Last Wednesday night my partner Belinda and I went to a taping of Nine's all new old game show, Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune. Belinda is in line to be a contestant but is a bit nervous at the prospect (she has a phobia of oversized, prize-bearing wheels) so we thought an evening's reconnaissance might be a good idea. Turns out: it wasn't.
You probably think you've been bored by tv but I reckon that you haven't really been bored by tv until you've been bored by tv live. The first hour of the taping was taken up with filming promos. This involved host Tim Campbell - ex Home and Away, I'm told - and co-host Kelly Landry posing on the set and saying things like "It's Australia's new favourite game!" and "The wheel is back!" in a decidedly insincere manner. Even Shaun "Cossie" Cosgrove, who was on audience warm-up duties - which seems mainly to involve distracting the audience from the artificiality and occasional ineptness of the on-camera team by means of a constant stream of dad jokes and sexual innuendo dating from the "classic" era of British sitcoms - struggled to maintain his preternatural joviality during this tedious business.
After the promos three contestants were brought out and the taping proper began. Because it was a test episode, the contestants weren't eligible to win the prizes they were playing for, although a producer assured us that they would get "something" for their efforts. Possibly they were rewarded with one of the lolly snakes that Cosgrove kept suggesting he kept in his trousers, nudge nudge, wink wink. Campbell fluffed his lines a few times which brought the production to a halt while tapes were rewound and Landry's highly impractical dress was refortified to prevent her breasts from popping out at least before the next break. The show's format may have been tweaked for this latest incarnation but its sexual politics remain mired in the 1950s. Landry, whose verbal contribution to the entire episode ran to something like four sentences, is there solely to look pretty in a short dress and high heels, eye candy to keep dads at home happy while the missus serves dinner. Depressing, but hardly surprising given this is the network that brought you, and inexplicably continues to bring you, the comedy stylings of Sam Newman.
The "million dollar" thing is a con. The final round prize wheel now has a wedge worth $200 000. Get to the final round, spin up the 200 grand and solve the puzzle and you've got a fifth of a million. Do that five nights running and you're a millionaire. So it's technically possible. It's also technically bullshit.
Watching the taping was much like watching the show at home only much more drawn-out and you couldn't just switch it off and read a book. The most interesting aspect of the evening was the make up of the audience. Most in attendance were potential contestants, partners of same, or interested onlookers. Some, however, were clearly regulars - one family (mum, dad, an amorphous mass of children) looked like they'd been hanging around GTV's Studio 9 since the final episode of Hey Hey, It's Saturday. Then there were the Rupert Pupkin-esque fame whores who joshed with Cosgrove and fired off (dud) witticisms at the cast and crew during lulls. Of course we all had to clap and shout like maniacs; while most people shouted things like "Top Dollar!" or "Go, Denise!", I amused myself by shouting "Take the saucepans!" and deliberately not smiling so I wouldn't be shown in any promo shots of the audience. Belinda, who is the outgoing, non-misanthropic half of our relationship, won a double pass to Hoyts La Premiere for her clapping/shouting skills. So I guess there's something to be said for having an extroverted, enthusiastic personality. Or at least shacking up with somebody who does.
(Oh yeah, the post title is explained here.)