Series: The Games

"We don't need to imagine we're running the Olympics and we've got problems, we are running the Olympics and we've got problems!"
John

The Games was an Australian Mockumentary television series about the run-up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Written by John Clarke and Ross Stevenson, it had two seasons of thirteen episodes each, the first in 1998 and the second in 2000 shortly before the Olympics.

The main characters are in the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG). All use their real names. John Clarke is supposedly the "Olympic Supremo" and a former Olympic champion (though he never says what in); Bryan Dawe, the head accountant; Gina Riley, the head of marketing; and Nicholas Bell is the Secretary to the Minister for the Olympics.

The series is heavily satirical of the corruption and wastage around the Games, and criticises SOCOG, politicians, opportunistic businesses, and the International Olympic Committee. At one point, John and Nicholas wonder aloud where their funding has gone — while they're having incredibly expensive gourmet food and wine.

In one episode John Howard played himself. That's John Howard the actor, not John Howard the then prime minister of Australia. John Howard (the actor) apologised for the treatment of indigenous Australians, which the prime minister had refused to do. (Kevin Rudd, the succeeding prime minister, did give the apology).

Season 1 of The Games was released on DVD in 2005, and Season 2 is now out in Australia. In 2011, Channel 9 was going to air The Games: London Calling, where the cast are hired to help with the London 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately, it got cancelled.

The BBC produced Twenty Twelve, a series with an almost-identical concept (a group of hapless bureaucrats organising the London games), but denied stealing the idea.

See also The Games' Funny entry and the YMMV entry.

Tropes:

