My ‘Mastermind Australia’ journey – Part 9: the aftermath and conclusion

And that’s that. Thank you and goooodnight!

Hello! If you’ve been following this chronicle of my Mastermind Australia experience over the last nine weeks here….

A) Jeez Louise, don’t you have anything better to do?

B) Thank you.

C) You’ll know that it’s all about my preparations for – and experiences during and after – my appearance in THIS particular episode of the popular long-running quiz show: https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/2314487875992

and

D) You’ll also know that I ended last week’s instalment right after losing the game by one point, meeting up with my wife Judi and leaving the studio. Now read on…

==============================================================After our episode, when Yael, Kieran and I were back in the contestant greenroom, a producer thanked us for taking part in Mastermind Australia‘s Champions Week, and gave we three Quiz Champions our consolation prizes for all the work we’d done in preparing for, and competing in, our episode.

We were each given a Mastermind fridge magnet.

The ‘Mastermind’ fridge magnet.

Judi and I said our goodbyes, and the producer walked us to the SBS café and buzzed us in, so that we could buy ourselves some lunch. 

I received kind text messages from Troy Egglestone (who’d won the first episode recorded that day) and Andy Zito (who was currently competing in the third), and from another one of the show’s producers, who said I was very entertaining. 

I’ve obviously had a lot of time to reflect on the whole Mastermind experience since the record day. In hindsight, I’m kinda glad I didn’t get through to the Champions Week final (the fifth and final episode recorded that day). That would’ve meant waiting around in the greenroom for another six hours or so, before taking my chances with another batch of General Knowledge questions, and then the ‘Slow Burn’ round. Having studied the show as closely as I did, I suspect the potential for failure is much greater when there’s no Specialised Subject round in the episode. At least you can control how well you do in the Specialised Subject round. With whatever batch of General Knowledge questions they assign to you, and whatever ‘Slow Burn’ question you end up with… well, you’re pretty much thrown to the wind. And good luck.

The way things played out, I got to show off my specialist knowledge, I hope I was a good guest, and I think I gave the show a good (and feelgood?) episode. I really hope I lost with a bit of good grace and dignity.

After we left the SBS studios, Judi and I drove to Newcastle (where we were going to attend a wedding the next day), unwound with a few drinks in our hotel’s bar, and had dinner at a Thai restaurant.

I ended the Mastermind record day by watching the first episode of the new series of Australian Survivor, where Frankie was the first player voted out. I realised that whatever Mastermind-related feelings of defeat, disappointment or humiliation I might’ve had would have been roughly 1% of what poor Frankie’s must have been; after a long (and no doubt gruelling) application process, she had finally, finally got herself onto Australian Survivor, with sky-high hopes of winning the ultimate prize of $500,000… only to be summarily chucked out at the very first opportunity.

And chucked out not because she didn’t know the answers to a few General Knowledge questions… but because the majority of other people on the show actively wanted to get rid of her, and worked hard conspiring to do so.

Now, THAT would have been rough!

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And that’s it for this particular gameshow-related adventure! I hope you enjoyed my behind-the-scenes account of my Mastermind Australia experience, from go to whoa. I’ve absolutely no idea when my next gameshow-related adventure (as a participant) will be, but when I do have one, you can rest assured that I’ll definitely be chronicling it all for HowToWinGameShows.com!  

My ‘Mastermind Australia’ journey – Part 8: THE SHOW!

All present and (usually) correct. From left to right: William Laing, me, (Host) Marc Fennell, Kieran Magee and Yael Blinco.

Hello! When I last left you, I was finally about to enter the studio, for the recording of my particular episode of Mastermind Australia (which you can find right here, on SBS OnDemand: https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/2314487875992)

Now read on…

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So Kieran, William, Yael and I troop into the studio, and are introduced to the show’s host Marc Fennell, who curtsied when he met me. Must admit, I wasn’t expecting that.

We settle into our contestant chairs, and before we know it, we’re away! William was first in the Big Black Chair with his specialist subject; Herbert ”Doc” Evatt.

He did well and scored 11 points.

After William’s round, and a quick wait while Marc rerecorded a couple of questions, it was my turn, with my specialist subject: Bottom. It had all been leading up to this; I was about to see if all my research would pay off. I did ever so slightly better than William – 12 points. I was pleased that all of the questions I was asked, I had previously written (in one form or another) in my 19-page document…

My ‘Bottom’ questions – Page 3 of 19

with just one exception…

In the Series 1 episode Contest, how much did Eddie pay for the second-hand copy of Parade magazine?

