‘Letters and Numbers’ and what might have been… Part I.

Hello! Today – and next week as well – a little trip down my (slightly uneven, pothole-riddled) Memory Lane, for you, Dear Reader, as HowToWinGameShows.com presents a little two-part post that I like to call…..

That Time I Auditioned For The Australian Version Of That Long-Running Quiz Show ‘Countdown’ Up In Sydney in 2010.

Catchy, eh? Now read on…

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Countdown. If you know your game shows, you’ll know that this simple yet very successful show has clocked up over 6000 episodes in the UK since it started there in 1982. And its French antecedent Des chiffres et des lettres has had more than 20,000 episodes since it started in 1965!

In 2010, I got word from my agent that the SBS Network would be producing an Australian version – called Letters and Numbers – very soon, and that they’d started looking for the on air team.

At this time, I’d had my game show victories, and had spent quite a bit of time on The Einstein Factor’s ‘Brains Trust’, and so I had some fairly solid TV quiz show credentials. My background in acting and stand-up comedy was something that also made them think of me, and so, when the call came through, I thought “Yes! I’d love to audition! I’d love to be a quiz show host on the big people’s television!”

So we booked in the audition, a time was arranged (in Sydney, which would mean a flight from Melbourne, where I live), and I started doing my research on the show. I quickly found that Countdown is a pretty sedate affair. When I played along, I realised that words and anagrams are much more my strong point then mathematics, so when it came to the mathematical equations, I was struggling a little bit… But I figured “well… I was only going to be the host; I didn’t need to know all THIS stuff”.

Eventually, the day of the audition came. I got a good night’s sleep, had a decent breakfast, put on my new suit, got all my notes together and made my way to the airport to catch the flight up to Sydney.

When I got there, I bumped into my pal game show champ, actor and comedian Matt Parkinson. I instantly thought “This is a bit too much of a coincidence…” Sure enough, he was also auditioning for the host role on host on Letters and Numbers that day. I’ve known Matt for many, many years, and he’s as lovely, smart and funny a bloke as you’ll ever meet. These days, he’s starring as one of The Chasers (“Goliath”) on The Chase Australia. He’s fantastic in the role, and that show continues to top the ratings here.

Matt Parkinson

But back in 2010, none of that had happened yet. We greeted each other, and very soon realised that not only were we both going for the same gig…. but the producers had booked us seats next to each other for the flight up to the audition and seats next to each other for the flight back after the audition. Okay, so not awkward at all. Of course, we tried not to think about it, and we genuinely wished each other well, but being in such close proximity to the bloke who’s going for the job that you want, for at least two hours leading up to the audition…

Well, all I can say is that if you happen to be a game show producer, auditioning two people for the host role, maybe don’t force them together for an extended period before they audition for you. I can’t speak for Matt, but it wasn’t especially good for my nerves, and I’d argue that the producer may not have got the ideal, calm, relaxed performance from me that I wanted to give. But maybe I’m imagining all that. When we got to Sydney, we jumped in a cab and went out to the Screen Australia studios at Lindfield to audition.

The auditions consisted of a few more games, with David Astle (who had already, I think, won the role of the dictionary expert). David was a natural choice for this role, having been a brilliant compiler of cryptic crosswords, non-fiction author, and self-confessed “word nerd” for many years.

On the day, they were also auditioning two young mathematicians for the Carol Vorderman role. One was a very tall, blonde model-looking type, with a Russian background. She was super, super confident, and a brilliant mathematician as well, of course. The other was Lily Serna, who was delightful, and charming and very excited to be there. It was her first gig of this type, and her enthusiasm was clear.
In two runs of the show, I auditioned opposite both of them (deep down, I really wanted Lily to get the gig).

