America's Got Cable: G4 vs. Spike

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Welcome to another pulse-pounding week of America's Got Cable: The Search for the Nation's Finest Basic Cable Channel!

OLD BUSINESS: The readers of TV.com have spoken and the winner of last week's tussle between Animal Planet and National Geographic Channel is...


**************************National Geographic Channel**************************

Despite not reaching the same number of homes that Animal Planet does, NatGeo was able to secure the win based on a general sense of goodwill toward the channel and the voters' preference for more educational programming. Also, I should point out that I got some facts wrong (Monster Fish predates River Monsters), and even though I watch way more Animal Planet (my brain melted a long time ago), I heartily endorse this victory. NatGeo deserves to catch a break every now and again!

Oh, and one more thing, since several commenters brought it up: This bracket is jam-packed with apples vs. oranges situations. That's life. If you thought that Animal Planet and NatGeo weren't similar enough to compare, then you're missing the point of this exercise. It's not about ideal match-ups, it's about entertainment value—what YOU are watching. An effort was made to match up smaller channels in the early rounds, but the overriding question will always be the same: Which channel do you PREFER? I'm simple that way.


NEW BUSINESS: This week's battle will will be fought with noogies and wedgies!


G4

Background: From its initial concept to its present state, G4 is like MTV but with video games and little-to-no appeal for women. Ever since its birth in 2002, G4 has even followed the same trajectory that MTV took, in that it originally only had videogame content, but nowadays trades on general "lifestyle" content that's only tangentially related to videogames. Behind the scenes, G4 has gone through some ups and downs, including briefly merging with TechTV before swallowing it whole, then being forced to downsize its staff, programming slate, and studio, along with the added indignity of getting dropped from the DirecTV lineup due to "low interest" (but more likely behind-the-scenes businessman backstabbery). That said, if ever a cable channel was capable of having a cult following, G4 is definitely that channel.

Original Programming: Someone at G4 must have realized that only like seven videogames are released each year (and people would rather PLAY them than hear about them), so the videogame-related shows have fallen by the wayside. However, G4 has kept its dude-centric mission statement with brogramming like Ninja Warrior, Campus PD, Jump City: Seattle and That's Tough. But really, it all comes down to G4's flagship not-quite-daily show, Attack of the Show. It's a manic, colorful, pop-culture smorgasbord hosted by the insanely charming Kevin Peirera and his revolving slate of articulate hotties (currently Candace Bailey, but at one point Olivia Munn of Perfect Couples).

Reruns: G4's reruns range from guilty pleasures (Cops, Cheaters) to movies that don't suck (Movies That Don't Suck).

Why It's The Best: Though frenetic and almost Japanese in its energy levels, G4 has one of the most distinctive sensibilities of any channel on television. It's basically the nerd who got buff over the summer, with the personality to match. Plus, it gives airtime to some genuinely funny and talented people.

Why It's The Worst:: Not to be cynical, but G4 is a channel that was invented by billionaires to sell advertising geared toward teenage boys. Although it was most flagrant at its inception, even G4's current lineup is laced with enough paid product placements and paid "reviews" to rival the height of the 1950s payola scandals. Remember when G4 changed its name to 4G for a week? Real cool.


SPIKE

Background: Few cable channels have followed the kind of twisty path to the screen that Spike has. In one of the more infamous transformations in cable history, Spike was originally known as The Nashville Network, which was launched in 1983 and broadcast directly out of the now-defunct theme park Opryland USA. We're talking old-school southern programming: Fishing, NASCAR, and Grand Ole Opry. In the late '90s, TNN was acquired by Viacom, which also controlled CMT—thus Viacom decided to avoid redundancy by rechristening TNN The National Network and shifting its focus more toward pro wrestling and Baywatch reruns. But much like KFC's failed attempt to insist its initials stood for "kitchen-fresh chicken," the general public just simply could not forget about TNN's Nashville origins. Finally, in 2003 (and despite a lawsuit from Spike Lee himself), TNN was rebranded Spike TV and marketed as the first TV channel for GUYS. (Sorry ESPN!)

Original Programming: Even more than G4, Spike overtly courts the male demographic. Many of its shows involve pro wrestling and mixed martial arts; see The Ultimate Fighter, one of Spike's longest running series. A few years ago, Spike threw its hat into the scripted-comedy ring with Blue Mountain State, a raunchy, genuinely funny college football comedy, and recent addition Coal finds Spike continuing the trend of reality documentaries about terrible, awful workplaces.

Reruns: Currently reruns of CSI and CSI:NY take up huge swaths of the Spike schedule. But you'll also find reruns of Entourage and frequent rebroadcasts of the Star Wars and James Bond films.

Why It's The Best: Spike's always good for a cheap thrill, whether it's the insane, dubbed version of MXC; hugging underwear hunks (SORRY, that's what MMA looks like to me); or the great movie selection.

Why It's The Worst: Putting aside the fact that Spike's mission statement excludes more than half of the population outright, Spike also has a strange idea of what a "man" is. There are tons of dudes out there, but how many of them are actually interested in a reality show about Sandra Bullock's ex-husband or coal mining? Call me crazy, but I think guys actually just like entertaining television?


Official TV.com Verdict:

I'm gonna throw this one to G4. It's like one step up from being a cable access channel, and I love that about it.

But now it's YOUR turn! COMMENT BELOW and tell us your verdict: G4 or Spike? And make your case! What do you love or hate about each channel?


Click below to see the full tournament bracket, and read previous America's Got Cable stories here.

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