“You CAN do it… because you’ve already done it.” Or ‘Sisyphus v 2.0’

Sisyphus – a King in Greek mythology, doomed by Zeus to repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill, for all of eternity. According to the story, at the end of each day, Sisyphus succeeds in rolling the boulder to the top of the hill, only to watch it roll back down to its starting point, forcing him to roll it up to the top again. And so on, and so on, and so on… This myth is often used as a symbol for any futile, repetitive action. In fact, the word Sisyphean is used to refer to “a task that’s endless and unavailing.”

Bummer.

I’d like to encourage poor old Sisyphus to look on the bright side, though. Think about it; after all the times he’s rolled that boulder up the hill, he must be really, really good at rolling a boulder up a hill. In fact, if “practice makes perfect”, there’d be no one better at uphill-boulder-rolling in the entire world than Sisyphus. Now, while there’s no denying that Sisyphus’s situation is pretty frickin’ dire, at least he can take comfort in the fact that each morning when he wakes up, he’s going to be able to do what he has to do, and he’s going to be able to do it really well. He’s done it before. Heaps of times, in his case.

Which brings me to the subject of today’s post: “You can do it… because you’ve already done it.” This is a really powerful thought. And it’s a thought worth memorising and locking away, because when you revisit it at the right time, and remind yourself of it, it can give you a real boost. A case in point….

Three days ago, I went for the biggest audition of my life*.

It was for the lead role in a big new play, that’s adapted from some very well-loved original source material. I’ve never been better prepared for an audition. I learned the lines and did every bit of homework and research I could on the source material – even looking up a couple of unfamiliar words. I wanted to know the source material inside out. I recorded my lines, made them into a playlist for my iPod, and played them back to myself repeatedly, when driving, walking the dog, or just doing jobs around the house. My initial audition was on Monday. I did well enough to get through to the second round, and auditioned again on Tuesday. I did well enough in that audition to get through to the third and final round, which was on Saturday.

I did a lot of self-talk during the whole process. And one of the things I kept telling myself, like a mantra, was “you can do it, because you’ve already done it“. I had got through the first audition, I had got through the second audition – I just had to keep doing what I had been doing, and I’d be okay. It was largely a matter of doing the same thing and tweaking it.

Saturday’s final audition was a marathon – from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, performing scene after scene, interspersed with long stretches of waiting in a theatre foyer and trying not to get too chatty with the 6 other actors who were going for the role I so desperately want. They were my competition. I didn’t socialise with them. I wrote notes in my notebook, I put my iPod on, and just kept myself to myself. I didn’t want to buy into any conversations, potential mind games, or give too much of myself away.

Having said that, from time to time I did try to listen to their conversations, to see what pieces of intel I could pick up about the day’s proceedings, about how well they thought they went, and any other useful nuggets of information. In this way, I discovered:

  • The day of auditions I was attending was the one and only day of final auditions. (This was good news, as I had previously understood that there were 2 days of final auditions, and this was the second one. This would have meant there’d have been twice as many people going for “my” role.)
  • One of my competitors didn’t bother to learn the lines of the 3 additional scenes they’d sent us 2 days before the audition.
  • That same competitor said during his auditions, he saw the big boss doing a crossword. (This was good news for me, as I had the big boss’s full attention during my auditions)

“Well, that’s all well and good and fine and dandy, Stephen”, I hear you say, “but how does all this relate to game shows and game show strategy? Hmm?”

Well, much like a game show, last Saturday’s audition was a competitive situation. I had opponents. And I had to share a waiting room with them for quite some time. I had to wait, to manage my energy levels. When called upon, I had to bring my A-Game, I had to perform in short bursts in a high-pressure, competitive situation. And I had to do it repeatedly, between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM.