I never wrote that question! Bugger! I really should have. I ventured “5 quid?” but the answer was, of course, £1.50. There was one other question in this round that I got wrong, and which, in retrospect, I wish I’d challenged at the time…

Continue reading

My ‘Mastermind Australia’ journey – Part 7

Darius Horsham (a character I used to play on ‘Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell’) sitting in the ‘Mastermind’ Big Black Chair… by the brilliant cartoonist Tanaya Qoifoog (https://twitter.com/qoifoog)

Hello and welcome to Part 7 of my account of my Mastermind Australia experience. Here’s the link to my episode on SBS OnDemand: https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/2314487875992

Now, an AWFUL lot happened on the actual day of the record, so what you’re about to read is actually my diary entry from the next day… after I’d had a chance to digest it all, make sense of it and write it down. Now read on…

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02/02 – The day after The Big Day

Well, what a day that was.

Up at 6:30 and thought I’d have the buffet breakfast advertised in the hotel; that’d be convenient, and fuel me up for the day. Advertised in reception and in my hotel room as being on from 7:00 – 9:30 AM in the hotel’s restaurant. I got to the restaurant at 7:00, aiming to do half an hour’s revision over breakfast, but the restaurant was closed. I managed to find a café 5 minutes away, and sat outside in an effort to find somewhere quiet for my revision… but couldn’t get much done, thanks to a middle-aged man at the next table very loudly talking at a young woman about all the TV shows and movies he liked, and which she HAD to watch. Noise pollution.

Back to the hotel room, collected the notes – and extra shirts – that I wanted to take with me, jumped into the car and drove the 10 minutes to SBS.

I parked in the building’s car park, signed in at reception, and noticed a few contestants milling around in the foyer. Had a nice chat with Mastermind Australia Season 1 winner Troy Egglestone, who I’d previously interviewed for the blog and we grabbed a couple of “Before” pictures, noting that ‘Oh yes, we’re all smiles now…’

Troy and me, before the festivities begin.

Two of the show’s producers led us through to the greenroom, where I (re-)introduced myself to the people I’d be competing against today:

1. William Laing (who I’d juuuuust managed to beat by One Point on Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster, back in 2006): 

https://www.facebook.com/Howtowingameshows/videos/315088905776740/

2. Yael Blinko (who’d won big on WWTBAM, and who I’d competed against in a Temptation Quizmasters heat, also in 2006):

https://www.facebook.com/Howtowingameshows/videos/803808249662933/

and

3. Kieran Magee, a Millionaire Hot Seat winner, who I hadn’t met before.

The greenroom was small, and featured a couple of couches, a few chairs and a mirror or two. It also accommodated the wardrobe rack and makeup table, so space was at a bit of a premium. The production had supplied some bottles of water for us and a few packaged snacks. On the wall was a screen with a video feed patched in from the studio.

I chatted to William quite a bit… and of course, we both realised that Mastermind was framing this meet-up between the two of us as a grudge match (later, during the show, Marc did indeed half-heartedly ask each of us how much we intended to CRUSH the other one.)

From the greenroom, the four of us watched the first episode play out.

Competing in that first episode were (L-R) Troy Egglestone, Kate Buckingham, Xavier Lawlor & Sally West.

There seemed to be quite a few delays during the record, as various questions were challenged, and Marc re-did questions he’d stumbled over. I really felt for Xavier; a teacher whose special subject was Survivor All Stars. He spent a lot of time in the big black chair waiting for the production to work through these various delays. My heart went out to him, and I found myself hoping that my rhythm and concentration wouldn’t be subject to that many delays when my turn came…

During my chat in the greenroom with William, I complimented him on his book How To Win A Millionwhich I’d been re-reading and learning from over the last few days. At one stage, he looked over my shoulder as I was reading through my Bottom questions (yet again), and asked me what I was doing. I told him I’d written 19 pages of questions on my specialist subject, so surely some of them should overlap with the questions the show had in store for me… he said “Oh that’s a good idea, I hadn’t thought of that”.

Eventually, the first game of this five-game Record Day finished. Troy won by a large margin (he really DID know a lot about NRL State of Origin 1985 – 2005!), and it was time for those of us competing in Episode 2 to go into the studio.

