For a solid decade from 1995, children all over the nation were waking up early, enduring the final few minutes of either Sports Tonight, Rage or Aerobics to catch a hefty serving of early-morning cartoon goodness, spoon fed to us by Cheez TV and its hosts Jade Gatt and Ryan Lappin. I was fortunate enough to be on of those children, and to know all too well the giddying sense of excitement that would come with the opening theme song.
Airing Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Street Sharks, Men In Black the animated series and of course, Dragonball Z just to name a few, Cheez TV was the holy grail for children’s entertainment. World-class programming and beloved hosts, it had it all. That was until 2004, when Jade and Ryan split. For a while, the show lingered sans any host, before being switched off completely.
The world moved on, with the show becoming a distant memory for most, some even unsure if it actually happened, or if they just imagined the whole thing. Then out of nowhere, in 2016, Cheez TV returned. Sort of. Centring around a hugely popular Facebook page, the brand focused on a podcast for a moment, before moving onto live-broadcast service Twitch, where they’ll be making their debut this weekend.
We spoke with one half of the ultimate dynamic duo Ryan to get the story behind their return, and learn what it was like on the set of a children’s program that was the first TV show in the country to have a website, and rivalled The Today Show for viewership.
The Neversphere: It feels like Cheez TV transcended from fandom into folklore, the way you guys just vanished. Usually people in that line of work don’t simply just disappear, they either move on to something else, or have a public blow out and go out in spectacular fashion, but you guys truly did just vanish.
Ryan: We didn’t really have much feedback on what the response was like out there. We also put it down, mostly, to ‘Well, they’re watching it for the cartoons, we just happen to be here’. We would never be presumptuous enough to think people were tuning in just for us. We never gave ourselves that luxury. When we were doing the hosting, it evolved. It started off really crap – me especially. I was only 14! I won the producers over by doing impressions and stuff like that, but I still hadn’t found my feet, I hadn’t found my style. I knew something was in there but it took a few years to get up to an acceptable level in my eyes where I was expressing myself properly.
Now that we put up the Facebook page, and got such a fantastic response, Jade and I are in awe of it, really, and we’re also a bit embarrassed, too. It’s strange. It’s weird. If someone gives you a compliment for something that you’ve just done, that feels natural. But if someone’s giving you compliments for something you did so long ago, you’re like ‘Oh…cheers? what did I do again?’
The Neversphere: Do you think that if you did have social media back then, it would have affected you way more?
Ryan: I guess so. Jade and I have never been really into that side of it. We almost just wanted to do our jobs and forget about ourselves. We liked doing Cheez TV, dropping the bomb then getting out of there, I don’t know what it was about it…
The Neversphere: I read once you would film all your episodes for the week within a 4 or 5-hour filming session. Almost like you’d get in, get out and just let the cartoons do the talking…
Ryan: Exactly. The episodes had been played out everyday, while you were doing other things those episodes would be playing for you. But it was also a very comfortable situation. We became good friends with the team and we wanted to make it more like a crew. Jade and I had quite an optimistic attitude about the whole thing, we felt very lucky to be doing it. but we also just viewed it as a chance to say ‘Ah bugger it, let’s just have fun’. It was our secret little thing that we did. It didn’t feel like thousands of people were going to watch it.
We were able to let go and experiment with the cameramen. Because of the monitors, we could see what we were doing. I would use that because I could see what the audience was seeing. I had that extra level of awareness. A lot of people prefer to not see themselves – I ended up using that. We didn’t take an extremely professional approach to it, you know? We knew it was just fun to be had, and we exploited the hell out of it. I’m glad now, that what we were doing was being well received.
The Neversphere: Watching those skits now, I struggle to believe that an executive producer from Channel 10 came up with these. It feels as though there were schemed by two 14-year-olds. Did you guys have much input with the skits?
Ryan: Oh hugely. Hugely. I think half of the time, the ideas we had were either on the spot, or you’d have them just before. That’s when the juices tend to flow – while you’re in the moment and you’ve got that momentum. You can do whatever you want, pretty much, as long as you don’t swear or offend anyone, you can get away with murder. We’d really use that.
Jade and I were total opposites. We probably never would have been friends if it weren’t for the show even though we went to the same school. After a while, we just started getting used to each other, and found that the whole ‘odd couple’ thing really worked. You had Jade, the cool guy and me, the goofy guy. It brought the cool guy and the nerd together, it really bridged the gap.
