My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part VI

Hello and welcome to part six of my eight part interview with Australian Sole Survivor Pia Miranda. In the closing stages of her game, Pia made an observation about the different versions of the global franchise that is Survivor. It was an observation that I wanted to follow up on…

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SH: In your final appeal to the jury, when discussing your strategy, you said, “Australian Survivor is very different from American Survivor”. What did you mean by that? 

PM: I think Australians in general are different to Americans. Americans like bombastic behaviour and they like big moves; they’re very much willing to follow someone who shows themself to be a leader. Whereas in Australia, anyone who we think is getting too big for their boots – or seems like they’re on top of the pack – we’ll cut them down. So you’ve got to play a really different game. America rewards a brash game; you need to find an idol. It’s really hard for a woman to win American Survivor at the moment. I don’t think one’s won for 14 seasons or something. 

SH: Really? 

PM: Mm. So you have to make moves – because you want to have something to tell the jury – but you cannot let people think you’re on the top of the pack. Even when I was on top of the pack in the Contenders Tribe, I made sure everyone thought I was at the bottom of the three girls. Which was not true; it definitely was Janine and I running the show and then Abbey was following what we were doing. But I would tell the contenders that I didn’t know what was happening and they would tell me right before tribal “I’m just here to make friends,” that kind of thing. 

SH: So that was on your mind all the way through? That was your whole game plan. 

PM: They didn’t show this much, but I was really friendly. One of my biggest game plans, I learned from Cochran who is a super fan who played once played terribly, played second time played amazingly. Cochran and Sandra are my two people that I learned from. Sandra’s big thing was “don’t talk strategy unless you need to”. Don’t be running around camp all-day talking strategy, because it will come back to bite you in the arse. Cochran was really like “make real relationships with people, but then be willing to vote anyone out”. My social game was to really actually become friends with everyone and they were truthful relationships. I didn’t fake any of those relationships. When I got to jury in front of them, I could honestly say that I was really friends with every single person in that jury. And pretty good friends. I made an effort with them. 

SH: And voting them out is the game – it’s not personal, it’s just strategic. 

PM: Yes. Even Janine. I didn’t want Janine to go, but I kind of knew she had to go for me to win. I’m just glad I didn’t have to do it because I wouldn’t have put her name down. 

SH: Yes. It’s been a while now, since it all happened. Would you go back again for an Allstars version?

PM: No, (LAUGHS) I wouldn’t do it again. Winners get voted out pretty early. I’ve only got somewhere to fall now. And people know my game now.  

SH: So you can’t surprise them. 

PM: If America had an “All winners” season, I might do that. That’d be fun. And also, the American challenges aren’t as hard as the Australian challenges. Honestly, those challenges…. I would turn up for those challenges with a knot in my stomach thinking “What the hell?!” I was fine once I got to the merge and they were individual challenges. Those team challenges I found traumatizing. I felt my game was always to be likeable but strategic and then come out at tribal council and obliterate my competition and just be really aggressive. I’d have to think of a new game plan… I mean, there are tribals that go for 2 hours. 

SH: Really? 

PM: Yes, even people yelling at me “YOU ARE S**T!” 

SH: What? 

PM: That’s the job of the jury! To tell you how bad your game is, and why you don’t deserve it; your job is to fight. People are like “why were you getting so angry?” (in tribals). Well, they get angry at you for two hours, and it’s really intense. They only show a smidgen what really happens. But yeah, I definitely wouldn’t play Australian Survivor again – they would vote me out. Because I won it the previous time. 

SH: Back to what you were saying before – you’d have a target on your back, just by walking in the door. 

PM: Yes. Also, I won the half a million! I don’t know if I could fight as hard to take that away from someone else who hasn’t had the chance to win it. 

SH: Someone else’s turn. 

PM: It’s someone else’s turn. If I won it twice, I’d feel a bit guilty about that. I don’t know if I’d have the passion inside me – there’s 23 people going in, and someone else deserves a shot at this. 

