Hello and welcome. Hope you’re staying safe, staying healthy and staying home.
When we left off last week, Mark had just been told he’d scored the Pointless hosting gig, and that he had just three days until the new job started!
And what a job it was…
SH: From what I can gather, Pointless had a very gruelling schedule. I think you recorded 184 episodes over 2 seasons?
MH: That’s right.
SH: Once that juggernaut was up and running – and as you’ve said, you didn’t have much time to prepare – what was it like being in the middle of all that, so suddenly and so quickly?
MH: The upside was that I didn’t have time to be nervous, because it was all so quick! I did my last sketch at SBS on Monday and then I arrived at Channel 10 on Tuesday morning. And someone said to me “It’s not normally like this. Normally, we would have a month of pre-production; we’ve got a week and a half.” It was like “we’re just going to have to condense everything. We need to start measuring you for suits now.” And I’m like “Oh, okay,” and they measured me up and then wardrobe people went off and bought a bunch of suits, and I met the publicity people, who were asking me for quotes for the press release. I asked them if I could go away and write some funny lines, because I really don’t like generic press releases… “I’m excited to be here!” Of course you are – everyone’s excited to be doing stuff. So I went away with Andrew (Rochford, Mark’s Pointless co-host) and we wrote some gags, which was a really good thing to do. It gave us a chance to workshop and get to know each other a bit better. And then it was straight into rehearsals.
And during these rehearsals there was obviously a whole bunch of stuff that needed to be sorted – lighting, cameras, different ways of lighting the set, what does my complexion look like, which suits work best; all these technical elements – BUT the gameplay was different during that week and a half of rehearsals. The actual format of the game was different to what they ultimately settled on for filming, the following week. When we started, I think there might have even been an additional round.
We did a bunch of dummy episodes; firstly with production staff playing the roles of contestants, then we had some fake contestants come in to play the game, some of whom later went on to become real contestants. And one of the difficulties that we found very quickly was that the UK version has a running time of about 42 minutes and our version needed to fit into a commercial half hour (which is 22 minutes). I remember after one of the early rehearsal episodes, they said “Okay, we’ve just cut an episode together and this ’22 minute episode’ goes for 40 minutes!” So in addition to trying to get my head around the logistics of hosting a show, I was also hosting a show that was constantly changing in front of me. That was sort of alarming.
So everything was really rushed – I got the impression they just had struggled to cast the roles… (LAUGHING) I’d be quite comfortable saying I imagine the people they wanted originally weren’t available!
SH: Oh, come on now!
MH: I just mean that it seemed we were cast quite late in the process. So by the time we started filming, a week later, I was still finding my feet. I haven’t gone back and watched the pilot – and I don’t think I ever will – but I know that there’s stuff in the pilot that I would ultimately stop doing.
MH: Because I think early on, (LAUGHING) I made things sort of needlessly dramatic at some points. And I think once you’re comfortable with hosting, you can just sort of relax. But in the early episodes I was so high-energy and so nervous that it came through in ways that were probably quite annoying.
SH: This all sounds like the exact opposite of your earlier TV work, where you say you have these shows of short duration which weren’t subject to much scrutiny, which gave you plenty of time to find your feet and hone your craft, This whole experience sounds diametrically opposed to that.
MH: I had never thought of that. that is 100% right. you’re spot on there. That’s exactly what happened – it was a completely different experience.
Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! Next week, Mark talks about reaching the end of that brief pre-production period, and being thrust into the spotlight, as he finds himself suddenly hosting a prime time game show, on national television, five nights a week. He also gives us a unique glimpse behind the scenes, as we discuss all the various demands placed on someone in that position….
Until then, then!