The Neversphere: See I missed that all together, when I watched it I though you were both the cool guys…
Ryan: The only thing that makes a nerd, I guess, is confidence, isn’t it? If you don’t believe in yourself, then you tend to get picked on more. I was nerdy, but I was confident about it. I had to be, to make it work [Laughs]. The chemistry between Jade and I really developed. The more we got to know each other the better it worked. We were really riding on top of the world when we were doing the show, because we reached a point where we were starting to bring the best out of what we were doing together.
The Neversphere: One rumour I’ve not been able to confirm or deny is that after you guys left the show, networks basically had to re-write the list of Do’s and Don’ts for hosts of children TV programs…is that true?
Ryan: That’s what I heard!
The Neversphere: Were you aware that you guys were pushing it at the time?
Ryan: We were very aware of it. Everyone else remembers Cheez TV as that show on TV but Jade and I don’t. When we picture Cheez TV we imagine going to Channel 10, going into make-up, then into wardrobe then onto the set with the cameras there. We still think of it like that. You guys see the glamorised version on TV, everything seems much bigger on TV for some reason.
I did hear that they had to re-write the rules. We were really skirting it. There was a lot of innuendo there. Then again, Agro was doing that too! He was taking the piss a little bit. I think that there’s something you need to get out. When you’re told not to do something, you become like a child and you want to test it out and see what you can get away with. We just pushed it further and further.
The good thing is, we had a great Censor. I used to walk past her office every day. She had a glass screen separating her office from the rest of the building. Whenever I’d walk past she’d give me this smile like ‘Thanks for keeping me in the job. Thanks for giving me something to do.’ But she was great. She was cool. Everything that we said was obviously screened before it went to air…They didn’t stop us from doing it, put it that way.
The Neversphere: Let’s fast-foward all these years later, what made you guys decide to make a return and revive Cheez TV?
Ryan: I want you to imagine this: imagine that you’ve done a job, you think you’ve done quite well. You’ve been trying to come up with new things to try and further it. I always imagined Jade and I doing some sort of late night show, I always had that in my mind, we’d write it really well, come out and have fun like we do on Cheez TV, except with an audience. I was pushing and that wasn’t coming. I understand why the heads of Channel 10 were reluctant to do that because I think they still thought of us as kids.
I was about 20, 21, 22 years old. I was saying we could do this, we could do that. I think in their heads, they still thought of us as kids. It’s difficult to give that opportunity, or that type of job or risk to people you still consider as your nephew.
After Cheez TV, Jade and I shrugged our shoulders like ‘Ok, that’s done.’ To be honest with you, we’d done it for a long time. Naturally the buzz goes down for you a little bit. It doesn’t matter what you do, it goes down a little bit. We went our separate ways, and we didn’t really think Cheez TV was that important. We knew people liked it, but we decided not to pursue it for whatever reason. I kind of forgot about it, and so did Jade.
We’d have long conversations with each other sometimes saying we should do something but we couldn’t figure out what, or how to start. Eventually, someone messaged me over Facebook. It was a nice message – one of those ones you feel like responding too. That ended up bring Brendan Dando who worked at Four Finger Discount, and he asked if we want to go on his Podcast. I went on his show and I happened to mention I have all these VHS tapes of Cheez TV, heaps of them, in boxes out the back. He said, “send them to me I’ll put them on DVD”. There was something about him I trusted so I boxed them up and sent them to Geelong.
He had the idea of coming up with the official Cheez TV Facebook. I thought it was a great idea, we could put the episodes on. He thought it would go gangbusters. I thought ‘Well…you really think?’ I thought Jade and I could run it and directly speak to people. He put it up then bang, we had 70,000 likes within a week or two. It all snowballed from there.
The Neversphere: Obviously, this is what the people want, you have a huge following already. What can we expect now from you guys now with Twitch, and beyond?
Ryan: that’s a very good question. What we’re going to have to do is feel our way around at first. Twitch really is a streaming platform where people watch other people playing video games. Personally, I want to take a creative angle to it, eventually. Jade and I tried doing podcast, but I don’t think that was bringing the best out of us. We need to have some sort of distraction like a video game where we can banter with each other while having something to do. So, we’re just going to get on there, and banter and just be ourselves, that’s all we can do with this Twitch thing.
I’ve written these scripts as well, these little comedy scripts I wanted to do, because I always felt we needed something creative to do to solidify who Jade and Ryan are…But all this stuff takes time. This is why we want to do Twitch, it’ll hook us into the fans directly, give us the opportunity to be seen, …test out some new games…
…And just be there as an option if people are bored.
Jade & Ryan return your screens this Sunday, 30th July for CheezOnTwitch, kicking off at 7pm AEST.