Article 49—Sega Absolutely Rose Street infomercial (1994)

Unseen for 20 years (!), Absolutely Rose Street is a half-hour infomercial that was commissioned by Sega to promote its new 32X hardware in 1994. Produced by Los Angeles ad agency Patrico-Sinare and a company called Impulse Productions (with contributions from the Sega Music Group), the show gave a sneak preview of various 32X games to “insomniacs and twentysomethings” who happened to catch it on Comedy Central, ESPN2 or a handful of other cable outlets in the middle of the night. If you click the above link, you can watch it in its entirety; I ripped this copy from a VHS tape that Sega’s PR firm sent to VideoGames magazine all those years ago.

Absolutely Rose Street delivers its message while masquerading as the pilot episode of a young adult TV show. It’s kind of like Beverly Hills, 90210, but with a bunch of Sega games and hardware lying around. The plot concerns Game Beat, a cable TV show hosted by Christina Savage and her hotheaded sort-of boyfriend Max Jackson. As the story begins,
the station manager is screening an episode of Game Beat for producer Joe Whitehead. He asks Joe to take charge of the show and polish it up to please a potential sponsor. But Joe has other plans: He wants to cancel Game Beat and give its time slot to Styling With Stella, a show about fashion tips hosted by Joe’s girlfriend, Stella Lightwood.

Joe goes to visit the the ramshackle beach house where Christina and Max produce Game Beat. He threatens to cancel the show unless they produce an acceptable new episode in one week. Max takes to the streets with Jim and Cody (Game Beat’s cameraman and sound guy, respectively) to interview local kids and gauge their interest in Sega’s upcoming 32X hardware. Meanwhile, Christina sends an e-mail to Brad Granger, a Sega producer whose name she found in a magazine. In a flash, she is magically granted immediate access to a virtual online world of Sega insider information.

Armed with the company’s confidential internal production schedule, Christina somehow enters Sega Studios and waltzes into Granger’s office to demand more of a scoop. She leaves with a 32X and a handful of prototype games, which are used
as the basis for a new Game Beat episode. Whitehead is unimpressed, of course, and gives Styling With Stella the green light.

The Game Beat team hatches a plan to keep their show alive and simultaneously get revenge on Whitehead. They throw a party at their beach house, which has been redecorated, loaded up with Sega games and rechristened “Absolutely Rose Street.” A newer, edgier episode is shot at the party under the watchful eye of Granger, who is then inexplicably persuaded to break into the offices of the cable company and swap the tape with the premiere episode of Styling With Stella. Whitehead is enraged when Game Beat is broadcast in place of his girlfriend’s show, but the episode is a success. The sponsor is pleased, the station manager is elated and Whitehead is left on his knees, shouting “Segaaa!” as Stella leaves him.

It’s not really a surprise how contrived and cheesy this show is. The production budget for Absolutely Rose Street could not have been much greater than that of the fictional Game Beat itself! What is a surprise, though, is the appearance of two real-life game creators: Sam Nicholson (producer of Sega’s Tomcat Alley, Midnight Raiders and Surgical Strike) and American McGee (Doom, American McGee’s Alice), playing themselves and patiently answering breathless questions from the Game Beat hosts.

The show has no onscreen credits other than a copyright notice, so I have been Googling my ass off in an attempt to identify the eight main actors. Eddie Mekka (best known as Carmine Ragusa on the Laverne & Shirley sitcom) is immediately recognizable in the role of Joe Whitehead.
Stella is played by Melissa Young, a very pretty actress whose IMDB profile is littered with thankless roles like “Beautiful Blonde,” “Starlet” and “1st Escort Girl.” Archie Kao isn’t given much to do as Cody—watch him point a microphone at Christina and Max, who are already holding microphones!—but he’s had a more interesting career since then, appearing as Kai Chen in the Power Rangers series and more recently as a detective on NBC’s Chicago P.D. crime drama. Jim is played by Dex Elliott Sanders, an accomplished actor and musician with dozens of movie, TV and album credits (including King of the Underground, an independent feature film he wrote, produced and directed). If anybody recognizes Christina, Max, Brad or the station manager, please let me know.

According to a contemporary article in Billboard magazine, Absolutely Rose Street was shown “more than 50 times” in 20 U.S. markets during November and December of 1994. During the show, a 1-800 phone number appears on the screen, ostensibly to allow viewers to vote for Game Beat or Styling With Stella. But nobody seems to remember if the show actually aired, never mind what happened when you called the phone number!

© 2015 Chris Bieniek. Certain video game images, characters and logos on this Web site are copyrighted or trademarked by their respective publishers.