Happy New Year, from www.HowToWinGameShows.com!

Thanks Steve, I’ll take it from here.

Just a quick one today, to wish you all a safe, happy and prosperous 2018!

May the coming 365 days be filled with love, laughter and light for you. And if you’ll be taking the plunge and appearing on a game show, please add ‘cash’ and ‘fabulous prizes’ to that list.

In 2018, I plan to continue posting here every week, and providing as many tips, hints, interviews and behind-the-scenes stories as I possibly can. And if there’s anything in particular that you’d like to see here on HowToWinGameShows.com in 2018, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I can be reached, as always, at Stephen@HowToWinGameShows.com

Now I’ll leave you to get on with all those New Year’s Resolutions… good luck!

 

Merry Christmas, from HowToWinGameShows.com!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY!

In case you’re wondering, this boy in the 70s haircut and tiny lemon yellow shorts is NOT me.                                                                                                                                                                                             Nor is the monkey in a nightie.

Hello!

Just a quick one today to wish you and yours a very, very happy Christmas. Whether you’re Christian, Atheist, Agnostic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Rastafarian, Pastafarian, Sikh or Zoroastrian, please accept my very best wishes for you, your family and your friends this festive season.

Because no matter what our varying spiritual beliefs may be, surely we can all wish each other well. We’re all just people muddling along, and doing the best we can to try and make sense of it all. The things we have in common far outweigh our few superficial differences.

A very happy, safe and kind holiday season to you and yours, and may 2018 bring all that you wish for…. and then just a little bit more.

Peace, love and light.

Stephen.

‘Letters and Numbers’ and what might have been… Part II.

Hello!

If you saw last week’s post, catchily titled That Time I Auditioned For The Australian Version Of That Long-Running Quiz Show ‘Countdown’ Up In Sydney in 2010, you’ll know that I’d been asked to audition to host, and that Matt Parkinson had too. Now read on….

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The other contender for the host role on the day – who loomed very large – was Silvio Rivier. Silvio was an SBS personality, who’d been at the network since 1980, and had worked in a number of roles there, but most notably, as the long term presenter of Global Village. I didn’t meet him on the day, but I did note that he walked through the foyer with a deal of self-assurance. I thought that his appointment as host of Letters and Numbers was a lay down misere. He was already part of the SBS family, and for a network with multicultural diversity at its very core, I thought he was a far more attractive option for them than ‘white-bread’ me…. and similarly ‘white-bread’ Matt Parkinson. I was absolutely certain that Silvio would get the gig, and that they’d only got Matt and me there for a bit of variety, and to maybe see a couple of different takes on the role. Perhaps they figured they could work anything they liked from our performances in to Silvio‘s performance, when he got the gig.

Silvio Rivier

Afterwards, Matt and I shared a taxi back to the airport, had a well-earned beer in the airport bar, and sat next to each other again on the plane back to Melbourne. We were philosophical. I’d done what I did (which is being me, and nobody else can be me), and he did what he did (which is being him, and nobody else can be him). Now it was in the lap of the gods. Either;

  • They wanted Matt to host Letters and Numbers,
  • They wanted me to host Letters and Numbers, or
  • They wanted someone else to host Letters and Numbers.

Neither of us felt we’d missed any opportunities in our auditions, or left anything in the tank. Back at Melbourne Airport, we shook hands, jumped into our separate taxis and went home.

Flying up to Sydney to audition and then flying home again afterwards is something that I’ve done a few times. I always find it to be quite an exhausting day; it’s essentially 3 to 4 hours of travel, and then TURN ON THE CHARM AND GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT and then another 3 to 4 hours of travel to get home again. Nervous energy levels do tend to go up and down a bit on days like those.

A couple of weeks later, I found out that I didn’t get the gig.

And that Matt Parkinson didn’t get the gig.

And that Silvio Rivier didn’t get the gig either.

The job of hosting Letters and Numbers went to former newsreader Richard Morecroft.

Richard Morecroft

So much for my “no white-bread” theory! I was really pleased to see that Lily got the gig of the glamorous mathematician, and she did it brilliantly and charmingly, and it has since led to a lot of other things for her. So happy for her – she was a really lovely person.

