Wishes of Peace, Comfort and Joy, from HowToWinGameShows.com.


Hello, it’s Stephen here, with the traditional Christmas post from HTWGS HQ.

Now, of course, I realise that not everyone reading this will necessarily be celebrating Christmas. We all live in a multicultural, multi-faith world, and the significance of this Christian holiday varies greatly from person to person. Personally, I don’t identify as religious, and yet I’ve celebrated Christmas every year of my life. It’s such a huge cultural phenomenon in our society that it’s simply unavoidable at this time of year. We’re repeatedly told that Christmas is a time for families to come together, a time for all of us to celebrate, and a time for ‘The Christmas Spirit’; a time for Peace on Earth and Goodwill To All.

And however much you subscribe – or don’t subscribe – to any of this, that ‘Christmas Spirit’ idea has always greatly appealed to me.

“Peace on earth and goodwill to all” and “tidings of comfort and joy” are I think concepts that, surely, we can all offer each other.

Concepts that, surely, we all NEED.

Now more than ever (looking back at the year we’ve just had).

So that’s what I deeply and sincerely wish for you today, in a heartfelt spirit of goodwill and compassion. Non-religious, non-denominational wishes of Peace, Comfort and Joy for you… and for those you hold dear.

We rarely get to wish total strangers well, in a broadly socially sanctioned way… But Christmas – no matter what you think of it – is one time when it’s perfectly fine to do just that.

So I’m taking advantage of that today, and again genuinely wishing you (and everyone else, for that matter) Peace, Comfort and Joy.

Season’s Greetings, everybody!

With love,


A new news quiz show – who knew?


Just a quick – and rather mysterious – update this week from our DetailsAreActuallyRatherThinOnTheGround department… According to TVTonight.com, the ABC is searching for contestants for a forthcoming news-based quiz show:

ABC is looking for contestants for the unnamed new quiz show all about news & current affairs. To apply, email your name, state and mobile number to quizcontestants@abc.net.au

… So, it would appear it’s a nationwide search.

They don’t report in any more detail than that, and after a quick online search, I’m afraid I haven’t been able to uncover any more details or supporting information either… But there it is. If a news-based quiz sounds like your cup of tea, why not apply?

… And if you do, would you mind letting me know (either in the comments section below or via Stephen@HowToWinGameShows.com) anything you DO find out about it? 

Good luck!


When it comes to great quiz show champions…

…. they don’t get much greater than Jeopardy!’s official Greatest Of All Time champion, Ken Jennings. 

And today I just quickly wanted to let you know about an interview with him that I really enjoyed.

If you don’t know about Ken’s achievements by now, back in 2004 he completed a record-setting 74-night winning streak on Jeopardy!, picking up $2,520,700 along the way. Since then, he’s returned to the show to play in various winners’ tournaments. These extra appearances culminated in his winning the tournament this year that earned him the title of Greatest Of All Time (oh, and a $1,000,000 cash prize.) All in all, Ken’s quiz show winnings over the years add up to a whopping US$5,223,414!

In this 42-minute interview, Ken is chatting to economist and author Steve Levitt (of Freakonomics podcast fame; he’s also co-author of the Freakonomics books). It’s a comprehensive discussion, touching on Ken’s journey, his techniques and his thoughts on what makes the great ones truly great… and a whole lot more besides. I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I did!
And that’s it for this week.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to putting the final, final finishing touches on my novel…
 for its release on Amazon in just
6 days,
14 hours
and 54 minutes’ time! 😬😬
I’ll check in with you again a week from now, by which time my baby will be out in the world!!

Merry Christmas!

Hello! Just a quick one this week, to bring you tidings of comfort and joy, and to wish you all the very warmest Season’s Greetings!

As another year draws to a close, I’d also like to thank every one of you who visited the blog, every one of you who got in touch with me on Twitter, and every one of you who purchased my eBook. It’s very heartening – and humbling – to know that there’s still a place for this site, and that so many people are getting something out of it.

