Did I win a few bucks on Millionaire Hot Seat (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire)?
Thursday 18th February 2016
It started to rain as I arrived at Docklands Studios for an 8 am meet and greet, but plenty of big umbrellas were available for the contestants for the quick sprint from the car park to the studio. I was going to be a contestant on Millionaire Hot Seat. The new incarnation of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire hosted by Eddie McGuire.
We were met inside by the Millionaire Hot Seat staffers and had our names ticked off. There were 48 contestants for the day to be split among 8 episodes. I was allocated to Episode 7 and sat down at a trestle table with a big number 7 on it with the other 5 contestants for episode 7. I soon figured out these people were the enemy. No, seriously they were a lovely bunch of people. A couple of young 20 somethings, a 30 something, a guy close to my age and lovely older woman who said she was 76. She mentioned that, amazingly, she'd done the MH test 6 years earlier and had only just got the call up. The rest of us had only done the test a few months earlier.
We were told that before we started we could get an instant coffee or tea or, even better, from the coffee van just outside.
Coffee in hand our next task was to verify that the details for the half dozen or stories we supplied earlier for Eddie to ask us about were correct. That done some of the groups were sent to make-up and the rest of us went to the studio to rehearse Millionaire Hot Seat. The first 2 groups sat in the hot seat and waiting seats and the rest of us filled in as the audience. We were introduced to Fake Eddie, the guy who would take us through the rehearsals and the format of the show. This is done so we don't make a dick of ourselves on TV by exiting stage left instead of stage right, or worse, down Eddie's ramp, when we inevitably failed in our bid to win a million dollars.
Episode 7 didn't get a chance to rehearse then. We were sent to make-up where I had my facial "redness and blotchiness" smoothed out. The makeup lady had been working at channel 9 for 30 years. We reckoned that she was doing make-up for contestants that last time I was made up 20 years earlier for Sale Of The Century so there was a possibility she'd done my make-up back then. Armoured with my new tan we went back to the studio to watch more rehearsals. Apparently we were running late by then so Episode 7 didn't get a full rehearsal, just a quick run through of seating and monitor display for contestants. I was allocated seat number 4. Not a horrible position. For the tactically minded we thought it was probably the last seat to be able to pass on a question and still get another shot at the Hot Seat. You get one pass if you don't know the answer or you wanted to make a strategic pass if the previous contestant hadn't passed on the previous question. Not confusing at all. At this point I had no strategy. Actually my strategy was answer questions till you can't answer any more, then profit. I'd been saying to anybody who'd listen that we should assume we were going home with nothing. Setting low expectations for myself most certainly. None of the other contestants seemed nervous. I asked if they were nervous and they said nope. Me? I was having cold sweats. I thought as soon as I went on TV my throat would seize up or I'd pee myself. I shouldn't have drunk so much coffee though. I really did need to pee.
We went back to the waiting area and were told they were going to try and record two episodes before lunch.
Around 10am our supporters arrived. Each contestant was allowed one supporter to be there to, well, support us. They got to have lunch with us and wait around. I think my stress level went down a notch when Michelle arrived. The supporters were trooped in for their own briefing before they were distributed to us.
Contestants and supporters not up for the next episode recording had to make up the studio audience. At about 11 we went back to the studio and became the studio audience. There were also a couple of dozen fans of the show who came in to be in the studio audience too. This time we were introduced to Michael Pope. He was the warm up guy and enforcer of the rules. Rules like you must clap loudly and enthusiastically on command, and groan or cheer on command. Warm up guy is also part stand-up comedian. When, as a contestant or studio audience member, you're stuck there for hours on end you need someone to keep you entertained.
Then it was time to record. The familiar music started up, the lights flashed, the billboard sized monitors displayed the flickering flames, we clapped and cheered and Eddie strolled up his entrance ramp and made his introduction.
They'd recorded 8 episodes the day before and 3 contestants had one 50 grand each. That meant 5 contestants only went home with a grand. We had no idea what to expect out of today. We only knew it was highly unlikely someone would win a million bucks. In the show's current format, 6 and half years, no one had won the million. Only 17 had won 250 grand. The first couple of shows we recorded are a bit of a blur but I think expectations were well and truly met with the first episode winner only winning the consolation prize of 1000 bucks. This met with the rehearsed "aaaawwww". The thing is, sitting in the audience, you want the contestants to win the money and when they don't it really is a heartfelt "aaaawwww".
