Game On (UK TV series)

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Game On
Gameon2.jpg
Shot of the second and third series cast, left-to-right: Martin Henson (Matthew Cottle), Amanda "Mandy" Wilkins (Samantha Womak née Janus), and Matthew Malone (Neil Stuke).
Genre Situation comedy
Created by Andrew Davies and Bernadette Davis
Starring Ben Chaplin (series 1)
Matthew Cottle
Samantha Janus
Neil Stuke (series 2 & 3)
Opening theme "Where I Find My Heaven" by Gigolo Aunts
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 18 (List of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) Geoffrey Perkins
Sioned William
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Hat Trick Productions
Broadcast
Original channel BBC2
Original run 27 February 1995 (1995-02-27) – 6 February 1998 (1998-02-06)

Game On, also titled Game On! and Game-On (alternatively Two Men and a Blonde in Finland and The Game of Life in Portugal[1]) was a British sitcom which ran for three series, and aired on BBC2 from 1995 to 1998.[2]

The central characters are three childhood friends from Herne Bay in Kent; laddish agorophobe Matthew Malone (Ben Chaplin in the first series and Neil Stuke in the second and third), man-eater Amanda "Mandy" Wilkins (Samantha Womack née Janus), and wimpish Martin Henson (Matthew Cottle). When into their twenties, the trio move into and share a flat in Battersea, Southwest London, which Matthew bought with his inheritance, and the series follows their lives as flatmates.

Created and written by Andrew Davies and Bernadette Davis, and produced by Hat Trick Productions for the BBC, Game On was aimed at twenty-somethings, the same age group as the principal cast of the show.[3]

Production[edit]

The title, originally derived from a stock screen term used by 1980s early computer video games to initiate a competitive encounter, was taken from English urban slang speech of the 1990s lad culture of which the principal character Matthew Malone was an exemplar. It was directed by John Stroud, produced by Sioned William and the BBC Television Head of Comedy Geoffrey Perkins, and executive produced by Denise O'Donohue on behalf of Hat Trick Productions for the BBC.

After a successful first series, the option suffered somewhat from the loss its lead player Ben Chaplin, who quit the cast unexpectedly after receiving an offer of a film role in Hollywood on the back of his performance in Game On.

The first two series were written by Andrew Davies and Bernadette Davis. Davis wrote the final series alone.

The show's theme tune was "Where I Find My Heaven" by the Gigolo Aunts.[4] The single reached number 29 in the UK singles chart in May 1995, when the series debuted, and was also included in the soundtrack to the film Dumb and Dumber at the same time. Among other music included was Dogs of Lust by The The, From Despair to Where by Manic Street Preachers, Girls & Boys by Blur, God! Show Me Magic by Super Furry Animals, The View From Here by Dubstar and Oasis.

Characters[edit]

