Hello! Now that the Fawlty Towers Live Opening Night hoopla has died down, and the play’s season has settled into its usual rhythm, here at www.HowToWinGameShows.com, I can get back to what this blog is all about; bringing you new EXCLUSIVE content to help you on your game show winning journey. And I’m really pleased to bring you this latest exclusive interview. In Australia, Michael Whyte is a game show Living Legend, having been instrumental and influential in the industry since the 1970s. He’s produced countless hours of television – in quiz shows, game shows, variety, and so much more besides, both at home in Australia and abroad. So I was delighted when he agreed to chat to me for www.HowToWinGameShows.com.
SH: Michael Whyte, thank you very much for speaking to me today for howtowingameshows.com. In your long and illustrious career you’ve served as Producer, Executive Producer and Executive In Charge Of Production of many great game shows, including The Price is Right, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, The X Factor, Blankety Blanks, Sale Of The Century and Temptation… to name just a few. What was the first game show you produced, and how did that come about?
MW: I was working at Channel 9 and had been for about nine years. Luckily, I was there at the right time. I started there in ’73 and worked my way from being a mail boy up through the system to cameras and eventually floor managing and some production work. At that time, there was a raft of different things that you could do. Mostly for me it was tonight shows, you know – The Don Lane Show, The Graham Kennedy Show, The Ernie Sigley Show… Plus a lot of drama: The Sullivans was peaking at that time so I was involved in that. The Paul Hogan Show started up at that stage, but also a lot of sports as well. I mean I really was in the right place at the right time. And we had such lot to do and I had an absolute ball and a lot of really good people to nurture you and put you through the business. If they thought you were any good, then they would certainly help you, and they did that with me, which I was very pleased with.
SH: What a great training ground!
MW: Unbelievable. It is not there today but it was just a magic place to be, at GTV. From there I was looking to produce but Channel 9 was full of producers at that stage with lots of experience and Grundy Television came to me and said “we want you to come to us and produce a show called The New Price Is Right“. So I went to Grundy’s in ’81 I think, and we started producing The New Price Is Right, with (host) Ian Turpie which was pretty much a variety-cum-sports event, done in an amazing venue, Festival Hall. And it was just the best training ground to produce that you could ever want. It was pretty much done as a live show and shot 360 (meaning we saw the audience and all of the set that was involved in the show). As soon as we started recording, it was ON and there were about 600 people in the audience.
MW: From there I had been floor managing Sale of the Century and they then put me across Sale of the Century as well. I was producing both shows at that point and I was with Sale for many, many years. It was on for 21 years and I was there for most of that, and then went overseas with Grundy’s to produce shows overseas.
SH: Going for Gold was one of them, I think (according to the internet)?
MW: Yeah, yeah – Going for Gold. We started at the BBC in ’87 or ’88, something like that. We made it for the BBC because Reg Grundy had sold Neighbours into the BBC and they wanted another half-hour show to go back to back with that at lunch time. So we did that, it was an international quiz that was lined up with what was Super Channel at the time. That was prior to Sky (UK pay TV) and all of that. Super Channel went through 15 European countries, so we auditioned people from 15 different European countries and brought them into London to compete. It was a 22 week format that ended up with one person, one country winning and yes that ran successfully, very successfully for a number of years. We also made that same show in France called Questions Pour Un Champion, which is still running I believe.
MW: Yeah. Very successful, on FR3, which is sort of their ABC (public broadcaster) if you like. That was pretty much the cultural quiz that they were after and that went extremely well, as well.
SH: What a huge production!
MW: It was. Absolutely enormous and so we were really doing the push for Grundy into Europe. It was myself and Bill Mason who was my boss and we literally split Europe in half. I took the top half and he took the bottom half…
Next week, Michael goes into more detail about his European career highlights. But our discussion covers so much more besides, and is chock full of handy hints. And we’re only just getting started… so make sure you check back here next Tuesday for Part II!