Game Show Memories – Super Mario Challenge.

Super Mario Challenge (The Children’s Channel, 1991)

I must admit that this isn’t a game show that I remember watching at the time, but that’s because this was shown on The Children’s Channel (later renamed TCC), which I never had access to, although if I did, I’m sure that I would’ve been a regular viewer (I wasn’t introduced to the world of 24-hour children’s channels until Cartoon Network in the late-90s, and it blew my mind).

But I wanted to review this one, because this was based around computer games, it’s always interesting seeing how they are portrayed on TV, and this just seems to be a curious idea in general. First of all, the host of Super Mario Challenge was John Lenahan, who was always suitably dressed for the part as the pesky plumber. Now he was an American who was briefly famous around this time for being a magician.

He went on to have a late-night show on BBC2 called Stuff The White Rabbit, which was a mix of rather unusual tricks and crude comedy, and how he got the gig to host this rather different show for youngsters is something of a mystery (the world still awaits Jerry Sadowitz’s Sonic The Hedgehog Championship). But the idea of Super Mario Challenge was to determine who was the best at playing various Mario computer games.

This was a knockout tournament, and most of the challengers were 10-year-old boys who fancied a go. At every stage of the tournament, they would play a different Mario game, and as this was the early-90s, I presume that they were all on the NES console. They would play various challenges against each other at the same time, as the studio audience cheered them on.

The various levels would be chosen for them, but because the games contained no level select cheat, other people had to play through the early stages of the game to be able to set up the challenge. There would be a round where they had a complete a level in the fastest time. Then there would be one where they had to score as many points as possible.

And there would be a round where they scored bonuses for how many lives they had left, along with how many coins they found. The highest scorers would then progress to the next stage of the competition. I presume that the overall series champion received a nice trophy. John would also commentate on games, and offer viewers tips on how to play. The set design was good too, making it look like everyone was in a Mario level themselves.

Along with this, there were also some celebrity specials. I don’t know what was more unexpected really, the sight of Chris Evans and Janice Long competing against each other, or the fact that they were playing Mario games. And well, they ended up being no match for the 10-year-olds in the regular series. I’m sure I would’ve really enjoyed this if I had TCC at the time.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

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