My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show producer Steve Marshall – Part 7

Hello and welcome back. Last week, we left off just as Steve was talking about his stint writing quiz questions for Million Dollar Minute. And if you’re not too familiar with Million Dollar Minute, I’d recommend you take a look at THIS interview I did with one of that show’s biggest winners, Alex Dusek. Of course, since Steve brought it up, I felt I had to ask him the one question I ask all question writers…

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SH: What do you think is the secret to writing a good quiz question?

SM: It’s probably no real secret, but every quiz question is just a sentence or question, basically. You want to make sure the clue part doesn’t come in too early, or too late (unless the point is to have quick answers, like in a ‘Fast Money’ segment on Sale of the Century.) But it’s mainly just structured so all three contestants can have an equal go at it. And the better ones will pick up that clue quicker than the others. I guess the most important thing we found on Sale and is that a good question should only have one answer.

SH: Yeah.

SM: We’d have a question meeting before every record; I would sit there with David Poltorak, and we’d do it all the time. If the answer to the question is “London”, what if they say “UK”? What if they say, you know, a specific part of London? Do we need to restructure it so there’s only one answer? The last thing you want is to have a contest say “Actually, I was right on that question. But they wrote it wrong.” So, you have to be very careful in that regard. And in those days, there was no Google or internet.

SH: No.

SM: David – who’d be sitting upstairs in the control room during records – had a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica and about eight dictionaries, maybe the World Book Encyclopedia, there’d be atlases.

SH: Right.

SM: What you’d never want to do is to have the show make a mistake and have to address it and then bring the contestant back for another go. It happened occasionally. Very rarely.

SH: Yes.

SM: That’s a part of behind the scenes that a LOT of work goes into.

SH: And you can spend an hour on one question.

SM: Oh yeah, easily, easily! At which point we’d usually go “why don’t we just ditch it?”. Who was the Prime Minister of Australia in 1963? That’s a straight-up answer.

SH: Sure. Steve, you’ve worked in the industry over so many shows and over so many years, you’d have seen a lot of highs a lot of lows… What common mistakes did you see contestants make?

SM: The biggest one on Sale of the Century was being a smartarse. Because we used to see it, occasionally. We had one contestant – and I’ll certainly not name him – but he was an annoying guy on air and he made smartarse quips and one-liners in between the questions… I used to say to him, “Just pull it back a bit. Just answer the question. People don’t like that.” But the audience would watch Sale of the Century and the ratings would go up if somebody was winning each night… Because the audience loved seeing people win a lot. But they also used to watch when the not-so-likable contestants were on, hoping they’d lose! That was probably the biggest thing, just be yourself and just be pleasant. If you try too hard, sometimes you can make unnecessary mistakes.

SH: And was that annoying person you mentioned there for a long time?

SM: Yes, he won the lot.

SH: Oh, right!

SM: He was that good. But just to show you how annoying he was… he won the Audi which was an amazing navy blue sports car. And about six weeks after his winning episode went to air, I got a call from the guy at Melbourne Audi.

He said, “I’ve got a problem with this contestant – he won’t pick up his car.”

I said, “Why won’t he pick up his car?”

He wants a purple one. I told him, he can have navy-blue, silver, British racing green, black, white… But as far as I know, Audi has never made a purple convertible.”

So, I rang the contestant and said “If you don’t pick up the car by Friday, you’re not going to get it”, which was just pure bluff on my part. Eventually, he picked up his car. But he was an excellent player. Unlikable on air (and off, to a degree) but very good.

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Yikes! What a charmer… Of course, I was dying to know the name of that person, but despite all my ham-fisted amateur journalistic probing, Steve never revealed it. He’s too much of a gentleman for that. So we’re just left to speculate… Oh well, maybe next time.

Join me next week for the last instalment of this epic chat, where Steve reveals his TOP TIPS for any aspiring game show contestant. (And they’re great, as you’d expect). Until then, then!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show producer Steve Marshall – Part 6

Hello! This week, the conversation takes a bit of a left turn, as we make a detour to peruse the other feathers in Steve’s cap, to examine the other strings to his bow, to check out the other runs on his board…

Well, you get the idea.

