Hello, and welcome to the second instalment of my exclusive four-part interview with game show host Ian Rogerson about the whirlwind of activity at 5:30 on weeknights way back in 1999 that WAS All Star Squares.
Now let’s dive straight back in, with Ian’s candid thoughts on the show’s appeal….
IR: In hindsight, I think the show was just on the borderline of almost being interesting. It had all the basics of the game show, plus some writing that goes in there and the false questions and the real questions…. But because it was a network game show, there were areas where you couldn’t really push the boundaries.
SH: Oh, for sure. And it was a 5:30 time slot, so it had to be family-friendly. The parameters were sort of…
IR: Relatively tight.
SH: Not exactly “broad”, for sure.
IR: Yeah. But we had a lot of pretty funny people in there. I mean… you, Kim Hope was funny, Tim Smith and there were a lot of people who were prepared to go a little bit around the edges, but it never really got a chance to develop… because it only ran about six months. I think it was in the wrong time slot. I may be misremembering here, but I was always under the impression it was going to go on at seven o’clock or six thirty.
SH: Oh, that’s interesting.
IR: … Originally. And then it was sort of like “Oh… 5:30”. And that’s an expensive show to run at 5:30.
SH: It really is. When you got the gig, what was your initial reaction? I imagine your previous work had prepared you pretty well for it. Were there any new skills or techniques you had to learn?
IR: Look, by far the hardest hurdle I had with that show is the fact that I was going a little grey (LAUGHING) and I said to them “You’re cool with the grey hair, aren’t you? That’s not a deal breaker, is it?” And they went, “Oh no – it IS a deal breaker.”
IR: I had to dye my hair, and I hated that! Because I’m not that kind of guy. I just like to be natural; if I’ve got grey hairs, I’ve earned them. But they weren’t going to have a bar of it. So, I was never happy with my hair for the full six months, which is off-putting when you’re a game show host.
“Aaaaaall, All Star Squares! They made Ian Roger-son DYE HIS GREY HAIRS!”
Johnny (Jonathan Coleman) and I had done Have a Go in 1988, which was basically a game show, so I knew all about recording five shows in a day and then having those episodes stripped through the week… So, I just thought ‘All Star Squares is going to be fun’, and it was a lot of fun! A lot of fun. But it was just so quick and then they killed us.
SH: Yes. I have very fond memories of it, but as you say, it was an expensive show and that’s such a crucial time slot for them, leading into the news….
IR: Yeah, and I don’t think we ever cracked it; we never got higher than second place (in the ratings).
SH: Yeah. What aspects of hosting the show – if any – were uncharted territory for you?
IR: I had no idea how tall the pyramid they were putting me on was going to be!
SH: Oh, that’s right!
IR: Yeah, I remember the set very clearly; the squares were huge. And that would have cost a lot of money to bump that in and bump that out of the studio every weekend. But also, my position was elevated on this really tall pyramid. I was having delusions of grandeur out there at one stage (LAUGHING).
SH: I’d forgotten that! Were you level with the second – or even third – level of the grid?
IR: I think I was across from the second level. You know I had vultures circling me at various times. I got nosebleeds if the pressure dropped (LAUGHING).
SH: Elevated like a lifeguard, or a tennis umpire – yeah.
IR: That’s right! So, when people would run notes up to me, it was like coming up the mountain to bring me a new set of questions.
SH: Do you have any specific memories of things that might have gone wrong during the show?
IR: I know that my wife came down one weekend and we went to the Flower Drum restaurant and drank so much white wine on the Friday night…. I was actually lying on my dressing room floor the next morning, feeling seriously hungover, thinking “How am I going to do five shows?” Of course I got up and did them, but I still can’t remember those five shows.
SH: So ‘Doctor Showbiz’ kicked in? You somehow found the necessary adrenalin?
IR: Yes. But I’ve never touched white wine since. And then, when my wife was in the audience that day, the warm-up guy Michael Pope used to throw chocolates out into the audience….
IR: He got Nicole, right in the middle of her forehead!
SH: Oh dear!
IR: Wham! Nicole never forgot that; she still brings it up occasionally.
SH: “Delightful Duc d’Os” were maybe not quite so delightful for Nicole…
I must confess, the show’s sponsorship arrangement with the Belgian chocolatier Duc d’O was a certainly a fond memory for me*, although I certainly do empathise with Nicole; all the “finest ingredients”, “pronounced boldness” and “pure Belgian craftsmanship and expertise” in the world don’t mean much when the box is hitting you full force in the forehead.
Ah… Showbiz, eh?
See you next week.
* Because, you know, free chocolates.