Friday, November 27, 2009

A Question of Sanity

Another day, another quiz show audition. Once again I’ve decided to put myself through the mill and tried to get on a television quiz show and this time it’s a trip to Glasgow to audition for “A Question of Genius”.

I’d caught some of the first series of the show earlier in the year and I thought, with it being pitched at a good level, that I’d like to have a go. Unlike Alan Partridge, they got a second series and I got my form in just before the closing date.

Within a week I’d got a call back from the BBC – the BBC are so much more efficient at running quiz/shows shows than certain independent production companies I could name – and I did the usual over-the-phone 10 questions of general knowledge. I got 6 out of 10 and, if I were being honest, I wouldn’t have scored more than 7. For one of them I jumped in too early and missed the obvious answer but the other three, well, I wouldn’t have known them if they’d told me the answer first!

Thankfully, six was enough to get me an audition and yesterday morning I headed off to the Wild West, along the M8. (I used the day of driving along the central belt as an opportunity to road test a compilation I’d put together for a colleague. Is that just a man thing?) The M8 used to fill me with dread. It’s very much a survival-of-the-fittest road with more than a passing resemblance to a game of Musical Lanes. It’s like an automotive version of Mike Reid’s 70s kids show Runaround, only without the annoying cock-er-nee spiv. G-g-g-g-gooooooooo!

Unlike Scotland’s capital in the East, there’s lots of off-street parking in Glasgow but I still plump for the security of the Glasgow Science Centre car park. Good value (£3 a day) if you’re only visiting but I can see why local workers would choose to park on the surrounding pavements.

I arrive an hour early and kill some time picking up leaflets in the Science Centre. I wander over to the BBC’s brand new Pacific Quay headquarters. Not surprisingly, I’m the first there and I park myself at the little coffee shop. It wasn’t my first visit to this building, having been there for another audition and also a job interview. Needless to say, the audition went better than the job interview. Maybe more job interviews should include puzzles, quizzes and pieces to camera.

After finishing the Depress crossword (DePress is my name for the Dunfermline Press, a parochial maudlin local paper of my hometown), I head back to reception and am soon joined by three others. I get chatting to Alan and John but Carlos, a Mexican with more than a passing resemblance to the bass player from Metallica, keeps his own council. The first question on occasions like this, after the opening “Are you here for the audition?” is something along the lines of “Have you done any of these before?” In a bizarre coincidence, John and Alan had both been on Superscot about 20 years previously but done nothing since. Maybe they were just keeping their quiz powder dry. (Superscot ran from 1983 to 1989 and was presented by Jane Franchie. It was revived in 1990, this time as a family show, presented by Jackie Bird).

As if by magic, a production assistant, who I recognised form a previous audition, appeared and whisked me off into the building. Unfortunately we didn’t get to enter the central area, which resembles a cutaway of an ocean liner, and instead were ushered down a side corridor. Initially we entered a room with a toilet symbol on the door but, rather like the unmade edition of Mr Benn when he becomes a quiz show contestant, we entered an area called The Lab. Thankfully it was The Lab and not The Lav, although I was concerned, having been recognised by Rebecca, that my chances had already gone down the pan. Considering we were about to go through the quizzing equivalent of having soap sprayed in our eyes it seemed rather apposite. Being an old hand at these auditions, I was ready for whatever was thrown at me but Carlos seemed very nervous. John and Alan were very laid back.

First of all we were given a couple of forms. One is a form where we promise to hand over our first born away to the BBC if we’re naughty and the other another general knowledge quiz. It would have to be a bloody brainy general to know all five answers to the questions. I got 2 right and made one decent guess and two random ones. I wonder if it’s another filter to weed out quizzing “pros”, like the sort you got on “Are You an Egghead?”

After the introductions – there were four people, including Rebecca, and a camera – we played a game of charades. I volunteered to go first but my enthusiasm wilted slightly when I realised I couldn’t actually think of one – the pressure had started. One of the watching team fed me “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” proclaiming it was a difficult one. Alan got it after “One”. John then did a book that only he had read and no one else had ever heard of. After Alan and Carlos’s shots we moved on to playing the quiz itself.