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SH: It strikes me that there’s been a lot of variety in your career, Steve. Apart from all the game show producing and writing, you’ve also done loads of radio, under your pseudonym ‘Sergio Paradise’... but these days, you’re doing a podcast, aren’t you?

I should perhaps point out that. although this recording artist was indeed the inspiration for Steve Marshall’s radio alias, this is most definitely NOT a picture of Steve Marshall.

SM: Yeah, well, I stumbled across Titus O’Reily on Twitter, who’s made a real name for himself as a sporting satirist. And I sent him a message one day saying, “That’s your funniest line ever”, whatever it was. And he came back and goes, “Oh, that’s great. I used to listen to the Saturday radio shows. We should get together and do something. Why don’t we start a podcast?” Which we did. And we’ve been doing it for about five or six years now… and we even did a live tour. We did seven cities in seven nights.

SH: Fantastic. What’s it called?

SM: It’s called Titus and Sergio’s Variety Hour. We call it that because it rarely runs for an hour and it contains very little variety. We just talk sport, mainly with an AFL angle, whatever’s going on in the world of sport and anything we feel like talking about really, and generally weekly.

SH: And when you toured it around, what sort of venues did you play?

SM: It was small theatres, it was booked through Mushroom Records. The late, great Michael Gudinski started the comedy arm of Mushroom, and they put together this Titus O’Reily tour and they wanted me to tag along. I put together all the visuals and we did 400 seat theatres in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane. We sold out every one.

SH: That’s awesome! Nice work if you can get it!

SM: Yeah.

SH: Just moving back to the game show world… you next popped up on Million Dollar Minute, which must have been around 2013? 2014?

SM: Yeah. A guy who had worked at Grundy’s for many years (who was actually the copywriter on Sale of the Century before me) was the head writer on Million Dollar Minute when Channel 7 was putting that together. And he rang me and said, “We’re looking for question writers. Do you want to do it? You could do it from home and it’s all pretty easy.” Sure, I’m in. It was good.

SH: Was that the first time you’d written questions?

SM: The first time I’d written them. Back in my later years at Sale, I used to program all the questions. I’d deal with guys like David Poltorak and all the other question writers. They would submit X number of questions per week and we’d go through them. And some would be like, ‘I’m never going to use that one’ or ‘That’s too hard – nobody will have ever heard of that person’. But then you have to program them so they don’t get too repetitive, and all that sort of stuff. So, I had a pretty good head for questions. The Million Dollar Minute questions were very similar to the Sale of the Century ones – they were pretty much straight up general knowledge. And we could use more topical subjects and incidents and people…

SH: Well, it wasn’t just the questions that were similar; the whole show was pretty similar to Sale of the Century, just quietly…

SM: Yes, although it lacked a bit of drama, and there was an X factor that always made Sale….

SH: It was good to see a proper quiz show, though. They’ve seemed to have gone the way of the dinosaurs now, apart from The Chase. But The Chase is a bit weighted against the contestants, I find.

SM: Yeah, but I think quiz shows might come back. Everything on TV comes back eventually… just not the same as it used to be. Somebody will devise a new format. I remember when Who Wants to Be a Millionaire came out. The CEO of Grundy’s called me to his office. He said, “Have a look at this show from England!” I thought “Wow – just imagine, you can phone a friend, LIVE while you’re on TV, to get their answer!” It was completely revolutionary, and the million-dollar figure was a really big deal in those days.

SH: Revolutionary.

SM: Yeah, yeah. And that changed how quiz shows work. Yeah, I think for quiz shows to come back again, somebody’s gonna have to come up with something as revolutionary as Millionaire was in its day… I hope somebody does.

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So do I, Steve – so do I. Can’t say I see anything like that on the horizon at the moment, but as always, we live in hope. We’ll see you back here next week for the penultimate instalment of this chat, in which Steve and I discuss the art of writing great quiz questions, and one of the biggest mistakes he saw contestants make during his many years behind the scenes at Sale… 

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. 

My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show producer Steve Marshall – Part 4

Welcome back.

For those of you who don’t know, here in Australia, we have three big commercial TV networks – the Nine Network (which was home to Sale of the Century), the Ten Network (where Steve started his TV career), and the Seven Network (which was once home to The Price Is Right).

