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Stargate Defender Kept Me Out Of Stanford

NewsRadioBack in the mid-1990s there was no better office comedy on American television than NewsRadio.  Airing on NBC for five seasons, the show followed the goings-on of WNYX 980AM, a New York radio station specializing in news and traffic reports.  The show's third season was just released on DVD this week and it features one of my favorite episodes, "Arcade".

In "Arcade" the office sandwich machine is removed and replaced with a 1981 Stargate Defender arcade machine ("From the glory days before the 16-bit processors").  The station's news manager, Dave Nelson (Dave Foley), is rattled when he first sees the game, demanding that it be removed from the office.  His secretary convinces him to allow it to stay because it'll make more money for the station than the sandwich machine did.  Before long we learn of Dave's history with the game; back in high school he was addicted to the game and spent every free moment of his life at the arcade.  His obsession eventually cost him a college scholarship, as he stayed up the entire night before the SATs playing the game (although he did earn a high score of over 1.2 million points).  Eventually the machine calls to him at work and he winds up playing the game all night into the next day, and soon after the game is taken away by the secretary and replaced with a fortune teller machine, forcing Dave to head to the local arcade to play his beloved Stargate Defender.

While the plot may sound dark, Dave's game cravings are played for laughs.  When he first has a moment alone with the game he approaches it and says "So... we meet again," and "It's been a long time," to which he replies to himself (in "robot talk" as the machine) "Indeed it has, Dave."  Later when a co-worker misidentifies the game as Star Trek Invader, he flies off the handle at the error.  When defending the game to his co-workers he claims that video games are a great way to improve hand-eye coordination and excellent at broadening one's "understanding of other worlds".  The game eventually catches the attention of Dave's boss, WNYX owner Jimmy James (Stephen Root), who ends up walking away from the game in tears because all of the humanoids were abducted.

If you missed out on NewsRadio when it first aired then you should consider giving the series a chance.  Episodes like "Arcade" are rich in geek humor, as anyone with a hankering for old-fashioned arcade games will surely identify with Dave and his Stargate Defender cravings.