Welcome back to my interview with the living legend of Australian television that IS Pete Smith.
After all his decades in the industry, and his 21-year gig on $ale of the Century, I wanted to ask Pete what he saw as the future of game shows.
So I did.
SH: Pete, what do you see as the future of game shows?
PS: Well I see the future of game shows wrapped up in the future of free to air television. The game show – along with sport and news – is the sort of thing that television, I think, does best. And so I hope that the future of game shows will be saved by the facts that these sorts of things don’t really sit well in a box set. They need to almost be live. Even though they are all recorded in advance, you do have the advantage – if you don’t pre-record too far ahead – of reflecting what’s going on outside. I think perhaps games shows are going to have to maybe address that.
SH: Right, right.
PS: A lot of the shows are recorded sometimes many weeks or months in advance, but I think it’s going to have to come back to reflecting a little more on what’s going on immediately.
SH: Of course, it’s the immediacy, isn’t it? And even if it’s recorded, say, a month in advance you can still talk about things that are relatively current.
PS: Things have to be edited I understand that, of course, and we have come a long way. A lot of the things that I was involved in those so-called golden years when we were on live… People say “why isn’t it live? It would be terrific if it was live”. But the fact it was live is because frankly technically, once you put it on to a kinescope on 16 millimetre film – just prior to videotape revolutionising things – it was quite obvious, once it had been recorded and played back, that it wasn’t live. It was grainy, it didn’t look good at all, and you couldn’t pass it off as live. So that’s mainly why things went out live.
SH: It was a technical necessity.
PS: Yes, and the only aspect of that era that I would think would be lovely to retain would be the non-editing. Because one of the joys of going out live is that you see it ‘warts and all’. People are sitting at home in their dressing gowns and they are seeing us making mistakes too. You don’t want the mistakes – of course you don’t – but at the same time you don’t want to plasticise it either.
SH: We are all human.
PS: Unfortunately, television has become a bit like that; a bit plastic.
SH: I agree with you, it’s like an element of live theatre where things can go wrong.
PS: And there’s the difference! There’s the attraction of live theatre – you know it’s there, live.
SH: It’s happening right now!
PS: Back on $ale of the Century, one of the prizes was a whole lot of money; the “Cash Jackpot”. I’d announce it, they would cut to Tony and the contestant, and this acrylic see-through box would be lowered down onto the set, and all the money was there inside it.
SH: Yes! That was real money, wasn’t it?
PS: It was. For many years, the money was all there. And there were more guards and security people in the studio than there were audience, sometimes!
SH: Is that right?
PS: Later of course they thought “Well, the point is that we are offering the money, and we don’t need to have the real money there, so let’s not do it”. I think it happened after one occasion when Tony was standing slightly out of position – only very slightly – and the box came down and hit him on the shoulder and stunned him to the floor. But they kept it! They didn’t do a retake, and here’s the whole guts of what I’m talking about.
SH: That’s an expensive injury!
PS: But Tony was okay. He got up. He was stunned, but he kept going, because he’s from that era.
SH: He’s a pro.
PS: He’s a pro.
Next week, in the final instalment of our interview, Pete and I discuss the late great Graham Kennedy, and Pete reveals his Number One Game Show Tip! All that and more, next Tuesday.