In our discussion up to this point, the Seven Network seemed to me to be the one big commercial network where Steve hadn’t yet made his mark…

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SH: So after you left Sale, you did a morning show on another network for a while until you came back to Grundy’s again, this time as producer of The Price is Right!

SM: Yeah, they were bringing it back, and they’d hired a producer who apparently was struggling with the workload of the whole thing. When my boss from Grundy’s said, “Can you come back and be the producer of The Price is Right?” my first reaction was “That is the daggiest show ever made. I don’t know if I want to do The Price is Right.” And he said, “Look, it might be the daggiest show ever made, but it’s also one of the biggest shows you can make. Because you got to remember, you’re getting dozens of contestants out of the audience, you’ve got a five-episode record day, you’ve got well over 100 different prizes in the show. And all the prices have to be right – technically, it’s a very difficult show to make. And if you do it and do a good job, anybody in TV will recognize that you’ve had your hands around a very difficult show to put together.” And I thought, ‘in that case, that’s pretty good advice.’ So, I went back there. And it was hard work, purely for that reason – it was just the hundreds of prizes and stuff.

SH: How old were you at this stage?

SM: 29, 30…

SH: Wow, you were a Whiz Kid! That’s good for someone so young to be given that much responsibility.

SM: Yeah, I mean, you had an Executive Producer who’d oversee things. But it’s one of those shows where the producer actually does drive a lot of it because you’ve got to program all the games – there’d be three different games in a show. You have a short one, a medium one and a long game, just for timing, and then the showcase at the end. So, you program – and this happened on a big wall in a big office – where you’d pin different cards to the wall for all the different games, and then all the prizes. Of course, you couldn’t have a prize that clashed with a competitor in the same game; you couldn’t have a TV from Samsung going up against a stereo from Sony. There were all these fiddly little things that you had to pick up. As I said, hard work. But also good fun and (the host) Larry Emdur was – and still is – just one of the masters of the game show. And he’s great.

SH: He’s born for that.

SM: Yeah, he is. It’s something a lot of TV performers and presenters can’t do. The ones who can do game shows, that’s a whole different skill set. And you’re right, you’re born with it. You’ve either got it or you haven’t, and Larry’s got it in spades, and he’s still doing it – I think he’s just bought his 15th house. The price has been right for Larry for many years.

SH: Absolutely! And he’s recently taken over hosting duties on The Chase Australia.

SM: He has, and he’s doing a good job and that’s why Channel 7 gave him the gig – they knew he’d do a good job on it.

SH: So how long did you serve on The Price Is Right, before leading up to the main event in your career, which is of course… Keynotes!

SM: Well, actually, I think Keynotes might have come before The Price is Right. But Keynotes was the first time I got the title ‘Producer’. And Keynotes, for those who don’t remember (which is pretty much everyone) was 13 weeks filming at Channel 9 over the summer, while Sale of the Century was off. Keynotes was a musical game show whose format was devised by the great Reg Grundy himself. And so, for that reason, you couldn’t tweak the format too much (even though it was a bit repetitive and boring)… but because it was a music show on Channel 9, the word came down from (Nine network boss) Kerry Packer that (music and entertainment reporter) Richard Wilkins would host it. In the American version of the show, most of the music you had to guess was very old – 40s and 50s, maybe some early 60s stuff. But our plan was to make this a lot more Australian. So, I ended up in the office picking out snippets from Cold Chisel songs and AC/DC, Midnight Oil, and all that stuff. It was a great fun show to work on, and we knew it was only going to run for 13 weeks. Richard Wilkins is a terrific bloke and he loved doing it. But it didn’t work; nobody watched it. It got axed after 10 weeks, which means there’s three weeks of Keynotes that have never been seen! Not exactly the holy grail of Australian television… but I’m sure they are on VHS tapes somewhere up the back of Richard Wilkins’ garage.

SH: Does that mean there’s three weeks’ worth of contestants who won prizes that they never got?