  • Matthew Norman Malone (Ben Chaplin for the first series, subsequently Neil Stuke) – Matthew is the unemployed owner of the three-bedroomed flat in which the show mostly takes place, and which he hardly ever goes outside of. Once from Herne Bay, and a self-proclaimed ladies' man, the car accident which killed his parents has left him with a significant inheritance - part of which he spent on buying the Battersea flat, and which means he does not have to work - but also resulted in a deep fear of the outside world and acute agoraphobia. Although Matt still keeps a surfboard in pristine condition, routinely waxing it, even passing beyond the front door causes a panic attack. He passes the days alone in the flat whilst the others are at work by dressing up, role-playing and spying on the neighbors. Routinely makes up wild and implausible stories about his past and what he has been up to through the day whilst the others have been at work. Loves to use the word "tosser" and the phrase "double hard bastard" and in an ongoing gag throughout the entire series would mock his flatmate Martin for being ginger and force him to make endless cups of tea. Despite describing himself as a "double hard bastard," he secretly enjoys things that could be characterized as "effeminate," such as 1940s "love story" movies and Emmerdale Farm when not watching Reservoir Dogs or Bikini Beach Babes on Safari.
  • Martin Henson (Matthew Cottle) – Martin is a passive and meek tangerine-haired bank clerk who lives on his mother's frozen meals. Matthew's oldest "friend" (in truth Matt picked on Martin even at school), Martin's older sister is Claudia, Mandy's best friend, and by extension, although being two years younger than Mandy has known Mandy since they were kids. Martin is still a virgin in the beginning of the series, and although he doesn't remain one, he remains forever unlucky in love, like Mandy. Martin is Matthew's slave, doormat and constant source of entertainment, whom he calls "ginger tosser" whilst screaming for Martin to make cups of tea. Years of passive abuse have left Martin scared of Matt, although he still looks up to him as a "cool guy" and hopes for the day he will go back outside. Although not agoraphobic like Matt, Martin also rarely leaves the flat, as he has no social life outside work, and has made a threadbare trail from his seat to the kettle.
  • Amanda "Mandy" Wilkins (Samantha Janus) – Mandy is ambitious yet underachieving career girl who finds herself going nowhere except to bed with an endless stream of men (Northern by preference). Many of the men she sleeps with, she is not particularly attracted to, and there are hints throughout the series that she is simply addicted to sex (she tries during the second series to abstain from sex entirely). In early episodes there were running gags involving Mandy's history of childhood bedwetting (which did not cease until she was 13). She made out with her science teacher at school, getting him the sack and causing his marriage to breakdown, and also as a teenager had a child in secret with her boyfriend Stoat that she couldn't cope with and gave up for adoption. Despite having an IQ of 139 and earning a degree at University, Mandy is stuck in a cycle of temporary, insignificant secretarial jobs often with lecherous bosses, gets into debt far too often, and envies her best friend Claudia Henson, who did the same things Mandy did but is going places.
  • Clare Monahan (Tracy Keating) – An Irish nurse, Clare is Martin's girlfriend in the second series and then his ex. She meets Martin and initially makes a deal with him to lose her virginity, not knowing that he was also a virgin. They start dating and eventually break up due to Martin's inability to trust her around other men, his almost vegetative state, and irreconcilable life paths - Clare wanted to travel the world while Martin did not. She appears in five episodes of series two, and four episodes of series three. Actress Tracy Keating also makes a further appearance in the final episode as a different character, a woman who Martin pursues because she looks like Clare. Keating plays this part with an English accent.
  • Archie Glenister (Crispin Bonham-Carter) – Mandy's boss, lover and groom to be in the third series. Born to a wealthy, upper-class and snobbish family, Archie never really fit in with them who were worried by his disturbing taxidermy obsession, which he later scares Mandy with. Despite his privileged background, Archie is a fun-loving, rough-and-tumble guy who spent time in the Royal Marines (unlike Matthew, who merely claims he has). Archie dies unexpectedly on his wedding day to Mandy, fulfilling one of his old Marine challenges.
  • Jason (Mark Powley) – Mandy's friend from college, the one she never had sex with due to him being gay. A psychotherapist, he poses as Mandy's cousin to try and help Matt overcome his agoraphobia. Appears in three consecutive episodes of series two and during which he falls in love with a completely unassuming Matthew.
  • Marco (Oliver Haden) – Mandy's Italian tutor who she struggles to resist in her short-lived dabble with celibacy. Appears in two consecutive episodes of series two.
  • Stoat (Eddie Marsan) – A criminal and Mandy's ex-boyfriend from school. Only appears in one episode during which he takes everybody in the flat hostage, but is later revealed to have fathered Mandy's daughter she gave away for adoption as a teenager.
  • Claudia Henson (Rebecca Lacey) – Martin's older sister, and Mandy's best friend. Although frequently referred to throughout all three series, she actually only appears in one episode of the first series, when she and Mandy go clubbing, and never shares any scenes with Martin.
  • Wally Bazoum - An unseen character, Mr Bazoum is Martin's only other friend except Matthew. Mr Bazoum is a Turkish man who also works at the bank where Martin works. The character is referred to in all series, and spoken to by Matthew who says "he sounds like a complete wanker". Spends a weekend away with Martin in the first series.
  • Dennis and Ursula - Two further unseen characters referenced throughout the show, they are an elderly couple who live in the flat next door. Notably, Martin borrows their rusted, unsightly Nissan to drive Mandy to church on her wedding day.

Episodes[edit]

Reception[edit]

The Digital Fix noted that viewing figures were highest during the first season due to the fact the "star" Ben Chaplin was replaced by Neil Stuke for the next two series.[5] The British Comedy Guide noted in its review of Game On that the series was polarizing due to some controversy over some of the politically incorrect dialogue, situations and gags, but also that the series had high viewing figures, building up an even bigger following after its cancellation.[6]

Awards[edit]

Game On was nominated for Best Comedy (Programme or Series) at the 1997 BAFTAs,[7] along with Absolutely Fabulous and Father Ted; the category was won by Only Fools and Horses.[8]

DVD releases[edit]

All three series of the show are available on DVD. The first series DVD is the only one with any special features, which include Ben Chaplin's best moments as Matthew Malone from the first series, and character photo galleries. All DVD releases place the episodes in the chronological order in which they are meant to be viewed, not in the order of the original air-dates which were shown out of order.

DVD Title Disc # Year Episode # DVD release dates
Region 2
Complete Series 1 1 1995 6 17 September 2001
Complete Series 2 1 1996 6 23 August 2004
Complete Series 3 1 1998 6 23 August 2004
Complete Series 13 3 1995–1998 18 23 August 2004

References[edit]

External links[edit]