Deep breath. Here goes…

“And…. ACTION!”

My ‘Mastermind Australia’ journey – Part 6

Hello and welcome to Part six of my PatentedHowToWinGameShowsBehindTheScenesReminiscence of when I went on Mastermind Australia that time.

Here’s the link to my episode on SBS OnDemand: https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/2314487875992

The past few weeks have been all about study and preparation, but now we’re finally, inevitably, getting down to the pointy end…

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31/01

It’s 9:51 the night before Mastermind.

I’ve been here at the Twin Towers Inn since 2:00 this afternoon. As I steel myself to compete in Mastermind Australia‘s Champions Week tomorrow, my mind drifts back to 2006, when I was in Melbourne’s Crown Promenade Hotel, the night before competing in Temptation‘s ‘Quizmasters’ tournament. I relate that experience in detail – all its highs and all its lows – in Chapter 13 of my eBook How To Win Game Shows. I think my preparation regime was sound on that occasion – I do remember the cramming, the early night, the big hotel buffet breakfast, and feeling well-prepared, well-rested and well-fuelled when the driver arrived to take me to the studio… Now, I don’t want to spoil the end result of that endeavour here, but I can reveal that the title of that particular chapter in the eBook is Champion of Champions? Not so much…

Having said that, I must admit I absolutely love the Temptation Quizmasters consolation prize – a magnificent Maurice Lacroix watch – which I save for special occasions.

I’ll be wearing it tomorrow for luck.

Today I’ve done quite a bit of study, completing my couple of notes on each Time magazine Person of the Year…

… re-watching three more episodes of Bottom and dreaming up more questions about it.

Jude and I have driven up to Sydney, and are working tomorrow’s record into a week-long trip up here. Last night, we stayed at a friend’s place, and her daughter kindly tested me on loads of Bottom questions from my Master Document. I got them all right. (And so I blummen well should – there’s not really any excuse for getting them wrong, since I wrote them all!)

For some reason, she put crosses next to the ones she asked me, that I got correct.

Also tonight I finished all the Bottom online quizzes at Funtrivia.com and pretty much got all of them right; just a couple of misses. So I’m feeling fairly confident about my knowledge of the Bottom TV shows. I’ll do a little bit more revision of the live shows tomorrow morning.

I’ve just skimmed through and read a fair bit of William Laing’s book How To Win A Million, which has quite a lot of nice little trivia questions buried in it, which I’ve absorbed (and hopefully they’ve all gone in).

I’ve also now finished the Time magazine ‘Person of the Year’ exercise, going into Wikipedia for each of them, finding a couple of interesting facts about them, and writing ’em down next to their names. I think – and hope! – it’s been a very useful exercise.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll go through the list of all the Oscars for Best Picture and just jot down their directors. That won’t be difficult.

A jarring thought – AND A HUGE OVERSIGHT – occurred to me earlier today: why haven’t I printed out the Periodic Table, and had that with me at all times? Argh.

I’m due in at the studio at 8:50 AM. It’s 5-10 minutes drive from here. I’ve set the alarm for 6:30. Tomorrow morning I’ll go to the hotel’s restaurant, have their buffet breakfast, and fuel up for the day.

Generally, I’m feeling pretty good about Bottom, but am also resigned to the fact that there will always be gaps in my general knowledge. I’m feeling very familiar with the format of Mastermind: Two minutes on the Special Subject, 90 seconds on the General Knowledge and of course the ‘Slow Burn’, should I win my way through to Friday’s episode.

So I’m feeling fairly excited but relaxed.

I haven’t had dinner tonight, but I had an enormous chicken parmigiana at the North Bondi RSL for lunch. So I don’t necessarily need to eat tonight, but I’ll make sure that I’m definitely fuelled up tomorrow morning.

Turning in now. It’s 10:00, and I’m setting the alarm for 6:30. Earplugs in, air conditioner on. Hopefully I’ll sleep right through – because I didn’t last night – and I should be relaxed, well rested, and with a head full of recently acquired knowledge that I can access quickly and effectively, should it be required.

Good night, everybody.

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Good night, me.

I’ll see you (by which I mean me) back here next time, for The Big Day!

