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James Hibberd


January 11, 2007 1:43 PM

Comcast’s G4 has been fun to mock since it gobbled up the more interesting TechTV as part of a real estate power play in 2003. It’s always seemed like the awkward old guy at the party—a massive corporation trying desperately to relate to its young gamer demographic.

In recent months, however, the channel has made some serious improvements. Its repackaging of “Star Trek,' dubbed “2.0,' was a great move (though too bad the newly polished high-def version of “Star Trek' is in syndication instead). Buying “Arrested Development' didn’t make any sense for G4’s brand, but at least it added a program that viewers respect. In the most recent fourth quarter, a quarter that killed many cable nets, G4 was up 100 percent in prime (granted, we’re talking 124,000 average primetime viewers here, but still…).

The best show on G4 right now is their addictive new Japanese game show import “Ninja Warrior,' which is like one of those 1980s obstacle-course series that Spike’s “MXC' mocks, except done modern and straight-faced. The massive, four-section “Warrior' course of brutal physical challenges is so difficult that out of 1,700 contestants in eight years of twice-annual tournaments, only two have ever gotten all the way through it. Participants become obsessed with finishing, building replicas of the obstacles at home for practice, and competing in satellite qualifiers a la “American Idol.' Somebody should look into the format for a domestic version, it certainly has to be more exciting than the dreary check cashing of “Rich List,' “Identity' or “1 vs. 100.'

On the TCA stage, G4’s president Neal Tiles seemingly plays a lot of videogames himself. Targeting young men isn’t merely difficult, but a “suicide mission.' They are not only focused on the demographic, but are a “laser focused on young guys.' Which is good, but I want him to take it further, to talk about fragging the Nielsens with a plasma rifle.


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