I remember in the audition trying to keep it light, trying to keep my energy up, but not too be too manic. This was Countdown, after all. At one stage, the obscure word that David talked about was the word “folderol”; explaining its meaning* and derivation. I remember later on in the run being able to do a callback, and use that word in a sentence. My use of it wasn’t hilarious or anything, but I hoped that at least it showed The Powers That Be that I was paying attention, absorbing new information as it was mentioned, and that I could think on my feet. I did a couple of runs at the show (cut down, maybe just one round each, with crew members standing in as contestants) before Matt went in and had his turn…

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Next week, in the thrill-packed conclusion of That Time I Auditioned For The Australian Version Of That Long-Running Quiz Show ‘Countdown’ Up In Sydney in 2010, we find out who got the gig, what happened in the aftermath… and just who was the mysterious extra contender for host on the day?

All this – and more – will be revealed next week, right here at HowToWinGameShows.com!

 

 

* folderol

Noun – trivial or nonsensical fuss. “all the folderol of the athletic contests and the cheerleaders”

Now you know.

 

No post this week….

…. Except for this one.

It’s been a busy few weeks, as I’ve been writing the script for The 7th AACTA Awards Ceremony, which happens tomorrow night. So I’m in Sydney right now, frantically making last minute changes, updates and improvements (hopefully!) to all the various presenter scripts for the Film-and-Television’s-Night-of-Nights-When-The Brightest-Cliches-Come-Out-To-Shine. If you’re in Australia, you can watch the whole thing on the Seven Network and / or Foxtel tomorrow night!

Thanks for your patience, and normal service will resume as soon as possible.

The AACTA Award trophy. And before you ask… No, none of those As stand for “Amputee”.

 

Ryan Gets Radio Active.

Hello!

Our guest blogger Ryan Vickers is back again this week, and after touching on TV game shows, French game shows and high school game shows, this week, it’s all about a radio game show!

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My Life In Game Shows

Episode 10 – ‘Newshounds’ (radio), 2014.

At this point in my life, I had never done a radio game show. Well, that’s not exactly true – I hosted a game show on my campus radio station in Newfoundland, Canada called Brain Freeze – but that’s a story for another day.

As luck would have it, CBC Radio (our national public broadcaster) put out the call for Toronto-area contestants to be part of a summer show called Newshounds in 2014. It would require contestants to answer questions about the headlines of the week, as well as other aspects of the news. I figured that it was a new show so… why not?

PRO TIP: Find out everything you can about a new show; in the early days they can’t afford to be picky about contestants because the pool tends to be smaller. I found out that it had a news and current affairs focus and made sure to tailor my application towards that.

Imagine my surprise when I was selected to be on the premiere episode! Thankfully I was able to arrange my attendance at the taping through some creative scheduling. The show’s format required you to be knowledgeable in all facets of the news. So I hunkered down and studied.

PRO TIP: As I’ve mentioned previously, use your resources. As the show was airing on CBC I made sure to do thorough studying of the news articles on their site, but also went on other sites like our national newspapers, entertainment sites and sport sites. Since there was also a “features” round I did more studying in major events around the world.

And HERE’s that premiere episode!

In the end, the studying paid off! The questions were definitely in my wheelhouse that day, and my knowledge base of the FIFA World Cup came in extra handy. I made sure to have fun with it and leave a great impression on the production staff so that hopefully I would see them again.

And as it turned out, there was a champions’ episode planned for the end of the season and I was invited back, to be part of it! I was thrilled beyond belief.

PRO TIP: If you’re lucky enough to be invited back to a championship match or tournament, make sure to step it up a notch. Be aware of how the show works, and if you can, study old championship episodes to see the level of difficulty presented.

And here it is – that Newshounds finale!

So what did I learn from the whole Newshounds experience? Be aware of your surroundings, be aware of your world… and be aware of that dreaded buzzer!

PRO TIP: If you’re going to be on a show that uses a buzzer, find a buzzer set to practice on. Even if it’s a ballpoint clicker pen or a hotel call bell, practice that buzzer.

