EXCLUSIVE interview with game show host Ed Phillips – Part VI

ed_phillips4This week, my exclusive interview with Aussie game show legend Ed Phillips wraps up, as I ask him his three most important tips for would-be game show contestants, and get his thoughts on The Very Future Of The Game Show Itself….


SH: What do you see as the future of game shows or quiz shows? We don’t seem to have many happening at the moment.

EP: Well, Deal Or No Deal had a great run. Million Dollar Minute – which is just a Temptation ripoff anyway – is back. Millionaire Hot Seat is strong as ever, now they are bringing back Family Feud. The three main networks – 7, 9 and 10 – have all been hamstrung by output deals for the last 2 years with Warner Brothers, Disney and CBS. So once that has expired, that’ll free up tens and tens of millions of dollars in budget so there will be new shows trialled, I think.

SH: Can you explain what you mean by “hamstrung by output deals”?

EP: Ok. Say Channel 9 for instance have a deal with Warner. I believe it’s 150 million dollars. For that, Warner would provide them exclusive access to things; the format to The Voice, Big Bang Theory, several movies, that sort of thing. Big Bang really only gives them a dozen or so new shows each year because they make so few, but it gets them all the back catalogue to play as many times as they like.

SH: And they sure do.

EP: Yeah. The Block cost them 10 – 20 million dollars to do a couple of series, The Voice costs them 40 or 50 million dollars, which includes The Kids’ Voice version as well; paying all the stars. But once those deals expire, they’re set to be renegotiated. So they will crunch those down by a factor of ten, and free up a lot of money for local production. Because you’re right – there’s literally been no local production in new shows, where they would once try something out for 6 or 10 episodes and see how it goes. They have all been running very lean. So Seven has been tied to Disney, Channel 10 has been tied to its American output deal. Once they all expire at the end of this year, there’ll be more money freed up for more projects – just to give them a trial, and see how they go.

SH: That’s interesting.

EP: There could be some new ones – that they haven’t even thought of – coming out. It could be revamping of many more old faves again. Because they won’t have to pay so much money for those, so they can give them a go.

SH: Yes, and try something even… (dare I say it?)… NEW!

EP: Whoo-hoo! Because as you’d know, there are hardly any great new formats of shows. The old ones are like old family favourites, tried and tested… and it is so hard to break in a new one that’s cool.

SH: That’s true.

EP: And of course everyone wants the added element of ‘can we play along at home’? Can we have an app running at the same time and test ourselves against a champ? Can we vote a champ off? Can we join in, if we missed the start of the show? Can we join in half-way through and play? Can we win prizes at home? Everyone wants this amazing multi-layered experience, that you didn’t get on Wheel of Fortune, when the wheel was just spinning around, watching it at home.

SH: It’s a different landscape now.

EP: Yeah.

SH: Ed, Thank you so much for chatting today. In closing, what would you say are the three most important things for someone to know if they want to be a contestant on a game show? I think you have covered some of the things earlier on. 

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‘Family Feud’ set to return to Australia!

Family-Feud_Grant-Denyer_ResizedFremantle Media has announced that the evergreen game show favourite Family Feud will soon be returning to Australian screens on Network Ten, in the 6:00 PM timeslot.

Ten is the third Australian network Family Feud will have appeared on. It ran on Nine from 1977 to 1984 and on Seven from 1989 to 1996. Previous hosts include Tony Barber, Daryl Somers, Sandy Scott, Rob Brough and John Deeks. And of course there was also the 2006 version featuring Bert Newton – Bert’s Family Feud, whose Executive Producer Michael Pope was interviewed exclusively for www.howtowingameshows.com back in June last year. You can (and should!) read the interview right here – it features lots of great Family Feud tips! 

Ten said in a statement that the show would be “funny, engaging and impossible not to play along with at home.” The audience will be invited to play along online via Tenplay and second screen app Beamly.

If you’re in Australia, and would like to audition, you can register by logging onto www.familyfeud.com.au, emailing familyfeud@fremantlemedia.com.au or calling 03 9947 0320.

Production has already commenced, but no on-air date has been announced at this stage. They’re just saying “later in the year”…

Survey says “Good Luck!”