So some of my own game show training came in handy. I approached it as I approached my run on Temptation. Although they gave us an hour-long break for lunch, I had brought a couple of muesli bars in my bag, just to help with blood sugar levels. At about 11:00 in the morning, I saw one actor – who hadn’t been called in to audition yet – duck out of the foyer to go and get something to eat; he was “starving”. One minute after he left the building – you guessed it – he was called in to audition. He wasn’t there, so they bumped his audition time back to later in the day. More stress, more suspense for him. And completely avoidable, if he’d just packed some snacks beforehand.

If you’ve auditioned for a game show and got through that initial interview, and you’re about to appear on the game show for real, “You can do it… because you’ve already done it”. If you’re on the game show, and you’ve won your first episode, and you’re about to play your second episode, “You can do it… because you’ve already done it”Or your third episode, “You can do it… because you’ve already done it”Or your fourth episode, “You can do it… because you’ve already done it”. Or your fifth, “You can do it… because you’ve already done it”.

This mantra was exactly what I told myself each time I stepped up to the plate during my 7 night winning streak on Temptation.

This mantra is what I tell myself now, as I tweak and revamp my iPhone app Step-By-Step-Story, for a Version 2.0.

On game shows just as in life, once you’ve actually got the ball rolling from a dead stop, you’ve already done the hardest part. Once you’ve got some momentum happening, a large amount of the work is already done. I think we need to remind ourselves of that sometimes. We are all capable of achieving truly great things – and once you’ve taken that all-important first step, you’re on your way. So take that step!

* At the time of writing, I haven’t heard back as to whether I got the part or not. In case you’re curious, I’ll let you know what the audition was for when the results have been announced. 

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Next week, I’m very pleased to present the first part of my first ever interview with a real live game show creator! I was excited to get a chance to talk to this person, since I’ve never interviewed someone who actually invented a game show before! “But which game show is it?” I hear you cry, “and who is this game show creator of which you speak?”, I hear you ask, in an unnecessarily formal fashion. All will be revealed next week. Just as my eBook How To Win Game shows (still available at the special price of $19.99 AU) will be revealed** if you click this link. See you next Tuesday!  

** This has been the latest in my series of ludicrously tangential eBook plugs at the end of my weekly post. Thank you.

 

Exclusive interview with ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Temptation’ Champion Blair Martin – Part III

Blair-Winning-Reaction-DSC_

Blair’s winning moment, from Blair’s winning episode of ‘Temptation’ !

Hello, Happy New Year, and welcome to the third instalment of my interview with Jeopardy! champion, AND Temptation Grand Champion, Blair Martin. This week, Blair and I discuss his run on Temptation – the climax of which is pictured to the right – and he reveals a couple of Jeopardy! pearls of wisdom that the show’s production staff shared with him. If you remember, at the end of last week’s post, Blair had just fronted up to the Temptation audition in Brisbane.

Now, Dear Reader, read on….

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BM: I got through and during the interview with one of the contestant co-ordinators, and she had also been the co-coordinator on The Einstein Factor; Karla Burt. She was lovely. And I know the co-ordinators of Jeopardy! back in ’93 when they were doing the auditions, after everyone had done the 50 questions, and when they were being marked, they’d play an episode of Jeopardy! for people to watch. They said to me after I taped my Jeopardy! episodes (which were in March and my first episode aired on April Fool’s Day!), they said to me “We are now playing your episode at the auditions”; while they’re marking the tests. “We just leave the room and say “we want you all to be like him’…” 

SH: Nice. 

BM: “… ‘Which is; you look in the camera, you interact with the host, you wager big amounts because that increases the interest from the audience, and you are fine”. (The show’s host) Tony Barber actually said in the production meeting between the two weeks “Blair’s an actor. It means that the lights are on and the camera is on and he is back on. When it’s not, he’s off”. When you are on those programs, to me… I treat it as a job. I have a job to do, which is look good, be presentable and make good television. That’s what we’re here to do.

SH: It is interesting what you say about the wagering and how it relates to Temptation, because I haven’t seen all of your run, but your final episode is on YouTube (and now also on the HowToWinGameShows Facebook page, here), which I watched in preparation for this. It seemed to me that your strategy was to buy in the Gift Shop and certainly not hold back, and you seemed to breeze through that final episode. The final score was 34 plays 25 plays 116. You seemed very relaxed. During your run on Temptation, did you often spend that big? 

