Hello, and welcome to the third instalment of my patented HowToWinGameShowsReminiscence about the original series of Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation (2009 – 2012).
As I closed last week’s post, I was delivering the Endgame Envelope to Shaun as the comic strip character The Phantom. But thanks to Shaun’s comic creativity, there were many other opportunities for cameo appearances in other parts of the program; they weren’t restricted to just that point in the show. The time, effort (and expense!) lavished on these was often quite considerable… and often for the briefest gag, or the quickest bit of screen time. Take this example of “The Swingle Singers” (actually me, my fellow writer on the show Michael Ward and two actors) introducing the game What’s A Doodle Do?
People at home may not realise all the production that goes into making a moment like this happen, so let me break it down for you….
After Shaun wrote the idea in the script, the show’s composer Yuri Worontschak was hired to write and record the piece of music required. This entailed Yuri, in turn, hiring two session singers (one male, one female) to record the multiple vocal tracks required by his arrangement. Ka-ching!
After Yuri delivered the completed track to the production, Michael Ward and I were cast (we were used fairly frequently for these types of roles, partly because we were always around, and partly because we “got” the show’s sense of humour), and the production hired the two lady ‘Swingle Singers’, to make up the quartet. Ka-ching! On the record day, there was a session set aside for the four of us, to familiarise ourselves with the audio track and rehearse it (as we’d be miming to it on camera), and to learn and rehearse the choreography. The choreography couldn’t have been much simpler. It just required us to hold a microphone in one hand, click our fingers on the other hand, sway from side to side in unison, and then lean forward at the end. I say the choreography was simple … and yet we didn’t manage to nail it on the day (as you can plainly see in the clip). And there was no Take 2. Damn! Ah well, Cést La Vie.
When you add to all this:
The sourcing and fitting of our four costumes, which required the resources of the show’s wardrobe department and the two people who worked in it, (Ka-ching!)
Make up for all of us (including hair styling for the two ladies)
Extra catering for our two guest players (Ka-ching!)
… you begin to get an idea of all the different people, all the hours they worked, and all the expense they incurred, in the process of bringing this idea to the screen.
And all that… for just 18 seconds of screen time.
But that’s the beauty of working on a show that’s as successful as TAYG was at the time; ask and ye shall receive. The network and production company were so happy with the ratings, that Shaun didn’t have to reign his mighty imagination in. This made the show funnier, more playful, more surprising, and ultimately, I think, richer.
I mentioned my co-writer on the show Michael Ward, and it was an absolute joy to work with him for its duration. We’d worked together on many projects before this, and have worked on many since, and it was always great to have him in my corner here. From a comedy-writing perspective, TAYG was a hungry beast; each show demanded an awful lot of gags, in various shapes and styles. And when you’re writing for – and with – Shaun Micallef, the bar is always set extremely high. Wardy and I would write alternate scripts for the show (that is, I’d write Episodes 1, 3, 5, and so on, and he’d write episode 2, 4, 6, and so on), which we’d send to Shaun, and then he’d tweak, change, edit and improve the scripts, turning them into a final draft he was comfortable with. It was a tough gig at times, staring at that blank page, trying to come up with gags on a very specific subject, or new, fresh ways to introduce games that had already been played on the show scores of times… But we two comrades were aware of the privileged position we were in; of just how lucky we were. It was great to share it the adventure with Wardy, my good friend.
One of the most fun parts of writing the show was coming up with the “Interesting Facts” that accompanied each Endgame. As I mentioned last week, each episode ended with a big physical challenge which all three teams played together, to determine who’d win that week’s episode. Examples of these challenges included:
Which generation is best at finding a needle in a hay stack?
Which generation is best at typing out the complete works of Shakespeare?
And of course,
Which generation is best at shovelling ectoplasm into a toilet?
Each week, as the Endgame challenge unfolded, Shaun would read out some “Interesting Facts” about that week’s task. Facts that we’d written. For example…
From the “Which generation is best at escaping a maze?” challenge:
- According to ancient fairy tales, a good way to escape a maze is to leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind you. It’s also a great way to make friends with ducks.
- Traditionally, the easiest mazes to escape from are hedge mazes. All you need is some petrol and a match.
From the “Which generation is best at making breakfast in bed?” challenge:
- Breakfast in Bed was the title of a 1978 film starring John Ritter. Sadly, the film was unsuccessful, and John Ritter died just 25 years later.
And from the Christmas-themed episode:
- Ding-Dong Merrily on High is one of the few Christmas carols still sung in its original language – gibberish.
That’s where we’ll leave it for this week. If you liked the interesting facts above, there are many more in my eBook. Subtle self-promotion over now, see you next week!