In episode 2 we had more success. A young school teacher from country Victoria won 50 grand. Much excitement ensues. Her supporter ran down the stairs, they hugged and jumped up and down. So much merriment. Eddie signs a cheque then the contestant and Eddie pose for a commemorative photo. I had thought we weren't going to be paid, if we won, until after the show airs so I was surprised at the cheque signing and presentation. More on that later.
After the excitement of recording two shows back to back it was lunch time. Episode 8 was called out as a group to go somewhere. This happened a few times during the day. I wondered if they were going to miss out on recording their episode because we were running late or they were being made privy to super secret show knowledge kept from the rest of us. Who knows? I suppose I could have asked.
Lunch was pretty good. Various rolls and sandwiches, some you could consider gourmet, muffins, fruit and delicious banana bread with lashings of some kind of flavoured butter. Mystery butter. Probably maple flavoured? Who knows? Too delicious to care. And more pee inducing coffee. If you drink enough coffee the urge to pee doesn't go away. Excuse me Eddie I have to pee. I wonder if that has ever happened? God, what if I get indigestion? Where is my Mylanta? Nope, I wasn't stressed at all.
I was in Episode 7 so that meant another four episodes were up before mine. Being a studio audience member is hard work. You have to be constantly enthusiastic and after an hour of bashing your hands together they hurt. Michelle and I decided to sit out an episode or two. I was a little torn though. Part of me wanted to watch live because it would help to get in the right mindset for my recording. But the waiting area had food and we could watch the recording on the teles there. Plus I got to go and check my phone to make sure Georgia and Brandy were okay. Georgia was still at school but Brandy was being cared for by Ma and Pop. He'd never been alone with anybody else before so we were a little worried about how he was coping. Ma sent a photo of Brandy after he woke. He looked a little morning moody but otherwise he was coping. Later Michelle phoned Ma and asked to speak to Brandy but he didn't want to talk. I dare say he was a little pissed off.
The next couple of episodes are again a blur. I think we had another consolation winner of 1000 bucks and a winner of between 10 and 20 grand. No big, as in huge, winners for the first four episodes recorded.
I think we went back into the studio for the next couple of episodes - 4 and 5 I think. The studio audience were also fed muesli bars and bottles of water. I had another bottle of water which helps the pee situation no end. Episodes 4 and 5 didn't have big money winners either. No more than 50 grand anyway. I think we had ended up having 2 winners of 50 grand on the day.
Supporters and contestants for Episode 7 were separated for their last minute briefings. For us contestants that meant the production assistants choosing what shirt of the 3 we brought we should wear. Of course they chose my third choice. The one I only brought to make up the numbers. The one I didn't want to wear. No, not the 2 shirts I specifically bought the day before. Not the ones that I thought would be more contemporary and slimming. Nope, I had to wear my light mauve business shirt. Apparently it had to do with what other contestants were wearing, backdrop colours and what wouldn't flare on TV. You know how they say TV adds 10 pounds? Yeah, this shirt did that by itself.
After putting on the fat shirt we Episode 7 contestants gathered in the "green" room with Michael, the producer, to watch Episode 6 and get our makeup touched up. Episode 6 was one of those great episodes. After a couple of contestants failed a young guy stepped up and answered or guessed the answers to the next 12 questions straight to take home a lazy 100 grand. One Hundred Thousand Dollars! His mum, his supporter, was in tears. I think the family is from Mosman and he went to Scots College, so I don't think they're short of a quid, but 100 K is a good afternoon's work in anyone's currency. I mentioned to my fellow contestants that this may be a hard act to follow. Lucky us having to follow up on someone winning the big money. If you’re at all superstitious you’d be nodding knowingly now. Superstitious idiot.
Then it was our turn. That is, after a quick check of my phone to see if Pop had picked up Georgia from school, a quick pee and a Mylanta. Amazing how someone telling you that you will be going on TV shortly induces the need to pee.