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“I say, you say, weren’t you listening?”

Eighties Australian synthpop band Pseudo Echo, from their music video 'Listening'

Eighties Australian synthpop band Pseudo Echo, from their music video ‘Listening’

I say, you say
“Weren’t you listening?”
Now it’s too late –
You’re not listening.
I say, you say
“Weren’t you listening?”
Now it’s too late –
You’re not listening.

From Pseudo Echo‘s début single Listening, 1983*.

Hi.

This week, I’d like to revisit a point that Vin Hedger made in our chat last week…

SH: From your perspective as a question writer, what common mistakes do you see contestants making when answering quiz questions on TV?

VH: Predicting the question before they hear it and answering their question rather than the actual one.

This is something you see time and time again. Not just in quiz shows, but in all game shows requiring their contestants to answer questions. By “answering their question rather than the actual one”, Vin means the contestant has already “heard” a question that’s different to the one being asked; they’ve incorrectly anticipated where the question is heading.

The skill of active listening – of attentive, conscious listening – is a really valuable skill for any game show contestant to have. If you’re a good, active, anticipatory listener, then you’re already ahead of your opposition who almost certainly haven’t given any thought to the role that listening plays in game show success. So, how do you become a good active, anticipatory listener?

Firstly, I’d recommend you have a look at this great video – it’s from the fantastic TED Talks site. In this short video (just under 8 minutes), sound expert and keynote speaker Julian Treasure speaks about conscious listening, and gives 5 great tips that you can use to improve your conscious listening skills.

It all starts with thinking about listening as an active process. Listening is different from just “hearing”; listening is something that you actually do, not something that just happens to you.

I’m not going to tell you what Julian Treasure’s 5 tips are, because I want you to watch this video for yourself. But he’s a powerful, eloquent speaker, and his message is really worth hearing. So I strongly recommend investing 8 minutes of your time in watching – and really absorbing – this.

After you’ve taken Julian’s 5 tips on board, and have started practising them, there are other exercises you can do to improve your listening skills.

One good site I’ve found for listening-related exercises is:

http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/develop/cpd/listening-skills-exercises

Something to bear in mind, though – the exercises here are mostly group exercises, so you’ll need to find someone to help you with them. But again, it’ll be worth it – you’ll both reap the rewards!

So there are some general introductory ideas to get you thinking about – and working on –  your conscious listening skills. “That’s all very well and good, Stephen,” I hear you cry, as I listen perhaps a little too consciously, “but what about some game show specific listening tips? Hm? Hm? Or have you forgotten the name of your own blog?”

Alright, alright, smartypants; calm down – I’m coming to that.

Unbelievable. So, here are my top 5 game show listening tips. Bear in mind that you’ll get more out of these and be better able to put them into practice if you’ve done some of the homework above.

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EXCLUSIVE interview with star of ‘The Chase: Australia’ – Matt Parkinson! Part VII – The Conclusion

Can you spot which one might have the nickname 'Goliath'?

Matt ‘Goliath’ Parkinson – fourth from the left, second from the right.                                              The tall one.                                                                                                                                                 You get the idea.

 

 

This week, as my interview with Matt ‘Goliath’ Parkinson winds up, we discuss resisting temptation, and the favours that a formidable reputation can do you.

But first, this recollection from his time as a Sale of the Century champion….

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MP: There is one other thing I wanted to say. A really significant moment for me when I was playing Sale of the Century, was when one of my rivals at one stage said something about her mortgage.

SH: To you?

MP: To me. It was obviously meant to make me feel bad for her and let her win. And you shouldn’t do that; you should not at any stage feel sorry for your opponent. Because people want to see an honest competition, they want to see it played hard and fair and so you should not at any stage think about pulling up or going easy. Don’t be bothered by compassion – it’s a contest.

