Monday, January 31, 2011
Game Show Lessons: Never Partner with a Pot-Head!
By Barry Dutter
Of all the lessons I’ve learned on various game shows over the years, probably the most important one is this: never partner with a pot-head!
In 2010, I saw an ad on Craigs List looking for people who wanted to surprise a friend by secretly signing them up for a game show for GSN -- one where the friend was unaware that they were a contestant!
As soon as I saw the ad, I figured this was a good chance for me to help a friend win some big money -- and make a few bucks for myself at the same time.
I have a friend named Kelly who is a schoolteacher. She's smart and quick, and has been on game shows before. I pitched her to the network, but for whatever reason, they weren't too excited about her. So I decided to try again with a different girl.
I decided to go with someone who was the opposite of Kelly. I had another friend, Amber, who was an actress/model. She was 25, very tall, pretty, and with huge natural boobs. Because of her Amazonian body, Amber got a lot of work in movies and TV shows in L.A. (You can see her in PIRANAHA 3-D, wearing a bikini!) Amber loved the beach, and amusement parks, and, oh yes, she had one other hobby-- like many Los Angelenos, she liked to dabble in pot-smoking.
The premise of the new game show was that you were not supposed to tell your friend you were setting her up to be on TV. She was supposed to walk into an office, thinking she was going on a job interview, and then be stunned to see legendary game show host Wink Martindale walk out and reveal that she was about to play a game for the chance to win $5,000!
I sent a picture of Amber in to the casting agents for the show, which was called INSTANT RECALL. They liked Amber and they agreed to book her on the show as a contestant -- if I could guarantee that she would show up. Even if she didn’t win, Amber would get $500 just for playing the game. I would get $100 for setting her up, regardless of whether I was there for the taping not. I thought it would be fun to be there when they sprung the trap on her.
In L.A, it’s hard to get people to show up for anything, even if there is money involved. I told Amber that I had arranged a job interview for her with a catering company. I then tipped her off that it would be in her best interests to show up for this interview, because there might be a TV game show going on at the same time.
The producers I spoke to were very concerned that Amber not know she was being set up to be on TV. They wanted to make sure she wouldn’t be suspicious, that she wouldn’t have any reason to suspect there might be something going on. They asked me if I had ever gotten Amber job interviews before. I assured them that this was a very common thing, that I have often hooked her up with waitressing gigs in the past.
This was a total lie, of course, but hey, I‘ll say anything to get on TV!
The producers were very excited about the idea of surprising Amber when they revealed that the “job interview” was a phony. They really wanted to see genuine reactions of the people they were ambushing.
Having worked on various reality shows over the years, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that all the contestants on INSTANT RECALL had been tipped off in advance by their friends. I mean, all you have to do is say to your friend, “Dude -- you get $500 just for showing up! Just act surprised and then you’ll have the chance to win $5,000!”
It’s much easier to get people to show up for stuff when you lay it all out there like that.
The premise of Amber’s episode was that she and one other unsuspecting contestant would show up in the lobby of a big hotel in L.A. where several odd people are waiting for job interviews. All of the oddballs would interact with Amber and the other contestant a little bit. Then suddenly host Wink Martindale would pop out and reveals that it's all being taped for TV. Wink would then lead the contestants to another room which has been transformed into the set of a TV game show. The two contestants are then grilled on everything that they saw from the moment they walked into the hotel lobby. Whichever one of them got the highest score would win $5,000.
I was invited to come in and watch all the action from inside the control room. At the end of the show, I was to be brought out to either congratulate or console my friend.
I arrived about an hour before Amber was scheduled for her “job interview.” I met the producers of the show, and I met Kimberly, who was setting up her friend, Claudia for the same episode.
The show was being filmed in a fancy hotel in LA. The crew had transformed a banquet room into a makeshift control room. There were a bank of monitors showing multiple views of the lobby. There was a crew of about a dozen people, as well as half a dozen actors who had been hired to play the oddballs in the lobby.
I sat and waited for Amber to arrive. At one point, Wink Martindale came over and said hi -- a super nice guy.
I texted Amber to make sure she was coming. She texted back and assured me that she was on her way, fighting rush hour traffic as best as she could. At around 5:45 pm, the actors were told to head out into the lobby to await the arrival of our two unsuspecting contestants.
Amber’s opponent arrived first -- a Mexican girl named Claudia. Claudia entered the lobby of the hotel, where she was told to have a seat and wait for her job interview along with the other applicants. Claudia sat and filled out her bogus job application as she waited.