In the next instalment of My Life In Game Shows, a slice of true Americana, where I get to “come on down”…

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Thanks Ryan, and although Newshounds dealt specifically with current affairs, I do believe it’s really important for every aspiring quiz show contestant to be keeping up to date with the day’s news as a matter of course. If you’re serious about quizzing, there’s no excuse for not “consuming” some news each and every single day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s via newspaper, TV, radio, Facebook… whatever! It is absolutely essential to stay on touch with world events. After all, today’s headlines are often tomorrow’s quiz questions. And your daily reading will also have the very pleasant side effect of making you a more well-informed, interesting person. A win-win, really!  

Ryan Reaches For The Top… and gets there.

Hello! Our guest blogger Ryan Vickers is back with Episode 9 of His Life In Game Shows, and this week, it’s all about a long-running Canadian institution, which has crossed his path at various stages throughout his life….

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My Life In Game Shows

Episode 9: Hosting A Show That I Played – ‘Reach For The Top’, 2010-present

I was in Year 10 in high school in rural Eastern Ontario, Canada when I heard about Reach For The Top.

What? A game show for high school students?!

I was in.

I was gung-ho for this game, a four-person quiz bowl style format, and I would make sure never to miss a practice. I also organised regional tournaments leading to championship matches for our school board finals.

When I moved to the Toronto area in the early 2000s, I took on coaching at a secondary school, which lead to helping to organising our local league.

In 2010, I found myself with some time to spare, and was able to hook up with the production team from Reach For The Top and landed myself a position as a Production Assistant. I was thrilled to get to help in any way I could.

PRO TIP: If it so happens that you want to work on a game show, take any position you can – you just need to get your foot in the door.

Over time, my role as Production Assistant led to me becoming a Question Writer, Game Assembler, Provincial Championship Host and in 2013 I took over the position that I have now – National Host! I get to preside over the National Championships every May.

What is it like? Well, as someone who has loved game shows all of his life, and who had the childhood dream of becoming a game show host, it’s pretty flipping cool! There are also tense times – the first game I ever hosted at the National level (a quarter-final match), the game went to a tie-breaker, which is rare in Reach games. I also love getting to do the “interview phase” with the players, and if they’re good at improv I’ll lob them classics such as “It says here on your card that you created the colour yellow. Tell us about it!”.

Well… at least it makes me smile!

Is it hard? Yes, very much so. As someone who is surrounded by knowledge all day long (I teach elementary school when I’m not having my game show adventures), I do think I know quite a bit about a lot of things, however I do make sure to read all the material before hosting any matches. I also keep my skills sharp by hosting regularly at the local, regional and provincial levels.

Is it rewarding? You bet it is. Every year I get to see such a bright, personable group of young people showing their academic prowess – it’s their version of the Olympics. I also love seeing players seemingly pull knowledge out of nowhere. I was also flattered in that one student once asked me to write a reference letter for her (and she ended up enrolling in my alma mater – bonus!)

If you’re so inclined – please check out a recent National Championship game!

Next time, we’re back on the game show experience train, but on the radio this time, and an additional follow up surprise on that show!

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Congratulations Ryan, on following that dream, and having a ‘full circle’ style journey around that pivotal game show from your younger years. I’ve found that if you’re persistent and patient, incredible things can happen over a period of time. This has certainly been proven to me time and time again, not just by my own game show experience (as chronicled here, here and here), but in many other areas of life. So, whatever your goal may be – stick to it!

It may take time, but the rewards can be… well, immense! 

Game Shows Without Borders

Hello! This week our bilingual Canadian guest blogger Ryan Vickers is back – this time with a game show adventure that takes him across international borders, in a case of ‘Game Shows Sans Frontieres’…

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My Life in Game Shows

Episode 8: Playing In Your Second Language – ‘Motus’, 2013

In late 2011, I found out that I had secured the first (of what, thankfully, led to many) tickets to see the London 2012 Olympics. Having watched game shows based in France for at least 20 years, I decided that perhaps the time was right to reach out to Motus, which is a French game show based on the little-known late 80s Canadian game show Lingo and better known these days from its version on Game Show Network in the USA. After some back and forth conversation (to check if I was eligible), I arranged for an audition in late August 2012.

