When it comes to great quiz show champions…

…. they don’t get much greater than Jeopardy!’s official Greatest Of All Time champion, Ken Jennings. 

And today I just quickly wanted to let you know about an interview with him that I really enjoyed.

If you don’t know about Ken’s achievements by now, back in 2004 he completed a record-setting 74-night winning streak on Jeopardy!, picking up $2,520,700 along the way. Since then, he’s returned to the show to play in various winners’ tournaments. These extra appearances culminated in his winning the tournament this year that earned him the title of Greatest Of All Time (oh, and a $1,000,000 cash prize.) All in all, Ken’s quiz show winnings over the years add up to a whopping US$5,223,414!

In this 42-minute interview, Ken is chatting to economist and author Steve Levitt (of Freakonomics podcast fame; he’s also co-author of the Freakonomics books). It’s a comprehensive discussion, touching on Ken’s journey, his techniques and his thoughts on what makes the great ones truly great… and a whole lot more besides. I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I did!
And that’s it for this week.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to putting the final, final finishing touches on my novel…
 for its release on Amazon in just
6 days,
14 hours
and 54 minutes’ time! 😬😬
I’ll check in with you again a week from now, by which time my baby will be out in the world!!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Ian Rogerson – Part IV – the conclusion

Hello, and welcome to the final instalment of my chat with the host of All Star Squares, Mr Ian Rogerson! To put you in the mood, here’s a blast of that crazy theme tune…. 

We’ve covered Ian’s memories of hosting the show fairly extensively in Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this conversation, so I figured there was pretty much only one thing left for me to ask him…

==================================================================

That was then…

SH: Now, I know All Star Squares was 21 years ago, so… what have you been up to since then?

IR: (LAUGHING) Working! I mean, radio’s been something I’ve done for 40 years. So I’m now at the age of very-very late 30s.

SH: (LAUGHING) Yes!

… This is now!

 

IR:

I’m not desperate to go out and get myself a gig right now, but invariably things come up.

SH: And I know that you and your wife Nicole are both very heavily involved with Autism Awareness Australia. Would you like to tell us a bit about that?

IR: Yeah. Our son Jack is autistic and we had to go through the journey – which started when he got diagnosed, finally – of living with a disabled person. But it’s amazing the difference you can make if you get the right therapy and spend a lot of one-on-one time with your child. We’ve been very lucky and you know Jack’s 24 now, rockin’ around… I think he’s drinking my beer, I’m not sure.

SH: Well someone is!

IR: Someone is. But he’s got a job and everything and so that’s worked out quite well. But the advocacy of it is something my wife has really driven because of who she is; she’s that kind of person. She’s a real advocate for it and I think they’re a real force for good and certainly a voice for the autism community, particularly the parents.

SH: And they’re at AutismAwareness.com.au.

IR: It’s a not-for-profit; it’s just basically there to advocate.

SH: Great.

IR: So, I guess that’s really it from me, as far as All Star Squares is concerned. It’s an interesting little footnote, isn’t it? I hope they resurrect it one day, because it’s actually a great game show.

SH: It is. When it’s done right, it’s just really entertaining and silly; one of those shows that you just let wash over you.

IR: Yes. When the chemistry all comes together on the show, it’s fantastic fun. I think there were some days where we were doing that show, we really all had heaps of fun and I think the audience was enjoying it too.

SH: Yeah, for sure. Perhaps one problem with the format is that you do have your regular celebrities who you can count on, but then for the guest celebrities, you get a mixed bag of athletes, actors, singers, whoever’s doing the promotional rounds… and some of those people were just rabbits in the headlights when it came to answering the questions. Sometimes we really had to rely on our regulars do the heavy-lifting.

IR: Yes, I think you guys – the writers – were doing the big work before the show back in the Green Room… just trying to get those people to loosen up.

An “Additional Material” credit! Whoo-hoo!

SH: Yeah because when it came to the guests, you just got who you were given, and they were not all necessarily naturals in that situation….

