#119 - Mark Richards
The broken button an an arcade machine of greatness.


Host: Starcade (December 1982 - June 1983)
Text by: Robert Seidelman

Starcade had a weird trip to get to where it all began in 1982. In 1981, the show got to do it's official pilot with a different format that we know now. Instead of 2 contestants or two teams, there were 24 players in 3 different groups. Each group of 8 played a different game. One group played Defender, another played Pac-Man and another played Centipede. The original pilot was helmed by this guy.

His name was Mike Eurzione, better known as the team captain of the USA Hockey Team from 1980. I don't know how he did on the pilot, having not seen it in its entirety, but apparently that show became the prototype to sell to NBC for air. After some tweaking to the format, they went to the format we know and love and decided to go with another host for the show.

That's right. The man himself, Alex Trebek hosted the pilot for NBC TV. (Sorry, couldn't find a pic of Trebek from his pilot.  So, here's the next best thing, Him on Battlestars.) The pilot aired as a special in late 81 and while the show itself wasn't as impossible to put together as the first pilot, it would end up being the show that we all knew and loved. The story behind the pilot is even more amazing. Trebek, along with the producers themselves, stayed up for long periods of time to put together and edit the first show. Proof positive that he was an amazing professional and was more than happy to do this. Naturally, the pilot wouldn't get picked up and when it did get picked up for WTBS, Trebek was already busy with Battlestars and doing pilots for Merv Griffin's revival of Jeopardy. When the show went to air in 1982 for WTBS, a new host had to be found. The host and this week's induction, Mark Richards.

At the start of each show, Mark would be introduced and come running off from the side, not actually playing the games or anything, like the actual contestants.  I mean, they're enjoying themselves playing Ms. Pac Man and what appears to be either Omega Race or Berserk.  He's more interested in getting to the main set.  It's like he was claustrophobic about being anywhere near a dark room and video games with two people who can play games and there's Mark, who's probably never even heard of Pong. 

That leads me to my biggest complaint about Mark Richards.  He never really enjoyed the games. I mean, I know that video games were a brand new concept for the time, especially of the Arcade variety, but if you're going to host a show based on them, you either have to fake it really well or actually know a bit about the games themselves.  Mark didn't seem to care about either of them.  Even when he was reading the questions about the games, Mark thought they were beneath him. 

Another thing that Mark didn't seem to like was to be near the contestants and watch the game happening.   Every time a contestant would get ready to play the game, he would walk to the middle of the set and stay far away from the contestant as possible.  It is worrisome that when you have a host of a show not being passionate about all the aspects of the show, then you really have problems.  Also, he wouldn't talk about the game as well or even hype the games.

Another problem with Mark was that he was just too stiff for this type of show.  He took everything really seriously.  I mean, even the kids who usually competed on the show knew that the games were the star and when someone did win the big prize, he emulated an Intellivision Voice Module and said in a really robotic voice "Congratulations, you won your very own video arcade game".  There was just no passion with Mark Richards on this show.  Not about the games, the contestants, the prizes, nothing.  

It was crystal clear to everybody that Mark Richards wasn't the right guy for the job. He didn't care about the games being played and looked rather uncomfortable in front of the camera. So, after 23 episodes of Mark Richards, owner of WTBS Ted Turner told the producers that Mark was corpsing.

Wait, Mark's corpsing?

So, they did and we got this guy.

That's right, we got the god of the video game show himself in Geoff Edwards. It was him that got the show to be as memorable as he is. Especially with him taking a fondness to the games and his somewhat helpful tips. Another thing that he brought to the show was some great comedic banter between him and certain contestants, making the show more fun to watch than what it was under the Mark Richards era.

Mark would continue on in his game show pursuits, eventually becoming the contestant coordinator for the first season of Jeopardy, hosting various games on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the late 80s, among other places as well. I guess Starcade wasn't the right fit for him, but then again it was custom made for a special type of host like Geoff Edwards and Alex Trebek

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