It's been a weird week here at Giant Bomb. With Jeff out sick on Wednesday, and myself taking care of business at home yesterday, our momentum just hasn't been quite right. It's fitting, then, that today should be completely derailed by someone reminding me that Starcade is totally awesome.
Make no mistake about it, there's a lot of unintentional comedy here--every episode teems with socially inept contestants, the bouncy theme music is on some proto-Doogie-Howser trip, and the playful banter between host Geoff Edwards and announcer Kevin McMahon is in constant peril of turning genuinely nasty. It's also great to watch game-show stalwart Edwards--a man in his early 50s at the time--use his stock game-show shuck-and-jive on a topic quite obviously outside of his area of expertise. Seriously, it's charming as hell.
As much fun as it is to laugh at awkward teens, corny 80s fashion, and hilariously dated parting gifts, there's something genuinely compelling about Starcade. There's no denying that the thick patina of nostalgia that coats Starcade informs much of my appreciation, but it's also a pretty solid game show on its own terms--interesting contestants, a host that keeps the game moving, and stakes that you care about. I was seriously crushed when a contestant flubbed his chance to win a Tron arcade machine in the final round of one episode.
Most importantly, it's not condescending, treating video game competition seriously, but without trying to elevate it with comparisons to pro sports, or drowning it in marketing nonsense. I simply cannot imagine Starcade existing today without energy-drink endorsements and radically challenging on-air personalities.
So yeah, I highly recommend you spend your weekend working your way through all of the episodes of Starcade that are available on the official Starcade website--believe me, it's not hard. If you need me, I'll be honing my Cosmic Chasm skills.