IR: You’d always be so happy when Lano & Woodley turned up.

The glorious Australian comedy double act Lano & Woodley, who appeared on the show (both crammed into one square!) several times.

SH: Hallelujah! Yes!

IR: And all the pressure would be off.

SH: Exactly! Well, thank you so much, Ian. This has been very enjoyable indeed and thanks again for taking the time to have a chat with me!

IR: My pleasure Steve. I mean, if you ever come to Sydney or if I ever get down there, we must catch up. It’d be great to see you.

==================================================================

Aww, right back at ya, Big Fella! I’d just like to thank Ian for being so generous with his time, and remind you that he has a website here, he’s on Twitter here, and of course, you can find Autism Awareness Australia at www.AutismAwareness.com.au/

And that is where we leave that late nineties, late afternoon curio All Star Squares…

Aaall…. All Star Squares! Hey thanks I-an, for all the

MEM’RIES YOU’VE SHARED!!

I’ll see you next Tuesday

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Ian Rogerson – Part III

Ian Rogerson

Hello and welcome to the penultimate instalment of my chat with Ian Rogerson, who hosted All Star Squares, on Australian TV back in 1999. I worked on the show as a question and gag writer, and I’ve written about my experiences on it here before, but it was great to learn that Ian remembers it with such fondness too….

===================================

IR: The whole show was so much fun. We’d sit there in the Green Room between shows with Tim Smith and Michael Caton… and I just remember lots of jokes.

SH: Yeah, it was very convivial! I remember Tim Smith in particular; going through questions and gags with him and just laughing a lot and him always wanting to make it better, as funny as possible. What a lovely bloke. Those were very happy memories.

The great Tim Smith.

IR: Yeah, I think in another timeslot the show might have worked. Who knows?

SH: You never know. Do you have any specific memories of any of the contestants?

IR: Did we give a car away once?

SH: We might have.

IR: I think we did.

SH: I think we did!

IR: It was a while ago, but I seem to remember that it wasn’t a huge car….

SH: No…

IR: I remember the live studio audiences really enjoying it as well. I really can’t remember too many of the contestants and that’s only just because of time, I think.

SH: Yeah.

IR: But the bizarre thing was that after it all finished, Channel Seven repeated the show over the next two summers.  But maybe that was just in Sydney.

SH: I don’t know; I don’t recall that happening down here in Melbourne. As we said, it wouldn’t have been a cheap show. The celebrities you mentioned, I think you’re still friendly with a few of them. Is that right?

IR: I’ve known a lot of those people from years previous. There are firm friendships; Tim Smith… and Michael Caton, I saw just last week. We both scream at the television over American politics.

SH: (LAUGHING) Oh good. It’s good to have that in common; that’s lovely. When it was on, did you find you were thrust into the spotlight? Did you find you were being recognized?

IR: Look, I’d already been through it in the eighties. I’m really not after the spotlight; I’m more of a cabinetmaker than a television show host. But I always wanted to host a game show, purely so that if something happened on a plane and somebody yelled out, “IS THERE A GAME SHOW HOST ON BOARD?” I could say, “Yes, I’m a Game Show Host – step aside.” I wanted “Game Show Host” on my passport.

SH: (LAUGHING) That’s good – you’ve achieved that goal!

IR: Look, as you know really well Steve, gigs come up… and you do them!

SH: Sure. Because… why not?

IR: Yeah and also, they might even pay you some money! AND give you some free chocolates.

SH: Yeah, “delightful Duc d’O chocolates” indeed! Now, the show didn’t last as long as we might have liked; what were your memories of its ending, and how did you process that at the time?

Continue reading

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Ian Rogerson – Part II

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.”

SH: Wow!

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.

Exhibit A.

“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….

SH: Yes?

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.

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Ian Rogerson – Part I

Ian.

