The cover of my debut novel ‘Symphony Under Siege’!
If you’re in the US or Canada, and you’d like to get your hands on a free eBook copy of my novel Symphony Under Siege, I’m running a GoodReads Giveaway where I’m giving away 100 copies. Winners will be drawn at random on February 5th, and all the details are right here…..
What I DIDN’T do in 2020 was finish my second, more autobiographical HowToWinGameShows.com eBook: Tales From The Shiny Floor. I’m so sorry about that. I know I promised it ages ago. Next year, for sure.
I’m afraid that this year, all my authoring and self-publishing energy was devoted to getting my first novel Symphony Under Siege out into the world. But now that’s done, and out there, I can turn my attention to delivering on my promise to you.
And speaking of Promise… I hope that, wherever you are, 2021 fulfils its promise to you.
I hope it’s a safer, saner, healthier and kinder year than 2020. In short, I hope that 2021 is better than 2020. (Let’s face it – it couldn’t be much worse…)
But whatever 2021 may bring, I’d just like to take this opportunity now to thank you so much once again for your support of this site, and wish you and yours a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.
See you next year!
* Did you know that Charles Dickens actually self-published A Christmas Carol (one of his biggest hits)?
Well, he did. And I’ve always found that fact (along with the fact that he wrote most of his novels in serialised form, publishing the chapters in monthly magazines before officially publishing the full bound volumes) profoundly inspirational.
Me as Darius Horsham / The Ghost of Christmas Present from ‘Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell: Pagan Holiday Special’ (Now streaming on ABC iView!)
Hello! As per the headline above, I’d just like to take this opportunity to wish you all the Compliments of the Season.
As we all stagger towards the end of this disastrous and tragic year, I fervently hope you can find some solace and contentment in the company of family and friends, either in person, or remotely. Love doesn’t quite conquer all, but I believe it’s the best weapon we’ve got.
I thank you for your support. And after whatever hardships or challenges you’ve experienced this year – and we’ve all experienced some – I bring you tidings of comfort and joy.
There’s a wonderful BBC4 podcast that I subscribe to, called The Infinite Monkey Cage. It’s hosted by the physicist Brian Cox and the comedian Robin Ince, and it aims to make a wide variety of science subjects accessible and entertaining. The show’s always educational, often very funny, and I’d highly recommend it to… well, to pretty much anyone who has any curiosity whatsoever about the universe.
This recent episode was all about games and the science behind them. I found it interesting, informative and amusing, and I wanted to share it with you.
Here’s the detailed description of this episode, from its website:
How To Beat The House And Win At Games. Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined on stage by mathematicians Hannah Fry and Alex Bellos, psychologist Richard Wiseman and games enthusiast Helen Zaltzman, to get their top tips for winning games and solving puzzles. Do mathematicians make better Poker players, or is psychology the key to the ultimate poker face? Will a knowledge of probability give you the ultimate winning strategy for your next game of Monopoly? (the answer is yes!). How old are the oldest puzzles, and why do they involve wolves and cabbages? And how have puzzles involving wolves, cabbages and bridges resulted in the development of whole new branches of mathematics?
AAaaaand that’s all for this week. See you next time,
The cover of my debut novel ‘Symphony Under Siege’!
And I’m a little bit excited. Can you tell?
May 17th, 2019 – when I published the very first chapter online – seems like a lifetime ago now. Since I finished that rough first draft on May 8th this year, I’ve cut and edited and polished and tweaked and re-arranged and re-ordered the thing to within in an inch of its life. The 310-page Amazon eBook I’m launching today is the end product.
I’m equal parts nervous and excited about sending my brainchild out into the world. All I can do is spread the word and hope for the best, I suppose! To give you an idea of what the story’s about, here’s the book description (aka its blurb):
512 YEARS IN THE FUTURE.
NOT YOUR TYPICAL THURSDAY MORNING.
FIVE CENTURIES FROM NOW, EX-NAVY OFFICER DIANA SINGH COMMANDS THE MONUMENTAL LUXURY SPACELINER THE SYMPHONY OF THE STARS. NONE OF HER CREW KNOWS THAT THEIR SHIP IS SMUGGLING A TREASURE WORTH MILLIONS.
NONE OF THEM KNOWS WHICH ONE OF THEM IS THE SERIAL KILLER.
AS CAPTAIN SINGH PILOTS THE MIGHTY CRUISE SHIP BACK TO BASE, SHE RACES TO UNMASK THE MURDERER IN THEIR MIDST BEFORE THEY CAN KILL AGAIN.
