My EXCLUSIVE interview with big-winning, record-setting game show LEGEND David Poltorak – Part 1

Thanks tiny-fonted Wikipedia, I’ll take it from here.

I think it’s fair to say that David Poltorak is a legend of Australian TV game shows. After his 1986 World-Record-setting win on Sale of the Century….

See?

he returned for several ‘Champion of Champions’ tournaments, before becoming a question writer and adjudicator for that same show.

Since then, he’s worked behind the scenes on many Australian TV quiz shows, and last year, he became a contestant once again, and won BIG on Beat the Chasers…. 34 years after his original Sale of the Century triumph!

Besides all that, he’s a screenwriter and standup comedian, and he’d already had his first movie produced before any of his quiz show success.

This was a delightful and really wide-ranging discussion, and I thought I’d kick it off by delving into David’s origin story…

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SH: David Poltorak! Thank you very much indeed for joining me today for HowToWinGameShows.com.

 DP: It’s my pleasure Stephen, thanks very much.

SH: Prior to your game show career I know you were a TV and film writer. Your first TV credit on imdb.com is from 1984 for writing two episodes of Sweet & Sour: an ABC drama about a young pop band (which I watched religiously as a teenager). How did that come about, and how was that whole experience?

DP: Yes, it might be my first IMDB credit and fair enough. I wrote those two episodes with a long-term co-writer Paul Leadon (who, in recent years, has been the Head of Comedy at Channel 10). We’d been at uni together, studying architecture. We both dropped out and got heavily involved with our annual architecture review, and that led to work writing sketches for what was then 2JJ. One of the early directors of that station mentored us; a guy called Marius Webb, who was very helpful to us.

We wrote sketches and then we got on – I think in ’77 – The Garry McDonald Show. Garry McDonald had been playing his famous character Norman Gunston for years, and he was sick of that character and he wanted to do a sketch show that was a completely Gunston-free zone. It was a pretty terrible show because it made you realize in retrospect what a great anchor the Gunston character was for him. And so, without that character, he was just another actor in comedy sketches.

SH: How long did that last? I don’t remember that show at all.

DP: Well, I think it only had one series. The head writer was Morris Gleitzman, who went on to become a successful children’s author. It was produced by John Eastway who was an ABC comedy producer at that time. It was a great experience for us because having grown up as a Monty Python obsessive, I just had this enormous weight of Monty Python sitting on my head and just feeling overwhelmed by what I saw as their quality and what they’d achieved. They were such a big influence on me.

SH: Was it helpful having a writing partner, being part of a team? Surely you could bolster each other up in those moments of self-doubt?

DP: We could. We wrote more stuff together later. Initially, although we were hired as a group, we were all writing individually, not actually collaborating. So it still felt like a very lonely, isolated experience and it’s not one that I look back with any great joy, apart from what it meant in career terms. After that, we did another comedy series called Jokes which was the same thing; just half an hour of unrelated sketches. That was also on the ABC, produced by John Eastway. And that was a short-lived thing. In later years, Australia produced much more successful shows: D-Gen, Full Frontal… but at this early stage, everybody was just scrambling. We didn’t know where we were going.

SH: I’m guessing you’re in your early twenties at this stage? Not long out of university.

DP: I’m in my early 20s. I’m a pretty heavy dope smoker, I’m a cab driver. I’d been on the dole for about a year after I dropped out at uni. Back in those days, you could front up to your local Commonwealth Employment Service office and say, “Look I’m sick of being a bus conductor. Can I go on the dole, please?” “Yes, sign here. Here’s your first cheque.”

SH: Different times.

DP: Very different times! Anyway, Paul and I then became a duo and worked on kids’ shows on the ABC and did other sketch shows…. none of which are remembered by anyone except the people who made them, because they made such little impact. Back then, the top-rating current affairs show was on Channel Seven, hosted by Mike Willesee. He’d been dominating the ratings, but in 1981, Channel 9 premiered Sale of the Century up against him. And Sale of the Century was a monster – so huge, so successful!

