THIS ISLAND LIFE
I SPEAK from experience when it comes to appearing on television quiz shows.
Not from experience of having won anything, or even from experience of having answered a single question correctly, but from experience of knowing what to expect when the theme music fades and the intellectual fray (if my appearance on The Chase can be dignified with such a description) actually begins.
On The Chase, for example, we were told to take a variety of shirts to ensure we didn’t all opt for various shades of the same colour, leaving us standing there looking like the subs’ bench of a Sunday League football team.
Jazzy patterns were discouraged because of technical complications, so my rather fetching Hawaiian shirt was rather sniffily shoved to the back of the rail in the dressing-room.
We had to master the art of smiling while we announced our names and occupations, as if they were something to be proud of, and instructed to turn and consult with team-mates when deciding which offer to accept from the Chaser.
That final bit presented something of a dilemma, as I hardly knew how to face them at all after failing to answer a single question correctly, far less discuss the financial benefits likely to accrue from my efforts.
All this came back to me the other day while watching Tipping Point, the television show based on the old arcade game, in which the law of inertia invariably overcomes frantic ambition as contestants bid to topple counters into winning positions.
Those taking part are clearly instructed to shout at inanimate objects as they clatter into play and also display faux support and sympathy for their rivals as their discs teeter unavailingly on the edge of riches.
They’ve even managed to invent their own language on the programme. For example, a counter which contrives to delay its descent by plinking against several obstructions is called a "ghost drop", for some reason.
The host, Ben Shepherd, encourages the general air of inanity by bestowing human emotions and prejudices upon the contraption which is central to the show.
"He really doesn’t like you today does he? He’s teasing you! Come on! Be nice! Be nice!"
It’s not enough these days for quiz-show contestants to be clever, they are required to be "characters" as well.
One of the first to tap this lucrative market was CJ De Mooi, who realised there was good money to be made from being moderately intelligent and massively irritating.
He made his name on The Weakest Link by flouncing away after being voted off by fellow contestants and then failing to appreciate the irony of later describing them as "idiots".
But beware first impressions. The arched eyebrows, petulant pout, excessive rolling of the eyes, haughty put-downs and snorts of indignation when he pretends to have forgotten an answer he clearly hadn’t a clue about in the first place, became a familiar routine on Eggheads. But a mate of mine who appeared on the programme says he was by far the most pleasant and approachable of them all.
He was too polite to comment when I said the one I’d never taken to is Daphne Fowler, whose comforting, grandmotherly smile is too often betrayed by those glacial, vulpine eyes.
They say once bitten twice shy but shyness is not something which has ever featured prominently in my make-up, so I’m thinking about trying my luck on another quiz-show.
I think I’ll send off for an application form for Tipping Point, or try to talk a clever mate like Paul Morris to join me on Pointless, thereby having an intellectual to hide behind when things start to go wrong.
After all, I am in an enviable position. I can’t do any worse than I did last time and if I do, it will mean I’ll hold some sort of record for having failed miserably on not one but two television quiz-shows.
Destiny beckons, now where’s my pen …
An unlikely message from the Ukraine
Grumpy Greening can be an amusing old stick when the mood takes him.
Last week his son, Steve’s, e-mail account was hacked and everyone on the contact list (including yours truly) received one of those snivelling messages from spivs hoping to con you out of a few quid.
This one, claiming to come from Steve, had him stranded in the Ukraine where he had been robbed, all his money and credit cards had been stolen, the British embassy was offering no help and he desperately needed people to send him money so he could get home.
I dropped Grumpy an e-mail which read: "The scrapes your nipper gets himself into eh …?"
Back came the reply: "I’ve told him to stay where he is. He’s better off under Putin than this Island Council."
• See Keith Newbery's latest column, where he tackles social media, in today's Isle of Wight County Press, Friday, April 25.