A game show winner’s cautionary tale – Part 1

Hello! As I’ve frequently pointed out here, it’s a game show truism that “If your episode doesn’t air, you don’t get your winnings”. This is standard game show practice, and it’s usually written into contestant agreements, to officially remind people not to count their chickens before they’ve hatched.

Today’s interview really brings this home. I’m very pleased to be speaking today to Kristi Milley – a winning contestant on 2006’s the MASTER, who knows about this particular aspect of game shows only too well…

SH: Kristi! Thank you so much for talking to me today for HowToWinGameShows.com. By way of background, what was your life like before going you appeared on the show? Had you been interested in quizzing and game shows for a long time? And what, in particular, inspired you to try out for the MASTER?

KM: I was in my second year of Uni and loved my weekly pub trivia with friends. I was the quintessential poor student and I think trying out for the MASTER was part of a get- rich-quick scheme! I also went on Deal or No Deal the same year. I got to hold a briefcase but didn’t win anything.

SH: Can you talk us through the audition / interview process for the show?

KM: It’s such a long time ago now, all the details are fuzzy. I remember having to fill out a long personal bio, maybe have my photo taken and complete a paper-based general knowledge questionnaire. Then a few weeks later, I was contacted to say I had made it to the next round.

SH: Your special subject was The Human Body (which makes sense, since you were a medical science student at the time); did you do any specific training for going on the show?

KM: I winged everything! I didn’t even think to prep for the show. How silly is that?

SH: Can you talk a bit about the studio experience itself? What did you notice about other contestants and the way they handled it?

KM: I had a really great experience on the day itself. I was only 21 at the time and remember feeling very young compared to the other contestants. I’d never had my make-up done professionally before, and I had to bring a couple of outfit options, which was all very exciting.

All the other contestants were very friendly, and I didn’t get the sense that any of them regularly tried out for game shows. We were all like deer in the headlights when we started to record. The host Mark Beretta really made us feel comfortable and kept up the small talk between takes to help relax the contestants. A few of the other contestants had a friend or family member in the audience, which made them feel more at ease. As it was a brand new format, we were all on a level playing field. My episode was also the very first to be recorded in the series. So, I don’t think contestants really had the opportunity to have a strategy. This had an impact in the Special Subject round, where you lost points for incorrect answers… but we didn’t really get a chance to think how big an impact that would have. I essentially won the show because one of the contestants performed very poorly with his Special Subject and lost all the points he’d built up before that.

SH: Were there any elements of the show itself – the studio audience, the MASTER himself (Martin Flood), the speed of proceedings, the physicality of the set, the brightness of the lights, or even the loudness of the music – that surprised you?

KM: The brightness of the lights was quite intense – I was sweating up a storm! Note to budding game show contestants: don’t wear a woollen cardigan! And having Martin watching the game and commenting added an extra layer of intensity to the experience.

SH: In the heat of battle, during the actual playing of your game, what moments – either good or bad – stick in your mind?

KM: 15 years later, I still remember the questions I answered incorrectly that I should have known. The other thing that’s never left me is my terrible banter with Martin between questions in the final segment.

SH: Oh, I think you’re being a bit hard on yourself there. After all, you did win your episode, and a cool $41,100!

SH: … But then, in August 2006, a few weeks after your record, the MASTER premiered on the Seven Network, only to be axed after just one episode! (And unfortunately, that episode was not the one you were in). How did you feel when you heard the show had been cancelled?

KM: Gutted – what 21-year-old doesn’t have plans for their winnings? I was heading to the UK not long after filming, for a placement with my undergraduate studies, and the winnings were going to help pay for my flights and accommodation.

SH: BUT then four months later (during the non-ratings period), the network decided to air the six remaining episodes of the show…. or did they? I’m guessing you tuned in to watch the remaining episodes in December 2006?

KM: The way I remember it was they did air the one episode (in August) and then the rest all aired during the non-ratings period, yes. They had said they’d contact us to let us know when our episode would air, but I was never contacted. And (in December) they aired every episode… bar mine! So, I figured that was it – my pilot episode didn’t make the cut. 

SH: And you thought that was that the end of your the MASTER story? Seeing the network broadcast every episode except yours?

KM: That’s exactly it. Occasionally I would see the show repeated on TV, but I just filed it away as a fun experience.

SH: But then….?

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But then… Kristi’s story continues! It’s far from over, and there are more twists and turns ahead. So join us back here next Tuesday, when all will be revealed…..

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