SM: No, they did actually get them… purely because the prizes weren’t worth a hell of a lot. The winning teams, I think, got $300 and the losing teams got a four-pack of CDs. So, it wasn’t like an episode of Sale of the Century where there was a massive cash jackpot and a couple of cars and a trip to Paris that went begging. But it was a fun show, and to this day, if I ever run into Richard, we still laugh about it.

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Well in that case, it’s understandable that the producers chose to waive the if-your-episode/s-don’t-air,-you-don’t-get-your-winnings rule this time. Quite a different story from Kristi Milley’s tale… but I guess the stakes were a lot higher in her case!

See you next week!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show producer Steve Marshall – Part 3

Hello!

When we left off last week, we were talking about Steve’s position as Associate Producer on Sale Of The Century…

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SH: And at that stage, were you responsible for choosing contestants?

SM: I was at the auditions and interviews quite often. There’d be a written test. And then the ones who’d passed the test had to get up and stand in front of everybody and have a chat about themselves. We used to go for people who we thought would probably be good on camera, as opposed to people who might freeze on camera. And because the questions in the audition test were generally harder than the questions on the show, we thought if anyone passed the audition test, they’d know the answers to most of the questions on the show.

But… I do remember one guy who stood up after passing the test. He was an English guy, and he had the gift of the gab and he was chatty and he was funny and I just thought he was sensational. I remember saying to the Executive Producer “This English guy will be fantastic!” And the EP said “Really? Doesn’t look like it on paper…” I said “Trust me, this bloke will be sensational.” We put him on, and he didn’t say ‘boo’ the entire show. I think he might’ve answered one question. I said “Oh god, that’s me. I’ll never recommend anyone ever again!”

SH: During those auditions, were there any big no-no’s? Any cautionary tales? What not to do?

SM: Most of the people wanting to get on Sale were generally pretty smart people. And they went on there and they wanted to win. And so they worked fairly seriously. There weren’t too many people who were time wasters, shall we say. And if they were… they either wouldn’t pass the test, or they’d be stamped ‘probably not really good to use’.

SH: Were there any perks associated with the insider information you had there?

SM: Well….. Grundy’s in those days was in North Richmond near a pub called ‘The Cherry Tree’ which was owned by Scotty Palmer, a well-known sports journo. We’d often see him there on a Friday night. What we didn’t realize at the time, was that one of his most well-known customers was a bloke by the name of Dennis Allen, who lived nearby and owned about 10 houses, all paid for by the drugs that he sold at his front door. He was known to the cops as ‘Dr Death’, which I think explains his M.O. as far as selling the drugs.

SH: Ah, a medical man! I see, yes…

SM: So Dr. Death would be sitting at one end of the bar, and you never messed with him. But I remember ordering a couple of beers there one night, and the TV was on behind the bar and Sale of the Century was on. And this fairly shifty-looking bloke standing next to me points up at the screen. It was about halfway through the show, and you could see the contestant’s scores. And I think they were 20, 50 and 15 (meaning that the carry-over champ was on 15). And this guy said to me, “Carry-over champ’s in trouble. I bet ya $50 the bloke in the middle wins”.

And I just looked at the screen I said, “I’ll take that bet. I reckon the carry-over champ might get up here…” (knowing full well that we’d recorded this episode two weeks earlier, and that the carry-over champ came back in the final 60 seconds to win by one question!)

SH: Oh.

SM: Shifty-looking bloke pulls out the $50 and goes to hand it to me and he says, “Well called, mate.” I said, “Sorry. I can’t take your money. I work on the show. I know this bloke got up and won by one question. I can’t take your money. That’s just that.” And I’m thinking ‘there’s Dr. Death over in the corner….’

SH: (GULP) Yes, we’re all friends here! Heh heh. Did he take that all right?

SM: He was fine. But then two weeks later, I’m back in there. And he sidles up to me again, looks at the screen and goes “So who wins this one?”

And I give him a theatrical sort of look and go “chick on the left…”

So, he turns to another guy and goes, “Hey! I’ll bet you $100 bucks that chick on the left wins!”

I said, “$100? Your price has gone up.”

He goes, “Yeah. $50 for me and 50 for you…”

I said, “Okay I’ve got to cut this right here. I work on the show. We cannot be doing this. It’s illegal. You could get into big trouble. I’ll lose my job. So just let’s just stop betting on the winners, okay? I’m not telling you another thing.”