SH: Absolutely. The only way is down. I felt a bit like that after Temptation. They had these Quizmasters (Champion of Champions) series. I did go on one, but I shouldn’t have… because I lost and it was embarrassing (LAUGHS). But after my big win I was flushed with success – I was riding high and my ego was doing strange things. Based on that, I also decided to go on Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster. As it turned out, I did just scrape through, although I probably didn’t really didn’t deserve to win. 

PM: The passion goes because you won or something.   

SH: It does feel a bit unfair – it’s someone else’s turn. It really is. 

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Next week, Pia and I discuss how winning this life-changing amount of money has…

erm…

changed her life.

See you then!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part V

Hello and welcome to part five of this eight-part interview.

And just as we reach the final stages of our chat, we’re also reaching the final stages of Pia’s Australian Survivor experience…

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SH: Now we’re getting down to the pointy end of the show… when Baden took you – and not Harry – through to The Final Two with him. I remember watching it, and at that moment, I thought ‘Pia’s got this’. I thought if Baden were to have any chance, he should have taken Harry; Harry had made himself unpopular in various ways along the way, so at least Baden would have had some chance against him. But when Baden chose you instead, did your heart soar? 

PM: It was complicated… because Harry didn’t play a great game up until maybe the final eight and then he played a fairly a good game. Whereas I played a really good game up until the final eight, and I had been on the bottom before, so I was struggling to survive. Baden didn’t see the first three quarters of my game (before the merge) so he didn’t know what game to play– 

SH: He was on the other tribe then, of course. 

PM: And I’d been working with Baden a lot to get him to take me through. I’m like, “you can’t take Harry, because you both play the same game”, yada-yada. So, I was pretty confident Baden was going to take me; that’s why I didn’t have to beat him in the challenge. But my heart did soar, yes! Harry and I had told each other we weren’t going to take each other… but we also thought we could lose to Baden because this is Australia and Australia loves an underdog and Baden is sweet. He annoyed people, and he was a blabbermouth – that was probably his worst trait, but that was the trait he owned and was part of his game. But I thought you could totally lose to Baden because it’s that thing where people can vote with their heart sometimes and be like “Oh, he’s a sweet kid, let’s give him a shot”. I loved Baden, but Harry and I both though that losing to Baden would be very traumatic. 

SH: Yes, because you worked so hard and you gave it your all. 

PM: Yes, so we definitely had a moment where Harry and I thought ‘it could happen, because this does happen sometimes in Survivor‘. My heart did soar a little bit, though, because when I looked at the jury, there were a couple of people I was convinced would vote for Baden…. but when I was counting in my head, I thought ‘I think I can count on five votes here’. 

SH: Yes, you needed five out of nine to win…. but as it turned out, you got nine out of nine votes! That’s never happened before. 

PM: Nine has happened a couple of times in America, but I’m the only female in the history of Survivor to get a nine-zero vote, which gave me legendary status on Twitter – that’s where it counts! 

SH: I imagine that when the votes were being counted and they told you that you won… that you didn’t learn about the number nine until well after all the hoopla. You only needed five. 

PM: Yes, I was expecting to do that thing where they create jeopardy… you know, “that’s two votes Pia, two votes Baden….” and build the suspense as they go.   

SH: But they didn’t, because they couldn’t – they didn’t have any Baden votes to add into the mix. 

PM: They did “two votes for Pia” and then I expected two votes for Baden to come up… but then they went to “three votes Pia, four votes Pia”… I think you can see my face getting really confused. I’m just so shocked. And then I’m like “I’m going to need one more”. When Jonathan said “you’re the winner”, I just didn’t process what had happened… but then when I went into the interview afterwards, they said “you’ve got every single one. You’re the first female in history to get every single vote.” I was just like pretty overwhelmed. 

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… and here’s the picture of that moment, which Pia shared with her son James.

What a LEGEND! Next week, I ask Pia about the differences between Australian Survivor and American Survivor and whether she’d ever consider returning to the franchise as part of an All Stars season…

See you then!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part IV

Hello and welcome to part four of my exclusive interview with Australian Sole Survivor Pia Miranda! Before our interview officially began, Pia had mentioned that there were two challenges out there that really tested her...

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PM: The first challenge that was the hardest was the first Tower of Terror, where you had to grab the peg. Because there are a couple of challenges in Survivor that if you’re short, you’re at a real disadvantage. 