SO, NOT THE MOSTCONVENIENT TIME TO BE ATTACKED BY PIRATES…
“I AM CAPTAIN SALAZAR SHARP, HERE TO CLAIM WHAT IS WRONGFULLY MINE!” FOR THE FLAMBOYANT LEADER OF THE PIRATES, INFILTRATING THE SYMPHONY IS A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY.
BUT THE SECRET TREASURE THAT COULD MAKE HIM AND HIS CREW FILTHY RICH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING; HIS ULTIMATE GOAL IS A FAR GREATER PRIZE…
SYMPHONY UNDER SIEGE IS A WITTY SCI-FI ADVENTURE PACKED WITH HEROIC EXPLOITS, TWISTS AND TURNS, NAIL-BITING CLIFFHANGERS AND DARING ESCAPES.
IF YOU LIKE ROLLICKING, FAST-PACED SCI-FI WITH A SENSE OF HUMOUR, THEN YOU’LL LOVE THIS EXUBERANT DEBUT NOVEL FROM VETERAN TV COMEDY WRITER STEPHEN HALL.
BUY SYMPHONY UNDER SIEGE TODAY, AND GET ON BOARD THE ADVENTURE!
And that’s it for today. No game show related news, I’m afraid – this has pushed it all off the front page.
When I return, though, I will get back on topic. I promise.
…. 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!
IR: Someone is. But he’s got a job and everything and so that’s worked out quite well. But the advocacy of it is something my wife has really driven because of who she is; she’s that kind of person. She’s a real advocate for it and I think they’re a real force for good and certainly a voice for the autism community, particularly the parents.
IR: It’s a not-for-profit; it’s just basically there to advocate.
IR: So, I guess that’s really it from me, as far as All Star Squaresis concerned. It’s an interesting little footnote, isn’t it? I hope they resurrect it one day, because it’s actually a great game show.
SH: It is. When it’s done right, it’s just really entertaining and silly; one of those shows that you just let wash over you.
IR: Yes. When the chemistry all comes together on the show, it’s fantastic fun. I think there were some days where we were doing that show, we really all had heaps of fun and I think the audience was enjoying it too.
SH: Yeah, for sure. Perhaps one problem with the format is that you do have your regular celebrities who you can count on, but then for the guest celebrities, you get a mixed bag of athletes, actors, singers, whoever’s doing the promotional rounds… and some of those people were just rabbits in the headlights when it came to answering the questions. Sometimes we really had to rely on our regulars do the heavy-lifting.
IR: Yes, I think you guys – the writers – were doing the big work before the show back in the Green Room… just trying to get those people to loosen up.
An “Additional Material” credit! Whoo-hoo!
SH: Yeah because when it came to the guests, you just got who you were given, and they were not all necessarily naturals in that situation….
IR: The whole show was so much fun. We’d sit there in the Green Room between shows with Tim Smith and Michael Caton… and I just remember lots of jokes.
SH: Yeah, it was very convivial! I remember Tim Smith in particular; going through questions and gags with him and just laughing a lot and him always wanting to make it better, as funny as possible. What a lovely bloke. Those were very happy memories.
The great Tim Smith.
IR: Yeah, I think in another timeslot the show might have worked. Who knows?
SH: You never know. Do you have any specific memories of any of the contestants?
IR: Did we give a car away once?
SH: We might have.
IR: I think we did.
SH: I think we did!
IR: It was a while ago, but I seem to remember that it wasn’t a huge car….
IR: I remember the live studio audiences really enjoying it as well. I really can’t remember too many of the contestants and that’s only just because of time, I think.
IR: But the bizarre thing was that after it all finished, Channel Seven repeated the show over the next two summers. But maybe that was just in Sydney.
SH: I don’t know; I don’t recall that happening down here in Melbourne. As we said, it wouldn’t have been a cheap show. The celebrities you mentioned, I think you’re still friendly with a few of them. Is that right?
IR: I’ve known a lot of those people from years previous. There are firm friendships; Tim Smith… and Michael Caton, I saw just last week. We both scream at the television over American politics.
SH: (LAUGHING) Oh good. It’s good to have that in common; that’s lovely. When it was on, did you find you were thrust into the spotlight? Did you find you were being recognized?
IR: Look, I’d already been through it in the eighties. I’m really not after the spotlight; I’m more of a cabinetmaker than a television show host. But I always wanted to host a game show, purely so that if something happened on a plane and somebody yelled out, “IS THERE A GAME SHOW HOST ON BOARD?” I could say, “Yes, I’m a Game Show Host – step aside.” I wanted “Game Show Host” on my passport.
