Friday, April 13, 2007

"You Should Be On a Game Show"?

When I first arrived in Southern California, I kept a promise to myself that I made a long time ago: I went to see a taping of a game show.

The show in question was The Price is Right. And, yes, the cliché held true: the set looks bigger on TV. Including that time, I've been to about a half dozen tapings, and have enjoyed those experiences immensely.

I've been trying, off-and-on, to fulfill another dream while I've lived here: to actually be a contestant on a game show. That one's still eluding me.

Besides the Price is Right tapings, during which everybody in the audience is a potential contestant, I've tried out for quite a few shows, most of which are no longer on the air: Whammy! (The All New Press Your Luck), Winning Lines, Match Game, Pyramid, Card Sharks. For each one I called the appropriate phone number, made an appointment to go down to the studio, waited with a group of other potential contestants, and auditioned (they actually use that word!) to be on the show. So far, not one has accepted me as a potential contestant. (I almost auditioned for Family Feud as well, but that audition fell through when one of my cousins broke his arm the week before my extended family would have come down to LA to join me in trying out. Ahhhh, well....)

On Wednesday, the Associated Press did an article on Deal or No Deal, giving some insight into the contestant selection process.

"Originality is everything," said casting producer Neal Konstantini, whose staff of 13 chooses the contestants. "They've got to be fun. They've got to be zany and wild and energetic. I'm not putting on anybody who's going to bore you."

But a good player is hard to find. More than 150,000 audition tapes have been submitted and thousands turned out for casting calls around the country. Just a fraction of the candidates had what it takes, he said: "Somewhere in the neighborhood of one or two percent actually make it on the show."

Konstantini and his team recently began a nationwide contestant search. Traveling to nine cities in the "Deal on Wheels" bus, they'll see as many as 75,000 potential players - and choose maybe 75.

It's hard to get on a game show. And especially on a show like Deal or No Deal, it's really not a matter of how well you play the game. One person can pick suitcases from a random assortment just as well as the next person. A contestant coordinator is looking for a particular type of personality to be a contestant. Remember, this is entertainment. If an audience doesn't like a particular player, it won't matter how much that contestant wins, viewers will change the channel, and the show will fail.

If you look at that list of shows I tried out for, they kind of run the gamut in regard to skill or knowledge required to play. Whammy! is fairly random, although like Deal, guts and courage to take risks and press forward certainly matter. Match Game depends a bit on your ability to make appropriate word connections, especially funny ones. Pyramid requires more intelligence: you have to have a good vocabulary and knowledge of definitions. Card Sharks is mostly a game of luck, but also has an element requiring you to know about human nature. The Price is Right requires the contestant to know what items sell for. In some cases more than others, the would-be contestant needs to be able to play a mock-up game well in order to advance. For the Pyramid trials, you really couldn't expect to advance if you didn't nail the practice game (I personally think I did pretty well, but my "partner," another would-be contestant, deep-sixed me by playing poorly. I need to have good definitions given to me in order to guess the words!). But in all cases, contestant coordinators need to find contestants that will attract viewers. Apparently, I haven't been the kind of person that they've been looking for....

I'm pretty sure I'll never be on Deal or No Deal. Besides those odds from the AP article, have you seen the contestants? Those guys are crazy! While I think most people who know me would call me "unique," I don't have that level of just-plain-insanity that most Deal contestants have. Perhaps I'll eventually make it on some other show, although it's harder to try out now that I work full-time than it was when I was still a student (I have taken time off of work, with my supervisor's permission, to try out for a couple of the shows mentioned above, though). Time will tell if I've got what a particular contestant coordinator is looking for....

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