And as a result, Mike Willesee had this brainwave that he’d introduce comedy to his current affairs show. So he hired a bunch of people to write and perform sketches. Doug Mulray, Austen Tayshus, (who at that stage was just called Sandy Gutman) and Paul and me. So, there’d be a production meeting in the morning with Mike and we’d all sit on the floor while he sat behind his huge oak-panelled desk. We would discuss the big stories of the day and he’d get one or two of the writers to write a sketch and then somebody else would perform in it for that night. Paul and I didn’t perform; we just wrote. I think it lasted about three months. Mike was getting killed in the ratings by Sale of the Century, so he tried comedy, but it didn’t work. But it was great training; we’d have to write at least one sketch a day in the morning. We only had a couple of hours to do it, but it was terrific. It was great having the subject to write about because you then knew what the sketch was. And they’d try and film as much as they could during the day.

SH: But they would broadcast it that night?

DP: Yeah, it was very ‘on the hoof’.

SH: That’s really exciting.

DP: It was exciting, yeah. It was a pity it didn’t work. And although Sale of the Century was beating it, to me Sale was just this other thing out there… if I happened to be watching TV, I liked to sit there and answer the questions, but the idea never entered my head that I’d ever go on it as a contestant.

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“Well, of course not – what possible reason could there be for David to want to do that?” I pretend to hear you ask.
As it turned out, there were actually 376,200 reasons.
And we’ll get one step closer to all of them when we pick up David’s story next week.
See you then!

My latest quiz show appearance (#spoileralertletsjustsaywinningisnteverything…)

Hello!

A quick one today, to let you know about a quick radio quiz that my Mad As Hell castmate Tosh Greenslade and I did on ABC Radio National last Friday…

Every Friday, Patricia Karvelas’s’ drivetime show has a light-hearted quiz about the news of the week, usually featuring two comedians. This week, it was our turn to face off against each other, on subjects ranging from a Flintstones-themed house to fuel for European flying cars.

It was really good fun. If you’re interested, and you have a free 20 minutes, here it is…

I’ll see you next week, with exciting news of an epic new interview that I’m just putting the finishing touches on now…

Until then, then!

A nightly burst of quick quizzy goodness…

Hello!

Just a quick one today, to let you know about a fun new quiz competition that’s the brainchild of Australian quiz show question writer Miles Glaspole. In his spare time, Miles has created a brand new quick-fire general knowledge quiz format for TikTok!

It’s called The TikTok 10, and it’s a rapid round of 10 general knowledge questions that you have to answer before Miles says the answer. The thing is, he says the answer right after the question, so you really do have to be pretty darn fast…

There’s a new episode every weekday at 7 PM AEST.

Speaking as a gentleman of a certain age, I must confess that I’m not totally, entirely, 100% super-familiar with the intricacies of TikTok… but from what I’ve seen, this looks ace!

And I think it’d certainly be excellent training for anyone contemplating going on a fast-paced fire quiz show.

Nice one, Miles!

And THAT’s where Canada’s game shows got to…

Hello! I’ve just got a quick post for you this week, with an update from our Canadian friend Ryan Vickers, who’s kindly written numerous guest posts for the blog about his various game show-related adventures over the years…

Ryan tells me that Season Two of the documentary series he’s involved with (The Search for Canada’s Game Shows) recently premiered in Canada, on the Canadian TV channel Game TV!

“Well, that’s all fine and dandy,” I hear you say.

“Oh yes sir, that’s all very well and good,” you go on, “but what if I want to watch this show, and I don’t happen to BE in Canada? Hm? What do I do then, Einstein?”

Um, my name’s actually Stephe-

“Eh? Did ya ever think about that? What if I’m not there? What if I’m HERE, instead? Only 38 million people live in Canada, you know – just 0.48% of the world’s population – and I’m tellin’ ya right now, pal – I’M NOT ONE OF ‘EM!!”

