usual email junk of Twitch newsletters, IGN deals and newsletters for The Hobbit, I was glancing through an email from Sony Pictures of this quirky little game at the bottom of the newsletter: Hollywood Hellfire, a new movie tie-in game for the forthcoming comedy This is The End.

Sounds like a knockoff game you see on a TV show.

I am not a big moviegoer, so I didn’t know this movie existed until today. Seems to be a self-parody of disaster movies, with exaggerated versions of the actors portrayed in the film. All I got out of the trailer was stoner gags, Emma Watson robbing the main characters, and Michael Cera being impaled on a pole. Plus a strange fascination with “titty-fucking.”

This rivals the Zynga Slingo Joker for “nightmare fuel” territory.

It’s a rather basic platformer where you play as stars Seth Rogen or Jay Baruchel, running through a wartorn Hollywood, grabbing mushrooms for points, water jugs for extra lives and food for health. You have three hearts, lose them all (or fall into a lava pit), you die. Run out of lives, its game over.

While dodging fireballs and James Franco’s head, you jump on moving platforms, bounce on blue jump pads, and run away from hazards in a few areas. I only got to the third level before I finally lost, so I don’t know what the ending is like.

The game itself has a confusing sense of design: It has a chip tune soundtrack and 8-bit sound effects, yet the platforming and art style is very reminiscent of mid-to-late-’90s platformers. It’s like it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a modern game or a retro throwback!

If you’re one of those people with Sony Rewards, you can get Rewards points with the game, or so I thought. I’ve been a member for years thanks to Wheel of Fortune‘s Wheel Watchers Club but they say I’m not eligible for these points. Bastards.

If you wanna play this yourself, you can try it out here. (NO LONGER AVAILABLE, SEE BELOW.) As always, don’t expect this to be up forever, so play it while you can. Gotta get those badges and high scores to share on your favorite social media groups!

I also found out Jonah Hill is in this movie along with Seth Rogen. I always got the two confused for a long time, and I still confuse them every once in a while. Now that they’re in the same film, maybe I should start writing that script for a buddy cop film starring Hill and Rogen. Probably better than whatever Hollywood dreck is out there.


Update 6/6/2020: Technology is great as it gives us cool unique ways to promote games. However, technology also sucks, because it means that this game is hard to find, or straight up lost to time.

One, the website no longer exists, as that link redirects to the main Sony Pictures webpage. Two, trying to use the Internet Archive to play an archived version causes a splash screen to show that the Unity Web Player is required to play it, something Unity discontinued their support for a few years ago.

My brief crawling online to find a replacement place to play this has lead me to nothing but dead ends. Compared to other things I wrote about on the site, you can still find places to play Expendabros and Suicide Squad: Special Ops, but not this. Hollywood Hellfire might actually be lost media now, and that incredibly sucks.

Thus I’m putting out an open request: If you know of a place where this game is available, please let me know. I’m big on preserving stuff like this, the junk that nobody should remember. This should not be about something that existed for a few months in 2013 and is lost forever.

Video Games according to CSI: Miami: Urban Hellraisers.

I’m one of many ideas. Long ago, back when I was an aspiring YouTube guy, I had this idea for an internet show where I would review a TV show that depicted the world of video games in a hilariously bad light. This was back when The Nostalgia Critic was a big thing. Unfortunately, the issue of using clips from a TV show for mockery purposes could get me in legal trouble, so that idea got canned. But hey, it’s 2013, and I’m in the mood to revisit old ideas, this time in written form. Least they can’t sue me for copyright on a blog post.

I wanted to look at TV shows – sitcoms, dramas, news reports, stuff like that – and how they inaccurately depict video games. Some will be funny. Others will be tragic. Hopefully you’ll be entertained along with me.

Yeah, it looks like crap. I’m a writer, not a graphic designer.

The show I decided to write about first is CSI: Miami. The first spinoff of the long-running CSI TV series, it starred David Caruso as Horatio Caine, where he head-tilted and mumbled his way through ten seasons of the iconic police procedural.

I’m not a fan of CSI: Miami – hell, I am not a big fan of CSI or these kind of criminal investigation shows in general. I didn’t mind the original series until William Petersen was replaced with Morpheus. Things just weren’t the same in Vegas after that. Heard they replaced Morpheus with Sam Malone now, which is an even weirder casting decision.