My ‘Mastermind Australia’ journey – Part 5

Hello and welcome to Stop 5 on the road towards this particular episode of Mastermind Australia (https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/2314487875992), which featured these fine folks…

From left to right: William Laing, me, ‘Mastermind Australia’ host Marc Fennell, Kieran Magee and Yael Blinco.

Our story resumes in late January, with less than a fortnight to Record Day…

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19/01

Discussing this with Jude last night, she asked me who I’ll be up against. I told her the names that the producers have told me so far… Then I was struck by a gap in my homework regimen: WHY HAVEN’T I STUDIED THE COMPETITION?

So, my next step is to jot down all my competitors that I know so far, track down their previous appearances, watch them and make notes. I do know that the Mastermind Australia champions so far are:

1. Troy Egglestone: Season 1: eps 81, 85 – a quote from him: “I’m one of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet.” He’s a teacher, and may bring some students in to watch. When an answer is a person’s name, Troy knows the trick of just giving the surname (to give him more time). Of course, I feel like I already know Troy a bit, having interviewed him for this very blog

2. Jacqui Markham: Season 2: eps 81, 85 – Sadly, Jacqui is no longer with us.

3. William Laing: Season 3: eps 81, 85 – I know William, of course from Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster, and I’ve read his book How To Win A Million. During the episode, Marc says “William, everyone else here is terrified of you.” 

William: Well, you get that. 

Marc: Often? 

William: Invariably.

William’s aunties went on Mastermind back in the day, so this is important to him. He said this has been the hardest quiz show he’s been on… 

4. Sterling Coates: Season 4: eps 81, 85 – seems very serious, very focussed.

5. Miles Glaspole: Season 5: eps 81, 85 – very serious quizzer, as are his parents! Very competitive, and of course he writes questions for the TikTok 10, so he’ll be very match-fit. If he were to be the ultimate winner, he’d be a deserving one. 

6. They also mentioned that Andrew Skarbec (who won $1,000,000 on Million Dollar Minute) would be in the mix – the full episode of his big win isn’t online, but there are clips… One thing I do know about him is that he’s got nerves of steel!

Having said this, there will be another 9 or 10 people in the pool (as they’ll need 16 champions to populate the four episodes).

Now, when it comes to general knowledge, there’s not much specific study you can do… but I do remember studying the list of Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ back when I was prepping for Temptation. So what I’ll do for this is get AI to do me a list of all Time magazine’s Persons of the Year for the 20th century (with maybe a two sentence summary of each?) + the first 23 Persons of the Year for this century.*

* In the end, I didn’t actually trust this to AI. I printed out the list, and used Wikipedia to glean a couple of fun / noteworthy facts about each person (i.e. facts that would make for interesting quiz questions), and jotted them down next to each name. I figured that method would give those facts a better chance of lodging and taking root in my brain. Here’s what the (rather messy) end product looked like:

23/01

Watching the final two episodes of Celebrity Mastermind... and generally just relearning the lessons from the earlier episodes. There are loads of good examples of how not to play the game here. Having said that, Phil Burton is a deserving and gracious winner. I like that he shook everyone’s hands – that man was raised right.

25/01

I’ve now received hotel accommodation details – they’re putting me up at the Twin Towers Inn, which is a 5 minute drive from SBS studios. And my call time – 8:50 AM on Thursday February 1st

It’s all feeling more and more real. My Bottom watching and question-writing continues apace…

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As time ticks on, we draw closer and closer to the pointy end: The Mastermind Australia Record Day. As I move into the final phase of preparations, all my efforts (by definition) become more and more last-minute. What should I now be concentrating on in my revision? What have I forgotten? Does there come a point where attempting to cram any more is essentially useless (the “if-I-don’t-know-it-now,-I-never-will” idea)?

For the answers to these questions, join me back here next Tuesday afternoon! Until then, then! 

Oh, by the way… if you also happen to be a Bottom fan, a brilliant documentary on the show, Bottom Exposed, recently aired on UK television. Someone’s put it up on Dailymotion… if you know where to look 😉  

Enjoy!

My ‘Mastermind Australia’ journey – Part 4

Hello and welcome to part four of this very special PatentedHowToWinGameShowsBehind-The-ScenesReminiscence all about my preparation for – and appearance on – this particular episode of Mastermind Australia: https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/2314487875992

The shoot date for the episode was set for February 1st 2024, and what I’ve been doing so far is taking you through my journal / diary entries up to that point. And I don’t currently see any reason to change that format…

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14/01

Watching more Celebrity Mastermind episodes, and learning / re-learning the following…

Again, please don’t assume that just because you LIKE something, you know loads about it.