Well, okay. But if you’d just –

“SO HOW ON EARTH DO YOU EXPECT ME TO WATCH SEASON TWO OF THE SEARCH FOR CANADA’S GAME SHOWS, IF I CAN’T GET THE GAMETV CHANNEL ON MY TV?! HUH? HUH?”

Um, you can watch it online, via this link that Ryan provided: https://www.igametv.com/canadasgameshow/

“Oh,” I hear you say.

“Okay.

Thanks.”

Yeah, no worries.

Aha! So THAT’s what it is…

Hello!

So it looks like the mystery raised in my last post has now been solved: the ABC has announced an upcoming news quiz show called Win The Week, hosted by Alex Lee and Craig Reucassel. 

That’s them there.

It’s being billed as “a test of news knowledge and loyalty, where everyday Aussies must know the news and betray their teammates to win.”

Apparently, each episode will see three teams of two players go head-to-head over four rounds. Each team has an everyday Aussie as Team Captain and a celebrity who’ll both need to work together to win. But team loyalties will be tested at the end of each round with the “Stay or Betray” dilemma – one Team Captain must decide whether to stay with their celeb teammate or to betray them and swap to a different celeb from another team… in order to Win the Week!

If you’d like to know more details, the show’s full media release is right HERE.

I think this all sounds really promising – a new, light-hearted, inclusive, fun show, an original Australian concept, and really good talent on both sides of the camera. Here’s hoping it’s a hit!

If it sounds like the sort of show you’d like to compete on, you can still apply to be a contestant by sending an email to quizcontestants@abc.net.au

I wish you – and indeed them – every success!

A new news quiz show – who knew?

Hello!

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!

Stephen 

Coming soon, from The Land Of The Maple Leaf…

Hello, and Happy Tuesday to you! I have some cool news to share with you this week, by way of a welcome visit from our favourite Canadian guest blogger.

Serial game show contestant and aficionado Ryan Vickers has been a great friend of HowToWinGameShows.com for ages now, having written loads of great guest posts for the site since August 2017. You can find a choice selection of Ryan’s game show-related adventures right HERE.

It was Ryan who first alerted me to the fascinating series The Search For Canada’s Game Shows, (which you can watch at

https://www.CanadasGameShows.com/season-episodes).

Ryan appeared in the first series of this show, and since then, he’s developed a real rapport with its producers. Could that possibly, conceivably, somehow have a little something to do with Ryan’s return today?

Hm.

Let’s see, shall we? Take it away, Ryan…

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O Canada! O Game Shows! Season Two!
(Yes, I’m paraphrasing Stephen’s great title from last year!)*

Hi there friends! It’s guest blogger Ryan Vickers speaking to you from slightly-getting-warmer Canada.

I wanted to share with you that The Search for Canada’s Game Shows is back on GameTV here in Canada later this month! We are rolling out a three-night premiere with all-new episodes on March 29th, 30th and 31st (and an early shout out… Happy Birthday Mom!)

Our first season focused on the origins of Canadian game shows up until the turn of the 21st century. Our second season looks at more recent Canadian game show activity and the focus on more competitive shows that have taken over the prime-time airwaves here in The Great White North. We’ll explore shows created in Canada and how they’ve evolved; the proliferation of shows that have food as their centrepiece; the progression of prizes; the role of comedy and comedians in game shows and the future of game shows here.

I look forward to sharing some neat facts about Season Two after it airs; but for now, I also need to let you know that you can catch the show at the end of March (concurrently with the television broadcast) if you don’t live in Canada – all episodes will be available for viewing at CanadasGameShows.com. In fact, you can pop over there right now and see interview segments from this season’s episodes, as well as sneak previews of each episode in Season Two!

I hope you enjoy!

Ryan.

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Thanks very much for the heads-up, Ryan – I’m really looking forward to the new season, and to hearing more about it from your good self. 