SH: I had a similar moment in mine where I was just trouncing this bloke on the end and he got nothing right and he was embarrassed; his male pride was suffering and we came to a Fame Game and he said “Come on mate, you can at least let us get one of these right!” It was just that his pride that was suffering, and I just smiled, but I thought “Not on your LIFE! What are you, nuts? Are you crazy? Of course not!”

MP: Exactly, exactly. And it’s part of what people want to see when they watch a show like that. They want to go “so he didn’t even let them get one bloody question, the whole game!” If that’s going to happen – if you can do that to people – then go ahead and do that, because that’s one of the things people want to see.

SH: That’s entertaining.

MP: One of the things I discovered about Sale – which I thought was really nice, and I didn’t know this – but people would come up to me and say either I owed them a drink, or they would buy me a drink. Because it was quite common with Sale for people to sit in pubs at that time of night and have a little five dollar or ten dollar bet on who was going to win the night.

SH: Oh, really?

MP: Yeah, so I had people come up to me and they would either say “you cost me five bucks because you won it; you beat the guy I was betting on”, or “I am going to buy you a drink, because you won me ten bucks!”

The other thing is to remember that for the audience, some people just want to see a good contest. They don’t care whether they know the answers or not; they just want to see how many you can get right.

SH: Did you buy much stuff in the Gift Shop on your run?

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EXCLUSIVE interview with star of ‘The Chase: Australia’ – Matt Parkinson! Part V

The Chase Australia - 'Goliath'

Now that’s a serious face.

As I continue my chat with Matt Parkinson (who’s currently appearing as ‘Goliath’ on The Chase: Australia) this week, we sidestep for a moment, to talk about his time behind the camera….

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SH: You mentioned you’d been setting quizzes on another show; this was another by-product of your Quiz Show Champion credentials wasn’t it? Writing and setting questions for Million Dollar Minute; how long did you do that for?

MP: In human years, twenty months. In TV time, 400 shows. I started as a question writer and took over as Question Producer when the original QP had to move on. I should emphasise that I didn’t write all the questions, a team of writers and assistants came up with most of them and I made decisions about content and style. But I still wrote a few, that’s the fun part.

SH: What’s the main guiding principle, or rule of thumb, for programming questions for a quiz show?

MP: For a mainstream network show, the content needs to be accessible. The audience needs to feel that, even if they don’t know the answer, somebody they know – their mate who’s mad about sport, their kids who know about music and pop culture, the guy at work who reads all the papers – somebody like that would know it. Brevity is also critical – the question can’t be so long-winded that players and viewers can’t take it in easily.

SH: Did you have any rules about how you programmed the question mix? Was it, for example, 10% sport, 10% science, 30% arts and entertainment…?

MP: After a while, it became obvious that we could have done a whole show just about movies. Science, history, books, maths, even sport, all pale in comparison to how much knowledge most people have about movies. I think this is from two things. One, when people love a movie, they can go online and find out heaps about it quite easily because of imdb and all the other sites written by movie lovers. Two, movie culture is huge, publicity for big movies dominates – I know lots of things about films I’ve never seen just because of the publicity. The short answer is that we made a big effort to balance classic general knowledge with movie-based questions.

SH: Was there anything you learned as a question programmer, that made you think “I wish I’d known that when I was a contestant”? If so, what was it?

MP: There are many insights I’ve gained from my time on Million Dollar Minute. But now I’m competing against all comers as ‘Goliath’ on The Chase. So I’ll be keeping those insights to myself.

SH: Fair enough. Is your studying and training for The Chase more like work or more like fun?

MP: It’s work now. It’s work now because I’m expected to do it and there is something at  stake because I’m part of the team on the show, and the idea is that we’re supposed to be unbeatable. So I wouldn’t be doing my  job properly if I wasn’t training. Before this, up until now it was fun. With Sale I didn’t really train very much because I was a bit daunted by the idea of “Where do I start? How far back do I go?” If I pick ‘Formula One champions’, how far back do I go? If I try and learn them all by heart, am I going to go right back to the establishment? So back then it was just the way I lived my life; I read the papers and I watched factual TV and watched the news and paid attention to it all and just sort of sponged things in the way people like us – you, I and the people who subscribe to your blog – the way we do. We just sponge things in. So this is different now; it’s work, so it’s odd trying to consciously do something that always had come naturally to you – to try and consciously up the level at which you absorb something you’ve always just naturally absorbed.