PRO TIP: If you’re travelling abroad, apply for a game show! The contestant staff actually took the time to have a private audition with me because as much as I wanted to be on their show, I’m sure they saw it as a nice thing to have someone promoting their show outside their national borders.

I’ll have to be honest – I trained for several weeks for Motus, watching back episodes and playing the game online. I had the audition and I felt went just okay. I wish I had done more. I left thinking it was a “thanks but no thanks” situation, although they did extend the courtesy of giving me a home game on which to practice.

Which leads me to April 2013, when at about 6:30 AM one day I checked my email and found I had been given a tape date to be on the show! I quickly accepted, booked a flight, and four months later I was on set – with my father in tow – to tape my run on the show.

PRO TIP: Use your lead time wisely. I found a GREAT story online by Robert McKee, that described a wonderful strategy for how to play the game. I worked his tips into my strategy for playing the game.

The taping, unlike those in North America, was very calm and put me at ease. We simply stood at the podium and played the game off of a monitor. In fact, the only concern I had was talking in my second language, which turned out not to be a problem at all.

PRO TIP: When applying for a game show, give them a hook. Make them interested in you! I made sure to mention, for example, that I watched their show on the satellite channel available to me.

During the game, I played out my strategy, which worked for my teammate and I. I took my time, made educated guesses, and decided not to play the game exclusively as a game of words, but rather a puzzle to be solved, which just happened to involve letters and not numbers or pictures.

PRO TIP: Have FUN when you’re playing the game. I decided before the show to play to win but also to let my mind be at ease, and to roll with the punches. I enjoyed myself so much that I ended up on a French blooper show! If you’re having fun you’re going to do better.

Here is the episode! 

And here’s the subsequent clip on the blooper show (sorry for the point and shoot!)

While we didn’t win the show (due to some unlucky bingo ball drawing) it was a great experience, and one that challenged me both on a game show level and a language level. I was grateful to my partner for agreeing to play on a team with me, and to the staff of the show as well. In fact, the show allows another go…. so I think I might just do that!

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Merci, Monsieur Vickers – C’était génial! (which Google Translate tells me is French for “That was great!”) I can’t imagine the added degree of difficulty that competing in a different language would bring to the game, and I applaud you for diving in. And I hadn’t really thought about it before, but if you are travelling overseas, why not apply to be on a game show while you’re there? You have absolutely nothing to lose, and potentially a whole lot to gain.

Sympa, Ryan! (which Google Translate tells me is French for “Nice one, Ryan!”)

‘Brigadoon’ is BrigaDone.

Hello!
So the season of Brigadoon finished up on Sunday afternoon, and what a joy the whole experience was! Such a magnificent group of people to work with, and the show was well attended and well reviewed, right across the board.

‘Brigadoon’ – Me as Archie Beaton, alongside the magnificent Sally Bourne as Alice McLaren. Photo courtesy of The Production Company. Photographer: Jeff Busby.