During CSI: Miami‘s fourth season, they decided to tie video games into a crime, hot off the heels of the various Grand Theft Auto controversies throughout the 2000s. The result was “Urban Hellraisers,” an episode full of hilarious and inaccurate video game references mixed in with terrible acting and writing. At one point, they added a subplot involving a minor character and Emily Procter’s character just because the plot was so paper-thin that they couldn’t fill it into a 45-minute episode.

I’ll avoid giving an in-depth recap, this is not a CSI: Miami fan site after all. Instead, I’ll just give a rough summary of the events of the whole episode.

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Pokemon Monopoly: Gotta catch ’em all!

Let’s talk about Monopoly, the classic property building board game. Also known as “that one game that goes on forever because dummies add house rules that make a two hour game go on longer than it should.” No, you don’t get money on Free Parking, you must auction a property if you don’t buy it, and you get $200 if you land on GO, not $400. At least it’s a better board game than Risk, now that one’s a pain to play.

Over the years, I have somehow amassed a large Monopoly collection, from Disney-themed Monopoly to Monopoly featuring the Seattle Mariners baseball team, to even one of those bootleg “Build Your Own” Monopoly clones made for Windows 3.1. Though, much like everything in life, I took it to excess and got sick of collecting them, shoving all the various Monopoly games I got in my garage, some of which have never been opened. However, buried between Deluxe Edition Monopoly and Michael Graves Monopoly, there was this special edition:

Just like the post I made about the Nintendo Power catalog, it’s “Pikachu and a bunch of other characters you *might* care about!”

Yeah, they made a Pokemon Monopoly game. Gotta catch em all, I guess. This edition was made back in 1999. Pokemon fever was in full swing, and naturally there was gonna be a crossover with the famous board game. Interestingly, this was before Hasbro licensed Monopoly to USAopoly to do their cross-brand spinoffs like The Beatles Monopoly and Rolling Stones Trivial Pursuit. I don’t remember how I got this, but I think I might’ve “borrowed” this from my grandma and never gave it back, I can’t be certain. Regardless, it’s in my Monopoly collection, and I’m now gonna go look into this version.

I’m going to assume you all know the rules of Monopoly, so instead I’ll just cover the noticeable differences between this and the original you know and hate love.

I used the plastic container that holds the Pokemon tokens for Houses and Hotels. Or as they’re called in this case, Pokemarts and Pokecenters. It’s rather handy.

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Spotted: Atari Hot Wheels, at a local discount store near you.

Sometimes video games and toys make a bizarre combination. Over the years I’ve found a bunch of unusual crossovers of varying quality. But who knew that Atari, a brand basically running on fumes and nostalgia grabs, and Hot Wheels, a toy brand that became less about real cars and more about weird abominations, would join forces to make a nostalgic car collection that came out this year, of all things? I didn’t know until a friend of mine mentioned these to me.

Poor Centipede, getting stuck with such a janky toy car to be represented by.

I was tipped off to these from a friend at Hardcore Gaming 101, who found one of these at a Bi-Mart. Ah Bi-Mart, that podunk little chain of discount club stores based in the Pacific Northwest. Bi-Mart gives me that old-school vibe that reminds me of a supermarket that’s stuck in 1987. I even remember the TV commercials which looked so low budget you’d think they were made for public access. They’re still around, still shilling discounts much akin to your Big Lots or Grocery Outlet stores today.

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The “Highlights” of the Spike Video Game Awards.

Ah, the Spike Video Game Awards. Advertised as a legitimate video game awards show — ignoring other, more professional award ceremonies — the VGAs are anything but, often being a corporate mess with an award show that makes the MTV Movie Awards seem dignified in comparison.

More like video LAME awards hahaha I slay me

The Video Game Awards celebrates their ninth year of being a hilarious trainwreck of TV executives trying to “understand” gamers combined with exclusive trailers for wonderful games like Command & Conquer Generals II. I personally haven’t watched the awards in years, opting to see the trailers on GameTrailers.com after the show is broadcast instead. (2019 edit: When they still existed in 2012, anyway. RIP GameTrailers. 🙁 )

Doesn’t mean I still can’t mock it endlessly every year. Unlike a certain person who has an “Angry” persona, at least I have tact and don’t give Geoff Keighley the third degree about this, I understand that this is strictly a corporate affair and not a genuine awards show.

