My EXCLUSIVE interview with big-winning, record-setting game show LEGEND David Poltorak – Part 13

When we left off last week, David had just received a call from the people at Grundy’s (the production company who made Sale of the Century), offering him the job of adjudicator on the show! ==========================

DP: … And I was just really chuffed! I’d never imagined that this was going to happen, I didn’t think I’d get this job! And so they flew me down to Melbourne, where the story was that (host) Tony Barber was about to have a hip replacement. So they were going to record a bunch of extra episodes so they’d have enough to broadcast while Tony was recuperating. They’d be an extra month ahead, and these episodes would all go to air at the start of ‘91. I was watching Fran Powell; she was the show’s current adjudicator. She was the last adjudicator to appear on air, but by this stage she was offscreen. Times had changed, and actually seeing the adjudicator made for dull TV.

At the start of ‘91, I went to Melbourne to do the job when Tony came back. And then three months later, there was a contract dispute or something, and the word went around that Tony Barber was leaving the show. And everybody was just gloom and doom. Everybody just thought “Well, that’s it. Sale‘s done. Tony was the show, or that’s what everyone thought… and presumably, it was what Tony thought! The show was due to be off anyway for two weeks, for the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, so the network and Grundy’s basically had two weeks to find a new host.

SH: Wow.

Out with the old… (Tony Barber & Alyce Platt)

DP: They tried all manner of combinations and finally settled on Glenn Ridge and Jo Bailey, who replaced the lovely Alyce Platt, who unfortunately was collateral damage.

… and in with the new. (Glenn Ridge & Jo Bailey)

DP: I mean, you can’t change the host without changing the hostess, can you? Anyway, a lot of us working on the show were in the deepest funk. We thought there’s no way the show can survive with these two. Don’t get me wrong; Glenn Ridge is a lovely guy and an innately smart person, but he conveyed no sense of having any idea what the questions were about, and he also had a lot of difficulties reading big words. 

SH: Really?

DP: Yeah.

SH: And big words or little, as host he needs to read lots of questions really quickly and articulately. And he had no experience doing that? How on earth – 

DP: A lot of practice – a hell of a lot of practice. I mean, there were words we learned very early on we could not put in questions… “Mesopotamia” was a key one. “Which river in Messpo… which river in Meps… I’ll try that again… which river in Mes… I’ll try that again.”

SH: Oh dear.

DP: The record days stretched out… I can remember talking to Pete Smith, the voice man. And he said, “Dave, this is it. You know, it’s over, it’s over.” He just could not see the show lasting the rest of the year. And at that stage, I thought “I’ll do this job for a year, because it’ll be an interesting experience”.

SH: Sure.

DP: Because I really wanted to get stuck into more scriptwriting. So when I started the job as the adjudicator, I was thinking of it as just a short-term thing. But the show kept going, longer than anybody expected it would! Glenn Ridge got better, and we all got better at learning what to give him and what not to give him. He was a very charming, nice guy, and obviously the audience liked him. And as a comparison, in Tony Barber’s day, I only ever saw him speak to contestants when the cameras were on. When the cameras weren’t on, he wasn’t there. He had this knack for disappearing as soon as we weren’t recording, whereas in recording breaks Glenn would go and chat to the contestants, very down-to-earth, unassuming. Was Glenn Ridge the host for your episodes?

SH: Yeah, I went on twice. In 1994 and in ’99. Yes, Glenn made his way over and shook our hands and introduced himself before the show started, which I thought was pretty classy.

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Sale of the Century eventually finished in 2001 after 4,610 episodes, completing an incredible 21-year run! Four years later in 2005, it was rebranded and revived as Temptation, and went on to run for another 555 episodes.

But that, my friends, is another story…

 

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