Boasting about your knowledge of your Special Subject and how much you’ve been cramming (in an effort to intimidate your competitors) is NEVER a good idea. If you don’t go well in your Special Subject, you’ll embarrass yourself. If you DO go well in your Special Subject, you’ll look smug and/or insecure. Quietly confident – and playing your cards close to your chest – is always the way to go. But this is obvious, isn’t it?

Don’t gloat – it’s AWFUL to watch, for us here at home. Just AWFUL. If you do well in a particular round, be pleased, smile and be grateful. That’s all.

In the Slow Burn, when you don’t quite know the answer just yet, don’t squint and pull a series of uncomprehending, and increasingly uglier and uglier faces. Just Listen and Concentrate.

18/01

Continuing to watch episodes of Bottom and make notes / write questions. Last night, I read the first three scripts in the Bottom scripts book.

Interesting to see passages in the episodes Smells and Gas that didn’t make it into the broadcast shows (cut for time, by the look of things). Very quick and fun to read. Everything else in the shows is there in the script, which tells me that the writing – and their attitude to the writing – is very tight indeed.

Thought I’d ask AI to write me some Bottom quiz questions; some were good, logical meat-and-potatoes questions, others were completely erroneous and made up, based on episodes – and episode titles – that don’t even exist!!! Use any results from this tool with a grain of salt. I think it’s best to just keep writing my own questions, based on my repeated viewings of the source material. 

Turns out, the “Y-Fronts”, “Blouse” and “BB King” information in these questions all eventually ended up in the question that the ‘Mastermind’ question writers had written for me.

I’ll have a look at Celebrity Mastermind Australia Season 2 today, for further tips…

And now I have.

When answering questions, don’t ramble (obviously), and don’t stall for time (even MORE obviously). Stalling for time? When you have a clear-cut two minutes? Are you kidding me? Why would anyone do that? Unless they didn’t know – and hadn’t bothered to learn – what this show actually IS, or what it DOES.

Oh and definitely don’t sing, either. 

Dignity. Remember that dignity is a thing.

DO NOT ASK MARC TO CHOOSE A SLOW BURN SUBJECT FOR ME. Why would any contestant do that? It just demonstrates that they don’t know (or don’t care, or haven’t bothered to learn) anywhere near enough about the show they’ve agreed to appear on. I’ve now decided that my Slow Burn choices will be, in order of preference:

  1. FILM
  2. TV SHOW
  3. SONG
  4. CHARACTER
  5. PERSON
  6. BOOK
  7. ANIMAL

… Leaving Geography, Science and Sport lower down the list. Although bear in mind that this list may change. There may be other categories – in addition to these ones – that just haven’t bobbed up yet in the eps I’ve watched.

Remember that you can have a great Special Subject round… and then fall apart on the General Knowledge or the Slow Burn. There were a couple of examples of these in the celebrity episodes… so Keep My Game Face On, Bring My A-Game, and be IN THE ZONE all the way through. From start to finish.

Also remember that the game can flip right around in the second half. So employ my mantras: “I know the next one, I know the next one”… and “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” 

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So as you can see, by this stage I’m feeling like I’m starting to know the Mastermind Australia format pretty well. It’s always useful to watch as many episodes of the show as possible – and as many formats of the show as possible – to stockpile a list of Things To Do when my turn comes. And, just as importantly, Things NOT To Do when my turn comes…

Obviously, my study of my Special Subject is continuing during all of this, but what about my study of my competitors? That’s what I’ll turn to in part five of this crazy ol’ saga, right here at HowToWinGameShows.com, next Tuesday afternoon.

Until then, then!

My ‘Mastermind Australia’ journey – Part 3

From left to right: William Laing, me, (Host) Marc Fennell, Kieran Magee and Yael Blinco.

Hello! If you’ve been following along for the last couple of weeks as I outline my preparations for THIS particular episode of Mastermind Australia –  https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/2314487875992 – you’ll know that we’re now up to the part where my study of the show is really kicking in…

12/01/24

So I’ve now scanned through all the Mastermind Australia episodes that are available to watch on SBS on Demand, and highlighted the ones which include sitcoms or UK TV comedy shows as specialist subjects (where that information is available):

SEASON 1

Episode 6 (Monty Python’s Flying Circus)

SEASON 2

Episode 33 (Gavin & Stacy)

Episode 37 (The Young Ones)!