To commemorate the ninth anniversary of this wonderful award show, I thought I’d give you the highlights of the event so far. Note that this is not a complete list, anything prior to 2005 is pretty hard to find info on before the days of YouTube, and since I don’t actively watch the event, I have to go by hearsay and second-hand information. So let me know if I left anything out, or made any errors in this. But enough of that, let’s get started!


2005: The award goes to… a game that’s not even out yet!

I wonder if Jack Black still accepts awards in his underwear these days.

2005 was an interesting year. The Xbox 360 was new, the world wasn’t introduced to waggle motion controllers yet, and I had just graduated out of High School. The 2005 VGAs were mostly uneventful, except for two games getting a fair share of awards: The critically-panned 50 Cent: Bulletproof, and the licensed title Peter Jackson’s King Kong: This Game Should Win An Award for the Most Overwrought Game Title, I mean, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. Nothing wrong with that, right?

There’s one big problem: Both games weren’t out yet. Back then, this was recorded in advance rather than broadcast live, so they decided to hype up two yet-unreleased games for their award show. Really destroys the legitimacy of this awards show. It’d be like the Oscars giving an award to a movie that came out the day before, skipping the whole nomination process.

Following this fiasco, there was a time where they made awards specifically for games coming out during the holiday season in the interest of fairness, but they seemed to abandon this in later years, being totally okay to give the then-recently-released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 “Best Shooter” in 2011.


2007: Look at our sexy ladies! Oh and BioShock won an award or something.

I wonder if this model has any regrets for doing this. Probably not, considering she’s standing next to Dave Navarro.

2007 brought an… interesting approach to the awards. A fair share of the major video games had various models covered in body paint depicting the game’s name on them, which would be used to determine the winning game for each category.

Imagine the executive meeting where this took place.

  • Guy #1: “Hey, we’re a network for MEN, right? Us men like women, right? But how do we make women tie into this video games thing?”
  • Guy #2: “Get actual women game designers to present and accept the awards?”
  • Guy #1: “What are you talking about, women game designers don’t exist! You’re just making up shit, Steve.”
  • Guy #2: “But what if they do exist?”
  • Guy #1: “Even if they do, they’re likely all ugly and shit, we need beautiful women for this thing!”
  • Guy #3: “I KNOW! Let’s have models walk onto the stage covered in body paint with the games as we reveal the awards!”
  • Guy #1: “Genius, Dave! You get a pay raise! Now get out, I gotta call up the MANswers guys and order 100 new episodes!”

I swear that’s gotta be how it happened, because I can’t understand it otherwise. Yes, they did this for every major award. I feel sorry for the women who were subjected to this. At least I hope they got paid well.


2007: A bunch of Gamecocks crash Ken Levine’s victory party.

This guy said “Gamecock will rise some day” while Ken Levine looks on awkwardly. They certainly didn’t rise after this.

2007 brought us a bunch of amazing games, including BioShock, which won Game of the Year at the 2007 VGAs. Irrational Games co-founder Ken Levine gets up on stage, ready to do a speech to celebrate his team’s victory. Suddenly, a bunch of guys from Gamecock Media Group rushed the stage in dumb chicken hats, primarily to advertise Hail to the Chimp. After basically hijacking Levine’s moment in the TV spotlight, they leave shortly after realizing how ill timed this was, thus giving Levine and Greg Gobbi no time to give their speeches.

While Gamecock CEO Mike Wilson later apologized, it was a rather amusing highlight in the developer’s short history.

Where are they now, in 2012? Well, Irrational is still hard at work making BioShock Infinite. Gamecock, however, got bought by SouthPeak Interactive in 2008 and were never heard from again. Fortunately, they got better, reforming as a better studio with games more fondly remembered.

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Throut & Neck: A game show with some ’90s attitude.

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.

Sadly I couldn’t get a gif of the intro, because it’s so ’90s it hurts.

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.

Our “stars,” ladies and gentlemen. They have as much interactivity as an animatronic at Chuck E. Cheese.

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.

Let’s be honest: This is the reason people watched, not for those two dunderheads.

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.

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