The Ingredients Of A Successful Quiz Format?

As a collective, the whole lecture theatre was asked to watch a video on youtube and analyse what makes a good quiz show format. The video was that of the first winner of the American version ‘Deal Or No Deal’ (see below). Typically exaggerated and over-the-top, the clip showed a female contestant winning the one million pound prize in the last few minutes of the show.

‘All very well’ you may think, yet it did indeed captivate an entire theatre full of students the other day, and there can be several reasons why:

1. The show focuses on the contestants. Contestants are opened up to the public, perhaps so the public can empathize with the players, or maybe so that the audience feel like they know the player better. Why is that important, you ask? Because if you know enough about them, then you care about whether or not they win or not! (In your mind, do they deserve to win?) A better example of this – The Weakest Link.

2. The host stalls the game. Period. If the answer to an important question needs to be told, the host will deliberately hold back. This has little to do with running orders, but everything to do with suspense. The tension adds to the enjoyability for the audience. The host takes control of the show, and retains control, only occasionally allowing the contestants to talk about themselves. He keeps control by the use of when to ask the questions and reveal the answers. A better example of this – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

3. Live audience adds atmosphere. Strange though it is, it’s hard to imagine a quiz show without a live audience. What do they do? They clap too much, and they laugh at jokes that usually just aren’t that funny. But what they can add is a little drama to an already dramatic situation. The live audience – particularly in the clip in question, act like sheep. The more agitated the contestant gets, the crazier the crowd goes. From a psychological perspective, it almost seems cruel. However, when you think about it, how dull would a show be if one person won a million pounds, and it was just them and the host jumping up and down in confetti to a background track? Clapping, booing, hissing, laughing and so on all adds to the theatrical experience. This may also help to immerse the viewer in the show, by placing them within such an audience.

I think they’re probably the three main points. Thinking about it, if we have interesting contestants, charismatic hosts, and atmosphere, our show can’t go far wrong. Alongside this task, I decided to investigate a little into QI and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. For those not in the know, QI is a general quiz show featuring a variety of topics – Never Mind The Buzzcocks is similar in vein, but based around music, both past and present.

Both shows rely heavily on chatter – whereas Deal Or No Deal revolves around the communication between the host and the victim – sorry, the contestant, QI and ‘Buzzcocks’ revolves around the communication between the host and the contestants BUT the contestants are celebrities (usually comedians, to add humour to the fray). Deal Or No Deal is based entirely around the game, but QI and Buzzcocks is focused more on the enjoyment of banter, with the end results of the game show playing second fiddle to the jokes. Since my group’s show is aiming to be like this, these two shows seemed logical choices to examine.

Further to the above points, we will need an enthusiastic presenter. Being the producer of this show, that puts me firmly at the end of the microphone around this area. I will be hosting the radio show, and will probably have a say in the running of the quiz itself. Just as well really, since I will DJ-ing my very own show on Source Radio some time in the near future.

We will need interesting contestants – the easiest way for us to do this will be to fake contestants and script something unusual. If we want authenticity, we could bring in people off the street just to see how we handle it (probably via the phones), but that has all sorts of problems…

Finally, atmosphere will be the hardest thing to get. We have no live audience, and even when I figure out the ‘cart’ properly, recording a live audience or getting a clip of one may prove difficult. Alternatively, if we get the first two points right, we may not need all the clapping and laughter and ‘shebang’ anyway. It will all be down to experimentation in the future weeks – at this point, we have done very little.


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