As we took our places on stage I was regretting the Mylanta. My throat felt grainy and dusty, and I still had to pee (what!? I just did for fuck’s sake). My seat, seat number 4 was to Eddie's left as he came up the ramp and made his, and our, introductions. When he said Shane Nixon is blah blah blah I had to look into camera number five at my one o'clock and try and not look like a stunned mullet. Earlier in the day the producers said not once have they ever asked a contestant to wave or point fingers or make any hand movement but everybody does. This is okay. They want contestants to engage and not look... dead. I went with double peace signs like Japanese tourists in front of the Opera House.
76 year old Barbara was first in the Hot Seat. As she stepped to the Hot Seat we had to shuffle around to the next seat. Seat three for me. This where everything gets a little hazy. I barely recall the questions. I remembered to check the monitors to make sure I was smiling almost naturally and not have the "shit I have to pee" face going on. I think Barbara passed and the next person went up. In fact that person passed too. As did the next person and before I know it I was in the Hot Seat face-to-face with Eddie. It wasn't my day apparently. He asked me about my least favourite story in the list for four prepared stories I had to talk about. It was the one about having my foot crushed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge by a truck when my motor bike was stuck in traffic and having my reasonably successful amateur footy career ended. Come on Eddie, I wanted to talk about swimming with whales or being touched by gorillas. Oh well.
My first question was for 300 dollars. No recall of the question whatsoever. Nor the next one. We will go to the video to confirm but I think the 1000 dollar question was the Fawlty Towers question. Who was John Cleese's wife in Fawlty Towers? A Eddie. Lock in A. Sybil. Prunella was D and B and C were also very close, as in related, to John Cleese to somehow.
I wasn't so lucky for the next question. No fucking clue. Which of these is the name of Arnott's Chicken Shapes. A Zinger B something C something and D Crimpers. What the? "No idea Eddie I think I will pass". No strategy. I just had no idea. I knew it wasn't Zinger. I just went to the back of the queue and waited for my turn to come around again. Yeah, as if.
I'd have to be very lucky to win any money now. I thought my new friends in front of my me were quite cluey. When the guy who was close to me in age stepped up I turned to the person next to me and said "Oh well, he's going to go all the way". Except he bombed out on the next question. Cool. I mean, aaaawwww.
There were 5 of us left. Then 4. The attractive blonde 20 something was the next to go sadly. Aaawww. Barb was back in seat one. The young 20 something guy in seat 2, me in seat 3 and the nice 30 something mum in seat 4 - she apparently works with Brody Holland the former Collingwood "champ" which tickled Eddie somewhat. He was always trying to get the conversation back to Collingwood any way he could.
Eddie said we still have 100 grand still in play for Barb, young 20 something guy could still win 50 grand and I could still win 20 grand. Yay me. No chance was my thought. Not with 4 questions left. That meant 30 something mum was out of the game. Aaaawwww.
So Barb was next and answered the next question correctly. Yay her. My dreams of taking home money were slipping away. Even if it was a lousy 20 grand. Funny when you have the opportunity to win a million bucks 20 grand doesn't seem like much money. Seriously though, it would be a life changer. Even a measly 20 thousand dollars can go a long way.
Then Barb got the next question wrong. Aaaaawww. The prize dropped to 50 thousand dollars. Two questions left, two contestants left. You do the math. How much chance do you think I gave myself to even be asked the 20 thousand dollar question? If you guessed "fuck all" send me an email and I will reply with "Congratulations".
Yeah, young bright 20 something guy was in the Hot Seat. And he fluffed it. He got the answer wrong. Whatever the question was, we'll have to go to the video to see what it was, he answered incorrectly and cost himself 50 thousand dollars. Against all odds I was in the Hot Seat for the final question. That gives me goosebumps now. Eddie told me congratulations for making it this far, you win 1000 dollars. If you make it to the final question, nominally the million dollar question, you win 1000 dollars as a consolation prize if you fuck up. I told Eddie the prize would at least pay for my day off work. Eddie thought I meant the 20 grand so he said "RMIT is paying you too much if it only pays for your day off work". Ha.
Eddie asked me what I would do with the money if I won? What was this about a Japanese toilet? Ah Eddie, I said, Japanese toilets are special. They have heated seats they play music. They have a beautifully warm bidet stream of water to clean your bum and and heated fan to dry your bum when you finish. Michelle told me later she had no idea that I had that in my pre-prepared stories for what I would do with the money. She didn't know whether to laugh or die of embarrassment.
