A woman dressed like a deck of cards rushes down the aisle to join the other contestants. As she takes her place alongside a retiree dressed like a lumberjack and a college student sporting a bunny costume, game show host Wayne Brady gets the audience amped by bursting into song. The contestants dance — one of them exhibiting surprisingly adept Irish dancing skills — and the audience roars. Then the contestants take turns seeing what's behind doors No. 1, 2 or 3. It's an entertaining hour of daytime television, but is there a method to this carefully curated chaos?
There most certainly is. It's called a "game show."
A well-crafted game show includes a long day of filming, contestants who are good on-camera and, of course, plenty of dramatic tension that builds up throughout the show.
For most contestants, taping day is an intense undertaking, one that can require 10 to 12 hours of their time. Fortunately, these long days aren't for a single show. In fact, up to six 40-minute game shows may be taped during a single day.
There's a lot that goes into a game show that you will never see on air. It begins with makeup application (always for the host and sometimes for contestants), a meeting in which contestants are informed of the rules and a few practice games so contestants aren't gobsmacked when it comes time to play while cameras are rolling. Game shows that rely on skill rather than luck may have additional, time-consuming rules designed to prevent cheating, such as sequestering contestants. These contestants aren't allowed to have contact with other contestants or staff and are even escorted to the bathroom.
All this effort is for naught if a contestant isn't good on camera, though. Consider the case of Joel Sturdivant, who auditioned for "Million Dollar Money Drop." Sturdivant felt good about his backstory; he'd been high school sweethearts and was now best friends with the contestant with whom he was paired. Then he heard some of the other potential contestants were lion tamers and foreign missionaries. Sturdivant realized, long before his audition, that he wouldn't be chosen.
While not everyone can employ a circus act as leverage during a contestant audition, it does help to include unique or quirky information about your life. One successful auditioner included details about losing a boa constrictor in a car, where it remained for a month [source: Grant].
It's no secret that game shows are built on dramatic tension. That's a big part of the reason viewers keep watching. And it's no accident that much of this tension reaches a peak right before a commercial break. After all, game shows are designed to keep viewers from changing the channel, thanks to a series of miniature cliffhangers throughout each broadcast. Will her lifeline come through? Will she spin the wheel? Who will win the Big Deal? These questions keep viewers coming back for more [source: The TV Writers Vault].
- Grant, Kelli. "10 Things Game Shows Won't Tell You." Marketwatch. Jan. 24, 2011. (Nov. 25, 2014) http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-game-shows-wont-tell-you-1295044732458
- The TV Writers Vault. "Game Show Formats." (Nov. 25, 2014) http://www.tvwritersvault.com/creating/creatingGameshows.asp