Hello, and welcome to my latest HowToWinGameShows.com EXCLUSIVE interview! And today, we’re wandering down Memory lane, all the way back to 1999, with the host of All Star Squares; it’s that stalwart of the Australian entertainment industry; broadcaster, columnist and all-round lovely bloke… Ian Rogerson!

==========================

SH: Ian, thank you so much for joining me today for HowToWinGameShows.com!

IR: My pleasure!

SH: For our overseas visitors… you didn’t start out as a game show host; for many years before All Star Squares came calling, you had a long and successful career on commercial radio and TV, as part of the comedy double act ‘Jono & Dano’ (with Jonathan Coleman).

IR: I used to refer to myself as “one third of ‘Jono & Dano’.”

SH: (LAUGHING) Did you really? That’s very modest of you. How did you two meet and start working together? And when did you know that your chemistry was really going to pay off?

IR: I’d been working at Triple J in Sydney for about a year. One Saturday night they brought this guy in and said, “Do you know him?”
And I go, “No.”
“You watch Wonder World (the kids’ TV show Jonathan was on at the time), don’t you?”
“No.”
“Well look, we’re just trying him out, just operate the panel – don’t worry about it. We just want to see what he’s like.”
And I thought ‘yeah, okay, fair enough’. And then in comes Coleman, who blathers on for about 20 minutes… I just basically had to interrupt him! And that was the beginning of a ten-year relationship.

SH: So, it wasn’t organic, it wasn’t by accident, or because you both moved in the same circles… it was sort of pre-fabricated by the station?

IR: It wasn’t even that! We just ended up doing the rest of that show together. And that’s where that sort of chemistry came across. They said, “Okay – you guys are doing Saturday nights now.” And that was it.

SH: Wow that’s interesting! I had no idea. Then after Triple J (which is a subsidiary of the ABC, our public broadcaster), when did you go to commercial radio?

IR: About mid 80s. ‘84 I think. Most of it’s a blur, to be brutally honest…

SH: Sure.

IR: I was having a lot of fun. Sorry, I was very busy – very busy.

SH: That too.

IR: In ’84, the Triple M people came and offered us more money than I’d ever seen, so it was like, “Okay, let’s do that!” So, I ended up working there for a few years and got a TV show with Channel Seven. We ended up doing a tonight show (Late Night With Jono & Dano); one of the world’s worst tonight shows, although we did win the ratings on the last day of the show.

SH: Why do you call it that? Surely it couldn’t have been that bad.

IR: We were idiots (LAUGHING). We weren’t serious; we were just idiots. And I think we were such fans of the David Letterman show, we realized the only place we could watch it come in live was off the satellite in at Channel Seven. So I suspect we were partly doing the show so we could watch the Letterman Show during the week, when it came through at about midday!

SH: You were in it for the perks!

IR: (LAUGHING) Yeah, it was fantastic. And then at the end of the 80’s, Johnny went off to England, I went back to Triple J when they set it up as a national network and worked there until about the mid-90s and then I did bits and pieces; a series of interview shows in America, and stuff like that… I then came back and then All Star Squares came my way in 1999.

SH: So how did that come to be?

IR: They were auditioning for it and that’s where I met the producer Tony Skinner; he was a lovely man. I liked Tony. He really knew game shows, and he was a game show guru. So, they were doing auditions and it got down to Larry Emdur and me. Which is also the name of my new sitcom.

SH: (LAUGHING) Larry Emdur & Me! Wow – the original odd couple! I’d pay to see that.

IR: And I ended up getting the gig, so that’s where I got to meet you.

SH: Indeed. When you auditioned for it, had you seen either of the previous Australian versions, hosted by Jimmy Hannan? There was Celebrity Squares (1975 – 1976), and there was Personality Squares in 1981. Were you familiar with the show and the format at all?

IR: Yeah, it really goes back to Hollywood. I think it was a 60’s show originally, wasn’t it? Hollywood Squares, that was it. The format was a no-brainer, it was just a case of how you fill up those squares and who you get. I thought that you had to have some regulars; so the people who are coming back to the show are going to know and feel comfortable with it. So, they were the Michael Catons, the Tottie Goldsmiths and the Tim Smiths… Everybody was “Smith” on the show, for a period of time!

