As far back as I could remember (with apologies to Ray Liotta), I’ve always been fascinated with TV Game Shows. Chances are, I was more captivated by the sight of chase lights on TV and the sustained ring of a bell whenever somebody won big than I was with the mobile that hung over my crib as a baby. As I grew older and developed comprehension skills, I found myself enjoying games for other reasons; the gameplay was simple & fun, the stakes were high, the theme music was an ear worm, whatever the reason was for enjoying them as a kid, I was always obsessed with them. So it should probably come as no surprise that when I became old enough to register to vote, I was also old enough to apply for some of these shows. As the title of this entry states, I have yet to make it in for a number of reasons. Let’s begin with the first and numerous of my attempts at winning big.
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE: 6 Tries; 4 in-person, 2 by phone – The one. The Only. The Atomic Bomb that wiped out the rest of network television in 1999, and gave ABC something to crow about again since the days of Fred Silverman. The first few tries to make it on were with the original Regis Philbin version; and for that, you had to qualify by phone. The game was simple, all you had to do was answer a series of “Fastest Finger” questions, and you’re in. Sounds easy, right? Well…not so when you only have 15 seconds to answer correctly, AND you only get to hear the question once. I think the best I ever did was get to Question 4 before striking out. I tried to do it again the 2nd night, but by then the show had become so much of an instant success, it was nearly Impossible to make it through the line, so I decided to let it go. My 2nd attempt at a “Fastest Finger” came a few years later when ABC revived the show as “Super Millionaire” with a $10 Million Grand Prize. This time, I wasn’t going to foul up…or so I thought until one of the questions was about arranging the names of nuclear physicists in the order they were born (starting with the earliest). Long story short, I played “Multiple Guess” and struck out again. I wouldn’t be so upset about it if this wasn’t the FIRST QUESTION THEY ASKED ME. I mean, I get it, $10 Million is enough to feed a 3rd world country, but there’s a certain level of escalation. Start with a question about Dr. Seuss first before you jump ahead to Dr. Oppenheimer. After “Super”, I didn’t really give “Millionaire” much thought…until about 7 years later when I began the first of 4 attempts to get on the Daytime version of the show. I won’t bore you with the details of each visit, so here’s the cliff note version. You have 10 minutes to answer 30 questions, if you get a passing score (of undisclosed value), you move on to the interview segment. If you manage to pass the interview segment, you THEN make it to a Videotaped interview. After that, you get a card in the mail saying either you’re in (the contestant pool), or you’re out (but try again anyway). Of the 4 times I tried, I made it to 3 interviews and one videotape…Too bad they don’t seem to reward for tenacity. By that point, the show was going downhill losing to the (then) newly revitalized “Family Feud” with Steve Harvey, and NOW I’m hearing that they’re moving the show to Las Vegas for the 2016-17 season. What better time to stop beating the dead horse than by letting it die in the desert.
DEAL OR NO DEAL, MINUTE TO WIN IT, THE PRICE IS RIGHT & WHEEL OF FORTUNE: 1 “Try” each – I’ve lumped these together, because each of these shows “audition” processes have (surprisingly) the same thing in common: 1. Stand in a long line for hours at a time, 2. once you get to the head of the line, you have 15 seconds to explain why you should be a contestant on a given show, 3. Exit’s are to the left. For “Deal”, “Wheel” & “Minute”, I was kinda shocked as to how fast the “audition” process was, and just how little in terms of the actual games there was to “audition” with. (edit 6/20/16: The thought has occurred to me that I might’ve been a little unfair in including “Wheel of Fortune” in this collection. Yes, my experience WAS that of an open cattle call as most “Wheelmobile” events tend to be, but it wasn’t the actual audition. In truth, the Real audition requires you to solve a number of puzzles in a certain amount of time…but that’s ONLY if your name gets drawn at a Wheelmobile event. So for argument’s sake, let’s just call the Wheel experience a “Half-Audition”.) But it was at the TPIR contestant search outside of Boston where I found out a difficult truth. While waiting in line at a Costco parking lot, I was standing next to a somewhat pert, curly haired brunette woman in her 40s who claimed to be a contestant on “Millionaire” a few years earlier (I didn’t watch religiously, so I didn’t recognize her anyway). After trading a few war stories about what we did and how many auditions we’ve been on, she dropped the bomb; she told me point blank that in most cases it didn’t matter if you knew how to play the game, it didn’t matter if you were having fun, it didn’t even matter if you were “being yourself”. Supposedly, the ONLY thing that mattered when it came to auditioning for a game show was how good you looked on camera and nothing else. In a sense, I kinda get where she was coming from–after all, TV is TV for a reason. People don’t tune in to see ugly people unless they’re getting a makeover or they’re the secondary or tertiary character on a sitcom, or they’re the perpetrator on that week’s “Law & Order”. At the same time, this kinda hurt me a little–I was always given the notion that people go on Game Shows just to win stuff and have a good time doing so, NOT to look pretty in front of millions. That it would be a place where typical, ordinary people would be able to have their day in the sun; and if they’re lucky, return to their respective hometowns as conquering heroes………..Well, you can, but only if you either act like a spazz or you have a ton of makeup on your face, apparently. So in an effort to put that bummer behind me, I decided to try and audition for something a little more cerebral…
JEOPARDY!: 4 tries, all online – If you ever get a chance to find it at a used bookstore, or even if Amazon can fish out a copy or two for you, I highly recommend a book by former J! contestant/winner Bob Harris, whose book “Prisoner of Trebekistan” is not only a fascinating insight as to how J! is a well-oiled genius machine, but is also one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. Bob kinda goes into better detail as to how the J! contestant search process works as of 2006. In 2009, I find out that J!’s “auditions” would be in the form of a rapid fire quiz you take online, that way, you can skip blowing money on a Rey-Eye plane ticket to Los Angeles. The first time, I didn’t know what to expect. But at the same time, I didn’t expect it to go so fast. You only had 15 seconds to type in the correct answer (oh wait it’s J!, so “Correct Question”), and if you thought the question on physicists birthdays on “Millionaire” was over my head, questions about Greek Aqueduct Design was clear into the stratosphere. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not that smart despite using the occasional “$20 Word”, but that first 7 minute test was enough to put my brain into a straight-jacket. I didn’t fare better on the other 3 tests (obviously), but at least I knew the mechanics of the test well enough to–at the very most–have fun and leave ’em laughing.
