EXCLUSIVE interview with game show host Ed Phillips – Part II

Hosts of the revamped Sale of the Century, Ed Phillips and Lavinia Nixon.This week, my exclusive interview with Game Show Legend Ed Phillips continues. At the end of the last instalment, Ed was saying that in the gameplay and tactics of Battle of The Sexes (a light-hearted game show that he hosted in 1998), there wasn’t a lot of science involved. When it came to Temptation, however (which Ed hosted from 2005 – 2009), you’ll see that it’s an altogether different story…


EP: But there was definite science at play in Temptation. In that men – and you could maybe back this up – would dive in, thinking they know the answer to the question. They’d buzz in early, whereas women would process it fractionally more. So we tended to get more male champions than female grand champions, because the men would hit the buzzers thinking they knew it, then ruminate over it and get the answer within the 3 seconds. Whereas the women would think about it more, then buzz in. That is quite a generalization but it certainly held true, in that we had only a couple of female champs and six or seven males in my time.

SH: That’s right. That’s something I’d noticed too – playing the game – is that the men tend to be more competitive, more aggressive and sure of themselves, and so will dive in.

EP: Yes – reckless slash confident. And often they fall on their own sword, but that’s the way they seem to play.

SH: I remember when I was preparing for the final episode, I thought “who are they going to put up against me?”, and I thought they’d put me up against a younger man who had fast reflexes and was really confident. And sure enough, that’s what happened, that’s what the producers did. I thought “yep, that’s who I’d have programmed against me, as well”.

EP: So there is a conspiracy theory in your head. I don’t want to debunk any myths, but you know there is an audition for Temptation, you have to go to an auditorium with a hundred others and fill out a quiz of 50 odd questions. Time was never a factor in that. You could do it as quickly or slowly as you liked, but that would give the producers the score out of 50. So if someone scored 35, they might have taken twice as long as the other person who got 35 right. If you scored 35 in your audition we could have put a really smart person who got 45 up against you, but they mightn’t be so fast; they could have taken 10 minutes longer on that quiz.

SH: Exactly.

EP: It was an intelligence gauge but not a speed gauge. You could have a person get 50 out of 50, but they might be a slow old thing. I think the highest score was 49.

SH: That’s pretty good, out of 50!

EP: That was a female – Yolanda – who went on to become a great champion.

SH: Oh yes, she was incredible. You mentioned that during the history of the show, there were 7 or 8 grand champions. Did you notice any patterns in the way they played the game that set them apart? Obviously they were faster and they knew more stuff… but were there any other common factors that you noticed?

EP: They were all quite ugly.

SH: (LAUGHING) Sure, sure. Thanks very much.

EP: The stuff they knew, they really knew. A lot of us like to think we have a bank of knowledge, but the top guys really knew a lot of extra quirky stuff. They just had a head full of much more valuable info. We can all fluke a few. All I can say from my point of view, remember I hosted 600 of the episodes and I only participated in one. Livo* and I were paired up once and Tony Barber was brought back to ask the questions.

SH: That’s right – you were in the contestants’ seats!

EP: Yes. So as much as I wanted to empathize with the contestants, I couldn’t, until that one day when I actually played it myself. I gained so much respect for diving in, trying to be as fast as we could, but not get things wrong and look like an idiot. It’s a real skill and hence this blog of yours. When time is against you, it is a different ball game. Often, we had what we saw was a ‘Second Night Syndrome’; someone would get into the very first one, their nerves would drive them, and they’d get a win. The second night they would get eliminated, by somebody coming through on their first night.

SH: That’s interesting.

EP: Lots of One Night Champs were dethroned the next night, because they would have this sort of let-down.

SH: They didn’t keep up the same standard, or they relaxed a bit too much.

EP: So… respect to all you guys who went three, five, six, up to seven or eight nights to win the lot. Which you probably often had to do in one day’s sitting, because we’d film five episodes in a row, and you didn’t get any time for a break. As you know, we would rush from one show to the next show, maybe a break for lunch, but that was it.

SH: It was a well-oiled machine, it moved fast. 


And that’s where we”ll leave this instalment. Next week, Ed takes me through the special celebrity Temptation episode, in which he and Livinia were in the contestants’ seats, playing for charity. Ed’s insights from the contestant’s chair are interesting, and it’s a really entertaining episode in its own right. In fact, you can see it right here on youtube!

Until then… keep smiling, and bye for now!

*Livinia Nixon, Ed’s co-host on the show


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