SH: Yes, we noticed that, while we were at home, watching you… 

PM: Yes. And it wasn’t just because the peg was high up; it was also very far out, so I just couldn’t get it. I did that one 14 times in a row…. which was painful! Slamming into that water every 6 minutes is painful. I was literally lying on the floor of that tower just waiting for my turn, with no breath, going “Physically, I can’t do this”…. 

SH: And yet you did. 

PM: I eventually did it. And the other one there was the Stepping Stones. Ross broke his ankle doing that one. There were these big poles you had to run over, and they were so far apart. 

SH: So again you were at a disadvantage. 

PM: Yes. I think I fell off of that about 12 times too. 

SH: So that’s just a built-in unfairness in those challenges. If I were to do it, for instance, I would find it much easier than… 

PM: Shaun just stepped over them. (* Shaun is 201 cm tall). So the taller contestants aren’t running and jumping and falling like I was. 

SH: Of course.  

PM: So, you get through that stuff. I think the Tower of Terror was the worst one for me, but you get through that stuff, you go through all this pain and your family is there that really propels you because I’m looking at my husband going “I really want to win this money for us!”, you know. 

SH: Yes, when I was watching that final endurance challenge at home, putting myself in your shoes, I found I was also putting myself in your husband’s shoes, watching you endure that stuff. If I was watching my wife do that, I’d find it pretty challenging. 

PM: Yes, he said it was hard not to just jump in and take me off. 

SH: Yes, you’re suffering – he wants to help end your pain. 

PM: Yes. 

SH: So, you earned your money!

PM: Yes, medical came up to have a chat with me because my feet were getting  too swollen, but I didn’t want to get off and he said that it was tough knowing that medical actually stepped in. I did it and I beat Harry. 

SH: You did it!

PM: But it’s okay; I’m flying Harry out for the holidays. I only made two promises on the beach. 

SH: What were those? 

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part III

And now dear reader, Part three of my exclusive interview with ‘Australian Sole Survivor’ Pia Miranda, in which we discuss the longest-lasting endurance challenge in Australian Survivor history….

… Which she won, by the way!

But before that, I wanted to talk strategy…

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SH: You mentioned you’ve been a fan of the show all the way through… presumably you watched all the seasons of Australian Survivor so far?

PM: Yes, I watched every one and had seen all the American ones.  

SH: Did you have an overall game plan before you started or just a vague sort of idea? 

PM: My game plan was to play really low key for the first two weeks, but that didn’t come to fruition… because I was almost voted out on the first day! So I had to play so hard. I just hit the ground running and I was playing hard and fast early. My plan was to find one person that I would bond with, not lie to and have as an ally… which I did find in Janine. And it really does save you when you have one person you can trust, because they’re going to keep an ear out and let you know things they hear. So, you get way more of a vibe of what’s going on around camp when you have two sets of eyes and ears. Then maybe I regret it, but I really decided to just play hard and not play for TV, not play to be liked, not play to do something great for my career… I really just went “I’m going to play to win!” 

SH: When you say “playing hard”, how do you define “playing hard”? 

PM: Just playing to win. Not making big moves just to be exciting. I wasn’t going to do anything crazy to create “crazy fun TV”. I figured if I was going to leave my family for seven weeks, the only thing I’m concerned about is winning the game.  And that was good, because every week, rather than thinking about how I am being perceived, I just thought about getting to the next trial; about surviving that next tribal. That was my only aim. 

SH: Eyes on the prize. We mentioned it earlier, but at the first tribal, you said “I’m either going to be the first one voted out, or I’m going to win the whole thing.” What made you think that? 

PM: I think I’m a bit of a slow burn with people. I don’t open up that easily. I was always the new kid so I think being a new kid you know when I’m put into a new situation, I am good at it but I do take my time to work out where I fit. I’m small. I don’t look athletic. I think like I’m pretty sassy and kind of dry, but I don’t really show that when I first meet people, so I come across a little bit vanilla. 

SH: You play your cards close to your chest?  

PM: Yes, totally, so I felt like it would take me at least a week to really get a crew together. I thought the fact that I’m a bit awkward in new groups and the fact that I’m probably not the most physical will probably put me on the chopping block early… and it did. 