With no buzzers available we had to handclap when we wanted to answer the question. The aim of the game in the first round, called A Question of Knowledge, was to reach 5 points. You got a point if you buzzed in successfully on the first question and then you got to choose between a 1, 2 or 3 point question on the same topic, although you were still up against everyone else. I successfully negotiated the first round and normally one contestant would drop out but for the purposes of the audition we all stayed in for the second round.

A Question of Judgement was up next and this time the aim was to reach 7 points to ensure survival. The only change from the first round is that should you get the opening question right, you would choose your opponent on a head-to-head basis and at what level. Again the questions fell nicely for me and I progressed through first. As someone who enjoys quizzes I had to resist the urge to join in as I sat out while the others were going through their questions.

We didn’t get to play the subsequent rounds (A Question of Pressure, A Question of Strategy and the final A Question of Genius) and instead had a coffee while we prepared to do a piece to camera. As the camera was being shuffled into the corridor outside John and Alan started having a light-hearted argument about how many films John Wayne had been killed in!

We all had to provide a specialist subject for the final Question of Genius round, should we get there, and I have plumped for UK Top 40 hits of the 1980s. It was between that and the Eurovision Song Contest but I figured 50 years of foreign singers and songs would be too much to swat up on. Better to choose a subject that I know reasonably well to begin with so that I would have less swatting to do. That’s the theory anyway. Only time will tell whether I made the right choice. I might not even get the opportunity. Carlos had gone for another musical topic with “The Cure” while John and Alan went for movie-related choices, namely “Films directed by Steven Spielberg” and “The films of John Wayne”. Sadly we didn’t get to show our prowess on our specialist subjects and instead were ushered one by one into the corridor.

I went in last and tried to sound interesting. I mentioned the hospital radio work but kicked myself afterwards for forgetting to mention my Best Newcomer nomination. As there was only four of us the audition was over in an hour and it was back to life, back to reality.

On the two previous aforementioned visits to Pacific Quay I had got lost on the way out. On one occasion I got lost around Ibrox, one of the last areas I’d like to stay longer than necessary. On the other occasion my ShitNav told me to go right, which took me straight into the face of two lanes of dual carriageway coming towards me! Only a handily-place parking space saved me certain death or, at the very least, a good peeping at. I can just see my epitaph: He came, he quizzed, he left empty-handed. Using the power of Twitter I asked Radio Scotland presenter and all round good egg Jim Gellatly for directions and he recommended using the “Squinty” Bridge. Multimap doesn’t include this new landmark.

It’s always hard to tell how auditions have gone because it’s so hard to predict what the production company is looking for. I thought I performed well on the quiz section and had an okay piece to camera – I’ve done better - so only time will tell if I get on. Successful applicants will be told in two to three weeks, with filming taking place in Glasgow in January. One concern I have about my chances is my recognition by the charming Rebecca. When she asked me if we’d met before I asked, “Brainbox Challenge?” She rallied with, “Who Dares Wins”. I didn’t get on “Who Dares Wins” so I’m hope that doesn’t count against me.

Anyway, it’s over now and it’s just a question of waiting.


Sky Clearbrook said...

Jeez-oh! Jane Franchi???!!! Whatever in the name of arse happened to her?

Haven't seen her in years. I met her once - some time in the mid-1990s - she was with her mum and they were both lovely. Franchi always seemed destined for greater things; a kind of BBC Scotland counterpart to STV's Kaye Adams (putting aside Loose Women/Loose Talk of course!).

Bring back Jane Franchi, I say!

As for blogs which suddenly go private... I remember a renowned blogger who - going by the nature of her posts at the time - seemed to be going through a bit of a difficult time. The blog went "invite only", so I emailed using my own name/address (something I rarely do) wishing her all the best, hoping that when she felt ready, we'd see her and the blog back in the fullness of time. Sure, we all go through some "blips" now and again, but, in the event, my empathetic mail was roundly ignored. Which was nice.

Sky Clearbrook said...

I'm pretty sure I've met Jim Gellatly too. Sometime in the early 1990s when I worked in the shit-hole that was/is Cafe Drummond in Aberdeen. I think he was on Northsound radio at the time.

Jim Gellatly said...

I've met Jim Gellatly too. Hoping the audition leads to an actual TV appearance. My fingers are crossed, as are other bodily parts.

Sky Clearbrook said...

Ha ha! Small world - what are the chances?