Lily Serna

When I watched the show, and saw Richard’s style of hosting, I thought “Well, that’s what he does, and that’s obviously what they wanted”. In my audition, I offered something quite different, which obviously wasn’t what they wanted. Which brings me to something I always try to remind myself, whenever I audition for anything… “Just do you. Nobody else can do you, and you do it really well. If you doing you doesn’t fit into their project, then so be it. But if you doing you does fit into their project, you’re golden!” Being chosen or not chosen for jobs like this is never personal;  It’s just whether I happen to be a jigsaw piece that fits into their puzzle… or not.

The postscript to all of this is that although the French version of the show is still running after more than 20,000 episodes, and the English version is still running after more than 6000, episodes, the Australian version of the show was cancelled after 450 episodes, for whatever reason. It’s a shame; Letters and Numbers was a friendly, fun show that took pleasure in celebrating smart people.

And in the current landscape, I reckon there’s not enough of that about.

‘Letters and Numbers’ and what might have been… Part I.

Hello! Today – and next week as well – a little trip down my (slightly uneven, pothole-riddled) Memory Lane, for you, Dear Reader, as HowToWinGameShows.com presents a little two-part post that I like to call…..

That Time I Auditioned For The Australian Version Of That Long-Running Quiz Show ‘Countdown’ Up In Sydney in 2010.

Catchy, eh? Now read on…

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Countdown. If you know your game shows, you’ll know that this simple yet very successful show has clocked up over 6000 episodes in the UK since it started there in 1982. And its French antecedent Des chiffres et des lettres has had more than 20,000 episodes since it started in 1965!

In 2010, I got word from my agent that the SBS Network would be producing an Australian version – called Letters and Numbers – very soon, and that they’d started looking for the on air team.

At this time, I’d had my game show victories, and had spent quite a bit of time on The Einstein Factor’s ‘Brains Trust’, and so I had some fairly solid TV quiz show credentials. My background in acting and stand-up comedy was something that also made them think of me, and so, when the call came through, I thought “Yes! I’d love to audition! I’d love to be a quiz show host on the big people’s television!”

So we booked in the audition, a time was arranged (in Sydney, which would mean a flight from Melbourne, where I live), and I started doing my research on the show. I quickly found that Countdown is a pretty sedate affair. When I played along, I realised that words and anagrams are much more my strong point then mathematics, so when it came to the mathematical equations, I was struggling a little bit… But I figured “well… I was only going to be the host; I didn’t need to know all THIS stuff”.

Eventually, the day of the audition came. I got a good night’s sleep, had a decent breakfast, put on my new suit, got all my notes together and made my way to the airport to catch the flight up to Sydney.

When I got there, I bumped into my pal game show champ, actor and comedian Matt Parkinson. I instantly thought “This is a bit too much of a coincidence…” Sure enough, he was also auditioning for the host role on host on Letters and Numbers that day. I’ve known Matt for many, many years, and he’s as lovely, smart and funny a bloke as you’ll ever meet. These days, he’s starring as one of The Chasers (“Goliath”) on The Chase Australia. He’s fantastic in the role, and that show continues to top the ratings here.

Matt Parkinson

But back in 2010, none of that had happened yet. We greeted each other, and very soon realised that not only were we both going for the same gig…. but the producers had booked us seats next to each other for the flight up to the audition and seats next to each other for the flight back after the audition. Okay, so not awkward at all. Of course, we tried not to think about it, and we genuinely wished each other well, but being in such close proximity to the bloke who’s going for the job that you want, for at least two hours leading up to the audition…

Well, all I can say is that if you happen to be a game show producer, auditioning two people for the host role, maybe don’t force them together for an extended period before they audition for you. I can’t speak for Matt, but it wasn’t especially good for my nerves, and I’d argue that the producer may not have got the ideal, calm, relaxed performance from me that I wanted to give. But maybe I’m imagining all that. When we got to Sydney, we jumped in a cab and went out to the Screen Australia studios at Lindfield to audition.