So again, I thank you.

I’ve got some really interesting stuff on the cards for HowToWinGameShows in 2020…

… which I’m quite excited about, but I’ll go into that in more detail next week.

Oh, and one more thing…. If you’re in Australia, and you happen to be watching Vision Australia’s Carols By Candlelight on the Nine Network tonight (broadcast LIVE, from 8:00 PM)…. keep an eye out for Santa popping up during the show.

Does he look a little bit familiar? Hmm?


Peace, love and light, to you and yours.


Next week…. a first!

Just a quick announcement this week about my next exclusive interview.
As I look back over all the interviews I’ve done for this site over the years, I’m surprised to see that I haven’t interviewed a game show director before now…
Well I’m about to put that right. Next week sees the first instalment of my four-part interview with veteran game show director Jon Olb. Jon offers another perspective on the whole game show experience. He’s directed loads of them, for every Australian TV network, and there are many valuable lessons to be learned from what he has to say.
So that’ll be right here, next Tuesday.
And the following Tuesday.
And the one after that.
And also the one after that as well.
See you then!

Something Completely Different (for a very good cause)

And now…


Please excuse this interruption to your normal transmission, but this Thursday (as in, the night after tomorrow, as in May 16th) I’m going to be taking part in The Sleep At The ‘G – an event that helps raise funds for Melbourne City Mission, to help in all the great work they do in the field of homelessness.

I have a fundraising page right here… and any help that you could offer – no matter how small – would be mightily appreciated! And, as I say, it is for a very good cause.

Thanks for reading this far, and now, for no apparent reason, a picture of our current foster dog Douglas, in his favourite green blanket.

Thank you, and I’ll see you next week!

STOP PRESS – ‘Mastermind Australia’ still needs contestants!

Hello Friends, just a quick one today.

If any Australian quiz enthusiasts are up for a challenge, the new season of Mastermind on SBS is still looking for contestants.

If YOU’RE interested in applying, let me know (stephen@howtowingameshows.com) and I can put you directly in touch with the contestant co-ordinator!

Message ends. Thank you for your attention.

Your normal service will resume tomorrow.


‘How To Win Game Shows: The eBook’ is about to be relaunched, and it’ll be FREE for a limited time!


I have some exciting news to share with you today, which will be the culmination of quite a lot of work I’ve been doing behind the scenes…

But first, please come back with me, to September 2015, when I wrote and released How To Win Game Shows: the eBook.

It wasn’t just a collection of some of the best interviews from this site, along with my personal game show story; it also contained a number of new chapters that I wrote specifically for the book, along with new pictures, a lot of gags and numerous links to various videos.

I got myself an account at an online store – e-junkie.com – uploaded my book to it (in pdf format), and made it available to buy through this page, right here on the blog. I plugged the eBook here, I plugged it on Facebook and Twitter, I plugged it on radio, I plugged it on radio again, I plugged it on TV, and I experimented with a couple of different price points for the product.

Just between you and me, I did not sell many copies.

At all.

I now know that wasn’t the best way to do things. Doing what I did is not how you properly self-publish and promote an eBook.

Over the last few months, I’ve been on a mission to learn all I can about self-publishing the right way, as I prepare to release my second eBook – my behind-the-scenes diary of my year as Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers Live. 

But all of my research into self-publishing – the courses I’ve taken, the books I’ve read, the podcasts I’ve listened to, the videos I’ve watched and the forums (fora?) I’ve joined – has made me realise all the things I did wrong with How To Win Game Shows: the eBook the first time around.

So, dear reader, I’m revisiting it… and this time, I’m going to do it right.

How To Win Game Shows: The eBook (3rd edition)

  • will be available on Amazon, in proper eBook format.
  • has been updated and expanded
  • has been reformatted, to flow more smoothly
  • has been re-edited and re-proofread
  • will be significantly more affordable… in fact, for a limited promotional period (which I’ll obviously let you know about), I’m even going to make it FREE! 

