Today, I begin my latest Patented How To Win Game Shows Reminiscence, and this time it’s about an oft-forgotten game show from 2007 here in Australia – The ConTest. This was a show where contestants didn’t necessarily need to know any of the answers to the questions being asked; in this format, their bluffing skills were far more important. If you’d like to familiarise yourself with the show, I’ve put a sample episode up here, on the HowToWinGameShows Facebook page.
Maybe you’d like to go and have a look at that. Or maybe you’d like to dive right in. If it’s the latter, then read on, dear reader, read on…
It was late 2006 when my manager at the time got in touch with me regarding a work opportunity; it seemed there was going to be an Australian version of Ant & Dec’s recent UK game show PokerFace, and they were looking for someone to write the scripts – and questions, if possible – for this local version. I went and met the producer Asif Zubairy (who was a great producer, and a lovely man as well), we had a chat, and I got the gig.
In working on an adaptation such as this, a lot of the groundwork has already been done. We had access to all the scripts of the original UK version, along with all the questions, and all the tapes of the show so far. The Australian version was to be virtually a carbon copy of the original (albeit with a different title), so my brief was pretty much to make it “the-same-but-different”. This required replacing all of the questions, adding a lot of local references into the scripts and making the banter comfortable for the show’s two hosts: Andrew G (now known as Osher Gunsberg) and Brigitte Duclos.
The show was to be an hour long, and 10 episodes had been commissioned, initially. Each of those 10 scripts would need to include 38 questions, broken down like this;
8 X hard questions
5 X easy questions
5 X easy questions
5 X medium questions
5 X hard questions
5 X hard questions + 5 X easy questions
So that’s 380 questions in total.
Oh, and I also had to write a rehearsal episode script and supply 38 questions for that. So that’s 11 scripts and 418 questions, after all. Not counting questions that I would be called upon to replace, moving forward, for whatever reason.
The first thing I did was trawl through all my databases of old trivia questions on my computer. I’d been writing and running pub trivia for years, and so I had quite a few old standard questions which always worked – they were interesting, they were entertaining, and the passage of time hadn’t hurt them. After I’d selected – and in some cases re-jigged – a good number of these, I then started writing questions from the news of the day; going through newspapers, and getting up to speed with what was going on in pop culture at the time. Asif, and the network, would give me notes about the questions; these “Easy” ones are too hard, these “Hard” ones are too easy, these ones aren’t appropriate, these ones aren’t interesting enough, and so on and so on. I then had to tweak these questions, or come up with replacements that they were happy with.
Here’s my delivery schedule, and the record dates:
- Deliver 76 X questions and scripts for Eps 1 & 2 by close of business Wednesday 29/11/06
- Deliver 76 X questions and scripts for Eps 3 & 4 by COB Friday 01/12/06
- Deliver 76 X questions and scripts for Eps 5 & 6 by COB Wednesday 06/12/06
- Deliver 76 X questions and scripts for Eps 7 & 8 by COB Friday 08/12/06
- Deliver 76 X questions and scripts for Eps 9 & 10 by COB Wednesday 13/12/06
- Rehearsal in studio in Sydney – Wednesday 13/12/06
- Rehearsal in studio in Sydney – Thursday 14/12/06
- Record Episode 1 in studio in Sydney – Friday 15/12/06
- Record Episodes 2 & 3 in studio in Sydney – Sunday 17/12/06
- Record Episode 4 in studio in Sydney – Monday 18/12/06
- Record Episode 5 in studio in Sydney – Tuesday 19/12/06
- Record Episode 6 in studio in Sydney – Friday 22/12/06
- Record Episode 7 in studio in Sydney – Friday 05/01/07
- Record Episodes 8 & 9 in studio in Sydney – Saturday 06/01/07
- Record Episode 10 in studio in Sydney – Monday 08/01/07
My main recollection of writing The ConTest is that it was all done remotely. I was living in Melbourne at the time, the show was being made in Sydney, and my involvement didn’t extend beyond phone calls and emails to Asif. I was never present at the studio for any of the rehearsals or records, and I had no contact with either Andrew or Brigitte. I don’t recall ever getting any feedback on whether they were happy with the words I was writing for them to say. Feedback would have been handy, though; I’d have liked to have had the opportunity to tweak it more to their taste. I always think TV presenters appear more comfortable and confident when they’ve had input into what they’re saying on camera. I also remember this period as a very busy time; the workload and deadlines ended up being a bit tricky to meet, since I was also fitting this commitment in around my shooting dates for The King.
And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. When I return with Part 2, in the new year, I’ll discuss feedback from presenters, show some snippets from the scripts, and look at the general game show trends at the time. Until then, then!