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Next week, Matt gives his TOP 4 TIPS for anyone considering going any game show, anywhere. They’re all really great, but there’s one really clever, practical tip that no-one I’ve interviewed for this blog has ever given before. So be sure to check back next Tuesday to find out what it is…

 

EXCLUSIVE interview with star of ‘The Chase: Australia’ – Matt Parkinson! Part IV

As my interview with Matt continues this week, we’re up to the bit where he’s won the coveted role as one of the four Chasers on The Chase: Australia. Due to Matt’s height (6’7″), his character has been christened Goliath, and so when THIS particular contestant faced off against him, it was a network promo maker’s dream come true….

Now read on…

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SH: As a Chaser, I’m thinking you’d need to be at the top of your game, because obviously it’s make-or-break, in terms of the quizzing and general knowledge, your knowledge and also your reflexes and speed and recall. Is there a way to train for that? And do you regularly train for that?

MP: I wasn’t aware that there is a worldwide quiz brethren; an elite coterie. And they train each other. One of the most effective ways that they train is they use various sites where you can compose quizzes and basically send your friend “I’ve sent this quiz for you”. So that’s what a lot of them do, is they set quizzes for each other. That’s very useful, because to confront the whole universe of human knowledge and go “okay, where do I start studying?” And you take one tiny element, like Rugby Union. Now, you can spend a week studying nothing but Rugby Union, and still not cover a question like “where was this player born?”

So the quiz is useful because when you get a question wrong, it points you to where you should be looking. You go “alright, that’s a subject or a style of question that I haven’t thought of so I should think of studying for those sorts of questions”. It’s also just one more thing that you go “if that comes up, I will know it”. 

SH: Who is this coterie?

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How I became “Australia’s Brainiest Quiz Master” – Part IV – The CLIMAX!

Australia's Brainiest with trophy - Copy

SPOILER ALERT: I won.

So it’s all come down to thisBut first:

THE STORY SO FAR (which you could also easily catch up on by watching the actual show, over at the How To Win Game Shows Facebook page)…

I’ve managed to get through the final round, where there are just three of us competing; William Laing (Sale of the Century champ and $500,000 winner on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire), Rob “The Coach” Fulton (Australia’s first Who Wants To Be A Millionaire millionaire)… and me.

In this final round, we have each answered five questions, and we are tied on 6 points. We have entered a tie-breaker situation.

William’s turn is next, and he chooses another general knowledge question. Then I notice that only two of his five special subject questions have been chosen so far – has he forgotten where they all are? He gets the general knowledge question correct, and is now on 7 points. Then Rob gets a general knowledge question, and also gets it right. So after that bonus round of tie breaker questions, William and Rob are tied on 7, so a clear winner cannot be declared.

Another bonus tie breaker round begins with my turn, and this time I finally pick my one remaining special subject question, worth 2 points … At last!

And the question is:

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How I became “Australia’s Brainiest Quiz Master” – Part III

ABQ logoTHE STORY SO FAR (which you could also easily catch up on by watching the actual show, over at the How To Win Game Shows Facebook page)…

It was February, 2006. I was appearing as a contestant on a one-off special called Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster. The show brought together 9 quiz show winners – Grand Champions from Sale of the Century, Temptation and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and  was hosted by the glamorous and lovely newsreader Sandra Sully.

Sandra Sully, on the 'Australia's Brainiest' set.

Sandra Sully, on the ‘Australia’s Brainiest’ set.