SH: You stayed on the right side of things there…

SM: I remember my boss telling me, “The smartest thing to do, don’t tell people you work on the show.”

SH: Lesson learned.

SM: “Drink your beer and go home like the rest of us.”

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Yes, quite. I suspect that might be good advice for all of us, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

See you next week.

(and Cheers).

My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show producer Steve Marshall – Part 2

Welcome back! When we left off last week, we were discussing the early days of Steve’s TV career, and the show he was working on, where he happened to meet the young woman who would later become his wife…

========================== SH: And was that your first game show-related job, Sale of the Century? You were an associate producer?

SM: Well, yeah, although I started off as a copywriter. I dropped out of university and I wanted to get into advertising somehow. And I got a job at Channel 10 in the publicity department, just before they were about to televise the Olympics. And the publicity department had four women and the boss said to me,

“None of us know anything about sport. Do you know about sport? Because we’ve got the Olympics…”

And I said “yeah.”

“You’re hired, young fella!”

And I was quickly found to be the worst publicist in the history of publicity. And after a couple of years there, I thought I cannot in good conscience ring the editor of TV Week once more, suggesting another Young Talent Time story, without bursting into laughter. But what I did see working in publicity at Channel 10 was all the shows being made; Prisoner, Carson’s Law, Young Talent Time… you saw the newsroom and all that stuff. And I thought making shows would be a lot more fun than trying to promote them through the newspapers, which I was no good at. I thought ‘maybe I’ll try and get into production’. And a bit later I saw an ad in The Age saying “Grundy Entertainment – copywriter”. I thought, ‘That’s it. That sounds like me’, but I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. But I got the job (as copywriter on Sale of the Century)! I thought I’d be writing all the questions and some quips for (host) Tony Barber. But it’s nothing to do with that, of course; it’s writing all the prize reads for the ‘Gift Shop’ prizes, and the big major prizes. And it was an absolutely perfect introduction to it all because, first week, you’re in the studio and you’re watching them do it. We all grew up watching Sale of the Century and Tony Barber… and suddenly there I am, in the thick of it! So, I stayed there for a couple years, moved up to Associate Producer, but decided to move on.

SH: How did you go from writing the prize reads to becoming an Associate Producer?

SM: They had a pretty open sort of ladder at (production company) Grundy’s. If you stayed there long enough, and they thought you were pretty good at the job, they’d give you that title with a bit more money and a few more responsibilities. And the Associate Producer on a show like that doesn’t make too many big decisions. But you’re dealing with the prize department and programming prizes and stuff like that. But I wanted to get into the question side, so I was going through all the questions with question writers. I asked my boss at the time “What makes a good producer?” And he said, “Common sense. We sometimes see people get a bit excited about it, and they get caught up in the title and think they’re the Big Decision Maker. But it’s mainly just steering the thing and putting a good solid hand on the wheel, and having good people underneath you”.

SH: And so how long were you in the role of Associate Producer?

SM: 18 months.

SH: Right.

SM: And then, as you know, I got bored and decided to fly to LA and indulge my youthful fantasy of driving an American car from LA to New York, which I did.

SH: By yourself?

SM: Yeah. Yeah, it was fun.

SH: That’s very cool. So, if you were over there doing that, what made you come back to Australia?

SM: Just ran out of money, basically! I think I went back to Grundy’s and then resumed as an Associate Producer.

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When I heard Steve say that, I found it heartening that the Grundy Organisation welcomed one of its former employees back with such open arms. The way he told it, it almost sounded to me like they were welcoming him back into the family. I’m not sure that the big TV production companies would be quite so accommodating with their people these days. At the risk of sounding like a sappy old geezer, it feels like it was a simpler, kinder, more decent time back then… 

And we’ll be exploring it further, right here next Tuesday! 

My EXCLUSIVE interview with game show producer Steve Marshall – Part 1

This is a picture of Steve. But when you meet him in real life, he’s in colour.

