Here’s a little something I’m learning about blogging. When you try to set up a weekly feature (like, say, Freaky Friday), it’s inevitable that it becomes the bane of your blogging existence. Things happen which preclude you from posting in a timely manner, you suddenly run out of anything interesting to write about and/or there’s something you’d much rather be writing about on that particular day, etc. I don’t know about you, but I have enough chores in my ‘real’ life. I want my blog to be a fun place, not just for my readers, but for the writer, too. So Freaky Friday is going to become a bit like the restaurant chain TGIFridays: Friday in name only. I’ll still try to get to it on the Big F, but whenever it happens to appear, you’re guaranteed a gigantic portion of deep-fried strangeness that’ll hit the spot.
On Oct. 22-23, I was a contestant on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” (WWTBAM), a nationally syndicated gameshow hosted by Emmy Award winner and co-anchor of NBC’s Today show, Meredith Viera. I taped the shows on August 3rd, 2007, and I can say without hesitation, it was one of the most fun experiences of my life. Here are some of the Frequently Asked Questions about my WWTBAM experience:
How Did You Get on the Show?
One day in July, I happened to be flipping through the local paper when I stumbled upon a small article that said WWTBAM would be holding auditions on Friday at the Cherokee Casino (about 10 miles or so from the town where I live). I immediately called Sean, my DH, and told him that I was going to try out. When the show first began (1999-ish?), several friends had said “You need to be on that show!” I may not be able to remember phone numbers or appointments, but my brain is a sponge for useless information like song lyrics or the names of every actress to play one of Charlie’s Angels.
So on Friday, July 13th, I got up early and headed down to the Casino with my folding chair, a cup of coffee, and my book. Tryouts began at 9 a.m., and I got there at about 7-ish. There were probably a few hundred people ahead of me in line. We were herded into the Casino and handed a questionnaire to fill out. In addition to vital statistics, it asked questions like, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what five things would you want to take with you?”, “What is the one thing in the world that you are better at than anyone you know?” and “What is something you would want to tell Meredith about yourself?” We were broken down into groups, and given refrigerator magnets with the show’s logo on the front. On the back was a number, and this was how you were identified from that point on.
Eventually my group made it into a large room with rows of chairs. We were given a quiz of 30 multiple choice questions which we had to complete in 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes were up, staff people collected our quiz materials, and the Scantron sheets were scored. A producer stood at the front of the room and answered questions about the show and the casting process, and she also threw a few T-shirts out into the crowd. When all of the Scantrons had been graded, the numbers of those who passed (we never learned what percentage you had to answer correctly to move to the next round in the audition process) were read out and those people were asked to remain seated while everyone else – about 85% of the crowd – filed out of the room.
The remaining people in the room were then shepherded to a different room while the next group came in to take their quiz. My group lined up a long a wall and a producer came by and took Polaroid pictures of each of us. Three producers were seated at tables at the front of the room, and they began calling out numbers. Potential contestants would sit with whichever producer called his or her number. The producer collected her Polaroid and the questionnaire she had filled out earlier. The producer flipped through the questionnaire, asked a couple of questions, and within three or four minutes, the interview process was over. According to the producer who had answered the questions in the previous room, we would receive a postcard within 2-3 weeks letting us know whether or not we had made it into the contestant pool. If selected for the contestant pool, we could be called at any time within the next two years and asked if we were available to appear on the show.
A producer called my number and I sat down before him. We had a pleasant conversation in which he asked about my kids’ names, why I wanted to be on the show, and what I would do if I won a million dollars. Then it was over and I went home.
I got home around noon, and at about 3 o’clock, the phone rang. According to caller ID, it was a 212 area code, and I thought to myself “This is someone calling from Millionaire asking me to be on the show.” Then I told myself that was silly and not to get my hopes up. Then I answered the ringing phone. Sure enough, it was the producer I had spoke to earlier asking if I could come tape the show on August 2nd.
Why do you think they picked you?
I don’t know. I was pretty comfortable during the interview process, so the producer probably felt that I wouldn’t be too nervous in front of the camera. Plus, I’m a stay-at-home-mom from a small town in Oklahoma – can’t get much more All-American than that. From what someone affiliated with the show said, they are looking for people who they believe the audience at home will want to root for. According to what one of the main producers told my group in the Green Room, 30,000 people a year try out for 300 spots, so I feel very fortunate and grateful to have made the cut.
How did you prepare for the show?