The auditions consisted of a few more games, with David Astle (who had already, I think, won the role of the dictionary expert). David was a natural choice for this role, having been a brilliant compiler of cryptic crosswords, non-fiction author, and self-confessed “word nerd” for many years.

On the day, they were also auditioning two young mathematicians for the Carol Vorderman role. One was a very tall, blonde model-looking type, with a Russian background. She was super, super confident, and a brilliant mathematician as well, of course. The other was Lily Serna, who was delightful, and charming and very excited to be there. It was her first gig of this type, and her enthusiasm was clear.
In two runs of the show, I auditioned opposite both of them (deep down, I really wanted Lily to get the gig).

I remember in the audition trying to keep it light, trying to keep my energy up, but not too be too manic. This was Countdown, after all. At one stage, the obscure word that David talked about was the word “folderol”; explaining its meaning* and derivation. I remember later on in the run being able to do a callback, and use that word in a sentence. My use of it wasn’t hilarious or anything, but I hoped that at least it showed The Powers That Be that I was paying attention, absorbing new information as it was mentioned, and that I could think on my feet. I did a couple of runs at the show (cut down, maybe just one round each, with crew members standing in as contestants) before Matt went in and had his turn…

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Next week, in the thrill-packed conclusion of That Time I Auditioned For The Australian Version Of That Long-Running Quiz Show ‘Countdown’ Up In Sydney in 2010, we find out who got the gig, what happened in the aftermath… and just who was the mysterious extra contender for host on the day?

All this – and more – will be revealed next week, right here at HowToWinGameShows.com!

 

 

* folderol

Noun – trivial or nonsensical fuss. “all the folderol of the athletic contests and the cheerleaders”

Now you know.

 

No post this week….

…. Except for this one.

It’s been a busy few weeks, as I’ve been writing the script for The 7th AACTA Awards Ceremony, which happens tomorrow night. So I’m in Sydney right now, frantically making last minute changes, updates and improvements (hopefully!) to all the various presenter scripts for the Film-and-Television’s-Night-of-Nights-When-The Brightest-Cliches-Come-Out-To-Shine. If you’re in Australia, you can watch the whole thing on the Seven Network and / or Foxtel tomorrow night!

Thanks for your patience, and normal service will resume as soon as possible.

The AACTA Award trophy. And before you ask… No, none of those As stand for “Amputee”.

 

Game Shows Without Borders

Hello! This week our bilingual Canadian guest blogger Ryan Vickers is back – this time with a game show adventure that takes him across international borders, in a case of ‘Game Shows Sans Frontieres’…

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My Life in Game Shows

Episode 8: Playing In Your Second Language – ‘Motus’, 2013

In late 2011, I found out that I had secured the first (of what, thankfully, led to many) tickets to see the London 2012 Olympics. Having watched game shows based in France for at least 20 years, I decided that perhaps the time was right to reach out to Motus, which is a French game show based on the little-known late 80s Canadian game show Lingo and better known these days from its version on Game Show Network in the USA. After some back and forth conversation (to check if I was eligible), I arranged for an audition in late August 2012.

PRO TIP: If you’re travelling abroad, apply for a game show! The contestant staff actually took the time to have a private audition with me because as much as I wanted to be on their show, I’m sure they saw it as a nice thing to have someone promoting their show outside their national borders.

I’ll have to be honest – I trained for several weeks for Motus, watching back episodes and playing the game online. I had the audition and I felt went just okay. I wish I had done more. I left thinking it was a “thanks but no thanks” situation, although they did extend the courtesy of giving me a home game on which to practice.

Which leads me to April 2013, when at about 6:30 AM one day I checked my email and found I had been given a tape date to be on the show! I quickly accepted, booked a flight, and four months later I was on set – with my father in tow – to tape my run on the show.

PRO TIP: Use your lead time wisely. I found a GREAT story online by Robert McKee, that described a wonderful strategy for how to play the game. I worked his tips into my strategy for playing the game.

The taping, unlike those in North America, was very calm and put me at ease. We simply stood at the podium and played the game off of a monitor. In fact, the only concern I had was talking in my second language, which turned out not to be a problem at all.