Episode 39 (Absolutely Fabulous)

Episode 41 (Happy Days)

Episode 42 (Scrubs)

Episode 44 (Sex and the City)

Episode 56 (Will & Grace)

Episode 58 (The Goon Show and Friends)

Episode 62 (M*A*S*H)

Episode 63 (The Office UK)

SEASON 3

Episode 3 (Kath & Kim)

Episode 8 (Rowan Atkinson)

Episode 9 (Fawlty Towers)!

Episode 14 (Frasier)

Episode 19 (Flight of the Conchords)

Episode 24 (Archer)

Episode 26 (Will & Grace)

Episode 29 (The Big Bang Theory)

Episode 43 (The Micallef Programme)

Episode 47 (Schitt’s Creek)

Episode 48 (Scrubs)

Episode 49 (The Goodies and The Simpsons)

Episode 51 (The Thick of it)

Episode 53 (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Episode 57 (The Mighty Boosh)

Episode 67 (How I Met Your Mother)

Episode 73 (Seinfeld)

Episode 74 (Spaced)

Episode 76 (Married With Children)

Episode 78 (Curb Your Enthusiasm)

SEASON 4

Episode 53 (Seinfeld)

SEASON 5

Episode 58 (Ricky Gervais)

I will watch (/listen to) all of these eps, to get a good feel for how the questions writers approach this genre: the question writing conventions they use. What are the typical SHAPES of questions about UK TV comedy shows that they program on Mastermind Australia?

Also, I’ve started watching the Celebrity version of Mastermind Australia. Some things I’ve learnt (re-learnt) from watching these episodes:

  • Do your homework! (Der). Don’t just assume that because you like something, you’re an expert on it. MAKE yourself an expert on it. (Again, Der.)

  • Don’t suck up to the host. It’s cringeworthy.

  • If you don’t know the answer, say “Pass” – or far more preferably, have a guess – quickly and move on to the next. There is NO VALUE – for the contestant OR the audience – in the contestant humming and hah-ing and laughing and being embarrassed and talking us through why they don’t know the answer, and how they almost know the answer and why they almost know the answer but don’t, and so on and so on… Many lesser comedians arrogantly assume that their floundering and ad-libbing is automatically hilarious… but in this particular context, that’s the exact opposite of entertaining.

  • Have some dignity. If I happen to get a few wrong in a row, don’t guffaw and cheer and guffaw again when I eventually get one right. Yes, getting a series of questions wrong is embarrassing, (especially when it was preventable, and you just haven’t bothered to do any homework). But I should have mitigated that risk by doing every scrap of homework I could think of, long before getting to that chair. If I do get a series of questions wrong, it WILL be embarrassing… but just professionally move on, remembering my old mantra: “I know the next one, I know the next one…” Do NOT loudly and over-enthusiastically congratulate myself for getting a score of roughly three.

  • Don’t be too much of a smartarse. It’s good to have a few lines prepared, so that when Marc asks me a predictable question, I’ve got some rehearsed spontaneity up my sleeve… but don’t cross the line where it looks like I’ve prepared a bunch of lines, and I’m desperate to get them all out before I leave.

  • Mastermind is big on amping up the tension and the nerves and the “terror” and “agony” of the big chair. Remember that it’s not really all that scary.

Earlier today, I started to daydream about winning. On Mastermind Australia Champions Week, to achieve that, all I have to do is win two episodes! (Not seven, like I did on Temptation). I allowed myself to fantasise about being able to change the tagline on HowToWinGameShows.com. I’d love to be able to write

PRACTICAL TIPS FOR WINNING GAME SHOWS, FROM SOMEONE WHO’S BEEN THERE AND DONE THAT… THREE TIMES!

But then I think ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa – settle down, big fella. Easy there tiger, don’t get ahead of yourself. You’ve got a long way to go yet.’

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… A long way which will continue right here next Tuesday at HowToWinGameShows.com!  

This awkward blog post sign off was bought to you by Tortured Segues Pty Ltd. (“Proudly overreaching linguists to the gentry since 1987.”)

