The Game’s Afoot

In which The Author gets a second bite of the cherry

In It’s Grand Oop North! I told you that I had my fifteen minutes of fame back in December 1991, when I appeared on the Channel 4 quiz show Fifteen to One. After my narrow scrape through Brain of Britain nearly two years ago, I’ve been wondering whether to cast my net a little wider. The problem is that I haven’t really fancied any of the daytime quiz shows on TV.
A couple of my university pals have taken the plunge since we all went our separate ways. James E. chanced his arm on The Weakest Link, and just about survived to tell the tale. Laura P. appeared on The Tipping Point about a month ago. Though the show was recorded months and months earlier and, believe it or not, I missed it. It was shown on Bank Holiday Monday, and I’d been to see a film in the Coliseum in the afternoon. By the time I got the pub, the programme had finished. To judge from Laura’s comments on Facebook, she didn’t think much of her own performance.
Anyway, a few months ago I noticed that a revived version of Fifteen to One had infiltrated the afternoon schedules. I made a point of watching it in the pub, and made a note of the production company during the closing credits. When I got home, I looked them up online and sent them a quick email, wondering whether a contestant from Version 1.0 would be eligible for the reboot. I didn’t hear anything for a few days, so I sent them another message via Twitter. Still nothing. I put it to the back of my mind and got on with the rest of my life.
The subject reared its head again about a fortnight ago, when I was chatting to Gaz and Billy in the pub. The boys reckoned that our old friend Les (not his real name!) had applied for Fifteen to One. Gaz pointed out that, if Les was accepted onto the show, he’d know four people who’d taken part (Richard D. and Alan E. being the other two.) That’s not bad going for a small town like Aberdare, after all. The boys asked me why I hadn’t put my name forward. I explained that I’d tried to contact them, without success, and that I wasn’t especially bothered either way.
I was being economical with the verité, of course. Having seen the 21st Century re-imagining of the best general knowledge quiz on UK television, I really, really fancied having another go. The new version is more like a ‘game show’, stretched over an hour instead of half an hour, and with Sandi Toksvig exchanging jolly banter with the contestants in between questions. The basic format hasn’t changed, though. William G. Stewart’s idea was simple and effective, and it didn’t need major surgery to bring it up to date. I must admit that I felt a bit miffed that the new production company hadn’t even responded to my original email. Knowing that Les might conceivably have a shot made me feel even more overlooked.
I was checking my emails this morning, when I found one from SRO Audiences lurking amongst the usual mailing list updates and newsletters. The subject line was Fifteen to One – contestants. That sounded intriguing, for a start. SRO stands for ‘Standing Room Only’, and they seem to be an agency handling audience tickets for popular TV shows like Loose Women. However, they were also recruiting contestants for Series 2. I followed the link, filled in my details on the online form, and hit ‘Submit.’
Soon after that Geoff E. came into the library, and we spent a couple of hours going through the manuscript for his book in forensic detail. I’ve left him with about a dozen queries which he needs to check against his own notes. We arranged to meet up again on Friday morning and parted company, knowing that the book was all but complete.
After Geoff had gone, I checked my emails again. In my inbox, I found an eight-page Word document which comprises the Fifteen to One application form. I realised that I wouldn’t be able to complete the whole thing today, never mind find a decent photo of myself to attach to the first page. I saved it and decided to print it out at home.
Only about ten minutes later, my phone rang. I recognised a Glasgow dialling code, so I went outside to take the call. It turned out to be a chap named Andrew, who works as a researcher for Argonon, the TV production company behind the new show. I laughed and told him that I’d only just received the application form. He told me that they were holding auditions at fairly short notice, and asked me whether I’d be able to go to Cardiff on Friday.
This Friday?’ I said in amazement. He explained that they’d had some places open up for people who could audition without too much warning. Well, that suited me fine.
Andrew asked me a few general questions and we chatted for a while about my background. He seemed quite impressed when I told him that I’d appeared on the original series. Then I had to answer ten general knowledge questions, not against the clock, but (as with the Brain of Britain audition) he couldn’t tell me whether my answers were right or wrong. I know that I dropped two points, but I was fairly confident about most of them.
So, completely unexpectedly, I’m going to have to postpone my meeting with Geoff, as I need to be in Cardiff by lunchtime on Friday. My audition performance permitting, I might also have to set aside some time and money for a trip to Glasgow in the next couple of months. Exciting, isn’t it?

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