But hey, Ryan shouldn’t have to do all the heavy lifting in the guest post department. If you – yes, YOU! the person reading this right now – ever feel inclined to write a guest post for the site, I’m always open to suggestions. It can be autobiographical, it can be behind-the-scenes info, it can be analysis or opinion…. as long as it’s game show-related, I’ll consider it. So, if you think you may have something to offer, something that I can help share with a wider audience, just email me at Stephen@HowToWinGameShows.com. You never know where it may lead!

I’ll see you next time, and yes… Happy Birthday, Mrs Vickers (Ryan’s mum). 

* Aw, shucks, Ryan… – SH

Announcing my first EXCLUSIVE interview for 2021!

Hello! Just a quick update today, to let you know I’ve secured my first exclusive interview for 2021… and it’s a Biggie! I’m really pleased to have booked a chat with a man whose vast experience in the game show industry is simply incredible. He’s held a variety of powerful positions behind the scenes, in a career that spans decades. He’s brought loads of the world’s biggest hit game shows to our screens and – on a personal note – he’s also been a great mentor to me, teaching me an awful lot along the way.

Thank you, Fry – I’m pretty sure it will be. There’s a lot for us to discuss, so I’m sure our chat will run over several weeks here on the site. And it’ll all be kicking off soon, right here at HowToWinGameShows.com!

 

We’re eight.

Today, HowToWinGameShows.com is 8 years old! How about that – who would have thought?

Probably not me. Back in 2013, when I posted the first-ever entry here, entitled Well, here goes!, I had no idea if this concept could possibly sustain a regular blog. I remember how nervous I felt as I set up the site, and how vulnerable I felt when I finally hit that “Post” button for the first time. This silly little idea of mine was now OUT IN THE WORLD. This was all new to me, and exciting – I liked the idea of a blog on this subject as a fun little hobby. I’d spent a bit of time on an online blogging course. Game show tips, information and stories was a ‘niche market’, as they say, but I figured I had nothing to lose. I knew a few people who’d been on game shows, I knew a few people who worked in the industry; maybe they’d chat to me, and this could be a place where we could share their stories, tips and hints with a wider audience. I’d share my stories, my tips and hints too, of course, and maybe some future contestant, somewhere out there, might find some of it useful. Worst-case scenario, it’d fizzle out, and I could look back on it as a fun little experiment.

But it didn’t fizzle out.

A year after that first post, the blog celebrated its first birthday. 52 weeks after that was birthday number 2. Another 365 days passed, and suddenly the site was three years old. March 14th 2017 saw the site turn four, and 12 months after that it was five – well, you get the idea.

For a long time, I thought I had to post every week, no matter what. Not sure why I thought that – some weeks there’s naturally more content than other weeks. A streak of stubbornness, I suppose. I’ve mellowed a bit now, and my policy is to post when I have something (hopefully) interesting to share with you.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for your feedback, your contributions, and, as always, your support.

Cheers!

Stephen

“You are The Weakest Link.” Hello.

Hello. You may remember that a few weeks ago, I let you know about auditions (here in Victoria) for a new BBC quiz show called Quizical.

This brand new, unseen, unheard-of show, appearing out of the blue sparked a lot of questions… and quite a few rumours. Was Quizical in fact a code name for the reboot of another, more well-known quiz show?

Well, yes. Yes, it was.

It’s recently been revealed that the show in question is the classic The Weakest Link, (or, more accurately, Weakest Link, judging by the new logo), hosted this time around by Magda Szubanski.

So, if this is your cup of tea (and now that we know what we’re dealing with)… you can still apply to be on the show! The application page is right here (still at the old Quizical URL)…

https://go.mycastingnet.com/Apply/Show/Quizical

I suspect they might take a tip or two from the recent US reboot of the show, hosted by Jane Lynch but of course, all that remains to be seen. The great news is that here in Australia, it’s not too late to apply! So if you’d like to test your knowledge and go up against Magda (and your fellow contestants) why not click on the link below, to start the process of finding out whether

You Are The Weakest Link.

Goodbye!

https://go.mycastingnet.com/Apply/Show/Quizical