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…

 

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:

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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.

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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.

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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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‘How To Win Game Shows’ the eBook: UPDATE!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the scheduled launch day for How To Win Game Shows  – the eBook! 

Only thing is, it’s not quite ready yet.

Gumby

All the content is done, but I’m afraid I’ve underestimated the time that editing, proofreading and getting an eStore up and running would take. So, I know I did say that it’d be ready to go by today, but if you can bear with me for one more week, I’d really appreciate it. That makes the revised launch date Sunday September 20th. I’d like to thank you so much for your patience and understanding. As a little taste of what it’ll look like, here’s the eBook’s cover:

The eBook's front cover!

The eBook’s front cover!

In the meantime, it’ll be business as usual here at the blog, with my next weekly post due on Tuesday. That will chronicle the first part of my Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster journey – this was the show in early 2006 that pitted Who Wants To Be A Millionaire winners against Sale of the Century and Temptation winners, in a battle to win the $20,000 for charity, and the title of ‘Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster’. I did manage to win it, but it certainly wasn’t all smooth sailing. The story of how I accomplished it begins right here on Tuesday, and hopefully there’ll be some tips and hints in there that will be helpful to you, as you learn from my mistakes.

Until then, thank you so much for your patience, and remember, you can still get a FREE SNEAK PREVIEW BONUS CHAPTER of the eBook by signing up to the How To Win Game Shows mailing list, by using the handy (if slightly squashed) email sign up box to the right! ——————————————————————————————————->

My exclusive interview with TV quiz show question writer Michael Ward – Part II

This week, as my interview with TV quiz show question writer Michael Ward concludes, I ask Michael about common contestant mistakes, his time in front of the camera, and how potential contestants can best put themselves in the shoes of a TV quiz show writer, as well as –

Oh – but I’m spoiling what’s up ahead.

I’ll stop now, and just let you read on, shall I?

Yes. Probably a good idea.

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SH: What do you like about writing quiz questions?

MW: It’s a job that can be squeezed in anywhere – something you can do outside of normal working hours if you’re employed on something else for example. You use a different part of your brain. I enjoy reading non-fiction, so digging around in books or on-line for stuff to form the basis of a question is merely an extension of that interest. Sometimes questions with a multiple choice option for the answer can offer the opportunity for a joke, which is always fun.

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

MW: Well, anticipation is a key – so almost subconsciously knowing the typical structure of a question can help in that regard. Of course, you can be too anticipatory. It’s a balance. Obviously you need to listen carefully and stay focussed.

SH: What do you not like about writing quiz questions?

MW: Writing questions can be a grind. When it’s prescriptive – and often it can be when producers are seeking the right balance of topics for their show – you can feel that your brain has been milked dry. For example, on a recent job I felt like I’d written every single ‘architecture’ question I possibly could, and all that remained was the ultra-obscure. I couldn’t face ‘architecture’ again. But you have to soldier on; there’s always another question you can write – you just have to find a fresh angle.

SH: You’ve also been involved on the other side of the quiz show camera, appearing as a contestant on Millionaire Hot Seat (obviously, this was well before you worked on the show). How was that experience? Did your experience as a question writer give you an edge?

MW: No no, I was on Hot Seat as a contestant while I was writing on the show. In fact, I got to answer my own questions, which was fun. They were so easy!
Of course, I’m joking.
On
Hot Seat, you’re essentially challenging yourself, as opposed to Temptation or Million Dollar Minute where you’re in direct competition with other players. So being on Hot Seat – my background in writing questions wasn’t particularly relevant, except that I guess I’d exposed myself to a broad range of knowledge in my research.

SH: As someone who’s ‘been there and done that’, what tips, hints or advice would you have for anyone wanting to be a contestant on Millionaire Hot Seat?

