Last year, I was fortunate enough to be watching the first night that Hotdogs exploded onto our airwaves with his Up Late Game Show. (He has been trying to ‘rebrand’ himself as Simon Deering since coming off Big Brother. I say we should never, ever let him.) This week, I’ve had the rare privilege of watching the debut an extremely similar, yet immeasurably worse programme. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nine’s Quizmania.
Nine’s actually bothered to license this format from an English show, which seems unbelievable – it’s so like Hotdogs’ effort that surely they could just have ripped it off. Unlike Marathon Man Hotdogs, there are three hosts, one for the three ludicrous hours this remains on air. Like Hotdogs, though, two of them – Amy Parks and Brodie Young – are from Big Brother – a group of individuals so desperate they will do pretty much anything to stay in the public eye.
The reason the game’s far worse even than Hotdogs’ atrocity is the game format. Its signature ‘tower’ puzzle is basically the hosts playing ‘Guess what’s in my head’. “Nothing” is pretty clearly the correct answer, judging by the inaneness of their patter, so it’s probably more accurately termed ‘Guess what’s in the producer’s head’. In other words, the game is so pointlessly arbitrary that it can be strung out for literally hours. And so it was – over two and a half of the show’s agonisingly bad introductory effort on Monday night.
The first-ever challenge on Monday was “Guess a male singer”. They had a board with 8 singers on it, and if you flukily name one of the ones listed, you get a certain amount of money. So there’s no challenge whatsoever, and it’s just a question of luck. Monday’s easier efforts were George Michael, Slim Dusty, Guy Sebastian, Justin Timberlake, Elton John and Sting. All pretty well-known. But there were still, of course, an abundance of wrong answers throughout the night.
To get $500, though, you had to guess Roland Gift. I happen to know that he’s the singer of the Fine Young Cannibals, but that’s only because I was in Year 7 when they were big, and bought their album. And even I, Giftmaniac that I was, would never have guessed him. No-one else did either. Which is why they eventually had to reduce his name to R_L_ND G_FT, after which it was guessed immediately.
But get this. To win the maximum prize of $1000, the random male singer you named had to be Clark Datchler. That’s right. After over 150 minutes of television, they would only give away a grand if you came up with CLARK FRIGGING DATCHLER.
Who is he, you might ask? Why, the lead singer of Johnny Hates Jazz. Who isn’t even in Wikipedia (well, except in the band’s entry.) He may well be the most obscure person they could possibly have thought of. Meaning that they had to just awkwardly abandon the final step and give the money away for something else. By which time, let me tell you, Dommy Hated Quizmania.
A fellow-insomniac friend cleverly pointed out that this probably meant that they had just nicked the questions from the UK version. As Datchler lives there, presumably he at least might have guessed himself.
The most outrageous aspect of the show, though, is not the insanely hard and random nature of the quiz. Or the way that they end up having to make the questions stupidly easy. It’s that they almost never take calls. The show is on such a painfully tight budget that they spend the entire time telling you to call, and almost never actually talk to anyone lest whey win. There were entire 15-minute periods of padding, including one highly awkward bit of banter between perky host Nikki Osborne (to be fair, the least worst thing about the show, probably because she’s not from BB) and a cameraman. She established that this grey-haired gentleman likes going out for “a bit of a boogie” on Oxford St. Hilarious.
Even during the “Speed round”, they spent far more time telling us they were going to take heaps of calls than actually doing so. At the 150 minute mark, they only had six correct answers, leading them to give a bit more away with easy questions towards the end.
The patter’s particularly awful. Nikki Osbourne (to be fair, the least awful thing about the show, since she’s not from BB) likes to tell lame jokes. Such as “One cow said to the other “Are you worried about mad cow disease?” She said “No I’m not, I’m a helicopter”.” I guess it’s to make you wish they were playing the stupid competitions instead. But Nikki’s miles better than Amy Parks, who spent an entire hour on variations of two sentences: “Give us a call, we’re going to take heaps of calls”, and “Wouldn’t it be awesome if you won? How awesome would that be? $50! Awesome! What could you do with that”. All of which are broken up by what must be television’s worst sound effects. The “B-b-b-bonus” sound in particular is still haunting my nightmares like ghostly quiz-host fingernails on a crappy television-effect blackboard.
The truly worrying thing, though, is that judging by the UK experience, this is the future of television. Not only is this show on ITV for up to five hours every weekend, but they have an entire channel full of this rubbish – ITV Play. (You can watch UK Quizmania on the website, and marvel at how slightly less excruciating it is with slick hosts.) The reason why it’s spread like a malignant tumour, of course, is that it makes lots of money – apparently, Quizmania netted over £1.2million during its first two weeks on ITV1. And the proliferation of these shows has led to a raft of complaints in the UK.
The Dogs is apparently returning next week after BB ends, and it’s surely only a matter of time before Seven launches its own version – presumably it’ll wait until Nine sacks some of these guys, sign them and then outrate Nine. And the new potentially-commercial ABC might not be far away either.
So what can we do? It may be tempting to prank call them, like the guy who apparently rang Hotdogs and told him he was God, calling from the future to answer a question, and made him stare blankly at the screen for a full minute. But the joke is ultimately on us, at 55c a time (higher from mobiles.)
Like pokies, Quizmania and shows like it would not exist if we, the public, weren’t stupid enough to waste money on them. (And they both distract us with flashing lights when we’ve had a bit to drink.) We must all pull together to boycott them and force them off our screens. Then late-night television can return to the high-quality viewing options for which it has become justly renowned. Like infomercials.