Who remembers 4Later on Channel 4? Yeah, as I guessed as much, not too many of you lovely people. However, it was the home of one of my favourite TV shows of the late nineties and early noughties – Bits. I wanted to pay homage to this great show and look at the many reasons why I fell in love with this late night TV treat.
After GamesMaster and Games World both went off the air in 1998 there seemed to be a gaping hole for a television show dedicated to gaming in the UK. The big wigs at Channel 4 decided to rectify this by launching Bits. Bits was a show that spoke to me at the time; it reviewed and previewed the latest video games, it was hosted by three excellent female presenters, it showed humorous sketches linked to gaming and it was aimed at a more mature audience (late teens / early twenties).
Who were these presenters I hear you ask? Bits starred Aleks Krotoski (left), Emily Dunn (middle) and Emily “Bouff” Booth (right). Bouff actually replaced Claudia Trimde after the first series. Bits was pretty much an all-female affair – Channel 4 preferring to focus on girl gamers this time around. It worked and was refreshing (especially to a guy who knew no girl gamers, blame Croydon – Ed).
Aldo Palumbo the director and producer of Bits sums up the real essence of the show in our exclusive interview where I asked him the following question:
Bits was shown late on Channel 4 on 4Later and came across with a much more adult-themed and edgy feel to any other video game show previously shown in the UK. How exactly did this original idea come?
“Creative Director Hamish Barbour had seen the movie Clerks and loved its video rental heroes. He sent me on a mission around the country to see if those guys existed in Britain and to come up with an editorial remit for what they would watch. That was Vids. He also liked playing Gran Turismo a lot, so he sent me back on the road to cast and create Bits. Hamish is never short of good ideas.” – Aldo Palumbo Interview.
Just from the intro you get a great idea of what you your eyes will feast themselves on for the next half an hour. Full throttle, in your face gaming and girls with a budget a Channel 5 show would look down on! The episode format kicks off with the ‘news desk’ where the girls ran through the latest hardware and gaming updates across the world. The show then moved onto more featured items e.g. looking at the latest beat-em ups on the market and reviewing which is the best for the mature gamer. Each segment of Bits is followed by 1-2 minute sketches which were frantic and very funny. However, Bits was not just a gaming show split between small morsels of gaming delights. The show was not afraid to look deep into specific areas of the gaming industry – with one episode purely dedicated to the seedier side of gaming. The episode was aptly titled ‘Bits Special: The Bits They Didn’t Want You to See’.
Just watching Bits makes you wonder how the presenters had so much energy. The girls were constantly shouting, running and performing and excelled at keeping the viewer engaged throughout. It was obvious the show had a very tight budget, but if anything I felt that this just added to the show’s charm.
The three presenters had a lot of chemistry on-screen and really brought the show to life. It would be easy to say that Channel 4 merely plucked three fanciable girls from the street and plonked them in front of the camera to discuss games. However, this is completely unfounded as all three presenters oozed effort, charm and an understanding of the games genre. It’s no surprise that all of them went on to carve out successful careers in media – two still within the gaming market.
Aleks Krotoski works as a respected technological journalist for The Guardian. Emily ‘Bouff’ Booth has had numerous presenting and acting roles and has carved out a successful career in the horror genre. Whereas Emily Dunn still works in the gaming industry by taking up a position with (one of our favourite gaming houses – Ed) Electronic Arts. I was an avid fan of Bits and believe that it was an interesting and original take on gaming. I was very sad when the show finished after the fifth series. It was a breath of fresh air, tried something original and new and it still brings back good memories for me.
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