The relaunch will be happening in the next couple of weeks, so keep watching this space for more details. Or, if you’d like a more personal heads-up, please consider joining my new mailing list, which I’ve set up especially for the eBook side of things. Please just email me at author@TheStephenHall.com, and I’ll add you to the list right away.

And all you wonderful people who’ve already bought the book will of course be getting your free 3rd edition copy, as per the terms of my “future-proofing” guarantee.

Thank you, as always, for your interest and support. I’m really excited, and I can’t wait to get the new and improved version of the book out there, and into the hands of (or at least onto the devices of) as many people as possible!

I’ll keep you posted!




Developmental As Anything – the aftermath


This week’s post is the long-awaited conclusion to a pair of posts from last year; Developmental As Anything – Part I and Developmental As Anything Part – II. What follows won’t make much sense unless you’ve both of these earlier posts, so I strongly suggest you do so now. You can find the posts by clicking on their titles above, or simply by clicking on this picture of Benny Hill in an afro for Part I….

and a chihuahua puppy frightened by a snail for Part II.

So please, go there by whichever route you prefer, read the two posts, and I’ll see you back here. Off you pop.

*                         *                                *                               *                          *

All up to speed? Good. So…. as I said near the end of the second post, after I’d sent all of my written-up notes to the producer after the first of “our” two workshopping days, he responded with a lovely email:

All great, thanks

Was good fun.

Speak soon

Whoa, don’t gush dude – you’re embarrassing me. Anyway, that was on February 17th, 2017. Since then….

As I also mentioned at the end of the second post, as of late March last year the network in question were still looking for the show to fill this slot (in other words, it looked like they’d passed on this one).

Well, it’s now 14 months later, and the network in question (for those playing along at home, that network was the ABC) has indeed found a new(ish) one-hour quiz show to serve as the lead-in to their 7:00 news. It’s called Think Tank, and it’s an adaptation of the BBC show of the same name.

That being the case, I think I’m probably safe now to talk in a tiny bit more detail about this proposed show-that-never-was from over a year ago. The first thing that strikes me is how close (but not close enough) we were to the show that ended up getting the slot.

Think Tank positions 3 contestants opposite the ‘Think Tank’; 8 people representing a cross section of ordinary Australians. Our show pitted 5 contestants against ‘The Crowd’; 10 people representing a cross section of ordinary Australians.

In Think Tank, at the end of Round 3, one contestant is eliminated. In our show, a contestant is eliminated at the end of Round 1, another at the end of Round 2, another at the end of Round 3 and one more at the end of Round 4, leaving just one contestant to face off against ‘The Crowd’ in the final round.

In fairness, though, these similarities can’t all be put down to coincidence. I seem to remember the producer telling me that these were the parameters that the ABC had previously specified; they wanted something that would involve an inclusive, diverse group of Australians on screen; and something that would pit individuals against – and / or have individuals working with – a group. When I arrived to the “workshop”, the concept was already there in these broad strokes. I just helped to bring a bit more shape and structure to it.

Think Tank has 5 rounds across its hour-long running time. Our show had 5 rounds across its hour-long running time.

That’s pretty much where the similarities end, though – in our show, our contestants were always opposing the group, rather than working with them, we gave the host a co-host, there was more physical stuff happening in the studio, and there a few more opportunities for viewer involvement. We were mindful of the non-commercial nature of the enterprise (for overseas visitors, the fact that the ABC is Australia’s national, taxpayer-funded broadcaster means that no sponsorship or commercial endorsements are allowed). There were a couple of other twists and scoring details that I thought were pretty neat, but now I’m starting to wonder if I’ve said too much already.

