My interview with the multifaceted, multi-talented Michael Pope continues today, and this time we’re talking about his tenure on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, which stretches all the way back to 1999. During that time, he’s seen hundreds, if not thousands, of contestants come and go, so I had a feeling his insights might be particularly valuable.
I was right.
SH: And now if I could just wrap up with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, because you’ve been involved with that for the longest of all…
MP: Yeah sure. Eddie and I and Michael Whyte are probably the longest people involved in that in Australia. The director, Gary, too. A handful of us have been there from the start.
SH: Which was 1999, and it’s still going today in the format of Millionaire Hot Seat, which is the cut-down version. Where did that adaptation come from?
MP: Norway, and we were the second country. The people who held the format looked at it and said “we need a pacier show because what you do at 7:30 at night is a different rhythm with different audience attention than what you can get at 5:30”. 5:30 is noisy, pacy, you can dip in and out without having missed the plot, little time to follow an arc and a journey. So they modified it in 2 major ways:
One: They were frustrated that in the original format that we looked long and hard for 10 great contestants; one of whom came through on ‘Fastest Finger First’ and would often take up the whole episode. Nine people were then ineligible to come back again, so they thought “let’s do a ‘Musical Chairs’ kind of thing, so we can expose the world to more people on a show.” So that was driving that idea.
And secondly, “let’s introduce the idea of a time limit”. That meant that it was pacier and you avoided the long deliberation that often came in the original.
SH: You must have seen hundreds of Millionaire contestants – maybe even thousands – over this time. What are the 3 most common mistakes you have seen them make?
MP: Not talking is the first common mistake they make, because through articulating your thoughts you’re stirring up stuff in your brain, and hopefully with that mixing up of memories and knowledge the real answer will stand out.
So the people who sit there in silence and look at it, and then in the last three seconds say “I think it’s B; lock it in” are doing themselves a disservice. It may be B and they may have known it, but unlikely. So the clue would be to articulate what you’re thinking the whole time.
So the question comes up, say “I don’t know this, but for some reason I’m thinking B… because that rings a bell… because I think my grandmother was in Germany once, and she said…” And then, just by saying “my Grandmother”; bang! Images come up about your grandmother, that conversation, and then… “Yes, yes I do believe it is Berlin!” That kind of thing. So the first big tip would be try to delay.
SH: Other common mistakes?
MP: Eddie is a professional and, as Host, controls the space. My big tip would be to not challenge that. It becomes entertaining for a bit, but then there’s a moment where you go “oooh, I don’t think Eddie likes that”. And not that Eddie can influence the outcome, but it doesn’t make you look good, if you look like you’re taking on the host. You can be cheeky, but (for example) we all know that he loves Collingwood. And you might sit down and go “Oh G’day Eddie, before we start… sorry we thrashed you on the weekend!” Don’t do that sort of thing. It’s about relationships and being vulnerable, rather than being too cocky.
And the third big tip – and this is the same for any game show – viewers want to see people win. Viewers want people who they think deserve to win, to win. Do not sit down and when Eddie says “What would you do with $20 000” say “Well, every year we go to France. But this year what we thought we might do is – “
Don’t say that. What I’m talking about now is from a producer-ial ‘making-a-TV-show-entertaining-the-masses’ rather than ‘how-you-as-a-contestant-can-win-on-the-show’. But it’s worth noting, because if you said that at an audition, you’d be gone. Because we don’t want to give money to rich people.
SH: And audiences don’t want to see it.
MP: And that’s not to say that rich people shouldn’t audition for the show, but keep it to yourself, and be a bit humble and grateful, if the opportunity comes.
And that’s where we’ll leave it today. Next week, this interview concludes, with Michael’s thoughts on the best times – strategically – to use Millionaire‘s three lifelines.
So if you’re thinking about going on the show, you can’t afford to miss that!
Until then, Cheers!