Supporters sit in the audience directly behind the Hot Seat so Eddie can easily ask them questions while their contestant is in the Hot Seat. From the Hot Seat you can't see your supporter but while you're in the waiting chairs I could look up and make eye contact and give Michelle a bit of a wink to let her know that I wasn't actually going to collapse into a sobbing heap. Although, that was entirely possible the way I was feeling having to pee and Mylanta dust stuck in my throat.
I can't recall if we went to a commercial break then or after I answered the question. It is all such a blur. Anyway the Million Dollar Question, or in my case, the Twenty Thousand Dollar question was, the Webb-Ellis cup is awarded for which World Cup? A. Cricket. B. Soccer. C. Something. And D. Rugby.
Sigh. I am so fucked.
Geez Eddie. I have no idea. Um. When Cricket came up I thought, yeah, cricket. But then Soccer came up and I thought, yeah, soccer. Then something. Then Rugby. I dunno Eddie. Maybe D, rugby. Lock in D. I think. Yes D. Maybe.
Eddie asked Michelle if she knew the answer. Nope, no help there.
You get, I think, 60 seconds to answer the final question. Or was it 45 seconds? There is a big count down timer below the answers on the screen. Viewers at home only see a fuse burning but contestants get to see the actual seconds tick tick ticking away. I said to Eddie, people at home would know this and would be frustratedly screaming at the screen not D, something else. Eddie, bless him, got irate. He said, "Don't worry about what other people would think. Go with what you think is it is".
He seemed quite cranky. With the benefit of hindsight, being a sporting question and all, I think Eddie knew the answer and he was giving me a hint. Stick with D. But that is hindsight. At the time I was a little flustered.
As Eddie berated me the timer was still counting down. He stopped ranting at 6 seconds to go so I quickly said again, lock in D, rugby, Eddie.
There I was, unbelievably in the Hot Seat for the final question. Regardless of what happened next I would take home 1000 dollars with a slight chance of maybe even 20 grand if D was right. Ha.
Eddie said, "If you'd chosen A, cricket it would have been wrong. If you chose B, soccer that would have been wrong too."
I think I had an inkling then but I kept mumbling it's wrong isn't it, it's not D.
Eddie said "Shane Nixon you chose D, rugby and you have won TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!".
He thrust out his hand to shake my hand then I sort of just sat there blankly before I woke up and shook his hand and I kept saying "Thank you Eddie, thank you Eddie, thank you Eddie".
The feeling to pee had finally gone away. Michelle bounced down the stairs. I stood up and hugged her. We just looked at each other for few seconds. I felt like I was going to cry. I think Eddie signed off the show and everybody cheered.
Eddie signed the cheque for 20 fucking thousand dollars and I was hustled over for the commemorative picture taking of the handing over of the cheque ceremony. It is a souvenir cheque. Not the real one. I get the real cheque up to 28 days after the episode has been broadcast. The episodes aren't shot in order of broadcast. That is to be decided. I would think they wouldn't show too many shows in a row of losses. Or wins for that matter. They have to keep it interesting for the viewers.
So sometime in April 2016 my episode will be broadcast and hopefully a few days after that I will get my cheque for 20 thousand dollars.
We sat back in the audience for the recording of the final episode for the day. The winner of that show took home $10,000. In the end 5 out of the 8 shows had winners of more than $10,000. One amazing $100k, 2 $50k, 1 $20k (yay me) and 1 $10k. 48 contestants started the day. 40 went home with a thanks for coming. 3 went home with 1000 dollars each and 5 of us went home with more than $10,000.
That was my surreal, fun, exciting, sickening, fantastic day on Millionaire Hot Seat. I really gave myself very little chance of winning any money. Of course by getting on the show you have more than zero chance of winning money but things have to fall into place for you. You have got to answer lots of questions in a row or be lucky enough to slip into the final Hot Seat for that last question. Things fell into place for me in a way I couldn't have imagined or dared to imagine beforehand.
No, I will not be buying a toilet.
Update: My episode is to be broadcast on Wednesday the 30th of March 2016 from 5.15pm. It will also be on Nine’s catchup TV thing on the web for a month after the show has aired.
If you really want to see the whole glorious episode it you can find it here.