MW: In terms of actually applying for the show: you do the on-line quiz as the first step, then you go to an audition where you do another written quiz of 40 or so questions. If you make the cut (and many don’t) you fill out a questionnaire about yourself and do a brief chat to camera. The key thing is to make yourself sound as interesting as possible – a fun person. Sure, if you win you might plonk the money on the mortgage, but the producers don’t want to hear that. They want something interesting, like you’re going to shout your friends a week in Vegas or buy a zoo or invest in time travel. Make it up. On camera at the audition, it’s no big deal – just be yourself, smile, and relate something amusing that happened to you. No sob stories required. Then, if you happen to make it onto the show, well, it’s pot-luck really, both in terms of where you finish in the ‘order’ of contestants – thereby having a shot at the $ – as well as whether you’re lucky enough to cop questions that are ‘up your alley’.

SH: Is it helpful for a contestant to try and think like a question writer? And if so, how do you teach yourself to think like a question writer?

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with TV quiz show question writer Michael Ward – Part I

You join me today for a real ‘first’ for howtowingameshows.com – this is the very first time I’ve interviewed a TV quiz show question writer for the blog. His name’s Michael Ward, and he’s been writing for Australian television for some twenty years, right across the spectrum of comedy, light entertainment and quiz shows. I’ve known Michael for almost that long, and have worked with him on many different comedy projects for TV and the stage, but in this chat I really wanted to focus on his time as a TV quiz show question writer, to see what useful information he can give aspiring TV quiz show question answerers! Now read on…

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SH: Michael Ward, thanks for chatting to me today for www.howtowingameshows.com. In your illustrious and varied TV writing career, you’ve written questions for Spicks and Specks, RockWiz, Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation and Millionaire Hot Seat, Million Dollar Drop, and the upcoming Australian version of The Chase, as well as being the former compiler of the daily quiz for Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, some time ago. How many quiz questions would you have written for TV?

MW: It’d have to be somewhere in the thousands. Let’s go with 3,679.

SH: Sure. What’s the secret to writing a good quiz question?

MW: I don’t know about ‘secret’ – but I guess the trick is finding the intersection between ‘knowledge’ and ‘trivia’. Something not too cold and hard and dull but, by the same token, something that’s not too trivial. A while back on Million Dollar Minute, some guy was going for the mill and one of the questions he had to answer was regarding the wrapper colour in a box of Cadbury Roses chocolates or something. For a million bucks, that is a ridiculously trivial question.

SH: Are there any topics or subject areas that you return to often, when you’re writing questions?

MW: I think most quiz question writers gravitate towards pop culture questions because we all have a lifetime’s accumulation of music, film and TV floating around in our heads. In my experience this stuff sinks deep into the memory banks, as opposed to say science or architecture (unless that’s your particular bag). Of course, pop culture is the first area where producers of quiz shows put the clamps on, simply because they get so many questions on TV, film and music. I also love travel (so, geography questions), reading (literature questions), history and sport, so I often write in these areas too.

SH: What is something that you never do when you’re writing quiz questions?

MW: I never write questions in the nude. It’s just a rule I have.
I would never transcribe a question word-for-word that I’ve stumbled across, but I’ll happily borrow from that source and re-work the fact into my own question. Also, I never consciously write a ‘trick’ question.

SH: What’s an example of a question you’ve written that you’re really proud of?

MW: I can’t think of one right now, although I seem to remember coming across the fact that Helen Keller is credited with introducing the Akita dog breed to the US – I think I wrote a question around that interesting fact. By the way, I believe it was Elton John who introduced ‘Nikita’ to the US.

SH: Are there any specific rules that you follow when you’re writing quiz questions?

MW: Not rules as such, but you try to be concise, unambiguous and frame the question in such a way that the answer is not able to be guessed immediately (which would render the remainder of the question superfluous). Ideally, you want the contestant to only buzz in right at the end of your question. A simple example: ‘Lima is the capital of which country?’ is not as good as ‘What is the capital of Peru?’ because, in the first case, as soon as you hear ‘Lima’ – the first word of your question – the answer is pretty much guessable immediately.

SH: Have you ever written any questions that turned out to be controversial?

MW: A question with the potential to be controversial will normally not make it through the filtering process – producers steer clear of anything that might, even remotely, cause offence.