So far, I had just avoided getting eliminated at the end of Round 1 – when three of the nine contestants fell by the wayside, and had just scraped through at the end of Round 2, where another three contestants said goodbye. In Round 3, I faced off against William Laing and Rob “The Coach” Fulton. In this round, five ‘special subject’ questions for each contestant are hidden somewhere in a board of 36 numbers. My chosen ‘special subject’ was The Original Star Wars trilogy, and my questions (denoted by the red squares) were distributed thus: 

Special Subject board

… And we were only given 10 seconds at the start of the round to memorise their positions. And this is where I came unstuck in this round; trying to remember where on the board my special subject questions were hidden. I’d picked the wrong square on my second try, revealing a general knowledge question, which I then got wrong.

By this time, William was successfully picking squares that had his own questions, and getting them right, as was Rob, and I’m thinking “There’s no way I can win now, but I’ve put in a good showing.”

At this stage, Rob’s on 6 points, William’s on 5 points, and I’m on 4.

On my fourth choice, I do manage to choose one of my own special subject questions… but I get it wrong! The question:

Untitled6

And, as you can see by my face, I don’t know it. I just don’t know it. All I can think of is the opening line of the title crawl in Episode IV, which is, of course “It is a period of civil war”. And I say as much, and I don’t get the points.*

Then William (deliberately?) steals one of Rob’s questions, and gets it wrong. Then Rob chooses one of his own, and gets it wrong, so scores still see Rob on 6, William on 5 and me on 4.

My turn’s next, and I successfully choose one of my own questions. And I know the answer. And that makes me happy.

Untitled7

I already knew that Wedge Antilles was played by Denis Lawson, who is Ewan McGregor’s uncle, just because it’s a great piece of Star Wars trivia. But I had also seen it recently, in one of those online quizzes that I used for training, so that just made me doubly sure of it. I answer correctly; 2 points.

So now I’m tied with Rob on 6. Then William (surely accidentally) chooses a general knowledge question from the board, which is only worth 1 point, rather than one of his own special subject questions, which would have been worth 2. However, he answers correctly, and so now all three of us are tied, on 6 points. Then Rob chooses a general knowledge question worth 1 point. And gets it wrong.

So after the end of the fifth question for each of us, we’re all on 6 points.

Which means that it’s now a tiebreaker situation, forcing us to play rounds of additional questions until a clear winner can be declared.

At this crucial point, I miss choosing one of my own questions, and choose the general knowledge question that’s right next to it. And it pains me. The question: ‘What is the world’s third longest river?’ I don’t have a hope, and I guess the Zambezi, and it’s the Yangtse. I’m still on 6 points, but at least I’ve finally worked out / remembered (by incorrectly choosing all the numbers around it) that my final special subject question is actually hiding behind number 20. But I’m sure and certain that my answer to that river question has completely sunk any chances I might have of winning.

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But had Stephen really scuppered any chance he ever may have had of winning this thing? (No.)

Or could he perhaps rally, and edge past his two competitors, to claim the ultimate prize? (Yes.)

To end this unbearable and strangely unconvincing suspense, be sure to check in here next week for the final instalment in this series – How I became “Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster” – Part IV – THE CLIMAX!

And just a quick reminder; the INTRODUCTORY OFFER on ‘How To Win Game Shows: The eBook’ ends THIS COMING SUNDAY! If you buy the book now, you’ll get a special FREE BONUS CHAPTER that won’t be available after then. So get in quick! It’s right here: www.howtowingameshows.com/products 

* For those playing along at home, the answer is “It is a dark time for the Rebellion“.

How I became “Australia’s Brainiest Quiz Master” – Part II

ABQ logoWhen we left the Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster journey last week, I’d just escaped being eliminated at the end of Round 1…

In Round 2 of the Australia’s Brainiest format, each player must choose 2 categories from a board of 12, and then answer 45 seconds of rapid fire questions on those categories. The questions appear on screen as (the host) Sandra Sully asks them, so you can read them before she finishes saying them. The first category I chose was ‘Film’ and I scored 9 points in that 45 seconds. There was one question that I queried; “What was the second James Bond film to be released?”, to which I had answered Dr No (1962), on the grounds that Dr No was the second time the James Bond character had appeared on screen – the first being in a TV play adaptation of Casino Royale in 1954 (which calls the character “Jimmy Bond” and turns him into an American!) But I shouldn’t have second-guessed the question – that version of Casino Royale was not a film, and certainly not an official EON Productions one. Sandra corrected me, and I just looked like a bit of a dill. From Russia With Love (1963) was of course, the second official Bond film. Everybody knows that.