Hello and welcome to my first really big interview for 2022. I’m really excited about this one. Steve Marshall is a veteran game show producers who’s racked up thousands of hours of game show TV across some of the biggest and most recognizable shows in the industry. Steve’s a lovely bloke, and we first met way back in – But no, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll just leave you with the interview and all will be revealed. And now dear reader, read on…

================================SH: Steve Marshall, hello, thank you so much for speaking to me today.

SM: Stephen Hall it’s a pleasure, absolute pleasure. As always.

SH: I’m trying to think of the last time you and I actually spoke. I do remember that after my time on Temptation, in 2005, you had a radio show… And did you put me in touch with Nathan Foley?

SM: I’m grateful you brought that up. I was trying to remember who it was. Because I’d been speaking to Jon Olb, the TV director. And he told me you’d won Temptation. I said, “Did he win The Lot? That’s fantastic.” I said to our producer. “We’ve got to get him on the radio show soon,” because I think that episode had just gone to air. We watched it and found out you’d had a bit of luck in your final episode, in that you had a pick of the board and you picked Nathan Foley. He was one of the kids in Hi-5? Is that correct?

SH: That’s right.

SM: And he spun around and gave you the $25, which helped you get over the line. (You can see this moment here, around the 13:30 mark) So when we got you on the radio show, our producer cleverly got Nathan Foley on the line as well. So you got the opportunity to thank him… despite the fact that he had nothing whatsoever to do with it!

SH: That’s right.

SM: But you know, although I say you were lucky to pull that $25…. In all my years of experience, nobody ever won Sale of the Century / Temptation, ever, by being lucky. I mean, if you win seven nights in a row, there’s a lot more to it than luck. Hang on, let’s turn the interview around a bit; did it change your life?

SH: Yes, sir, absolutely! It massively changed my life! And to think, I frittered it all away on a house. (LAUGHS) But the ongoing effects of that event still keep echoing through, right up to this day. Absolutely. It changed everything. I was going out with my wife, but shortly after that, I proposed and she said yes. And then we had our daughter. And so, it was just a great – and very action-packed and joyous – year that year.

SM: I can imagine – what a start to everything!

SH: Yes, it was fantastic. But it was some six years before that – in 1999 – that you and I first met.

SM: That’s right.

SH: We were both working on a show for Fox8 (on cable TV here in Australia) called Sunday Roast, which has since disappeared without a trace.

SM: It’s funny you say that, because I’ve done the sad thing, I’ve tried to hunt it down. I thought for sure there’d be some snippets on YouTube or something, but I think they probably just now live on a digi betacam tape on somebody’s bookshelf somewhere. Just to explain, that was in the early days of Foxtel here in Australia and Jason Stephens – who was in the original D-Generation’s Late Show – started this little production company. And with another guy who was a very good lawyer and negotiator, not necessarily a great producer, he put together a comedy panel show which they sold to Foxtel called Sunday Roast… and you and I crossed paths on that. And it was a fun show to do. There were two teams competing, and we had Pete Rowsthorn as the host and Steve Bedwell and Shane Bourne were the team captains. So, as I always say (and people sometimes forget this) if you want to make a funny show, it helps to have funny people involved. And that was a real good show. I really enjoyed Sunday Roast.

SH: In some ways, it was ahead of its time. It’s a format that’s become so familiar to us now with Spicks and Specks, and Never Mind The Buzzcocks and all those sorts of shows. There are a million English ones and they’re doing really well. I think that was pretty early days for that type of comedy.

SM: Yeah. I remember at the time being a big fan of the English comedian Jeff Green. I’d seen him on a couple of those English panel shows; They Think It’s All Over, and so on. He was coming out for the Melbourne Comedy Festival and I thought, “Gee wouldn’t be great to get Jeff Green on the show?” We managed to track him down. And he did the show! He was – and he still is – one of the great comedians of the world, Jeff.

SH: For sure. Now, I remember that your wife Tania also worked on Sunday Roast, and am I right in thinking that you two originally met at work? Was it on Sale of the Century?

SM: Yep. Tania was the contestant coordinator. It was her job to find contestants, and run auditions all around the country and pick out the best ones, and throw suggestions of people to be contestants on the show each week. And our paths crossed and you know, we weren’t the first – and certainly won’t be the last – to have an office romance. And unsurprisingly…

SH: Eh, it’ll never last! (LAUGHS) 

SM: It lasted! (LAUGHS)

==================================================================

And we’ll leave it there for this week, on that cheerful note (and hello Tania, if you’re reading this)! See you back here next week, when Steve discusses the world of commercial TV publicity in the mid-80s, and driving across America from L.A to New York…

Until then, then!

