This is an absolute lost classic in my opinion, the BBC sitcom that nobody remembers for some reason, and I’m not sure why, I loved it – it was me in my mid teens glued to the TV Screen watching “game on” every week. Last week for Christmas my brother Marko posted me a HMV token for £15 and I went in there last week on my tea break and there it was in Bournemouth HMV – ALL three series of Game On for just £20 reduced from £30 or £40, so I had to buy it. It was me and my wee brother Marko that used to sometimes watch it together. I’d have been 15 when it first hit our screens, Marko was just 11, but it was a great British TV comedy. There ain’t anything like it on anymore. Placed shyly on BBC2 on a midweek night (as I recall around 9.30 pm ish), there were a total of only 18 episodes ever made, across three series and four years (1995 – 1998, calendar years!). It was basically a sitcom about three people who lived together in a flat somewhere in London. The extremes of each character made it so exciting. The owner of the flat (and therefore landlord of the other two) was Matthew Malone. Matthew Malone is an unemployed male in his mid 20s who NEVER leaves the house. That’s right – he has a fear of the outside world, and as such we rarely see him venture out of the flat as the world outside is full of “slime” “grease” and “dirt” in his opinion.
Matt’s ability to remain cool and arrogant despite being such a housebound hermit loser were to be applauded at, and in his arrogance and pity, we find ourselves intrigued by his personality. He seems to know so much about the outside world that he never ventures into, except in series one where he becomes lead singer of a rock band and has to play a gig in public. Matt was typical of a manicly depressed mid 20s city boy in many ways, and I’ll not forget in a hurry his traipsing around the living room singing the Manic Street Preachers song “From Despair To Where”, probably the first time I’d ever heard of the band, and probably one of the saddest yet uplifting rock ballads you’ll ever hear. The other two flatmates are also mid 20s, your up and coming London business types, with not enough time on their hands. Matt pretends not to miss them when they’re out at work, but we know he does.
The ginger haired Martin Henson is Matt’s “tea boy”, he is forced to make cups of tea for his landlord, and also is victimised as the “geek” often having to play American Football and lose to Matt in the living room, and to put up with jokes that he is still a virgin. Martin is a bank clerk, and with a good wage, plus eventually he gets the girl, Claire, an Irish nurse in series two, to the point where he is practically shagging every single night. He also ends up heartbroken and becomes a Dad and the maturing of his character has us associating ourselves with his character. I, myself was never as geeky, but triumphant and comedic in the bizarre sense of failure. So there’s Matt the lonely cool arrogant landlord, Martin the geeky, sex mad bank clerk, and then there’s the other housemate – Mandy. For balance a girl who is fit as fuck. Played by sexy actress Samantha Janus, Mandy goes through man after man “shagging around” but never being truly happy with the guy. She is an intelligent office worker, who likes to dine out, keep fit, get pissed and shag about. She adds the sexy female girl power element to the house. She doesn’t take any shit, and often leans to Martin rather than Matthew for friendship. She turns Matthew down for a shag on a number of occassions, and in a hilarious scene, she checks out the size of Martin’s willy and checks its OK in the bedroom, while Matthew comes marching in!!
After the first series we got to know the characters really well, but then they changed one of the actors, but kept the same character. Matthew Malone, originally played by the dark haired Ben Chaplin soon is played by the fair haired Neil Stuke for the last two series. I really don’t know the reason for the change of actor, but in honesty the first actor, Ben Chaplin played the part better I thought. Martin is played by Matthew Cottle. Apart from Samantha Januses further appearance in Eastenders (I think??) the other actors went un-noticed and I don’t recall anything else they were in. But that’s sometimes the best way. They are famous through Game On, which is a fantastic sitcom from the BBC Archives which will go un-unoticed and not get the recognition it deserves. Give it a go some night! Get the beers and pizza in, wharp yourself back to a John Major 1995 United Kingdom, and witness that vibrant British anxiety from the era that brought us Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Paul Gascoigne and “Game On,” that classic British sitcom. And download the title tune while you’re at it – the excellent dreamy, realisticly modern “Where I Find My Heaven” by The Gigolo Aunts. If like me, you’re into your simple but profound songs, its a real gem. Never has the line “the lonesome hum that comes from my desk lamp is where I find my heaven” meant so much. Gosh I feel I’m in the wrong year. It is 2009, but it might as well be 1995, when I was youthful and Game On was how life should be…
Series 1 (1995)
1. Working Girls – It’s Martin’s birthday and Matt sets up a special birthday surprise. Meanwhile Mandy meets an author who wants her to do research – into the contents of his underpants.
2. Matthew, A Suitable Case for Treatment – Spend a day with Matthew and find out what he gets up to stuck in the flat all day, every day.
3. Bad Timing – Mandy has a fling after she feels trapped in her new week-long relationship and Matthew starts looking for a new tenant after Martin decides to leave to become a teacher.
4. The Great Escape – While Mandy considers leaving, Matthew thinks of some interesting ways for her to pay him the back rent.
