Monday, 22 August 2011

Who wants to be a millionaire? or my love hate relationship with game shows.

My dirty secret was aired a couple of years ago.  To people who knew me well, if they thought about it, it wouldn't have been a surprise.  In fact they would have been complicit in feeding my secret passion.  A trivia night here, a trivia night there.  All in the name of a good cause of course.

I love game shows.

It all started when I was in high school and the local television station decided to produce an afternoon game show for local students.  I can't remember what it was called - something like "Academic Challenge"? - but I do remember that the prize was an atlas, a dictionary and a thesaurus.  I know because I still have these prizes.

The school took it very seriously.  We had to sit a written test as part of the audition.  I'm sure there was some kind of behind-the-scenes character assessment that would have been done as well.  A team of four girls was selected and I was given the role of team captain.  This became important later during the "battle of the team captains" round where I had no help and had to win on my own.  Which I did.

Being a voracious and precocious reader with one of those brains that retains stuff and the possessor of quick reflexes, I was always going to be handy in a trivia setting.   (To illustrate the point, in grade 3 we had to bring a new word to class to test everyone's spelling.  The word I took was "vulcanise".  Not even Miss Hoolihan knew what it meant.)  And as a born performer, I wasn't going to freak out when the lights went on.

Ah the wave of glory on which our victorious team rode back to school, having slain the opposition.  We even had a chapel service dedicated to our school spirit.  Ok, I might be making that bit up, but it's not beyond the realms of possibility.

After this stunning success on channel 10-4-5a (that's what it was called), I would watch "Sale of the Century" with my family to a background chorus of "you should go on that show", "you'd be marvellous on that show", "that girl has no idea what she's doing, but you'd know what to do" as we all yelled the answers at Tony Barber.   The same thing would happen during "Wheel of Fortune" but the real danger with that show was the risk of winning a holiday that required you to take an 18 hour bus trip to get to the destination.  Or a cupboard full of saucepans.

I dreamed of one day going on a grown up game show.  And then 2006 came along.  Living in Melbourne, meant I was on the doorstep of where the shows were made, so I decided that I would go on as many shows as I could.

Auditions for these shows consist of completing a form which has at least as many pages as the Melbourne phone book.  You're meant to complete this standing up in the queue to go in and sit the written test.  Never mention anything that you're not completely happy to have air on television.  The most fascinating thing about these auditions is that there is a true cross section of people there, most of them some equipped with a tragic tale that ties in nicely with what they would do with $1 million.  I didn't have a tragic tale, but I do have the gift of the gab and ability to "sparkle" in 90 seconds.  Plus I do pretty well in the written test.

The first was "Deal or No Deal".  A game show, rather than a quiz show, which is all about playing the odds.  One of my friends refers to me as the smartest person she knows who can't count, so this was always going to be tricky.  The day of filming always starts ridiculously early and involves herding large numbers of star struck people in a space that is far too small for everyone.  There's a lot of waiting around, but you are well fed.

I was on the show and held a suitcase.  I opened the suitcase without fumbling, but failed to predict the value of the case.  After a ten hour day, I left with nothing except a sore backside from sitting on a tiny folding chair all day.

Next was "Temptation", a rebranded and relaunched "Sale of the Century".  This show is all about being quick on the buzzer and smart about when you spend your money on prizes in the gift shop.  I was up against a carry over champion who was on the brink of winning everything - the cars, the jewellery, the holiday, the gold and the diamond studded key ring from Bruce and Walsh.  I played to win and on the final gift shop was $1 ahead and so had the opportunity to purchase a holiday in Fiji for $15.  I quickly thought through my options and tried to haggle the price down.  They wouldn't budge.  Was I playing to win a holiday in Fiji or playing to win the night?  I decided it was the latter.  So I went home without a holiday or the chance to come back the next night.  The carry over champion came back the next night and won everything.  He got his picture in the Herald Sun and they told his hard luck story.  I was left scraping the makeup off my face and 10grams of gold from the Perth Mint.  I should find it and put a deposit on a house.

I tried many times to get on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" but it worked on a lottery system and my name was never drawn but I did get on "Millionaire Hotseat". *

Then came "1 vs 100".  A gladiatorial battle where a lone contestant slugs it out against a mob of 100 to win the $1 million prize.  I was selected to be one of the lone contestants.  I did very well, finishing my first night with about $96,000 in the pot, only 17 people left in the mob and two lifelines still in play (I'd used one on the inevitable and terrifying question about cricket).  I came back the next week (which was really 20 minutes later with a wardrobe and hair change) and was stumped on the first question  - what kind of a thing is a snottygobble?  a) tree  b) fish c) mud pool?

I had no freaking idea.  I used a lifeline to eliminate mud pool as one of the answers.  I answered fish.  It's a tree.  Two people in the mob split the $96,000 between them and I went home with a bottle of champagne and a good story to tell.

I filmed about three months before the episodes were televised, so had nursed the secret in accordance with the contract for quite a while.  People regularly tried to break me, but they would give up when I told them I hadn't even told my mother.  The week between the two episodes being televised was challenging.  Work colleagues were so hopeful and certain that I had won big money.  Any time I arrived at work with a new handbag or different dress, they'd point to it as evidence that I was now a millionaire.  To illustrate the amazing reach of television, I was walking down the street in the city, talking to a friend on the phone when a woman pointed at me and yelled out "that's that lady from 1 vs 100!  GOOD LUCK!!!"  It was nice, but I knew I hadn't won.

The day after my loss was aired, I was travelling to work on the train as usual eavesdropping on two people sitting behind me.

"Did you watch 1 vs 100 last night?"

"Yes.  Wasn't it awful?"

"Yes.  I felt so sorry for her.  She played really well and then that question was really unfair."

"I know!  Who's ever heard of a snottygobble?  Pfft."

"I really wanted her to win.  She seemed really nice."

"I know.  Imagine how that would feel?"

The station had reached my stop.  I stood up, smiled at them and said "thank you".  They were beside themselves - lucky they'd been saying nice things.

It was a great experience.  Of course winning a large sum of money would have been fantastic, but I didn't and life goes on. The law of game shows is that all questions are easy if you know the answer.

A lot like life really.  Now I've got to go and watch "Letters and Numbers" on SBS.

* I went on to come back on 1 vs 100 later as a pod of "loved losers" (previous lone contestants who had been well liked by the audience, but failed to win).  I won $4500 on a question about Phar Lap. I felt very Aussie.  I only knew the answer because I'd watched "Phar Lap" the movie on the weekend.  I also went on "Millionaire Hotseat" and knew every question before I was in the hotseat and every answer after I had been eliminated.  The question I got while in the hotseat was about basketball.  No hope!

No comments:

Post a Comment