Friday, April 06, 2007

A Day At "Millionaire"

My "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" day began months ago, with a contestant exam at the Millionaire studios in New York City. It was late June, the summer warmth just beginning, my brain bursting with all sorts of facts. The test passed, I talk to a producer. Apparently he sees something in me that wasn't picked up on when last I passed the test, so I get the postcard telling me I'm in the contestant pool.

All through the summer, I think nothing more of the postcard, as "Millionaire" isn't to tape until August. I know that the season dates have been moved up somewhat to accomodate host Meredith Vieira's new schedule with "The Today Show" so they get a lot of their taping done before Meredith even starts on "Today". So, as September turns to October, I don't think my chances are that good of getting on.

Until Monday, October 30, when a qualifier calls to tell me that I've made the show and I'm to appear at ABC Studios in New York on November 9 for a taping. Yahoo! My girlfriend and her daughters are ecstatic. We make all the necessary arrangements with the Lucerne Hotel and gather up all the paperwork we need to satisfy "Millionaire" producers that I am indeed me.

We arrive in New York the night before, on a rainy Wednesday. I have a bit of a contretemps with a pedestrian who thinks I've intruded upon his sacred crosswalk. I mutter various anatomic-derived nicknames for the man as I finally give up trying to find a parking space in upper Manhattan and give the valet my keys.

The "Millionaire" day begins in earnest at 7:00 a.m., when about a dozen contestants gather outside the studio on West 66th Street. My cab pulls up right at 7:00. We size each other up for the first time, grateful we aren't playing each other, then are led to the Green Room, where we'll be spending a LOT of our day. Meredith Vieira, meanwhile, is trading verbal ripostes with Al Roker and Matt Lauer over at 30 Rock.

We meet with our respective contestant producers. I am assigned to the senior C.P., Darren Atlee. Great guy who really knows how to create interesting stories and craft good material for Meredith to work with. We do get to know some of the other folks. One of the associate producers has come down with a very nasty cold and is debating whether or not to call it an early day. I try to steer clear of the poor girl.

We have a nice breakfast spread in the Green Room, decorated with many pictures from "Millionaire" history. While most spot Nancy Christy, Kevin Smith and John Carpenter, I'm the only one who recognizes Eddie Timanus, the USA Today sportswriter who was the first blind undefeated champ in "Jeopardy!" history.

Rich Sirop, the show's senior producer, comes in and tells us about the rules of the game and gives us some useful hints. He also notifies us the shows taping today will air the week of April 2, 2007. And yes, Meredith Vieira is hosting today, in the wake of press reports that have indicated that Meredith is bringing in guest hosts for a few weeks this year. (I can't get any more information out of Darren as to whether the guest hosts will include the rumored Tom Bergeron, so I leave it at that.) NOTE: Tom Bergeron indeed was a guest host the week of May 14-18, 2007.

The show's attorney, Francesca Harewood, comes in and tells us of the legal ramifications of being on the show and has a whole bunch o' releases for us to sign, including the caveat that will rule my life for the next five months: I am not to reveal the outcome of any games I experience, including my own. Publicity maven Trisha Miller comes in and tells us about what kind of answers we can give interviewers, and has some more forms to fill out about what local station we watch the show on and the names of our local newspapers and radio stations.

Stage manager Adam Matalon then gives us a tour of the set, so we can see the hot seat close up and walk on that precarious-looking glass floor. He tells us our eyes should be fixed on either the screen or Meredith at all times. We are taught the specific technique to get in and out of the hot seat chair, several of which are going to be backstage for practice.

Part 2 tomorrow! Lots more to tell.

1 comment:

Dave Mackey said...

One other thing I don't think I ever mentioned when I filed this piece four years ago - it never showed on the air, or in her demeanor in the studio, but this show was taped just after the world received the news that Meredith's former CBS News colleague Ed Bradley died.