5. Big Wednesday – Martin meets a hot American girl and finds out you should go prepared on a date. Meanwhile Matthew must cope with the damage Mandy has inflicted to his surfboard.
6. Fame – Matthew becomes the lead singer of Proactive, the band upstairs and gets dragged by them out to their first gig.
Big Wednesday is the first proper episode, but shortly before it was due to air, in real-life the boxing match between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan ended with Gerald McClellan in a coma, and the BBC felt that due to content, the episode, which involves a boxing match, was unsuitable to show as a result, and changed the episode (to Matthew, A Suitable Case for Treatment). Big Wednesday was shown later in the first series.. McClellan later emerged from the coma and has made a partial recovery.
1. Roundheads and Cavaliers – Martin meets an Irish nurse called Claire who is a virgin and believes Martin is the man for the job. Mandy becomes celibate.
2. Slime Surfers and Jissom Monkeys – Matthew admits his agoraphobia to Mandy who sets him up with psychologist Jason under the pretence he’s Mandy’s cousin. Meanwhile, Mandy tries to enforce her celibacy against her Italian teacher Marco who believes she is a virgin.
3. Double Hard Bastards and Girly Shirt-lifting Tosspieces – Martin lets paranoia over Claire get to him making a real fool of himself. Matthew dispels Marco’s belief that Mandy is a virgin by showing him a home made video. Jason finally gets Matt out of the flat to the park and a male gym before he finally heads to the local shop on his own…
4. Heavy Bondage and Custard Creams – Mandy’s ex-boyfriend and wanted criminal Stoat (an early appearance by Eddie Marsan) turns up at the flat and soon ties everybody up. Mandy has sex with him before tying him up and turning him over to the police. Claire dumps Martin and Jason admits to Matt he is gay and in love with him.
5. Tangerine Candy floss and Herne Bay Rock – Matt starts a dramatic journal that Martin and Mandy just must uncover. Martin is depressed about his breakup with Claire and Mandy starts to fall for her old teacher.
6. Bruce Willis and Robert De Niro Holding a Fish – Martin takes up a job on a phone helpline for people suffering from depression and gives out his home number to a caller. She calls and tells Matt she is on the verge of suicide and he is forced to leave the flat to see if she is okay. He collapses once he gets there and gets rushed to hospital where Martin claims he has taken an overdose and Mandy’s comedian boyfriend has been beaten up.
NOTE – In the first episode of series two, the substitution of Neil Stuke for Ben Chaplin was amusingly acknowledged. The trio are watching TV, and in reference to the character of Becky from the US sitcom Roseanne, Martin asks “I wonder who’s playing Becky this week?!” to which Mandy remarks: “Don’t you just hate that when they keep the same character and change the actor!” Both Mandy and Martin then look subtly yet strangely accusingly at Matt, sitting between them on the sofa, who looks worried.
Series 3 (1998)
(There are no official titles for the series 3 episodes)
1. Matt learns palm-reading in order to ‘shag girls’, although the only one he’ll meet is the debt collector that’s looking for Mandy. She catches Mandy at work and her new boss Archie lends her the £9,000 to pay them off.
2. Martin finds out Claire has a baby called Rosie and that he is the father, but she doesn’t want him involved until she needs a babysitter. Mandy starts to date her boss Archie, although she might just be interested in his multi-million pound inheritance.
3. Matt decides he wants to join the Marines and decks the flat out. Archie brings round his old Marine pals to chat to Matt about it but Matt has had an accident with a vacuum cleaner that Claire is still trying to remove.
4. Claire decides Martin would make a terrible father and Mandy passes out while trying to cook for Archie’s family. Martin and Matt put on their best behaviour and knock up a meal. However, Archie’s sister mistakenly believes Rosie is Mandy’s and that they are just after Archie’s money.
5. Matt starts shagging the attractive woman from upstairs called Laura but he has cried wolf so many times Mandy and Martin just don’t believe him. Even sharing her intimate sex secrets and producing her underwear fails to convince them. Martin has problems of his own as Claire decides to move to Australia with her new boyfriend taking Martin’s daughter Rosie with them.
6. It is Mandy’s wedding day to Archie who persuades Matt to come to the wedding while Martin gets a postcard from Claire saying she has married her boyfriend Shane. Martin meets a new girl at Mandy’s hen night who is very similar to Claire and immediately proceeds to buy her a nurses outfit and wig and asks her to speak with an Irish accent. Archie dies whilst trying to fulfil his obligatory challenges set by his old Marine unit. The episode features the song The View From Here by Dubstar as Mandy walks down the stairs in her bride’s dress.
Neil Stuke as Matthew Malone (series 2 & 3)
Samantha Janus as Mandy Wilkins
Ben Chaplin as Matthew Malone (series 1)
Matthew Cottle as Martin Henson
The Great Escape:
Theme Tune video: The Gigolo Aunts – Where I Find My Heaven