From the moment a lost-looking Leslie Nielsen stumbled onto a Universal Studios stage alongside Home Improvement's smarmy, pint-size Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Cybermania '94: The Ultimate Gamer Awards shaped up as the most surreal bit of TV of the year.
The two-hour show, which pulled in a respectable 1.1 rating, was a low-rent whack at the MTV Video Music Awards without the faintest whiff of Oscar's legitimacy. Performers ranged from midgets juggling and spinning dishes to keyboardist Herbie Hancock performing some techno-crud with Solid Gold-type dancers. They were complemented by a slew of B-list luminaries: sometime actress Shelley Duvall, jive-talkin' comic Charles Fleischer, Marla Gibbs from The Jeffersons, and Grace Under Fire's Dave Thomas all of whom had that ''Man, I'm going to have to have a talk with my agent'' glare in their eyes as they awkwardly announced nominees like Return to Zork.
Perhaps the only folks more stymied were the nervous audience of natty game programmers applauding the winners of 12 categories, including Best Action/ Adventure: Doom; Best CD-ROM: The 7th Guest; Best Portable Game: Aladdin; Best Art or Graphics: Myst; Best Musical: Xplora 1: Peter Gabriel's Secret World; Best Sports: Caesars World of Boxing; Best Actress: Grace Zabriskie, Voyeur; Best Actor: Robert Culp, Voyeur; and Best Overall Game (determined by a call-in vote): Mortal Kombat.
Too bad that on this ''star-studded'' evening of winners and losers, the biggest loser of all was Cybermania '94.