SH: Have producers ever rejected questions that you’ve written? If so, why?

MW: Always. Questions are rejected for a myriad of reasons; A similar question may have already been used. The question isn’t clever or interesting enough. The wording is too unwieldy. The answer is plain wrong. It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever have all the questions you write accepted without knockbacks.

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So there’s a little initial taste of what life’s like on the other side of the whole quiz show production process. Next week, as our interview concludes, I ask Michael about common mistakes contestants make, he has some brilliant tips that’ll give you a great understanding of how TV quiz show questions are written, and I get his all-important thoughts on cute little dogs that also happen to be zombies.

And before I sign off for this week, just a reminder that my very first eBook ‘How To Win Game Shows’ is now just mere days away from release! I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and would like to offer you a FREE bonus chapter, by way of a sneak preview. To get this preview bonus chapter, all you have to do is sign up for the howtowingameshows.com mailing list, via the handy form to the right! ———->

I hope you’ll do so, and join us here in the How To Win Game Shows community… but even if not, I hope you’ll join us back here next week, for Part II of my chat with TV quiz show question writer extraordinaire Michael Ward!

 

Exclusive interview with ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ winner Martin Flood – Part 2

Marty Flood MillionaireAs my interview with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire millionaire Martin Flood continues today, the discussion turns to the multiple choice format of Millionaire and the relative values of the answer options…

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MF: I noticed over the years that when the questions get quite valuable, the answer tends to be the lesser well known one. (And yet) everyone goes for the one that they know. In fact so many contestants say “well I’ve never heard of this person, I’ve never heard of that person – I’ve only ever heard of one person so I’ll lock that one in”. That’s probably going to be the one that’s not the answer, because that’s the one you’ve heard of. This is worth a quarter of a million dollars or something!

It’s like the classic question for $125 000, “When James Cook mapped the east coast of Australia, what was his rank?” Let’s say that answer was worth $500. What would you say is the answer (without them even giving you four options)?

SH: Captain.

MF: Now the question was worth $125 000! One of the options is ‘Captain’, one of the options is ‘Commodore’, one is ‘Commander’ and one is ‘Lieutenant’. Are you still going to go for ‘Captain’, at $125 000?

SH: I’m not. I think I know the answer to this.

MF: Okay, that’s my point. When I looked at the other ones, it’s obviously not ‘Captain’. You don’t get paid $125 000, being an Aussie, for knowing “Captain James Cook”! The guy goes “It’s Captain! Everyone knows it’s ‘Captain James Cook’! I can’t believe it! It’s so easy – 125 grand! It’s Captain James Cook!”

SH: Really? But he’s proven himself. He is even telling you why he is wrong when he says “everyone knows it’s ‘Captain James Cook’!” Because if everyone does know, then it’s not worth $125 000, it’s worth $500.

MF: Exactly. But unfortunately most contestants do the same thing. It’s unbelievable.

SH: It’s human nature, I suppose.

MF: Yeah, I remember this beautiful young girl, she got a $64 000 question; “In Romeo and Juliet; ‘wherefore art thou Romeo?’… What does “wherefore” mean?” And one of the answers is “Where”, for $64 000. Does it kind of seem obvious that the answer would be “Where”? Too obvious?

SH: But then you start second guessing.

MF: I know what you are saying, it could be a double bluff but I have never seen a double bluff on the show, ever. For $64 000, translating old English “wherefore” into “where” is unbelievably obvious. It was wrong. But she locked it in anyway, sadly. Because it means “why”. The “whys and wherefores” – that’s another expression, do you know this?

SH: Yeah, “never mind the whys and wherefores”. “Why” and “wherefore” means the same thing.

MF: Yes. She’s basically saying “why are you a Montague and I’m a Capulet?”

SH: “Why does it have to be this way?”

MF: That was just another example of an obvious answer at a higher value; $64 000 is pretty high.

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Next week, we discuss the audition and screening process for Millionaire in more detail, and Martin outlines his experiences in that part of the process. So if you’re thinking of going on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, you can’t afford to miss that!

Until then.