The second category I chose was ‘Music’, and only managed to score 4 points this time. Not good on those classical music questions at all. Around this time, I’m thinking “that’s it. I really won’t survive past the end of this round.” Then Cary Young – who had blitzed the first half of this round, getting 11 questions correct in super fast time – chose the ‘Current Affairs’ category… and scored zero. I was stunned.

I had managed to just squeak through into Round 3, to face off against William (who’d scored a mighty 18 in this round) and Rob (who’d scored 12). My score had been 13. Unlucky for some…

And so Round 3 began, with just three contestants… William, Rob and I had our scores reset to zero, and faced another codebreaker, to determine who would play first. This time, the clue was “a chemical element”, and the combination was 435486.

Untitled5

I think once I had the first 3 letters H-E-L, I knew what it was. In fact, I was fastest here! Perhaps I was more relaxed, as there was no threat of elimination this time. A note here; the keyboards that each contestant had on their podium in the show were not traditional ‘Qwerty’ keyboards; the keys on them were arranged in alphabetical order. This was to eliminate any unfair speed advantage that a touch typist may have over those of us who use the ‘hunt and peck’ method of typing. A great way of levelling the playing field; they really did think of everything over there at Australia’s Brainiest !

Anyway, despite winning ‘Pole Position’ for Round 3, I was certainly not confident. William’s score was all but flawless in Round 2; he really, really knew his stuff, and he was fast. And as for Rob, with his specialty areas… well, he was just a walking encyclopaedia! But William was faster and more aggressive, and I think in the back of my mind, I just assumed that he’d win this. I’d already told myself that I’d done well to get this far, and I was very pleased to make it to the final three.

The special subject I had chosen for Round 3 was the original Star Wars trilogy. And although I do have a head full of that stuff, I did quite a lot of training for it by doing online Star Wars quizzes. (There’s no shortage of them!) And bearing in mind that the show’s question writers would have needed to write 9 sets of special subject questions for this final round, (one for each initial contestant), I thought “that’s quite a workload for them. I wonder if they might be looking to online Star Wars quizzes, too, for question ideas?”

In this round, we’re faced with a board of 36 squares, and each square has a question behind it. Hidden behind 5 of these 36 squares are each player’s own 5 special subject questions (mine were denoted by the red squares; Rob’s were the blue ones and William’s were gold), but we were only given a 10 second glimpse of their location at the start of the round… 

Special Subject board

If a square you pick doesn’t have one of your own special subject questions (worth 2 points) behind it, it’ll have one of your opponents’ questions (worth 3 points, if you steal it and successfully answer it), or a general knowledge question (worth 1 point).

And this is where I came unstuck in this round; trying to remember where on the board my special subject questions were hidden. I picked the wrong square on my second try, and got a general knowledge question, which I then got wrong.

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Was this a bad omen? Would I continue to blindly scramble around the board trying to remember where my special subject questions were? Would Rob and William do the same? Would it be an easy win or a down-to-the-wire struggle?

For the answer to these and many more questions, check back here next week! (Or you could just watch the videos, over at the How To Win Game Shows Facebook page.)

Cheers,

Stephen.

How I became “Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster” – Part I

Hello. How are you? That’s the ticket.

Okay, yes, alright – look; I know that the tagline for www.howtowingameshows.com is “PRACTICAL TIPS FOR WINNING GAME SHOWS, FROM SOMEONE WHO’S BEEN THERE AND DONE THAT… TWICE!” And I also know that so far, I’ve only really talked in depth about the first of my two game show wins, on Temptation, in 2005.