MORE ‘Price Is Right’ winning tips, straight from the Producer!

price is right logo

This week, my interview with Michael Pope – in his capacity as producer of The Price Is Right – continues, as I ask him for more any more tips he might have…


MP: What I was going to say is the tip to win at Price Is Right is look at the audience. “Here’s a TV, and it’s one thousand eight hundred and what?” You, as a player, might have an opinion. And that’s really good. But the show has been built for you to have 100 people’s opinions! Look at that audience and you get a vibe that everybody is saying “99”, not “78”… so if you want to win at Price Is Right, it is not a solo game. It is very much you and the audience are trying to win. And that’s the biggest tip. And we say that during the recording; that’s no secret. Also people need to remember that the makers of the TV show want people to win. People come along and say “it’s too hard, it’s too hard”. No, the producers have budgeted the show in the way that they have so that they get winners, because what we haven’t talked about all morning is luck. There is still a hell of a lot of luck in all of these shows we’ve talked about. Millionaire – the one that stands out is that a woman won – 100 000, I think? – on a question “this man’s name is famous for which of these 4 areas of endeavour?” The night before, her daughter went to primary school and they named a hall in their school after this man. But what’s the chance? It was an obscure name. But just by chance, her daughter lived at the school that named it just the day before. So it’s that kind of luck… On Price Is Right, the luck comes in… maybe you were shopping at ‘Freedom’ two weeks before, and you saw that particular couch, so you know that it’s a $2000 and not a $1000 couch. It’s those sort of bits of luck. Deal Or No Deal obviously has a hell of a lot of luck about it.

SH: Yeah, perhaps more than any other show.

MP:  Indeed, indeed. And Bert’s Family Feud; less luck… it‘s more in tune with the population. But again – talking about that guy who had a very narrow life – if you were a person who was really into dogs, and you got the “give me the most popular dog name” – Bang! You’re a shoo-in. Luck is an important thing to impress on people. So when people get miffy and say “oh no one ever wins on that show” or “we weren’t able to win”, you’ll probably find that luck’s against them.  Because the producers want people to win, they work out a ratio of “we expect to give away so many cars over so many episodes” and it’s luck that is really driving that thing.

SH: Basically in The Price Is Right, it’s like the Millionaire lifeline of ‘Ask The Audience’; the whole show is ‘Ask The Audience’!

MP: The whole show. Even the showcase at the end where you put 7 things in order; you’re a mad person who doesn’t look to the audience and see that most of them are holding up the figure “3”… and you can see – if you watch old episodes – you can see where the people’s focus is. And also they look to their friend – their partner in the crowd – too much. And that’s about guilt. That’s about “it’s you and I are gonna win this. But if I don’t win it, then I can blame you, because you said ‘4’.” I would ignore the friend I came with, and just treat them like one of a hundred people, and take in the whole room, not just your partner.

SH: Does that come into play in Family Feud at all?

MP: No. Absolute silence. Because they are the 100 people. And if you listen to them, they would be yelling out the answers.

SH: But are their surveys used in that particular show?

MP: No, it probably takes 2 months to turn around between an audience member being asked a question, and then doing it. And so some people would say “But what if I turn up on the show and you use my question?” Well, you don’t know the answers; you just have heard of a question before and you gave your one answer. That’s not the same as knowing the top answer to the question.

SH: No, because you’re one of a hundred people.

MP: That’s right.


… and that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. The next stop on our journey through Michael’s multi-faceted career is his long involvement with How To Be A Millionaire.

What will he have to say on that subject? Check back in next week to find out!



MORE ‘Family Feud’ tips straight from the Executive Producer!

Bert's Family FeudMy interview with Michael Pope continues this week, the full unedited version of which will be available in my forthcoming eBook How To Win Game Shows. Last week Michael was talking about the skills required to do well at answering the questions on Family Feud, so let’s pick up where we left off…


SH: So you have to be in touch with the general population, because that’s where the show’s content comes from, from surveying the general population.

MP: Absolutely. The more you go to the football, the more you shop at Chadstone, the more you watch The Voice, and so on, the better you would be at Family Feud. Because we would survey 100 people and their top 7 answers are on the board. And we used the studio audience who came along to see the show as the 100 people. And we’d get them all collated and answered and what floats to the top are the good questions. A bad question is where there is one stand-out winner. So when I say “What surname do you think of when I say the following Christian name?” – and you play this, Stephen – “What surname do you think of when I say the following Christian name? Julia.”

SH: Gillard*

MP: Yeah. Out of a hundred people, 75 would say “Gillard”. That would not be a good question… because it’s so easy. And if 75% have used up the first answer, then the remaining 4 or 5 answers are spread among 25 respondents and so imagine: “On the board, how many people said Gillard? 75!” That so skews the score in that team’s favour. So you wouldn’t do that. As you wouldn’t do one where the answers all sat around between 10 and 21%. so you’re looking for a question that gave a maybe 30 answer as a top answer and then there was a 23 second answer and then there was 3 answers in the teens and then there was a 7 and an 8. They were the beautiful questions.