SH: Why didn’t we get Ron Sexsmith? That’s my question!

IR: (LAUGHING) Exactly!

==================================================================

And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. Next week, Ian and I discuss the physicality of the show’s set, the vagaries of time slot programming, and the one thing that the network warned him was definitely “a deal breaker”….

In the meantime, if you’d like to follow Ian on Twitter, you can! He’s at https://twitter.com/ian_rogerson

Also in the meantime, if you’re curious to learn more about All Star Squares, there’s also my three-part PatentedHowToWinGameShowsBehindTheScenesReminiscences of the show, RIGHT HERE.  

See you next week!

P.S. Ron wasn’t available.

How To Quiz… HARD!

Hello! I’ve got something a bit different for you this week. And when I say “something”… that “something” could probably be more accurately described as “nothing”.

You see, I don’t actually, technically have a post for you this week.

Well, not one of my own, anyway. Frankly, folks… I got nothin’.

BUT what I CAN do this week is direct you to another blog, and another blog post, that I highly, highly recommend.

Stephen Scott – a game show connoisseur, enthusiast and serial contestant, and friend of HTWGS.com – recently tried his luck on the ABC’s Hard Quiz. He’s written an extremely informative and entertaining account of his experience as a contestant…. and if you’re thinking about going on the show, you’ll find some pretty darn useful tips there too. It really is a fantastic read, from someone who’s been there and done that.

Stephen’s episode of Hard Quiz aired here last Wednesday (October 14)… but if you’re in Australia, you can watch it on the ABC’s iview platform any time, right here:

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/hard-quiz/series/5/video/LE1841V029S00

And his comprehensive article about the whole experience is right here, at MEDIUM.COM….

View at Medium.com

(That’s Stephen, second from the right)

Good, isn’t it? I’d like to thank Stephen for permission to link to his article, and I hope you enjoyed it…. HARD!

I’ll be back next week, with my next EXCLUSIVE interview… this time, with a game show host! Hmmm…. who could it possibly be?

That’s actually a rhetorical question for me. I’m perfectly well aware who it is, thank you very much. Obvs.

You, however, will have to check in next Tuesday to find out who this special exciting exclusive MYSTERY GUEST is.

INTRIGUING, No?

Huh. Thank you Tyrion.

Until then, then!

P.S. If you ARE considering applying to go on Hard Quiz, my interview with contestant Markos Hasiotis might also be worth a look for you.

My public promise to you (and to me, now that I think about it…)

This is the cover image for my forthcoming novel ‘Symphony Under Siege’.

Just a quick one today, and it’s quite off-topic, but if you’d be kind enough to indulge me…

As you may recall, five months ago I finished the first draft of my first novel, by writing a new chapter each week, and posting it online every Friday at midday.

This was because I’d publicly promised to do that, way back in March last year.

Well, the whole making-a-public-promise-with-definitive-timeframes-built-into-it method proved to be really effective for me, because

I Got The Thing Done.

I always seem to be more motivated by an external deadline (even if it’s one I’ve made up). If I hadn’t imposed those deadlines – for which I had to be publicly accountable – I’d probably still be faffing around on Chapter 3 today.

And so, bearing that in mind, I just wanted to hereby make this SOLEMN VOW to you, my dear, beloved, pretty and fragrant visitors to HowToWinGameShows.com….

Yep, fair enough.

… That my debut novel Symphony Under Siege will be launched – initially as an eBook – on Amazon.com, on

TUESDAY DECEMBER 1ST, 2020.

(DEEP BREATH) And now that I’ve made that promise to you…

I HAVE to keep it. 

So that leaves me with 49 days to finish all the editing, cover design, formatting, submitting and all the other million little things that need to be taken care of.
49 days? Lordy! I’d better get back to it, then.