SH: (LAUGHING) That’s good – you’ve achieved that goal!
IR: Look, as you know really well Steve, gigs come up… and you do them!
SH: Sure. Because… why not?
IR: Yeah and also, they might even pay you some money! AND give you some free chocolates.
SH: Yeah, “delightful Duc d’O chocolates” indeed! Now, the show didn’t last as long as we might have liked; what were your memories of its ending, and how did you process that at the time?
Hello, and welcome to the second instalment of my exclusive four-part interview with game show host Ian Rogerson about the whirlwind of activity at 5:30 on weeknights way back in 1999 that WAS All Star Squares.
Now let’s dive straight back in, with Ian’s candid thoughts on the show’s appeal….
IR: In hindsight, I think the show was just on the borderline of almost being interesting. It had all the basics of the game show, plus some writing that goes in there and the false questions and the real questions…. But because it was a network game show, there were areas where you couldn’t really push the boundaries.
SH: Oh, for sure. And it was a 5:30 time slot, so it had to be family-friendly. The parameters were sort of…
IR: Relatively tight.
SH: Not exactly “broad”, for sure.
IR: Yeah. But we had a lot of pretty funny people in there. I mean… you, Kim Hope was funny, Tim Smith and there were a lot of people who were prepared to go a little bit around the edges, but it never really got a chance to develop… because it only ran about six months. I think it was in the wrong time slot. I may be misremembering here, but I was always under the impression it was going to go on at seven o’clock or six thirty.
SH: Oh, that’s interesting.
IR: … Originally. And then it was sort of like “Oh… 5:30”. And that’s an expensive show to run at 5:30.
SH: It really is. When you got the gig, what was your initial reaction? I imagine your previous work had prepared you pretty well for it. Were there any new skills or techniques you had to learn?
IR: Look, by far the hardest hurdle I had with that show is the fact that I was going a little grey (LAUGHING) and I said to them “You’re cool with the grey hair, aren’t you? That’s not a deal breaker, is it?” And they went, “Oh no – it IS a deal breaker.”
IR: I had to dye my hair, and I hated that! Because I’m not that kind of guy. I just like to be natural; if I’ve got grey hairs, I’ve earned them. But they weren’t going to have a bar of it. So, I was never happy with my hair for the full six months, which is off-putting when you’re a game show host.
“Aaaaaall, All Star Squares! They made Ian Roger-son DYE HIS GREY HAIRS!”
Johnny (Jonathan Coleman) and I had done Have a Go in 1988, which was basically a game show, so I knew all about recording five shows in a day and then having those episodes stripped through the week… So, I just thought ‘All Star Squares is going to be fun’, and it was a lot of fun! A lot of fun. But it was just so quick and then they killed us.
SH: Yes. I have very fond memories of it, but as you say, it was an expensive show and that’s such a crucial time slot for them, leading into the news….
IR: Yeah, and I don’t think we ever cracked it; we never got higher than second place (in the ratings).
SH: Yeah. What aspects of hosting the show – if any – were uncharted territory for you?
IR: I had no idea how tall the pyramid they were putting me on was going to be!
SH: Oh, that’s right!
IR: Yeah, I remember the set very clearly; the squares were huge. And that would have cost a lot of money to bump that in and bump that out of the studio every weekend. But also, my position was elevated on this really tall pyramid. I was having delusions of grandeur out there at one stage (LAUGHING).
SH: I’d forgotten that! Were you level with the second – or even third – level of the grid?
IR: I think I was across from the second level. You know I had vultures circling me at various times. I got nosebleeds if the pressure dropped (LAUGHING).
SH: Elevated like a lifeguard, or a tennis umpire – yeah.
IR: That’s right! So, when people would run notes up to me, it was like coming up the mountain to bring me a new set of questions.
SH: Do you have any specific memories of things that might have gone wrong during the show?
IR: I know that my wife came down one weekend and we went to the Flower Drum restaurant and drank so much white wine on the Friday night…. I was actually lying on my dressing room floor the next morning, feeling seriously hungover, thinking “How am I going to do five shows?” Of course I got up and did them, but I still can’t remember those five shows.
SH: So ‘Doctor Showbiz’ kicked in? You somehow found the necessary adrenalin?
IR: Yes. But I’ve never touched white wine since. And then, when my wife was in the audience that day, the warm-up guy Michael Pope used to throw chocolates out into the audience….
IR: He got Nicole, right in the middle of her forehead!
SH: Oh dear!
IR: Wham! Nicole never forgot that; she still brings it up occasionally.