ICYMI on HTWGS in 2021

Hello, and again Happy 2022 to you!

Just a quick one today, before I launch into the year’s first official, exclusive new content next week. I thought I might take a look back at some highlights of last year here on the blog, to give you a second chance to catch up on them, in case there’s anything there that might take your fancy, but which you missed at the time.

First up, in February, I let you know about a very clever, very funny new podcast created by a couple of brilliant Melbourne-based comedy writers. It’s called The Pop Test, and each episode tackles a scientific subject in great detail with the help of a couple of celebrity contestants, and a whole lot of smart gags. Andy Matthews and Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall are the brains behind this, and if you haven’t sampled it yet, you really should give it a go!  

In May, our good friend – and occasional guest blogger – Ryan Vickers drew our attention to the second season of The Search For Canada’s Game Shows, all episodes of which are available to watch online. They make fascinating viewing for any game show aficionado. (Hey, that’s you!) 

Then, in June, we discovered a brand new nightly online quiz, in the form of The TikTok10. Australian quiz show question writer Miles Glaspole creates a new 10-question episode every weeknight, in a fun, quick quiz that’s now racked up over 18 MILLION LIKES! Congratulations, Miles! You can see what all the fuss is about right here.  

The second half of 2021 was almost entirely occupied by my epic, 18-PART EXCLUSIVE episode with Australian quiz show legend David Poltorak. It was a wide-ranging and very candid conversation with a man who’s proven himself in front of the cameras, and in a variety of behind-the-scenes roles in the game show industry since he exploded onto the quiz show scene back in the 1980s. If you haven’t read the interview, I’d heartily recommend it. The whole thing kicks off here.

And finally, we rounded out the year with…

  • My latest HTWGS movie review. I took a look at Perfect Bid: The Contestant Who Knew Too Much, which tells the incredible story of Theodore ‘Ted’ Slauson, who’s appeared on The Price Is Right a whopping 37 times! You can read my review right here, and the 72-minute movie’s actually available to view online here, here and here
  • And a two-part interview with game show winner Kristi Milley, who told her twisty, turny tale of appearing on the ill-fated 2006 Australian Quiz show the MASTER. There’s certainly a lesson to be learned with that one!

So there are a few highlights of The Year That Just Was, in case you missed them. I look forward to welcoming you back here next week, for my very first big, EXCLUSIVE interview for 2022. It’s with a man who’s worked behind the scenes on many of Australia’s biggest game shows across all the major networks, across four decades! He’s veteran Australian game show producer Steve Marshall, and it’s a far-ranging chat you won’t want to miss.

See you then, then! 

HAPPY NEW YEAR from HTWGS.com!

Thanks, Mr Gumby.

As 2021 draws to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and your near ones and dear ones all the very, very best for a wonderful 2022. Whatever sort of 2021 you’ve had, I sincerely hope that 2022 is Bigger, Better and Brighter for you!

I’ve got loads of good stuff lined up for the blog in the year ahead, including: 

  • More of my patented HowToWinGameShows reminiscences,
  • More book reviews,
  • and more exclusive interviews with fascinating behind-the-scenes figures from the game show industry (the first one of which will start in just a couple of weeks).

If there’s anything other game show-related material YOU’d like to see me tackle in 2022, please do let me know, either in the comments below or via email: Stephen@HowToWinGameShows.com. I’m always open to suggestions!

Thanks so much, as always, for your support… 

and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Cheers,

Stephen.

Merry Christmas from HTWGS.com!

Hello. As the year that was 2021 winds down, I’d just like to take this opportunity to heartily wish you and yours all the Compliments of the Season. I hope your Christmas is exactly what YOU want it to be. I hope it’s happy, I hope it’s safe, and I hope it contains liberal amounts of laughter and love.

And, of course, silliness.

Thank you so much for your support throughout this year…. and again,

Merry Christmas to you!

Cheers,

Stephen.