PRO TIP: When applying for a game show, give them a hook. Make them interested in you! I made sure to mention, for example, that I watched their show on the satellite channel available to me.

During the game, I played out my strategy, which worked for my teammate and I. I took my time, made educated guesses, and decided not to play the game exclusively as a game of words, but rather a puzzle to be solved, which just happened to involve letters and not numbers or pictures.

PRO TIP: Have FUN when you’re playing the game. I decided before the show to play to win but also to let my mind be at ease, and to roll with the punches. I enjoyed myself so much that I ended up on a French blooper show! If you’re having fun you’re going to do better.

Here is the episode! 

And here’s the subsequent clip on the blooper show (sorry for the point and shoot!)

While we didn’t win the show (due to some unlucky bingo ball drawing) it was a great experience, and one that challenged me both on a game show level and a language level. I was grateful to my partner for agreeing to play on a team with me, and to the staff of the show as well. In fact, the show allows another go…. so I think I might just do that!

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Merci, Monsieur Vickers – C’était génial! (which Google Translate tells me is French for “That was great!”) I can’t imagine the added degree of difficulty that competing in a different language would bring to the game, and I applaud you for diving in. And I hadn’t really thought about it before, but if you are travelling overseas, why not apply to be on a game show while you’re there? You have absolutely nothing to lose, and potentially a whole lot to gain.

Sympa, Ryan! (which Google Translate tells me is French for “Nice one, Ryan!”)

Ryan’s back, with ‘My Life In Game Shows: Episode 7’

Ryan is back this week, with a brief entry chronicling his time on a somewhat usual Canadian game show… But despite the relatively low stakes, and the fact that the show isn’t around anymore, Ryan does – as always – have some great tips and hints for you.

Over to you, Mr. Vickers!

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My Life In Game Shows

Episode 7: Bringing along others for the ride – ‘Ice Cold Cash’, 2012

For years in the USA there was a game called Cash Cab – and in fact it’s coming back – where contestants mysteriously got into a taxi and answered questions to win cash. Food Network Canada came up with their own spin a number of years ago called Ice Cold Cash, whereby players answered food-related questions from a man driving an ice cream cart.

I found out about this game show the same way I found out about Inside The Box… on Craigslist! I dashed off an application and heard back a couple of days later that they wanted to book me for the show.

PRO TIP: Don’t just check a television network’s website and assume that they have the only contestant application information – make sure to do some digging. Look online on sites like Craigslist as well as blogs… and maybe even a game show host’s Instagram, for example.

Two different things happened in the lead up to the taping.

First off, I found out that I was near the start of the taping block. This is due to the fact that the production team got hold of me a few days before I was scheduled to tape. “We have been doing the show with single players”, they stated, “and it’s not really working the way we wanted it to. Please bring a partner.” In two days, I thought? Okay, I can do this.

PRO TIP: Roll with the punches. If I hadn’t said that I could get a partner (even if I didn’t have one in mind), I wouldn’t have gotten on the show.

Thankfully, I knew the perfect person to work with in this escapade – one that I had appeared in a reality TV show with previously, and she was free on the tape day.

The second thing was that production was still finding its legs – we weren’t where to go until the night before; they were still scouting locations. Again, as I said above, roll with the punches.

The show itself was a fun romp. We ended up filming in a large urban park in Toronto and we enjoyed our time. Take a look!

BONUS – watch my good friend on the show (on her own, to boot!)

PRO TIP: If you need to pick a teammate, make sure it’s someone whose skills complement yours. Don’t just aim for a “TV friendly” partner, but also one who fills in the blanks in your weak subject areas!

We had some luck with where the questions fell;

  • My friend is Italian and there was an Italian food question.
  • The name of my game show that I hosted on campus radio in university came up as an answer.
  • And we’re both French teachers by trade… and we got a French food question!

Mind you, if they’d allowed unlimited time on questions, it’s almost certain that we would have still been there six years later! It’s hard to walk away, but I remember not wanting to guess because we didn’t have a solid idea.

