As can be evidenced by a cursory glance at this blog, I am a BIG FAN of game shows. Quiz shows in particular have always been my favorite – I always hoped that one day, I’d get somewhere with all this useless knowledge that I’d accrued over time. Fact: half the time I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, but I can tell you all about the pop culture history of music television. This will get me far in life, I swear.
Anyway – earlier this year, my father was watching daytime TV and a commercial came on saying that they were going to be holding auditions for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (the syndicated version with Meredith Viera) and that you could sign up on their website. Being unemployed at the time, I thought nothing of dropping my name into the ether and waiting. I’d taken the Jeopardy! test before and tossed my name in the hat for Wheel of Fortune too, amongst others, but nothing ever really panned out.
Two weeks later, I got an e-mail asking me to come in to the city for the test. SURPRISE! I was totally not prepared to see that – I’d never got any kind of acknowledgement before in terms of my game show hopefulness, but they actually wanted me to come in! To take the test! FLAIL. In the e-mail we were sent a questionnaire to fill out, asking us all about ourselves: things that made us stand out, why we were unique, et cetera. I scribbled down some stories about field camp, my life, and other things that may seem vaguely anecdotal.
The test itself was on May 29th in New York City. Living so close, I didn’t need to make any special preparations to get there – no hotels, no spontaneous cross-country trips, and apparently that was lucky. I had a bit of a delay getting there due to a fire on the train tracks, and actually ended up being late for my exam time at 5:45 PM – but they were kind enough to let me into the next one at 6:00 PM. That was a HUGE relief – money was really tight for me at that time, and I don’t think I would have been able to forgive wasting the $45 I spent on train and subway tickets. I was third or fourth in line, and found myself talking with some of the other people there – the guy that was first in line was from Anchorage, Alaska and had come down just for the test. The couple in front of me was from north Jersey, not unlike myself, and the guy immediately after me was from south Jersey. We talked a bit – he was a construction worker out on disability and was hoping to get on the show to pay off some bills. The doors opened and they let us in. We all filed through a metal detector and were seated in what appeared to be the ABC cafeteria.
Once we were all in the building, the doors were closed and we were told what we were getting ourselves into. The people in charge said that taking the test was not a guarantee that you would get on the show (obviously). If you passed the test, you moved onto a second in-person interview round, and if you passed that, you moved onto a third on-camera interview. There was a lot that couldn’t be disclosed, such as what a passing score was, so I kind of crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. On the table were some “thanks for playing!” prizes – a magnet, pictured below, and a pencil that we would need very soon.
The test itself was a thirty-question multiple choice exam. We had ten minutes to get through the test – a Scantron! – and we turned them in to be “graded.” The anticipation was wicked. I felt pretty confident that I’d done well – the only question I was certain that I’d missed was one about the Kardashian sisters, and I can’t really be arsed to know much about them – but there was a definite air of panic about the room. People were asking “what did you get for this one? How about this? I think the answer was this…” and I mostly kept quiet. There were a decent amount of people, easily between 50 and 75, and most of them were way older than me. When the staff came back in the room, they called the test numbers of the people that had passed.
Mine was one of them, and I (internally) lost my shit.
There were seven or eight of us that passed the test and moved on to the second round, and I had a one on one interview with one of the producers. We discussed the things I had written down on my questionnaire – from the time I accidentally ate horse meat in Argentina to a stupid dance I do around the house sometimes, and must have impressed the guy because they handed me a waiver and said that I was on to the third round, an on camera interview.
I internally lost my shit yet again.
Another producer came to get me for the third interview, and said that he was going to ask me a little bit about my questionnaire, then ask me some sample questions to record. He said to kind of talk them over a bit, like I was on the show – and as soon as it was started, it was over. They said that I would get a postcard in the mail in a few weeks letting me know if I’d been accepted into the contestant pool.
The postcard came about two weeks later, and I’ll let it speak for itself:
I forgot about it for a while, until one day…I got a phone call.
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2: WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M GOING TO BE ON TV??