SH: Can you remember who the show’s biggest winning family was, and what they won or how much they won? Continue reading

‘Family Feud’ Tips, straight from the Executive Producer!

Bert's Family Feud

This week, I’m posting highlights of Part 2 of my interview with Michael Pope, where he talks about his time as Executive Producer on Bert’s Family Feud. This was a great discussion, and contains loads of useful tips for anyone wanting to be a contestant on Family Feud. We covered a bit of ground here, so I’m going to break it in to two parts, and post the second part of this discussion next week. The entire interview will be in my forthcoming eBook How To Win Game Shows, but for now, here’s the first part of my Family Feud discussion with Michael Pope.


SH: I’d like to move on now Bert’s Family Feud. Of course, Family Feud is a format that is running all over the world, so I think everyone’s pretty much familiar with the format; one family versus another family in responses to surveys. You were involved in the selection of the contestants and families through the audition and interview process. Could you talk about the sort of things you were looking for in families applying to go on?

MP: Yeah. The thing that I would say to contestants – and it’s applicable for The Price Is Right or Millionaire or Deal Or No Deal or any of them – is to be yourself, but on a really good day. What the auditioners are NOT looking for is someone saying “Oh, sorry I’m late. Jeez, the traffic was crap, wasn’t it? Whoa, you’re holding these auditions really far out, aren’t you? And this is right at dinner time.”

BUT we can smell a put-on kind of “Oh, I’m having the best day and this is fabulous!” and all of that kind of bullshit. We want to see the genuine you, because the game show – if it’s a good game show – takes the contestant through a number of different emotional states, many of them unexpected, and so you hope to see a real person reacting to a real situation. And so at the audition, we want to get an inkling of who the real person is.

If you’re the kind of person who brings negativity into a space let alone a job interview or an audition, we certainly wouldn’t want them on the show.

I was talking just the other day to Michael who auditions for Millionaire and he says

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Interview with game show host Michael Pope!

Michael PopeI’m very pleased to post an edited transcript of Part 1 of my interview with Michael Pope today.

I spoke to Michael a few weeks ago, about the many facets of his career, from game show host to game show producer… and beyond. I’ll posting edited highlights of all 4 parts of the interview in the coming weeks, and the entire thing will be available in my forthcoming eBook How To Win Game Shows. But for now, here are the highlights of Part 1 of the interview with Michael Pope – game show host extraordinaire!


SH: Welcome Michael Pope, I’m really pleased that you’ve agreed to talk to me today. Thank you very much for your time.

MP: Absolute pleasure. Which envelope would you like to open…?

SH: Envelope number 3, please!

MP: Alright then.

SH: You hosted Blockbusters from 1990 – 1993, and Total Recall from 1994 – 95, is that right?

MP: There were a couple of others in and around that, but they were certainly the longer ones.

SH: What where the other ones?

MP: As part of Wombat, in 1988 and 9, there was a show that was on Fridays only, called Guess Again which was to the same market as Blockbusters and Total Recall. Which was a very physical game. Rounds of things, two teams. If you YouTube “Guess Again Michael Pope” you might find something.

SH: And these were primarily kids’ game shows?

MP: Yes, that’s true.

SH: So as the host, what did you do to put contestants at ease?

MP: I do remember spending some time – and I mean 10 minutes, 15 minutes – with them before the recording of each show befriending them and letting them know “it’s kinda just us”. Trying to get them to forget that there are cameras and a whole viewing audience, and purely “Look I’ll be standing there, and you’re here, and your friends are over there about to cheer you on”

SH: Just sort of bringing it back down to earth…?

MP: Yeah, and “we’ve got some great prizes, whether you win or lose doesn’t really matter”. And also, in terms of briefing the contestants, they fill out a form that says “what are your favourite things?” and “what’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done?” and so on. And so I’d now get the form and say to Johnny “Oh, this is interesting, Johnny – tell me more about your soccer club”. And he’d say “I’m captain”. “And how’s last season gone?” “Good.” “Oookay…” and so I’d know to not go the soccer route, because there’s no stories there.

SH: Yeah.

MP: … Whereas “Tell me about the time you went to the snow” “Oh, it was great! We went with the whole family and my cousins came from Queensland as well and we went to Mt Bulla and I actually broke my leg”. Now you know that there’s a story. So it was a bit of drilling down to find out where the kid has the interest. And then I would say “that’s great! Now I might ask you that on TV. Now remember we haven’t had this conversation before, so when I say ‘how was the snow?’, don’t say ‘Oh, I told you’.”