Next time I’ll hop back across the pond where I faced arguably my toughest game yet!

 

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I’d like to thank Ryan so much once again for all the work he’s putting in to sharing his various game show experiences with us. It’s great to read about someone’s game show journey in such detail, and to see so many tips and hints sprinkled throughout his posts.
Thanks again, Ryan!

Guest blogger Ryan’s appearance on a cult classic…

Hello!

Firstly, an apology for the fact that I didn’t post here last Tuesday.

I was away on a little family holiday, enjoying a bit of R & R, so HowToWinGameShows.com wasn’t front and centre in my mind. It is this week, though, and today, our guest blogger Ryan Vickers returns, with Episode 6 of his game show adventures. And coincidentally enough, this time, it’s all about a certain holiday that HE took, and how game shows DID remain front and centre in HIS mind while he was away. Over to you, Ryan. 

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My Life In Game Shows

Episode 6: A cult classic – ‘Countdown’, 2009

In 2009 I embarked on a year-long adventure. I took leave from work and was determined to fulfil many goals that required different timing than my job would normally allow. In addition to wanting to see game show tapings – and I ended up seeing 12 different tapings on three different continents, which I’ll talk about in a future post – I also wanted to BE on another game show in a completely different country. I set my sights on the UK – I had previously lived there and was familiar with many of their game shows.

I ended up downloading three application forms – Going For Gold, The Weakest Link and Countdown. Of the three, I decided to focus on Countdown as I felt I would be at less of a disadvantage because the other two required knowledge that may have been Euro-centric.

PRO TIP: If you’re serious about getting on a game show, make sure to pick one that plays to your strength. Ask yourself where you feel the most confident – Words? General knowledge? Audience participation? Talent based? – and focus on that.

Initially I tried to email the application but it bounced for whatever reason. So I went old school and sent off a letter in early June of 2009. A week later, I received an email from the associate producer with the first line stating “Thank you for your application for Countdown – although we were a little surprised to see the Canadian address!”.

PRO TIP: If you’re thinking about applying for a game show in another region, DO IT! The worst they can say is no. And if they say “sure, we can accept your application”, they will probably be very accommodating. Shows really like contestants from “far away”!

To speak to that tip, the associate producer arranged not only to do an audition over the phone but also made sure that a tape date would work with my travelling that fall. As a result, that November I found myself on the set of Countdown taping an episode.

… And that’s where this picture of Ryan comes from!

Countdown was a wonderful experience but is very much a quiet affair. It has great play-along value both in the studio and at home. Which leads me to my next piece of advice.

PRO TIP: Seek out any ways to practice the game you can. Don’t only watch the show as it is currently running (which tends to be difficult if you’re not in the normal viewing circle) but seek out past episodes on sites like YouTube. Play the home game, find online stand-alone or multiplayer games too. Perhaps the show has an official game on the Apple Store or Google Play and if not, find a knock-off version. If all else fails, build yourself your own practice set. Many games allow this – Countdown for example only required me to make decks of consonants, vowels, and a series of numbers.

On the show I had thirty seconds with the clock going to either find a longest word or do a calculation. This time goes by quickly!

PRO TIP: Focus on the task at hand. I learned to block out the clock’s accompanying music only until the last few beats when there was a tempo change, so as to confirm my answer. Focusing on the task at hand also means making sure to not worry about other things going on around you in the studio, which you likely can’t control.

Although Countdown did hand me my first game show loss (and yes, I’m well aware of this site’s name but sometimes you don’t always win, sadly!) I made sure to take lessons from it. In retrospect, I would have prepared differently using more online resources. However this did help me for future game show outings!

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Thanks Ryan, some great tips there. For those of you in Australia, the equivalent show here was Letters and Numbers, which ran on SBS from 2010 to 2012. It was hosted by journalist / newsreader Richard Moorecroft, although one of the hopefuls who auditioned to host the particular show was in fact….. me.

But that’s another story, and one which I’ll be relating soon, right here at HowToWinGameShows.com!

Guest blogger Ryan Vickers returns, with some great ‘Wheel of Fortune’ tips!