  • Acting for Two: Actors who play minor characters often reprise their roles as other minor characters.
  • Ain't No Rule/Loophole Abusenote : As a result of the 94 meter long 100 Meters race track, Bryan suggests that there is no rule saying the 100 Meters race has to be on a straight track.
    • The John Howard incident is an example of loophole abuse. Even though it's not the 'real' John Howard in terms of what was meant to happen, the person who delivers the speech is still named John Howard.
  • And Then What?: In one episode, Gina is asked by the crew what the main stadium will be used for after the games. She's completely taken off guard and manages to say that it will obviously be a marvellous asset to the community, after she's managed to stop nervously laughing.
    • I Knew It: Over a decade after the Olympics, the stadium is hated by the general population of Sydney, the owners of the stadium have to throw money at local sporting teams, who play in the 80,000 seater stadium with crowds that rarely hit over 20,000. The amount of events that sell the stadium out would be a handful a year.
  • Ascended Extra: Nicholas starts occasionally popping up here and there as essentially the voice of the invisible Minister for the Games, he merely serves to present challenges for the team. By the second series though, he's a lot more present, a fourth member of the main cast, and even has plot lines of his own. At the end, Gina even adds him in her lyrics for the series theme "John, Gina, Bryan and the Minister's Secretary".
    • Tim is introduced in the second series and grows in importance as the series goes on, he plays a big role in the finale.
  • Australian Politics: It came cruelly close to what happens in real life politics (and not just in Australia).
  • Bad Boss: The Minister and his Secretary, their schemes and/or errors create a lot of the drama that the team has to solve. Those schemes twice include the removal of a member of the team, first Bryan and then Gina, which were thwarted. Later in series 2, Nicholas switches from being a mouthpiece for the unseen Minister's schemes to peddling his own to ensure his own survival and career advancement.
  • Benevolent Boss: John Clarke, while often sarcastic and somewhat argumentative, is definitely a benevolent boss to Bryan and Gina, with A Father to His Men qualities as well. He even almost resigned himself rather than carry out orders to fire Gina.
  • Bittersweet Ending: They got the Olympics on, but they couldn't fix the Closing Ceremony and all the cock-ups and over-budgeting means that they have to get out of there.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Tim, while on the phone, is asked what he does there, his answer: No, I just sit here... no I don't say much, they don't give me any lines... no I just tend to be doing things in the background.
    • In 'Solar', again on the phone, John breaks the fourth wall. That's the athletics track, we're making a television program, we're pretending to organize the Olympics and that's the track. It's actually a photograph... no that's actually a photograph of the track in Seoul.
  • British Brevity: 13 episodes per series.
  • Call Back: Several of the instructions given to the staff in "Talking to the Troops" were referenced in later episodes. For example, in "Immigration" Gina claims that the reason for the congested traffic was that a truck must have turned over, which they'd been instructed to say to foreign visitors when they got stuck in Sydney traffic.
    • Part of the disastrous press conference from the very first episode is shown as a clip in the first episode of the second series "In The Public Interest" which is in the format of an investigative special on John Clarke, the ticket issues that were a running sore in the first series are also brought up again.
    • "In The Public Interest" is itself called back in the very next episode "Talking to the Troops" when Bryan says the same comments almost verbatim regarding the ticket scandal to the employees as he had in the documentary.
      Bryan - "In The Public Interest(2-1)": Well it was a great idea, if it had come off we'd have been national heroes.
      Bryan - "Talking to the Troops (2-2)": The ticketing system that we have implemented for these games are absolutely superb, if it had come off, we'd have been national heroes.
    • In "IOC Man" John calls back to Gina's 'colonized by America' diatribe from the Series 1 episode "Horse and the Dream Team". Though Gina seems to have since changed her position, responding Oh, not this again, please John!
      Gina - "Horse and the Dream Team (1-12)": Look, this country has been completely colonized by America. We have American TV, American movies, American food. Kids out there wearing American baseball capes round the other way around, we don't even play baseball. There was a bloke on the news the other night talking about the right to bear arms, these people think they live in America!
      John - "IOC Man (2-4)": I reckon we've been colonized by America, we've got American television, we've got American fast food, we've got American clothes. There are kids out there in the streets Gina with American baseball caps turned around backwards and we don't even bloody play baseball. I heard a guy on the radio last night saying that in respect of his right to bear arms he thought he might plead the fifth amendment, these people think they live in America!
    • "No Wockin Furries" which was first brought up early in Series 1 in "Funding" is seen scrolling on the electronic ticker near Tim's desk in Series 2.
  • Character as Himself: John Howard (the character) played by John Howard (the actor) in order to be mistaken for John Howard (the Prime Minister).
  • Crapsaccharine World: Sydney, portrayed as a city where everyone double-crosses you, the media will crucify you if you say one bad word, your co-workers will lynch you and run off at the first opportunity and nobody will help you.
  • The Danza: All the main characters had the same name as their actors.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of the cast, but John Clarke raises it to an absolute artform.
  • Double Speak: In one episode, it's explained that 'X has my/our full support' means that the person in question is about to be fired.
    • In another, the IOC is said to talk in 'code', with one example being 'all host cities in the near future' (Athens).
  • Epic Fail: The video designed to be an introduction to Sydney. It contained an absolute shirtload of errors (such as calling Sydney the capital of Australia and the home of the world's most famous athlete, and contains even more visual errors, like shots of Melbourne's Botanic Gardens, the Bank of Melbourne, and a shot of the freeway in Queensland) and was too hilarious to be anything but a failure.
    • Three words: 'No wuckin' furries'.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    Gina: Does it involve ropes?
    Nicholas: No, it's a petition.
    Gina: No, the ropes course.
    Nicholas: Yes, it does concern itself with ropes, it is a ropes course.
    • Averted with the 100 Meters track course.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In one episode, John is asking Gina questions relayed to him by a group of construction workers she's been watching and criticizing. After the first few, he quietly asks Bryan, 'What are funbags, Bryan?' Bryan flips off the workers.