I must confess, the show’s sponsorship arrangement with the Belgian chocolatier Duc d’O was a certainly a fond memory for me*, although I certainly do empathise with Nicole; all the “finest ingredients”, “pronounced boldness” and “pure Belgian craftsmanship and expertise” in the world don’t mean much when the box is hitting you full force in the forehead.
Hello, and welcome to my latest HowToWinGameShows.com EXCLUSIVE interview! And today, we’re wandering down Memory lane, all the way back to 1999, with the host of All Star Squares; it’s that stalwart of the Australian entertainment industry; broadcaster, columnist and all-round lovely bloke… Ian Rogerson!
SH: Ian, thank you so much for joining me today for HowToWinGameShows.com!
IR: My pleasure!
SH: For our overseas visitors… you didn’t start out as a game show host; for many years before All Star Squares came calling, you had a long and successful career on commercial radio and TV, as part of the comedy double act ‘Jono & Dano’ (with Jonathan Coleman).
IR: I used to refer to myself as “one third of ‘Jono & Dano’.”
SH: (LAUGHING) Did you really? That’s very modest of you. How did you two meet and start working together? And when did you know that your chemistry was really going to pay off?
IR: I’d been working at Triple J in Sydney for about a year. One Saturday night they brought this guy in and said, “Do you know him?”
And I go, “No.”
“You watch Wonder World (the kids’ TV show Jonathan was on at the time), don’t you?”
“Well look, we’re just trying him out, just operate the panel – don’t worry about it. We just want to see what he’s like.”
And I thought ‘yeah, okay, fair enough’. And then in comes Coleman, who blathers on for about 20 minutes… I just basically had to interrupt him! And that was the beginning of a ten-year relationship.
SH: So, it wasn’t organic, it wasn’t by accident, or because you both moved in the same circles… it was sort of pre-fabricated by the station?
IR: It wasn’t even that! We just ended up doing the rest of that show together. And that’s where that sort of chemistry came across. They said, “Okay – you guys are doing Saturday nights now.” And that was it.
SH: Wow that’s interesting! I had no idea. Then after Triple J (which is a subsidiary of the ABC, our public broadcaster), when did you go to commercial radio?
IR: About mid 80s. ‘84 I think. Most of it’s a blur, to be brutally honest…
IR: I was having a lot of fun. Sorry, I was very busy – very busy.
SH: That too.
IR: In ’84, the Triple M people came and offered us more money than I’d ever seen, so it was like, “Okay, let’s do that!” So, I ended up working there for a few years and got a TV show with Channel Seven. We ended up doing a tonight show (Late Night With Jono & Dano); one of the world’s worst tonight shows, although we did win the ratings on the last day of the show.
SH: Why do you call it that? Surely it couldn’t have been that bad.
IR: We were idiots (LAUGHING). We weren’t serious; we were just idiots. And I think we were such fans of the David Letterman show, we realized the only place we could watch it come in live was off the satellite in at Channel Seven. So I suspect we were partly doing the show so we could watch the Letterman Show during the week, when it came through at about midday!
SH: You were in it for the perks!
IR: (LAUGHING) Yeah, it was fantastic. And then at the end of the 80’s, Johnny went off to England, I went back to Triple J when they set it up as a national network and worked there until about the mid-90s and then I did bits and pieces; a series of interview shows in America, and stuff like that… I then came back and then All Star Squares came my way in 1999.
SH: So how did that come to be?
IR: They were auditioning for it and that’s where I met the producer Tony Skinner; he was a lovely man. I liked Tony. He really knew game shows, and he was a game show guru. So, they were doing auditions and it got down to Larry Emdur and me. Which is also the name of my new sitcom.
SH: (LAUGHING) Larry Emdur & Me! Wow – the original odd couple! I’d pay to see that.
IR: And I ended up getting the gig, so that’s where I got to meet you.
SH: Indeed. When you auditioned for it, had you seen either of the previous Australian versions, hosted by Jimmy Hannan? There was Celebrity Squares (1975 – 1976), and there was Personality Squares in 1981. Were you familiar with the show and the format at all?
IR: Yeah, it really goes back to Hollywood. I think it was a 60’s show originally, wasn’t it? Hollywood Squares, that was it. The format was a no-brainer, it was just a case of how you fill up those squares and who you get. I thought that you had to have some regulars; so the people who are coming back to the show are going to know and feel comfortable with it. So, they were the Michael Catons, the Tottie Goldsmiths and the Tim Smiths… Everybody was “Smith” on the show, for a period of time!
And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. Next week, Ian and I discuss the physicality of the show’s set, the vagaries of time slot programming, and the one thing that the network warned him was definitely “a deal breaker”….