My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show producer Steve Marshall – Part 5

Hello, and welcome back.

When we left off last week, Steve was telling us about his first gig as a fully-fledged producer – the Name That Tune-style game show Keynotes, which replaced Sale of the Century during Sale‘s production break in summer 92/93…

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SH: And after producing Keynotes… you went back to Sale, I think?

SM: Yeah.

SH: Which leads me to a very specific question… would you have been there in September 1994, by any chance?

SM: I was. And I did look at that clip on your Facebook page, which features a very young (and-slightly-less-hirsute-on-the-cheek-and-a-bit-more-hair-upstairs) Stephen Hall. But I hate to say this, Hally; that episode didn’t ring too many bells. But I was there at that stage, yeah. I would’ve been the guy chatting to you in the ad breaks and saying “you’re doing well” and “keep it up”, you know.

SH: I’m certainly not surprised you don’t recall that particular episode – over the years you must have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of contestants!

SM: Yeah, yeah, literally hundreds. And three contestants per show, so… but you did get to know some of them. I always say, nobody ever won Sale of the Century through “good luck”; all the winners were good players. (Some more likable than others). And that’s why I asked you earlier if it changed your life because it was a life-changing thing to win such a big wad of cash tax-free, and all those prizes. And generally speaking, most of the contestants were all really great people. And they enjoyed being there.

SH: Did you ever cross paths with Quiz Master Cary Young?

That’s Cary there.

SM: Oh, yeah! Well, Cary had made a name for himself before I got involved, back in the early days of Sale, as one of the big winners. And they used to get him back whenever they had World Championship tournaments, where they’d fly in great quizmasters from the UK, and America, Asia. Cary was always one of the leading players from Australia – probably the best I ever saw. Cary Young used to memorize birth dates and death dates of famous people. So, whenever it came to a ‘Who Am I?” question, they’d go, “I was born in London in 1852 and died in 1886”. Bang, straight away, he’d know who it was. Most other contestants would need a few more clues to work out who that was. Cary also had an innate understanding that when you buzzed in, the host would always get probably two more words out after you buzzed. I mean, Tony would say, “Who is the captain of the Australian -”, Cary would buzz in, and then Tony would say “cricket team”, before saying Cary’s name. Then Cary would answer “Greg Chappell.”

SH: Because after the host says your name, you still have another three seconds.

SM: Yeah, you got three seconds to think about it. Yeah. So, Cary was a master, not only of general knowledge, but also in the technical way he played Sale of the Century. And a lot of the better players had little quirks like that. Because the thing with the Sale of the Century was that you were competing against two other players. So, it wasn’t just a general knowledge quiz, it was also a test of speed as to how quickly you can get the opportunity to answer. And all the good players had that speed.

SH: Yes. When I was speaking to David Poltorak recently, he said he used to watch the show at home and compete against the people on the screen in his lounge. I loved hearing that because that’s exactly what I did, too. And I really believe that gives you such an edge over the people who just turn up to the show going, “Well, you can’t really study for it, can you? It’s just general knowledge…”

SM: And you reaped the rewards, as some of the better players did. But there were plenty of people who thought “I’ll just get up and give it a go”, or “I’ll give it a chance, we’ll see what happens. I might win a new kettle from the gift shop, and I’ve been on telly! That’s a good day’s work!” Whereas the good players like yourself and all the other big winners, there’s a lot more to it than that. They are prepared. It is like training for a marathon or a sporting event.

SH: Yeah.

SM: And the better players all had that brutal competitive edge. They didn’t want to just win the money. I mean, sure – that’s a fantastic byproduct of winning the show! But it was as much for the competition and proving that they were the best player over the course of a week. And again, I liken it to an athlete. You don’t see too many people in the world of sport reach the top without having that killer instinct.

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“Killer instinct” – I like it! And Steve’s point is well made; if you’re serious about game show success, you really do need that ruthless, competitive streak. Of course, you can be – and you should be – as pleasant and polite as possible… but there really should be that unshakable confidence, focus and determination bubbling away underneath. That’s certainly something I tried to achieve in my game show adventures, and (unsurprisingly), I highly recommend taking that approach!

Until next Tuesday, this is Stephen “Killer” Hall signing off. 

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