  • The Ghost: The Minister for the Olympics, who never appeared but was often referenced.
    • In one episode, Joseph Williams, a businessman who basically gets whatever he wants and has his eyes on the Olympics board. He gets shot before anything happens.
  • Gratuitous Italian: Gina uses a "$5 phrasebook" to angle for a job at the Turin 2006 games in "Job Search". Nicholas must have the same book, because both of them talk about Sydney's "grande ponticello" (big bridge).
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Several episodes begin with two separate plots that weave together.
    • Season 2 Episode 7 has a plot about Gina being said to have sent out a press release stating customs would clear people in 15 minutes, while John tries to avoid having to agree to signing in support of a Bulgarian wrestler defecting to Australia. When Gina shows up to talk with Customs, the customs agent mentions that the Bulgarian wrestler is actually Scottish.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: The Minister (and by extension, Nicholas) and SOCOG
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: John Clarke and Bryan Dawe now do sketches on The 7:30 Report, and Gina Riley went on to be Kim in Kath and Kim.
  • Hilarity Ensues: The team have to deal with the Millennium Bug, and John is convinced that it doesn't exist. To prove it, he sets the date on every mechanism he can to January 1st, 2000, and …yeah, he should have reconsidered.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Job Search" John repeatedly shouts at at Bryan and Gina for focusing on future job prospects instead of on the Olympics. It turns out he rigged the events of the episode so he'd get a job at Athens 2004.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: One episode has John telling a journalist about an embarrassing night out that Gina had. When she later calls John, furious that somebody told, he accidentally admits that he knows who wrote it before she told him.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: The amount of cynicism in this series is enough to sink a battleship.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In "4 Corners", John and Bryan claim that some hidden-camera footage of them and another man discussing taxing the rich can't legally be broadcast because neither of them were aware they were being taped or consented to releasing the footage. Nicholas says that the public's right to know would outweigh that, but John and Bryan were right — they were talking about the possibility of changing the tax system, not planning to change it, and while they could certainly suggest that said system be changed, neither of them actually had the power to make such changes.
  • Mister Descriptor: Mr. Sydney Olympic Games
  • Mockumentary
  • New Media Are Banal: The games' website is relaunched, and they hold a big event to celebrate. But this being 2000, you can't really do much on the website, and John realizes the relaunch is just for show, to distract from organizational problems. (It's also their fourth website relaunch.)
  • No Fourth Wall: Everyone remarks on the fact that they're doing a TV series and often talk to or about the camera crew.
    • Played with though, as most of the references are in the guise that they're actually running the Olympics and this is a genuine documentary, so within the world of 'The Games' as a comedy series the fourth wall remains untouched. However Tim in particular, will also make occasional remarks that acknowledge he's in a scripted show.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Of course, they didn't mean to be obstructive, it just happened that way.
  • Oh, Crap: "We are stuffed!" "Oh, we're doomed." "We're buggered."
  • One of Our Own: When Bryan's job is threatened, Gina and John do their best to make sure he keeps it.
    • In another episode, John gets very mad when Nicholas tries to sack Gina and refuses to let him.
  • Poisonous Friend: Nicholas, quite often. One example was when he wrote a completely incorrect press release and put Gina's name on it without even showing it to her, and tried to get John to sign another without reading it, thus setting them up as the scapegoats for his terrible plan.
  • Pun-Based Title: 'The Games' may refer to the Olympics or to the psychological games played by John, Bryan, Gina and Nicholas.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot / Ripped from the Headlines: Many of The Games' storylines and events are based on rumours or news reports about the Real Life Olympics.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The modus operandi of the fake IOC Delegate in "IOC Man" impersonating and IOC delegate to receive paid trips and accommodations from host cities.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Averted - Despite being initially dismissive, John becomes somewhat moved by the Aboriginal issue in "Reconciliation" and tries to do what little is in his power, which really isn't anything. Gina hatches a scheme that defuses the issue without doing anything for the Aborigines.
  • Springtime for Hitler: In "Strike", Gina tells a major industrialist to stick his demands up his arse... not expecting him to actually back down.
    Gina: What just happened?
    John: I think we won.
    Gina: Why don't I feel like we won?
    John: Well, because I think what you wanted was to create industrial chaos so you could teach the Minister a lesson you thought he deserved.
    Gina: And yet I have, in the process, singlehandedly brought industrial stability to the Games, and saved millions of dollars in wage demands.
    John: Yeah, so it would appear, Gina.
  • Stealing from the Till: Everyone souvenirs something in the final episode.
  • Stealing The Credit: One of the most frequently acknowledged traits of the Minister. Also however frequently subverted when the Minister and Nicholas ask John to take credit for things that may have secret PR time-bombs in them.
  • Stealth Pun: The episode title "J'accuse" — the episode features the Olympics team having disagreements with a journalist named Jack Hughes.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Maybe part of the dysfunction with The Games is that there's only three people running it! Bryan is in-charge of finance, but apparently is also in-charge of all transportation as well. Gina does almost all the media, marketing, merchandising, liaising, publicity, diplomacy and entertainment, etc. John handles anything that doesn't fit into the other two character's broad remit and is the Head of Administration and Logistics. Some episodes paint John as one of many department heads under the Minister and SOCOG and others paint him as the Supremo of the whole Games. Gina lampshades this in an interview saying If we all stuck to our job descriptions, nothing would ever get done
  • Truth in Television: As mentioned above under And Then What?, Gina (and probably everyone else) hasn't thought about what the stadiums will be used for after the games. And as it turns out, a large number of host cities never thought about it either, because their stadiums are abandoned wrecks.
    • Vindicated by History: Despite all the cockups, the Sydney Olympics was "The Best Olympics Ever" to this day.
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: Referenced in "IOC Man" when Bill Ten Eyck says his son is named "Bill, Jr.".