SH: And it did. BUT you came through and did the second thing you said; you went through and won the whole thing!

PM: I know! Thank God. I was so scared I was going to go home the first. 

SH: Well, somebody always has to be the first one to go home, and you always feel for them. 

PM: The Survivor nightmare. I did feel bad for Anastasia (the first player voted out) because I got along well with her, but I had to cut her throat because it was either her or me. 

SH: Whoa! (LAUGHING) Now, the last physical challenge… Good lord! You mentioned endurance training earlier, but surely even that couldn’t have prepared you for this… Am I right in thinking it’s the longest-lasting Survivor challenge ever? 

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part II

Hello and welcome to the second part of my chat with Australian ‘Sole Survivor’ Pia Miranda. When we left off last week, Pia and just taken the plunge, agreed to do the show, after discussing it at length with her family.

Now read on…

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SH: So, once the decision was made how hard was it keeping that secret? 

PM: It was hard keeping the secret… especially I went to a theater opening and there were some actors there. And you know actors love to ask each other “what are you doing?”, “what are you up to?” And I said “I’m going away for a while” and so it was “Oh, what are you doing? What are you doing? Is it exciting?” and I was like “Yeah, it is exciting”, but I didn’t want to tell anyone – I wasn’t allowed to – so I just told people I was going to Fiji to film something. 

SH: That’s believable, that’s logical. 

PM: I did tell close friends and family because I knew they could be trusted and I didn’t want them to worry about me. Because you know there’s no email or phone contact out there. I actually directed a few people to Tash, my agent, so she got a bit bombarded with people going “Is she alive? What’s going on?”  

SH: Yes, nowadays we don’t even consider not being in touch with everyone at all times. 

PM: Yeah. Although I must say it was so much easier than I it would be, thanks to the producers. They say “No news is good news”. So, you know if you don’t hear anything from anyone back home, then everyone’s fine. So you kind of don’t miss it at all. 

SH: Right. Obviously if there’s an emergency they’ll let you know. I guess it must boil things down to what matters and doesn’t matter. 

PM: Yes. 

SH: It’s an enforced digital detox. 

PM: Yes, it was a really good digital detox. 

SH: What training did you do beforehand, and what part of your training ended up being most valuable? 

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Australian Survivor’ WINNER Pia Miranda – Part I

Hello! This week, I’m really pleased to bring you the first part of my exclusive interview with the latest winner of Australian Survivor; the marvellous Pia Miranda. Pia’s a brilliant and popular Australian actress, who I had the pleasure of working with on three seasons of Mustangs FC, where we we played proud parents of two of the teenage soccer players on the show….

See? There was a lot to talk about with Pia’s recent ‘Sole Survivor’ experience, so I thought I’d better start at the beginning….

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SH: Pia, thanks so much for talking to me about your Survivor experience for HowToWinGameShows.com!

PM: My pleasure!

SH: Now, you’ve been a fan of the show for many years…. 

PM: Yeah. 

SH: So how did your getting on the show come about? 

PM: So, I did a TV Tonight interview and, as part of it, they asked “what’s your guilty pleasure?” I said “I’m a massive Survivor fan; I’m obsessed with it. I haven’t missed a season since it started”. And then the next question was “if you could be on any TV show, what would it be?” I responded with something quite highbrow,  because I thought that’s what people want to hear. 

SH: What was the highbrow thing? 

PM: I think it was something like The Handmaid’s Tale you know, a worthy drama. I did also wonder if I should’ve put Veep, because I like comedy. But when I wrote my answer and I looked at it, I had this ‘authentic’ New Year’s Weirdness (it was New Year’s Eve), and I just deleted it. I thought ‘actually, if I’m honest, I always talked about being on Survivor.’ Because I was really obsessed with being on Survivor for years. 

SH: Did you ever apply? 

PM: I tried to apply for the American one in my twenties, but you have to be an American citizen. 

SH: Okay.  