One thing I was quite proud of was that we churned through the questions pretty quickly. A couple of things I found slightly frustrating when watching Think Thank were the repetition and the slow pace. Re-asking questions multiple times, and asking Think Tankers (who, as we’ve established are NOT experts) why they’ve chosen certain answers – including the wrong ones – feels like a lot of padding to me. But maybe that’s just me. It’s a show that needs to fill an entire (not just a commercial network 43 minute hour), five nights a week. That’s no easy task.

So I guess those notes from that “workshopping” session where I was left in a room by myself for 8 hours will remain squirrelled away in the depths of my hard drive. At least until such time as someone would like my help putting together another new quiz show, and I check them again, to see if there’s anything in there that I can re-purpose…..

Aha! I’ve got it! We just need to get a cross section of 8 – 16 ordinary people; “The Think Crowd”, four of whom are eliminated every second non-consecutive round by a random draw of the remaining six of the nine original contestants from the initial four rounds, (of course, that’s provided there’s been no SuddenDeath HeadToHead play-off, resulting in a FastestFingerFirst ClosestToThePin Tiebreaker Showdown.

No, this is good. I gotta get a pen….




My first HTWGS movie review! ‘Quiz Show’ (1994)

Hello! Today sees my first ever movie review for HowToWinGameShows.com, and I’ve chosen Robert Redford’s 1994 film Quiz Show. I hadn’t watched this in years, so I thought I’d revisit it, specifically to review for this site.

And it’s good. It’s really good.

As well as being a morality tale about the ethical choices we make, and their costs, Quiz Show is also a cat-and-mouse game, as government investigator Dick Goodwin (Rob Morrow) tries to uncover all the corruption in the popular 1950s quiz show 21. And it seems there was a lot of it; producers giving the answers (and the questions) to contestants, contestants using that information to cheat, contestants deliberately losing games, the network turning a blind eye… the ripples of corruption don’t seem to end.

I’d forgotten all the twists and turns in the story. Its pace is leisurely (the running time is 2 hours and 12 minutes) but it’s never less than gripping. It’s a real examination of ethics and their consequences; the rewards – and more importantly, the costs – of the moral choices we all make. It’s not a happy, feelgood film. By the end, hardly anyone gets off scot-free; almost everyone has done the wrong thing and paid the price, or been caught in the fallout.

Watching the film, you can’t help ask yourself what you would do, if you were in the position of the two ‘successful’ contestants on 21; Herb Stempel (John Turturro) and  Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes). We all think we know how we’d behave if we were in their shoes; we’d never be involved in any corruption, any cheating; but the temptations of fame, approval and the money – so much money! – can sometimes tend to muddy the ethical waters.

But the ill-gotten gains – and the secrets that hide them – have a way of eating away at the conscience of an honest man… And Charles Van Doren can’t live with them. As investigator Dick Goodwin says;

“I asked myself, ‘why would he do this?’ He knows I’ll come after him. Then it occurred to me. He knows I’ll come after him… It was the ‘getting-away-with-it’ part that he couldn’t live with.”

All the performances are great, but particularly moving is Paul Scofield’s performance as Mark Van Doren, Charlie’s father, and the patriarch of the Van Doren family of intellectuals. The classroom scene when Charlie (Ralph Fiennes) finally confesses his secret to his father is truly heartbreaking. Paul Scofield was nominated for both the Oscar and the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor for his work here.

The film looks gorgeous. Michael Ballhous’s cinematography recreates 1950s New York beautifully; all its shiny art deco interiors. The Van Doren’s country estate in Connecticut is picture perfect, too – all shimmering autumnal privilege.

The script by former film critic Paul Attanasio is by turns surprising, witty and inspiring. Quiz Show is a smart grown up film dealing with big moral issues, complex , compelling characters set against a lovingly recreated and beautiful backdrop.

I’m giving Quiz Show 4 game show buzzers out of 4!



And now I’m off to see if I can find any more game show related movies to review. Can you think of any? If you can, please do let me know!

Until next time…

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