My ‘Mastermind Australia’ journey – Part 2

Hello again, and welcome to the second part of my account of how I came to be on THIS particular episode of Mastermind Australia:

https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/2314487875992

Sitting in the ‘Mastermind Australia’ Big Black Chair. From the look on my face, I’m guessing this was a “BEFORE” shot…

In last week’s instalment, I’d agreed to go on the show, had a couple of initial conversations with one of the producers and suggested some special subjects. Now read on…

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Thursday 07/12/23 

Had a phone call with the Question Producer! Good to chat to him. We went through my potential special subjects and landed on Bottom (probably just the TV shows – there are 18 episodes of them, which makes this a broad enough category. We probably don’t have to also include the five stage shows, which were released on home video, or the film version Guest House Paradiso.)

Other than that, the main points of the call:

  1. The format: Four champions WILL face off each night (Monday night -Thursday night), and the four nightly winners WILL compete in the final (Friday night’s show). In the Monday – Thursday shows, each player does one round of general knowledge and one round of their special subject. In the final (that is, Friday’s episode), each player does one round of general knowledge and one “Slow Burn” question (which is essentially a “Who Am I?” question, with more points awarded for the earlier you answer correctly). There’s no special subject round in Friday night’s show. SO I only need to prepare one special subject (Previously, I thought I might have needed to prepare two).
  2. For my special subject round, they’ll write a maximum of 20 questions… most people only get through about 14 before their time runs out.
  3. They’ve recruited 12 of the 16 required champs so far. They include: Troy Egglestone (Mastermind S01), William Laing (Mastermind S03), Miles Glaspole (Mastermind S05), Kate Buckingham, Sandra Oxley, Stirling Coates (Mastermind S04) and Andrew Skarbec (Million Dollar Minute).

So between now and Feb, I need to watch loads of Mastermind Australia episodes on SBS OnDemand. I should concentrate on the Marc Fennell-hosted ones (S03 onwards), so I can study him as well.

After a bit of searching, I’ve discovered that all of the Bottom episodes can be watched online, if you know where to look…

29/12/23

While watching an episode of Mastermind today (actually, listening to an episode today: I just pop it on, on my phone while I’m walking the dog – don’t need to actually see it, for my study purposes), I stumbled across a contestant whose specialist subject was the UK comedy show Inside No. 9. I noted that the format of one of the questions was “What’s the title of the episode in which XXX happens?” That format of question would work also well for my subject (Bottom). Which got me thinking ‘what type of questions do the MM question writers write about UK TV comedy shows, specifically?’

SO… in addition to writing a bunch of my own questions about each episode of Bottom (and each of the five stage shows – it turns out they’ll be included too – bugger! That gives me a LOT more material that I have to study, unfortunately)…

… I decided to go back through the previous seasons of Mastermind, find out which ones had UK TV Comedy shows as specialist subjects, and prioritise watching them, while taking notes about the formats of questions, and any patterns that pop up in the question-writing styles on this particular subject / genre. Lots of Mastermind Australia special subject information from previous seasons is freely available online, and I’ve now noted down enough relevant episodes to keep me going for a while.

30/12/23

I’ve discovered the podcast Talking Bottom, which will prove an invaluable resource! Really keen, informed, well-researched discussion of the show… and a 10 question quiz at the end of each episode! What a godsend. I’m now listening to the 18 episodes that discuss Bottom‘s 18 episodes in detail, and the 5 episodes that discuss Bottom‘s live shows in detail. I’ll add some of their easier quiz questions into my database of home-made questions, I think.

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So, now with those 18 episodes and 5 stage shows locked in, my special subject study can start in earnest. Must admit, I hadn’t bargained on the live shows being included – that’s a SIGNIFICANT increase in my workload – but at least they’re not including the film version (1999’s Guest House Paradiso)…

See you next Tuesday! 

My ‘Mastermind Australia’ journey – Part 1

Hello! As you may know by now, last week I competed in SBS’s Mastermind Australia, as part of their Champions Week competition. Here’s the link to my episode on SBS OnDemand: https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/2314487875992

Back when I agreed to appear on the show, I thought an account of the whole process might be interesting to visitors to HowToWinGameShows.com. With that in mind, I kept a diary of the entire experience, and I’m very pleased to present Part One of it to you this week! Now read on… 

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On  Thursday 30th November last year, I received this message on LinkedIn, from one of the show’s producers:

Hi Stephen, I hope you’re well. I’m a Producer for the SBS quiz show ‘Mastermind Australia’. We’re thinking of doing a one-off Champions Week in our next series and I would love to connect with you here to get you on board. I look forward to hearing from you.