PM: So, I just wrote Survivor. I thought it was actually truthful and it’s funny, and maybe not what people expect from an actor. So I sent off all my responses to the interview questions, and didn’t think any more about it, and then I think the story ran on New Year’s Day and then two days later, they emailed me and said “Come play!” and I was like “I didn’t actually mean I wanted to play…” 

SH: “Joking, guys!” So, how did you go from this flippant answer to making the actual decision to dive in? 

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show director Jon Olb – Part IV

Jon Olb

This week, my chat with game show director Jon Olb draws to a close, as we track his game show related exploits right up to the present day…

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SH: Jon, in the last few years, you’ve directed two game shows that are brand new to our screens – Hard Quiz and The Chase Australia. They’ve both been very successful so far. What are the ingredients that make for a successful game show, in your opinion?

JO: Hard Quiz is a credit to its creators – who would have thought that a host taking the piss out of the contestants would work? (Host) Tom (Gleeson)’s style was showcased on The Weekly With Charlie Pickering, and they, with Tom, developed the show around that. They actually did the very first rudimentary workshop of the idea in my studio. It’s obviously very popular, as is The Chase Australia. (Host) Andrew (O’Keefe) and the Chasers are so knowledgeable and entertaining, and the breadth of questions is impressive. If you look at an episode, you realize the sheer number of questions that they go through on that show. That requires researchers, writers, verifiers, etc. all working with Producers. And it’s not as simple as using questions from overseas – in any Aussie quiz, the questions are localized, so there is a mix of local and international knowledge required. It’s a massive challenge before they even reach the studio.

In my humble opinion, the only necessary ingredient for a successful game show is playability. You need to be able to play along with it at home.

SH: Are there any ‘secrets’ (or even interesting or little-known facts) about how game shows are made – from a director’s perspective – that you’d be happy to share with our visitors?

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show director Jon Olb – Part III

Jon Olb

Hello and welcome to the penultimate instalment of my chat with the legendary Australian game show director Jon Olb.

We’re making our way through Jon’s long and illustrious career, and this week, dear reader, we find ourselves in the year 2007…

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SH: 2007’s The ConTest was a short lived Channel 10 show, which I think might have been the last gasp of that trend of deceptive – if not downright mean-spirited – game shows. By then, we’d already had The Weakest Link and Shafted; shows that rewarded their contestants for deceiving and betraying each other. In the interests of full disclosure (and yes I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record), I was involved with this show too. What were your memories of this show?

JO: I quite enjoyed this show for what it was. It was really about entertainment. Many of my memories relate to the technical problems that we had to overcome – it was quite ambitious in some respects. It’s where I first met (host) Osher (then Andrew), who knows so much about the making of television, as well as appearing.

SH: The classic English game show Countdown has clocked up thousands of episodes since it premiered in 1982, and its French antecedent ‘Des Chiffres et des Lettres‘ has had more than 20,000 episodes since it started in 1965! By stark contrast, the Australian version (‘Letters and Numbers‘) lasted just two years; from 2010 – 2011. Jon, why do you think that was? Is it to do with the relative smallness of our population? The format of this particular show? Or perhaps some other factor? I’d be interested to get your take on this.

JO: I should mention that I did work on that show, but only filling in for the incumbent. I loved, and still love, that show, and note that it’s quite popular in repeats. Sure it’s not for everyone – it’s fairly serious and dry subject matter, but it’s very easy to play along with at home and the presenters make it interesting. I think that the UK has really hit on something with a hybrid version, 8 out of 10 Cats – very funny. My opinion is that you could do that show again now and it would find a loyal following. I think that the problem is that it’s niche, and as you say our population is small so the economics don’t work. The other aspect is that it’s evergreen – people don’t remember that they’ve seen it before, so the repeats can seem like new shows, which is, of course, more economical. I think that the local version did very well casting the hosts too.

SH: When 2013 rolled around, you found yourself in the director’s chair for the Seven Network’s Million Dollar Minute, which was touted as an original concept (although it looked an awful lot like a slight tweaking of $ale of the Century to me)… Anyhoo, how did you find that experience? Was there anything markedly different in the way that you approached directing this one, to the way you’d approached directing the previous game shows you’d worked on? Or are the general principles largely the same, from your perspective?