I immediately started a crash course trying to cram into my brain all the stuff I should have learned but never did. Things like the periodic table of elements, who’s on all of our money, capitals of states and countries around the world, geography, anatomy, zoology, and so on. I answered as many trivia questions as I could, and I played the online version of WWTBAM until I’d seen each question and could answer it without thinking. Of course, none of this preparation helped me for the questions I eventually encountered. But I couldn’t NOT study – I was too afraid that I’d torment myself forever if there had actually been a periodic table or geography question.
Did they pay for your airfare and hotel room?
Nope. In the good ol’ Regis days – when the show was primetime – they would do this, but then again, they also had the Fastest Finger round, where you had to compete against other contestants for a chance in the Hotseat. I’d much rather pay for my transportation and lodging and know I would be in the Hotseat than have a free trip to NY but not get to play for the big bucks.
Is Meredith Viera really as nice as she seems?
No, she’s nicer! Truly, she is an incredibly warm and genuine person. I’ve watched her on the Today show and The View for years, and while she seems interested in the celebrities and dignitaries she interviews, she seems to like the ‘real’ people she comes in contact with on Millionaire so much better. By the time I got home (we went on a previously scheduled trip to the Boston area immediately after my taping), there was even a thank you note from her waiting for me, in which she mentioned my boys and husband by name. Isn’t that awesome?
What’s it like behind the scenes of the show?
You’re with a group of people who have been selected to tape your day. You get to the studio early – by 7:30 a.m. You’re ushered inside, and all of your stuff is put into a locker in a room that will be kept locked. They want you with the knowledge you walked in the door with, not cramming until the moment before you get on camera. You meet the other people in your group, hear from the producers about what to expect, hear from the lawyer about what’s required of you, and head down to the set. You practice getting into and out of the Hotseat and how to enter and exit the stage. You then go to lunch in the ABC cafeteria. Afterwards, you change into your show clothes and have your hair and make-up either done or touched up. Then you settle into the Green Room to cheer each other on, where you watch the tapings via a live feed. You never know what order in which you will be called to play, though if there is anyone left over from the day before, they go first. There were three people on my day who had been heldover from the previous day, so they went before anyone in my group. I ended up being heldover until the next day, and was the last from my group to tape.
One of the great things about being on the show that I didn’t expect was to make so many new friends. You get chummy very fast with people when you’re doing something so out of the ordinary. Most of the people I met were definitely people I’d be friends with under ‘normal’ circumstances, so that’s saying something!
I missed the show – can I watch a copy of it somewhere?
I’m working on that. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out myself. In the meantime, if you’re interested in reading transcripts of the show, you can find them here for day 1 and here for day 2. These are provided by the pros at the WWTBAM Bored, and I would be remiss to not thank them for all of their help and support during my excellent adventure. Most notably, I'd like to give a big cyber-hug to Bored members Bob Juchs and Bob Shore, who were part of my deep Phone a Friend bench.
Did you have a watch party?
Yes, our dear friends, Kristi (kmallett78) and Brad threw me an intimate watch party for at their home. Check out the awesome cake! And the cherry on top? Kristi arranged for me to Karaoke “The Macarena”! (Now my theme song.) I made the above card (recipe at the end of the post) for last weeks’ Limited Supply Challenge on SCS using Beate’s weekend sketch, and most importantly as a thank you card for Brad and Kristi. I do kinda love the way the Glossy Effects make it look and feel like a real TV screen!
What are you going to do with the $50,000 you won?
1. Buy a new playground for our back yard.
2. Work with a professional organizer to help me clear out the clutter in my home.
3. Send my puppy to be professionally trained
4. Give some money to our favorite charities that help special needs children, including Bit by Bit, the hippotherapy (therapeutic horsebackriding) program that my son, Carter, attends.
5. Take Kristi/kmallett78 with me on the Stamp & Cruise being hosted by Gina K. Designs, PaperTrey Ink, and Stamping Bella in October 2008.
6. Buy a few new stamps and stamping supplies…
Supplies used – Stamps (all SU! except when otherwise noted): All in the Family, Stay Tuned, Short-Order Numbers & Alpha, Karen Foster snap stamps, A Muse oval; Paper: Regal Rose, Wild Wasabi, Nena Crest Solar White, patterned paper by KI Memories; Ink: Close to Cocoa, Mellow Moss, Regal Rose, Wild Wasabi, Basic Black, Brilliance Archival Graphite Black; Accessories: Glossy Effects, Copic Sketch Markers, Nestabilities, ribbon, 3-D Dots, circle punch.