THE MILLION SECOND QUIZ: 1 (and ONLY 1) Try – I wrestled with my conscious as to whether or not I should tell this story; but in the interest of full disclosure, tell it I must. In 2013, NBC had an idea for something unique. Place a Giant Hourglass in the middle of New York City, have hundreds of people take their turn in playing a new kind of quiz show, have it be a cross between “Millionaire” and “Big Brother”, see what happens. What happened was probably one of the most convoluted, ill-executed, ill-conceived, ill-tempered, just plain Ill (in the “sick” way, not the “Beastie Boys” way) Game Shows ever to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public…and I wanted in on it for some reason. I’m not going to go into too much detail about it (largely because I know Somebody Else who can tell the stories of what went wrong much better than I ever could), but suffice to say it was thanks to this game show that I made a personal vow never to wait a long time for something that’s never going to happen EVER again (an edict that almost cost me the friendship of one of my best friends, but that’s a story for another day). A famous semi-rumor developed over the years among people who audition for “Saturday Night Live” that creator Lorne Michaels likes to keep his visitors waiting for an inordinate period of time. I’m here to say that even Lorne himself would’ve been angry at the waiting you had to do when auditioning for MSQ. You arrive at the first audition site, you wait an hour. You get approved and then arrive at the place where they’re taping the show, you wait another hour. You’re placed in a holding pen, you wait another hour. You’re placed in another holding pen where you watch video after video about the rules of the game, THAT takes another hour. You stand on line to wait to be sent to the “Green Room”, another hour. Finally, you wind up in a Green Room sponsored by a certain Fast Food place. I had to stay in that room until 3AM waiting for my turn to play, but unfortunately, they dismiss you after you’ve been in the building for 12 hours. My bile rises just thinking about it. Do yourself a favor and read the “Game show Garbage” article about the show itself. But suffice to say, this was not only one of the worst experiences of my life, but it deterred me from auditioning for another game show for 3 years.
MATCH GAME 2016: 1 Try – This brings us to Present Day-ish. I find out through a number of friends that ABC is adding new revivals of classic shows to their lineup this summer. I was still feeling deterred from the MSQ experience, and I actually wasn’t interested…Until I found out later that the taping of most of these shows would be right in my back yard in NYC. One of those shows–The new “$100,000 Pyramid” w/Michael Strahan–had already filled its contestant pool, so I didn’t think much of anything else…until I saw a banner headline that said “ALEC BALDWIN TO HOST NEW MATCH GAME FROM NYC!”. It was at that moment that I HAD to get in on it; Match Game had quickly become one of my Favorite ways to kill a few minutes in the morning both on GSN & Buzzr, and it seems like the ONLY place where you can consume alcohol and STILL win Cash and Prizes. This time around, the audition was done via Skype–something I never used before, and something that I honestly thought could’ve resulted in a great technological blowback considering I live in the boonies of New York State. The audition went well, the producer I spoke to liked me, I thought nothing else would come about from it……….As of this writing, it looks as though the taping of the shows have begun, so once again it looks like I’ve been snubbed for being myself–but at least this rejection can be taken with a grain of salt knowing what I know now about the audition process for game shows, and I can go along my merry way.
I’ve been Auditioning for game shows for almost 15 years now, and as long as it’s geographically convenient, I’ll keep trying until I can get on just one…but thankfully, I’m not as obsessed about it as I was a few years ago–nor should I be. I’ve got a pretty good life these days, appearing on a game show would’ve just been a cherry on top compared to a much bigger picture (which I’ll get to at some point). In the end, to me being picked to be on a game show is very much like trying to getting married (I would imagine.), “Always a Bridesmaid…Never a Bride”–which is kind of a stretch since I have Testicles and look much better in a suit than a dress anyway. At least I can still carry on an unrequited crush from a distance…preferably the 6 feet I can be away to watch them on TV.