SH: No, that wouldn’t be good!

MP: No it wouldn’t be good. But it happened a few times!

SH: Any memories of the best or most impressive contestants? Does anyone stick in your mind, in terms of what they brought to the show?

MP: Blockbusters was the show that had a path that you had to make across the board. And we gave the kids the clues to the answer by giving them the first letter of the answer. I  remember one little boy – and the answer began with the letter A – and the question was “What is that time in life between childhood and adulthood?” and little Johnny buzzed in, looked straight at the camera and said “Adultery?” Absolutely true.

SH: That’s great!

MP: But to answer your question, any stand-out contestants… I think the ones that were more mature for their age and got on well with adults were articulate, and they did remember the bit of briefing beforehand and so they were the good ones. The bad ones were the ones who got through the audition process, and were monosyllabic and showed no effort to embrace the game.

SH: When their nerves got the better of them, did you have any techniques –

MP: If you see something happening with nerves, the quicker you can get them out of the focus the better. So we would record for the segment which was 6, 7 minutes long, and then there’d be a one minute commercial break. If Johnny had not gone very well – either answering a question wrongly so he feels bad about himself – or was clumsy in an interview or whatever, then Gary Clare the warm up guy would very quickly get the focus to something else. So while Gary took the focus of the hundred or so audience members there, I might go over to Johnny and say “Oh mate, doesn’t matter about the last question”, “Oh yeah, it was a tough one, wasn’t it?”… that sort of thing, so the heat’s off him, rather than leave him out on a ledge thinking that he’s a dummy.


That’s it for Part 1, and although Michael was working primarily in kids’ game shows at this point in his career, I feel there are a couple of good reminders there for any type of game show. Next week, Part 2 of the interview, in which we discuss Bert’s Family Feud, on which Michael served as Executive Producer, from 2006 to 2007. Thanks again to Michael for speaking to me.

Interview update!

Hello! I just wanted to let you know that I’ve now interviewed the first of my special guests. He’s been a warm-up man for game shows, hosted game shows, produced game shows, executive produced game shows, and created game shows, the list goes on and on… it’s the one and only Michael Pope.

It was really great to chat to Michael. We had a very broad-ranging discussion, packed with loads of interesting facts, stories, tips and hints, and he gave very generously of his time and experience.

I’ll be transcribing our chat and getting all the highlights up here on the blog very soon, but before that, I just wanted to publicly thank Michael, and let you know that I’m on the case.

In the meantime, if you’re interested to learn more about Michael and his amazing career, his website’s at http://www.michaelpope.com.au/home.html

My next scheduled interview is with a member of that very exclusive club… a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire contestant who actually won the millionSo if you have any questions you’d like to ask him, it’s not too late. Just let me know what they are, via the comments section, and I’ll slot them right in to our chat!

In the meantime, I look forward to bringing you the results of my ‘audience with the Pope’. So watch this space…


Announcing 2 EXCLUSIVE interviews with high-calibre game show insiders!

Hello, I just wanted to interrupt the usual flow of posts to let you know about 2 exciting interviews I’ve managed to secure. I’m very happy to announce I’ve scored exclusive interviews with 2 very important figures in Australian game shows. And although they made their mark on game shows here, I know that their stories, principles and even techniques will have relevance the world over.

Australia_millionaire logoFirstly, a member of an extremely exclusive club. One of the very few Who Wants To Be A Millionaire contestants to go all the way, and win $1,000,000! He was the second person to achieve this incredible goal on Australia’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, back in November 2005. I’ll be speaking to him about his experience, his preparation process, his technique, and the unexpected controversy that followed his win ….

And my second interview will be a real Quadruple Whammy (to use ‘Press Your Luck‘ terminology). I’ll be speaking to a man who:

– has hosted 2 game shows on Australian television.

– produced the Australian version of The Price Is Right in 2003.

–  was also the producer of the Australian version of Family Feud from 2006 to 2007.

– And among many other endeavours  he’s currently involved in the recording of Millionaire Hot Seat – Australia’s current, 5-night-a-week version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire! When it comes to Australian game shows, he really has been there and done that…. on both sides of the camera!

I’ll be speaking to both of them very soon, and although my range of questions will hopefully be very comprehensive…

Are there any questions YOU’D like to ask a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire ACTUAL millionaire?

Are there any questions YOU’D like to ask a real live game show host?

And are there any questions YOU’D like to ask the former producer of The Price Is Right?

Of Family Feud?

If so, please let me know via the comments form below, and I’ll endeavour to add your questions into the interviews. Really looking forward to hearing what these two very admirable gentlemen have to say!