Now, as I get ready to start my next gig tomorrow, I thought I’d just do a quick post, bringing you up-to-date with various gameshow related snippets of news, in case you haven’t seen them. So here we go.
Just thought you’d appreciate the info.
But we haven’t seen the last of him, my friends.
Also from the Jeopardy! desk, (the ‘now-this-doesn’t-happen-every-day’ department) a real rarity, as contestant Manny Abell won with a margin of just ONE DOLLAR, before going on to win over $42 000 in three days.
Back here in Australia, two new game shows (The Wall and Cram!) have premiered in the last couple of weeks, both to mixed reviews, to say the least. Both of their networks are saying they’re happy with the numbers the shows have pulled in, but it is a very cutthroat market. It’ll be interesting to see how their viewing numbers settle in the coming weeks…
 And in game show Intellectual Property news, the High Court in London court has ruled that game show formats can be copyrighted in much the same way that dramatic works are. Exactly how much of a game changer (sorry) this ruling will prove to be remains to be seen, but it could significantly change the game show development landscape. Originality and uniqueness front and centre in new game show formats?
Who’d a thunk it?
I also spotted this quick profile of 4 game show winners, and how they spent their prize money
And news of what looks to be a fascinating new documentary about a Price Is Right champion who-never-was-but-should-have-been. I’m definitely going to try and track this one down!
And finally, because you need to know this stuff, here’s a look at 8 of the weirdest game shows of all time. I cannot believe that Don’t Scare The Hare never got a second series. Where is the justice?
And that’s it for this edition of How To Win Game Show news. Up next, Erin with the weather, then a human interest story with footage of a cat on a skateboard.
Goodnight.

 

Virus-free. www.avg.com

A HowToWinGameShows.com alumnus!

Hello! I have something a little bit different for you this week. A few days ago, I was utterly delighted to receive this email from a visitor to the site…
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SUBJECT: A thank you from a ‘Hard Quiz’ contestant.
Hello Stephen,
 
I came across your excellent website earlier this year, when I was preparing to audition for ‘Hard Quiz’. Although I have a musical theatre background, I had never applied for a game show, and consequently did not know what to expect. Thanks to your very informative articles and resources, I was well-equipped to tackle the face-to-face audition process and was absolutely delighted when I was invited to appear on the show. Being an absolute research nerd, I followed your advice in researching the show back-to-front, devising my on-the-day strategy, and practising religiously at home. In particular, your interview with Gerard McCulloch gave me some clues about how to think like a ‘Hard Quiz’ writer.
 
My episode of ‘Hard Quiz’ aired last week. Although I did not win the Big Brass Mug, I made it into the final two, so at least I got to see one in person! Since the show aired, I’ve received a lot of lovely feedback on social media about my performance on the show, so I thought it was only fair for me to write in and say a huge THANK YOU for your virtual advice. If you feel like watching a short video of me roasting Tom Gleeson on the show, you can find it here.
 
Chookas for ‘Brigadoon’! I live in Sydney, so unfortunately I won’t be able to see it. I always wish The Production Company shows would tour interstate!
 
Cheers
Caitlin
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Yes, yes – I know what you’re thinking; “Wait a minute… This week’s post is shaping up to be nothing more than an utterly shameless one-man festival of pure, disgraceful self-congratulation. Oh come on, Hally – we expected better of you, you shameless hussy!”
Whoa.
Okay; firstly, a little harsh on your part… but please bear with me.
Caitlin really made my day, because this is EXACTLY the sort of thing that I wanted this blog to be all about.
The whole idea when I started this blog, back in March 2013 was to provide a resource for people wanting to go on game shows. And that’s exactly what Caitlin has used the site for. If you’re thinking about auditioning for a particular game show, there are a whole lot of articles and interviews here, on a wide variety of them…. including Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud, The Chase: Australia, Hard Quiz, Millionaire Hot Seat, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire… to name just a few!
You can SEARCH for the show you’re interested in with the handy dandy SEARCH bar above (in the top right corner of the page).
Or just click on the title of the show you’re interested in, in the “CATEGORIES” section. (Also on the right hand side of the page, a little lower down).
So I’d like to thank Caitlin for reminding me to remind you about the features of this site, and how to use them. Caitlin’s next game show adventure may very well be on The Chase: Australia, and so I wish her the very, very best of luck with that!
If you’re interested in following Caitlin on Twitter, you can find her here. AND you can watch her episode of Hard Quiz right here. (But only if you’re in Australia, unfortunately; I believe it’s geoblocked).
I think that’s it for now. Please do take advantage of all the resources here before applying for your particular game show experience – YOU are exactly the person that I’m compiling them for!
As always, I wish YOU the very best of luck, and I heartily encourage you to do all the homework you can, to give yourself the game show edge…
Now go get ‘em!