I GET IT; alright, alright, calm down, everyone… Sheesh!

So today, I present the first of a four-part series on how I became – on the Big People’s Television at least, if not necessarily in real life – “Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster”.

But first, a bit of background for you… Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster was a one-off special that aired in Australia, on the Ten Network, on February 19th, 2006.

Sandra Sully 2

Newsreader Sandra Sully, the host of ‘Australia’s Brainiest Kid’, and all the ‘Australia’s Brainiest’ specials.

It came off the back of Australia’s Brainiest Kid, which was an adaptation of Britain’s Brainiest Kid. The success of that series saw Network Ten keen to keep the ratings coming, and so a series of Australia’s Brainiest specials was commissioned almost instantaneously.

The first three specials were Australia’s Brainiest Comedian (whose winner, Mikey Robins chatted to me for the blog), Australia’s Brainiest TV Star, (whose winner, Julia Zemiro, also kindly gave me an interview), and the one I participated in… Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster. And putting to one side the fact that “Quizmaster” usually refers to the host or compère (i.e. the question-asker, rather than the question-answerer), it really was great fun.

The year was 2005 – after my Temptation win (obviously), but before my appearance on the Temptation Quizmasters special (more of which, in a later post), when I was approached to go on Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster. At that time, I was still riding high, and full of confidence from my Temptation win. I thought “Sure, why not?! I’ve earned it! I’m one of the elite now, Baby – it feels good! Plus… a bit of more of the spotlight? A self-aggrandising TV appearance? You bet – why wouldn’t I?!”

It was only when I got into the studio on Record Day, and saw the competition, including the one and only Cary Young – The Man Who I had grown up watching win Sale Of The Century again and again and again; The Man Who’d won more Sale Of The Century ‘Champion of Champions’ tournaments than I could count; The Man Who’d been writing quizzes for newspapers for years; The Man Who I saw as nothing less than INVINCIBLE…

… that I started to feel a whole lot less sure of myself.

My eight opponents (the Australia’s Brainiest format started with nine contestants, who were eventually whittled down to three) were formidable quizzers indeed. They comprised:

– Temptation champion Brigid O’Connor,

– The two Who Wants To Be A Millionaire millionaires – Martin Flood and Rob “The Coach” Fulton, and the first man to win the $500,000 on WWTBAM, Trevor Sauer.

– And Sale Of The Century champions William Laing, Maria McCabe, Virginia Noel (who would also go on to win Series 3 of The Einstein Factor the next year), and the man himself… Cary Young.

As I fronted up to the first round, I wondered if I’d bitten off more than I could chew. How long would I manage to last? Would I be one of the first players eliminated? A cold, creeping thought that in my arrogance, I hadn’t considered before, was only just starting to hit me now…

This could be embarrassing. Very publicly embarrassing.

Very embarrassing indeed.

The first round was multiple choice, and I did not nail it. At all.

Four clear winners advanced to Round 2, and we three also-rans, who didn’t do quite so well (William Laing, Virginia Noel & I) had to play for the two remaining places in Round 2, with a fast round of “Matching Pairs”. In this example, we had to match four capital cities with their corresponding countries, as quickly as possible.

Capital cities

Fighting off instant panic as they all appeared before me, I went with the ones I knew first; Sofia belongs to Bulgaria, Budapest belongs to Hungary, Warsaw belongs to Poland and therefore Bucharest had to be the capital of Romania. I would not have been sure about Bucharest… but starting with the Familiar and working down to the Unfamiliar paid off (luckily there were only 4 pairs). Somehow I’d kept my head, and matched the pairs ever so slightly faster than Virginia. I was through to Round 2.

And then there were six…

Round 1 had seen the elimination of Brigid, Maria and Virginia, leaving just we six male contestants. To determine who would play first in Round 2, we played a codebreaker game. Using a phone style keypad, the task was to decode the name of a famous painter. The clue was “33427”;

ABQ Codebreaker

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