SH: I saw some similarities, but still thought that it was different from $ale. New concepts are always difficult in trying to make sure that everything important can be seen and understood (and sometimes that things can’t be seen, if you don’t want them to be seen!) You work closely with the Producers and Set and Lighting Designers when creating something new. That show was challenging on several levels, but enjoyable. The big vault – the centrepiece of the show – was interesting incorporating the computer. Little things that you don’t think of – like the number of digits – all come in to play. You may want to show figures that are more or less than the display allows, and all those tiny details become important.

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Next week, as we say ‘Bon Voyage’ to Jon Olb-age, I ask him for his Three Top Tips for game show success, and if he has any secrets – or little known nuggets of wisdom – from the Control Room, that he can share with us…

You won’t want to miss that! Next Tuesday, right here! 

 

My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show director Jon Olb – Part II

Jon Olb

Welcome to Part II of my chat with Jon Olb, and when we left off last week, we’d been talking about his first ever game show directing experience, back in 1998, on Battle of the Sexes. Now read on…

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SH: Of course, you kept very busy directing other shows in other genres after that, but the next game show that came your way – in 2002- was QuizMaster. This was a more straightforward quiz hosted by Simon Reeve (who would later go on to host Million Dollar Minute. This show only lasted for one series of four episodes, and seems to have been largely forgotten by most of the world! This is about the only information I could find on it. Has it been forgotten by you as well? If it hasn’t, what were your memories of this one?

JO: It’s most certainly not been forgotten by me! It was actually a precursor to many other shows – perhaps before its time. I thought that it ran for more episodes but perhaps not. It was set “in the round” which created a unique set of issues. Also, it was one of the only formats to utilize then-new technology that allowed the cameras to automatically cut to the contestant when they buzzed in. It was a little too serious, but interesting. I think that it may have been Simon’s first foray into game shows – he is such a genuinely nice man. The writer subsequently replaced a guy named Stephen Hall as a Producer on Deal or No Deal and is now an Executive Producer at the Network.

SH: Aha! Yes of course – Stevie Murray! (More on him in a later post here). Now Jon, you and I were both involved in The Einstein Factor, which premiered on the ABC in 2004. This was a quiz show where members of the public got to show off both their general knowledge and their familiarity with their own ‘special subject’. I’ve already interviewed the show’s host Peter Berner, but I’m curious to hear your recollections of it. Do any of the contestants – or indeed any of their special subjects – stick in your mind? Or when you’re up in the Control Room calling the shots, do you not get much time to relax and pay attention to those aspects?

JO: It’s funny – on game shows you generally do get to play along in the control room. When I used to direct News, I was so busy during the weather report, that I never knew what the forecast was for the next day! Of course the machinations of the game are all secret, but in essence, they all test knowledge. That show was very loosely based on Mastermind with the ‘special subject’, and now there are shows loosely based on that program. Contestants had all sorts of weird and wonderful expert subjects. From memory, they were less adept at the general knowledge aspect. Peter Berner was a good foil for the contestants and the Brains Trust – I think that people often forget that Red Symons was also a regular contributor. The show had a fantastic production team, including Pam Barnes initially, and helped forge the way for many hybrid comedy/quiz programs.

SH: From 2005 to 2006, you directed all 22 episodes of the Australia’s Brainiest franchise (in the interests of full disclosure, I had a passing involvement with this show too). What are your main memories of that show? And were there any contestants who really stood out, in terms of how they approached the game?

JO: This was a special show – one of the first big “celebrity” quiz shows. Full disclosure indeed – you were crowned ‘Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster’, from memory! I met the lovely Sandra Sully on that show. We filmed at the ABC for Channel Ten. It was difficult as it was precise, and there were those hidden cameras (not always flattering) and cameras on scaffolds, which bounced when the operators chased the action. It was a great series, with some really interesting incarnations such as Comedians, Kids and even Big Brother contestants. It challenged your preconceived notions of who would know some things. There were many standouts on that series.

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And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. In next Tuesday’s instalment, Jon and I discuss his directing gigs on two adaptations of English game shows;  Letters and Numbers (an adaptation of Countdown) and The ConTest (an adaptation of PokerFace), and an original Australian format – Million Dollar Minute.

See you here then!