Until next time (when I promise I will return to game show-related content here)

Stay Well, Stay Safe… and Stay Home!
P.S. If you’re interested in receiving updates on the novel’s progress, please consider joining the mailing list I’ve set up especially for that purpose. Cheers!

The Lost Episodes have been found.

Hello! Today I bring news of a little episode of fortuitous archaeology… the two Lost Episodes of my 2005 run on Temptation have finally, finally, finally been UNEARTHED.

No, they weren’t in this trunk.

For some reason, I never got recordings of these two episodes at the time. I have vague memories of my Mum not recording them because she thought my Mother-In-Law was recording them, and my Mother-In-Law not recording them because she thought my Mum was recording them… but I could be mistaken about all that. But, hey – why I didn’t diligently record all seven episodes, I’ll never know. Or maybe I did, but never labelled them properly, and the tapes got lost…

Aaanyhoo, after all seven shows had gone to air and the dust had settled, I found that I only had copies of Episode 1 (which aired on Tuesday 16/08/05), Episode 2 (Wednesday 17/08/05), Episode 3 (Thursday 18/08/05), an incomplete version of Episode 4 (Friday 19/08/05, missing the last minute or so), and Episode 7 (Wednesday 24/08/05).

For fifteen years – FIFTEEN YEARS, do you hear me? – I’ve been missing Episode 5 (Monday 22/08/05) and Episode 6 (Tuesday 23/08/05). I’ve not seen them since they went to air back then, and all the subsequent efforts I’ve made to track them down over the years – including enquiring in at Channel 9’s archives – have proved 100% totally and utterly fruitless. As a Collector and a Completist, not possessing those two episodes has ever-so-slightly niggled at me for all this time…Until now.

A few weeks ago, during a chat with my very dear friend Gavin (who also happens to be a former Temptation contestant), he mentioned that he’d recorded those episodes back then… and that he still had them! I could scarcely believe it. I’d well and truly given up hope that I’d ever find them again. I asked him if I could borrow the VHS tapes, he instantly said ‘yes’ – because he’s a very nice bloke – and I got them digitised. Then I edited out the ads, uploaded them to the HowToWinGameShows.com Facebook page… and here we are, the set is complete! Thanks to Gavin, I’ve also been able to put together a new, complete version of Episode 4, with that pesky missing final minute now restored. 

Okay

So

Yes. It turns out that there actually wasn’t an enormous amount of Dogged Diligent Investigation and Bold Intrepid Adventuring from me, after all.

… Despite that, I still do like dressing up as Indiana Jones. Don’t judge me.

You can watch the episodes via their links above. The shows may be old, but I think they still pack a punch. As Dr Jones might say…

Enjoy!

 

As always, I claim no copyright in, or ownership of, the clips referenced in this post, and no copyright infringement is intended by linking to them. If you have reason to believe any material has been used in an unauthorized manner, please do let me know.

It was fifteen years ago yesterday…

… that my seventh – final – episode of Temptation went to air, on

Wednesday August 24th, 2005.

Judi and I were living in Sydney, and had been diligently keeping The Big Win secret for a couple of weeks by this stage. Well, I  had been, anyway…. I began to suspect Judi mightn’t have been quite so discreet when Mikey, our friendly neighbourhood greengrocer, started greeting me by saying “AH, G’DAY EINSTEIN! WHAT CAN I GET YOU?!”

Thankfully, the news didn’t seem to have spread much further, although I’m sure the few friends Judi invited over to watch the final episode with us had a pretty good idea. Unbeknownst to me, she’d made a number of T-shirts for them all to wear on the night. The shirts all had different slogans on them, saying things such as “Neighbours of The Champ”… but my favourite one featured something I’d said to (host) Ed Phillips, when he’d asked me during the show; “You’re way ahead of your opponents – why aren’t you buying anything from The Gift Shop?”