HowToWinGameShows.com special guest blogger Mr Ryan Vickers

Hello!

This week, we have the second instalment of our special guest blogger Ryan Vickers’ LIFE IN GAME SHOWS! I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did, and just a reminder… if you have an interesting game show story (or game show stories) to tell, and would like to follow Ryan’s lead and be a HTWGS guest blogger, please drop me a line (Stephen@HowToWinGameShows.com) and let’s chat!

But right now, it’s over to Ryan, for….

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My Life In Game Shows.

Episode 2: The Big One (and it is a biggie).

When I was in my last year of high school in Canada, I turned 18. Having just missed the cut off for Supermarket Sweep the year before, I was anxious to apply to any game show that would have me. As luck would have it, Wheel of Fortune was to audition selected Canadians in Toronto in the fall of 1996. I dashed off ten postcards to the address required.

As a game show fanatic all of my young life, I had done it all in my small town. I had hosted game shows at school, at parties, in class and played in the local quiz bowl league. When I applied for Wheel, I hoped and wished but really the odds were against me. I was later told that 250 out of 50,000 postcards came out of the drum. My mother took the qualifying call as I was at school; she then took two headache pills once I stopped screaming after she told me the news later that day.

The audition, a five hour drive away, was at a downtown hotel. Apart from filling out the information sheet and doing a puzzle quiz, you had to stand up and call a few letters and then sit down.

PRO TIP:

When you are at the audition, try and do the following:

  • Make eye contact with the contestant staff and speak clearly with enough volume (but don’t yell).
  • Have confidence and make sure you know how the game is played!
  • Prepare a few funny anecdotes that will make you stand out from the crowd and that you are comfortable talking about if you are asked. More and more, the focus is on personality first, game play second.

In life, waiting is the hardest part. As a result of my tryout, Wheel put me into an 18-month window for a possible chance at the show. Sometimes the call never comes. Thankfully, for me it came and my mother and I flew down to Los Angeles six months post-audition, to tape my run.

Walking into the studio, it’s like stepping into Oz. While I’ll get to it later, if you haven’t seen a game show taping and you want to, you really should. My experience was awesome, as we were treated like royalty in the holding area!

PRO TIP:

When you’re on set, try to put yourself at ease. During rehearsal, I was able to gauge how far I could spin the wheel which helped me during the show. I took the time to look around, figure out where the host would stand, where all information would be (like used letters and the current score for all players), and generally to shake out my nerves.

In the audience, I watched the first three episodes being taped. I appreciated this; it let me get a feel for what was going on. My name was drawn for Episode Four, and I was raring to go!

Here’s how it went, in three parts; PART 1PART 2, and PART 3. 

It really does go so fast. I was relieved to win the first round and could pay my parents back for the trip! Everything else was icing (and upcoming college tuition payments). I also feel I got lucky in regards to the puzzles – Round One’s BEFORE AND AFTER category is my favourite, Round Two dealt with not wanting to oversleep, and Round Three fell directly into my Year 12 English class wheelhouse.

PRO TIP:

Pay attention to what’s going on and use your time wisely! When the wheel was spinning, I looked at the used letter board to figure out my next pick. When it was someone else’s turn, I was focused on figuring out the puzzle word by word. This helped quite a bit – during the entire run of the show I only relinquished control of the game due to landing on a penalty space because I was able to focus on the game!

After the bonus round was done, I ran backstage, changed clothes, and was back on set for the next episode 20 minutes later! And here’s the result;

DAY 2; PART 1, PART 2 and PART 3

After all was said and done, (including forfeiting the “Luggature”) I ended up with about $20,000 Canadian!

A month later, on my gran’s 75th birthday, the show aired. I invited 20 school friends over to watch the first show and everyone was quite surprised to see the result. Most couldn’t believe I held in the secret!

And lucky for me, there was more to come!

Ryan.

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Lucky for us, too. Thanks again Ryan, for sharing not only your adventures, but also those great Wheel of Fortune tips… from someone who’s actually been there, and done that! Much appreciated, and I greatly look forward to the next instalment of Your Life In Game Shows!