I told her I was intrigued, and we arranged a Zoom meeting….

          *                    *                    *                    *                    *                            *             After the Zoom meeting the following Monday…

So I’ve now learned that this week of Mastermind Australia will indeed be game show champions versus game show champions. Looking them up, the five  Mastermind Australia champions so far are Troy Egglestone, Jacqui Markham (now deceased), William Laing, Sterling Coates and Miles Glaspole.

They’ll be shooting this week’s worth of shows on Thursday February 1st next year in Sydney, at the SBS studios in Artarmon. It’s their first filming day for the year, and they record the first four episodes (Monday – Thursday shows) and the fifth, (the Friday show, which is that week’s Grand Final) in one day.

I’m gonna do it!

I like the show, I think it’d be a good thing to ‘come out of retirement for’, and the idea of having a special subject appeals to me; I like the idea of choosing one that’d be fun to study. I told her I’d like my special subject to be Filthy Rich and Catflap. Some other options, in case this is too narrow (as it’s only 6 episodes) might be… Spandau Ballet? Bottom? The Young Ones? Stath Lets Flats? Withnail & I? Father Ted? Big Train?

Once my special subject is locked in, I’ll write a big batch of questions on it. This is a numbers game – if I write enough interesting questions, that’ll guarantee I will write at least some of the ones that their question writers will eventually write for me.

So, if it’s truly going to be “a week of champions”, that’ll require 16 champions to play; four in each episode from Monday to Thursday, then on Friday, the four winners of those episodes will face off in the final.

          *                    *                    *                    *                    *                            *

After our next Zoom Meeting, three days later…

It was a 15-minute chat with the producer again, where she asked me more about potential special subjects (of which I’ll only have to prepare one rather than two, due to the unique nature of this ‘Champions Week’ tournament). I told her about my other choices, and she jotted them down. She then hit ‘record’ and we did a little interview along with a general knowledge quiz.

PRO TIP: In their format, don’t say “pass” – just guess if you don’t know the answer, because according to the rules, if the top scores at the end of the game are tied, the person with the most “passes” loses.

She asked again if there’s anyone in particular who I’d like to go up against, and why? I get the feeling they’re really trying to stoke some antipathies – to set up some “grudge matches”… I mentioned that I went up against William Laing on Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster, back in 2006. That could very well be something they frame that way. The general knowledge quiz consisted of 10 surprisingly easy questions, all of which I got right. 

She said thanks, she’d ping my subjects through to a producer, and one of them would be in touch. So… good! Apparently, we’ll lock down my special subject by the end of the week, and then I’ll have between then and February 1st to study for it. I found those test questions very easy… were they TOO easy? I’m telling myself not to get complacent about that. Is this sense of security I have a false one?

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Why am I asking myself these questions? Are they, in fact, rhetorical? For the answers (or maybe not) check back in here next Tuesday for Part Two of my Mastermind Australia journey… Until then, then! 

STOP PRESS – a recent radio interview and a bouncy, controversial read…

Hello!

Just a quick interruption to my ongoing interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut, to let you know about a little radio appearance I did last week.

On Thursday afternoon, I was invited onto the ABC Victorian statewide Drive program with Prue Bentley, to talk about winning game shows.

It was a great little (8-minute) chat, in which I outlined some of my favourite game show-winning training tips I’ve accumulated over the years. So if you’re interested in my top tips of all time, you can listen to our interview RIGHT HERE. (https://www.abc.net.au/listen/programs/vic-statewide-drive/drive/102975214) It starts around the 17:40 mark.

In other news, I stumbled across this AV Club article about the Jeopardy! strategy known as ‘the Forrest Bounce’…

(https://www.avclub.com/jeopardy-technique-james-holzhauer-forrest-bounce-1850935799)

It’s a great read if you’re interested in Jeopardy!, in the various tactics and strategies that can be used on it, and in the way that particular game continues to change and evolve. And while this article is an interesting read, it’s also proven a little controversial, with one of the key figures in it – James Holzhauer – taking to Twitter (X) to say this…

Intriguing… Long live the idea of spirited game show debate!

And that’s it for today. I’ll see you back here next Tuesday, where we’ll pick up our interview with Yogesh, right where we left off last week.

Until then, then!