The garment’s a little worse for wear, but hey, it is 15 years old…

And despite all the different messages on the T-shirts’ fronts, they all featured the same image and words on the back:

I was so touched that Judi went to all the trouble to create these (still am!), and it did make me laugh when friend after friend showed up at our door that night wearing them, and beaming.

I remember feeling extremely excited and nervous as we all settled down to watch the show start – its opening theme instantly brought all those pre-game emotions flooding back. I also remember getting stupidly annoyed with some people for talking over some of the more tense moments of the game. That was petty of me. This was a party, after all; what was I worried about? Of course I knew that I’d already won, but I couldn’t help it…. the powerful emotional memories of the experience tended to drown out any logic.

On the night, we had to patiently wait for the broadcast time of 7 PM, and then wait through all the commercials, as the game unfolded. But today you don’t have to; if you’re interested in watching the episode, you just have to click on the ‘Play’ button in the centre of this image:

 

Watching the game play out that night was a bizarre, joyous, out-of-body experience. Although I obviously knew how it would all end, I couldn’t help feeling nervous, anxious and excited on behalf that red-headed fella buzzing his way through round after round of questions. And on behalf of his mum and sister in the audience, too. (After all, there was rather a lot of pressure on him, and the stakes couldn’t have been higher.) And the happiness and excitement in our lounge room was just electric. In fact, I find myself tearing up even now as I write this. It truly was one of those moments in life where I found myself thinking “what could I possibly have done to deserve all this good fortune?” Although that evening was essentially a replay of The Big Moment from a fortnight earlier, the excitement in the room that night, and the joy, and the… well, the love… was simply overpowering.

If you’re interested, you can read more about the making of the episode – of what it was like to ride through the eye of that storm – right here. Here’s an image from the final, celebratory moments of the show, when my dear, dear Mum joined me up on the main stage…

and a pic that was taken a couple of minutes later, for TV Week

and a photo I recently rediscovered taken back at Mum’s house afterwards…with that same champagne and bunch of flowers.

In Mum’s kitchen, just after getting home from that life-changing episode. I have no recollection of where my sister got the crown from….

But I digress.

On the Wednesday when the episode went to air, it had only been over for a couple of minutes when the congratulatory calls and texts started to come in. There was so much happiness and so many good wishes flowing my way, it was absolutely mind-boggling. In the coming days, there were cards and letters, there were various newspaper interviews….

There was an interview with A Current Affair (for which they also talked to Mum), and all the while, various smaller prizes I’d won along the way kept arriving at our house.

A big screen TV? Thank you very much indeed. A telescope? Don’t mind if I do. A Swarovski crystal vase? Sure, why not? It felt like some sort of Bizarro-World-Upmarket-Christmas-in-August.

And then the cheque arrived. What a staggering, astounding, once-in-a-lifetime moment that was. To hold in my hand a cheque for such an amount… and for that cheque to be made out to me! I made a photocopy of it, which I still have, somewhere. I clearly remember the excitement of depositing it at the Bondi branch of my bank (which was in Hall Street, as it happened). I’d been speculating about what the teller’s reaction would be when I handed the cheque over, but he had the perfect poker face. He stared, expressionless, at the cheque for a couple of seconds, and then stamped and processed it, as though this was the most regular, ordinary, commonplace thing in the world.

Well, it wasn’t to me. To me, that cheque changed EVERYTHING. Profoundly.

For someone brought up in a single parent family, and who’d then gone on to be a freelancer in the entertainment industry, this provided security… and it provided options. I could help my family, I could make plans, I could invest for the future.

And when Judi and I joyously welcomed our daughter Lily into the world less than a year later, I can’t tell you how great it was to have that security. To know that things were going to be okay; that I had provided, and that our brand new happy little family was off to a wonderful start. To this day, we still drive the car that it bought (I never took delivery of the Volvo – I sold it back to the dealership instead), we still live in the house that it bought… and there have been so many other benefits, far too numerous to count.