Cheers,

Stephen

 

Ryan’s back, with ‘My Life In Game Shows: Episode 7’

Ryan is back this week, with a brief entry chronicling his time on a somewhat usual Canadian game show… But despite the relatively low stakes, and the fact that the show isn’t around anymore, Ryan does – as always – have some great tips and hints for you.

Over to you, Mr. Vickers!

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My Life In Game Shows

Episode 7: Bringing along others for the ride – ‘Ice Cold Cash’, 2012

For years in the USA there was a game called Cash Cab – and in fact it’s coming back – where contestants mysteriously got into a taxi and answered questions to win cash. Food Network Canada came up with their own spin a number of years ago called Ice Cold Cash, whereby players answered food-related questions from a man driving an ice cream cart.

I found out about this game show the same way I found out about Inside The Box… on Craigslist! I dashed off an application and heard back a couple of days later that they wanted to book me for the show.

PRO TIP: Don’t just check a television network’s website and assume that they have the only contestant application information – make sure to do some digging. Look online on sites like Craigslist as well as blogs… and maybe even a game show host’s Instagram, for example.

Two different things happened in the lead up to the taping.

First off, I found out that I was near the start of the taping block. This is due to the fact that the production team got hold of me a few days before I was scheduled to tape. “We have been doing the show with single players”, they stated, “and it’s not really working the way we wanted it to. Please bring a partner.” In two days, I thought? Okay, I can do this.

PRO TIP: Roll with the punches. If I hadn’t said that I could get a partner (even if I didn’t have one in mind), I wouldn’t have gotten on the show.

Thankfully, I knew the perfect person to work with in this escapade – one that I had appeared in a reality TV show with previously, and she was free on the tape day.

The second thing was that production was still finding its legs – we weren’t where to go until the night before; they were still scouting locations. Again, as I said above, roll with the punches.

The show itself was a fun romp. We ended up filming in a large urban park in Toronto and we enjoyed our time. Take a look!

BONUS – watch my good friend on the show (on her own, to boot!)

PRO TIP: If you need to pick a teammate, make sure it’s someone whose skills complement yours. Don’t just aim for a “TV friendly” partner, but also one who fills in the blanks in your weak subject areas!

We had some luck with where the questions fell;

  • My friend is Italian and there was an Italian food question.
  • The name of my game show that I hosted on campus radio in university came up as an answer.
  • And we’re both French teachers by trade… and we got a French food question!

Mind you, if they’d allowed unlimited time on questions, it’s almost certain that we would have still been there six years later! It’s hard to walk away, but I remember not wanting to guess because we didn’t have a solid idea.

Next time I’ll hop back across the pond where I faced arguably my toughest game yet!

 

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I’d like to thank Ryan so much once again for all the work he’s putting in to sharing his various game show experiences with us. It’s great to read about someone’s game show journey in such detail, and to see so many tips and hints sprinkled throughout his posts.
Thanks again, Ryan!

No post today. Except for this one.

Hello everyone. Sorry, but there’s no post here today.

Apart from this one.

Obviously.

You see, I haven’t had time to prepare a game show-related post for the blog this week, because yesterday I just started an intensive rehearsal process for the stage musical Brigadoon, which will be on in Melbourne… just 3 weeks from now!

So please bear with me for the next couple of weeks, and normal service will resume as possible. We have another instalment of Ryan’s Life In Game Shows coming up, and I also have some more behind-the-scenes anecdotes and reminiscences, which I hope will in some way prove helpful to you.

In the meantime, I must dash back off to the Scottish highlands, and my kilt is beginning to chafe….