The clock ticked closer to 6:00 p.m.-- and still no Amber. The producers started to get really stressed. They didn’t want to leave Claudia alone in that lobby with those actors for too long. They were afraid she would catch on.
I was the one who had promised I could deliver Amber, so all eyes turned to me. I didn’t know what to do. Amber was not picking up her phone and had stopped returning my texts. I wished I could magically reach into my pocket and pull out Amber, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen.
All I could do was smile feebly and say, “She’s on her way. She must be stuck in traffic.”
The producers were not impressed. Their feeling was, if Amber thinks she is going on a job interview, she should be on time.
They producers were all looking at their watches. The director was saying that they could do the show without her if they had to -- just do the show with one contestant.
I had set up this whole thing so that I could help out my starving actress friend and make both of us some money. It was looking like she was going to blow the whole thing. I was wondering if I would even get my $100 if my contestant never showed up.
Finally Amber texted me to say that she had arrived and was parking her car in the garage.
Everyone was relieved. All we had to do was wait for Amber to come up the elevator. Five minutes passed. Then ten. Something was wrong.
Amber was not coming up the elevator. Again, she was not answering her phone. By this point, the producers had had enough of her tardiness and decided to go on without her.
Just at that moment, Amber entered the lobby. She was about 20 minutes late, but she was finally ready for her “job interview.” The show could now go on as planned!
Amber was given her fake application and she began filling it out as well.
The oddball actors were all seated around Amber and Claudia. The actors started making small talk -- little bits of conversation. One girl mentioned the city where she was from -- Anchorage, Alaska. A guy had a deck of playing cards and did a magic trick using the Jack of Hearts.
He wanted to make sure each girl got a good look at the card he was holding. He tapped Amber on the shoulder to show her the card. But Amber was so focused on filling out her “job application” that she wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on around her. Claudia had long since finished filling out her application, so she was able to give her full attention to the wackos in the lobby.
A bogus “hotel manager” came out and addressed the applicants, telling them some of the crazy duties they would be expected to perform, at a fancy banquet for a visiting Chinese dignitary. The joke here was that the job applicants would be shown some crazy ways to serve food and drinks, and told, "This is the custom of how things are done in China." Amber seemed genuinely freaked out by everything that was going on around her.
She certainly did a convincing job of playing someone who had no idea she was on a TV show!
After a few minutes of craziness, Wink Martindale popped out and sprang the big surprise on the girls. Amber and Claudia were both excited about the chance to compete for big money.
The girls were led to the “game show set” in the next room. Each girl stood at a podium while Wink asked the first question: what city was the girl in the lobby from? Amber struggled to remember, but she really hadn’t been paying attention. Claudia buzzed in: “Anchorage, Alaska.”
Correct! Next question. Which card did the guy in the lobby do the card trick with? Again, Amber got a pained expression on her face. She had no clue. Claudia buzzed in with the correct answer: “Jack of Hearts.”
The rest of the game played about the same way. Amber was completely lost. She had arrived so late, and had focused so much on filling out the job application, she hadn’t paid any attention to the antics of the actors around her.
The funny thing about that is that I had told Amber ahead of time that it was a bogus job, that she was going to be quizzed on everything that happened once she arrived. And she still got all the answers wrong!
It should come as no surprise to learn that Amber's opponent, Claudia was the winner. Claudia didn’t get the big prize of $5,000, but she still won a couple grand. Not bad for an hour’s work!
At the end of the show, I was brought out on stage, along with Kimberly, the friend who had set Claudia up. We all exchanged hugs, and smiles as Wink thanked the girls for playing and wished everyone a good night.
After the show was over, Amber was nice enough to take me out to dinner. She got paid $500 just for playing, she felt like she owed me a meal. She even threw me a few bucks as her way of saying thanks, and I definitely appreciated that.
As we ate our dinner, I asked Amber why she had taken so long to come up the elevator after she had arrived. She said, "I smoked a joint in the parking garage!” I asked her why she did that, when she knew she was already late and she knew everyone was waiting for her.
She replied, “I was nervous.”
So there you have it. I never partnered with Amber on any other shows after that. I mean, sure it was fun, and we both got paid ok for basically doing nothing, but still, the payoff could have been much bigger.
Back in my college days, I did a term paper on the harmful side effects on marijuana. One of the top symptoms of smoking pot is short-term memory loss. Probably not a good drug to partake in before you go on a show called INSTANT RECALL!