And they all come from something I did over a handful of days, fifteen years ago. In some ways, it all still feels like yesterday. I was, I am, and I always will be so very, very grateful. And so very glad that I decided to embark on my quiz show journey, all the way back in 1994. Crikey – that’s 26 years ago now! The rewards just keep on coming, from that day to this, and I know they’ll continue to do so, into the future. So if you happen to be considering diving into the world of quiz shows / game shows, all I can say – loudly, enthusiastically, and fairly unsurprisingly – is…

GO

FOR

IT!! 

A HTWGS TV review: The ITV miniseries ‘Quiz’

Hello!

Something a little bit different this week – it’s my first review for this year! And today, I’m looking at the recent ITV miniseries Quiz. This three-part drama was written by James Graham, who based it on his earlier, successful play that examined the infamous “coughing major” scandal from the early days of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? 

It’s been shown on various pay TV outlets and streaming services: if you haven’t seen it yet, you can find out how to watch it in your neck of the woods right here.

I was really impressed by this production, although I thought it got off to a pretty shaky start. While its depiction of the genesis of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire was fun, some of the writing in the first episode was pretty shonky, to say the least.

Although it’s good to have clearly defined characters… there are more subtle ways of doing it than this, which would have to be one of the most egregious examples of on-the-nose dialogue I’ve heard in years. Producer Paul Smith is trying to entice TV presenter and DJ Chris Tarrant to host the show, and he mentions that he’s dipped in to his own mortgage to fund the show’s development…

CHRIS TARRANT: Otherwise, You, Paul Smith, have to put your own money….

PAUL SMITH: Not if you, Chris Tarrant, agree to present the show.

SHEESH! If there’s a more cringe-worthy recent example of characters making sure the audience knows their names, I can’t think of it. After that, I almost expected them both to drop character, look down the barrel of the camera and say “everybody got that?”, before they moved on with the rest of the scene.

Later in this episode, we meet ‘the Syndicate’ – an underground network of quiz show enthusiasts attempting to help each other in their attempts to win on WWTBAM. This idea is introduced with split screens, mysterious voiceover narration, secret door knocks, animated maps of the UK and spy movie music on the soundtrack. When you add in Trystan Gravelle’s melodramatic performance as the twitchy, nervous brother-in-law Adrian… it all looks like it’s supposed to be funny; like a parody, or a sequence from Austin Powers. But then again, I’m not so sure. I think the show might want us to take all this stuff seriously, as though it’s a slick, cool, exciting example of clever film making. But I can’t be 100% sure; tonally, it’s confusing. A real directorial misstep there (by the great Stephen Frears, no less).

Another moment in the first episode that doesn’t ring true is the producers’ utter shock that trivia buffs are trying to learn all they can about the game, to improve their chances at it. It’s as if the producers can’t conceive that any potential contestants (who usually tend to be pretty clever people) would think to do any research or preparation. Even when (as the producers themselves incessantly remind us), the top prize is A MILLION POUNDS! I’d argue that that’s worth doing a little bit of homework for. Does the show really expect us to think producers would be that naive? I understand that this is a drama, and that drama needs conflict, but when the producers ask each other “Is this cheating?”, the actual answer is a resounding No. What the aspiring WWTBAM contestants are doing is research; it’s training for a specific competitive event. Anyone can do it, if they watch the show intelligently and prepare for it intelligently. It’s not against the rules. When an athlete trains for the Olympics… are all of their legal training efforts and preparations “cheating”? And as for the producers’ protestations that “it’s not in the spirit of the game”… what’s that supposed to mean? Where is “the spirit of the game” defined in the contract? Nah, at this stage, these smart contestants are just intelligently maximising their chances, within the rules.

Towards the end of the first episode, the melodrama gets dialled up to eleven, as fraught brother-in-law Adrian’s debts get the better of him, and he has “to go… disappear… run away for a bit… a while… I’m sorry”. In scenes like this, the show’s really not much better than a soap opera.

But things do get better in Episodes Two and Three… Much better!

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