You never know what will be, but for sure it’s different than expected. Four months after I had applied as candidate for an RTL Quiz Show, I suddenly got a call from WarnerBros. A very polite lady wanted to test my general knowledge and ask me some questions”; it would only take 20 minutes. Well, it turned into 45 minutes, because after 40 questions from different fields of knowledge, the conversation was about my person. Another two months passed by and since I did not know some answers, I was probably out of the race. Again far from it. In the second part of the telephone-casting I was told to be in the selection circle and probably part of a superquiz following the pattern of America’s toughest quiz show: “500 Questions” with a jackpot of 2.5 million EURO. I was announced to receive an invitation for a camera test.
Finally again 40 questions under time pressure were asked and several questionnaires had to be completed. As an extra the casting team wanted to know what I would do with the won money etc. (I would buy an island). While the direct encounter of potential candidates provided a certain tension, the 4-headed- camera and casting crew was relaxed and very friendly. After all they finally told me that not only the knowledge makes an ideal candidate but the “whole package” must fit into their concept. What exactly was meant by this statement, remained open.
However, they still didn’t want to talk about the central figure of the show, the moderator. Instead, I was asked who I would prefer (for example Bernhard Hoecker) or eventually opt out. Bingo, mentioning my only exclusion name, I had probably hit the bullseye, because the gentlemen rolled their eyes and wanted to know my reasons. While discussing some of my doubts the whole group on occasion burst into laughter, because He was in deed rated to be “a bit special”, but just being thheee top star among the quiz moderators.
And yet, or maybe because of that, I ended up as a show candidate and faced an ultimate stress test before TV recording in Cologne. On-site endless waiting, explanations of the rules, studio tour, rehearsals, production of a personal candidate trailer, setting of makeup and styling, etc. By the way, in the studio next door to us, a series of “Let’s Dance” was just produced and juror Jorge G. was walking around hectically. Have you ever seen him with curly hair? I like that much better.
Now I also met my ten colleagues (including two females) and I began to realize what I had been up to. Almost all of them were in a so-called quiz club and participated regularly in competitions up to the “quiz world-championship”. Until then, I did not even know that such a thing exists at all. Everyone wanted to be the challenger at the podium and make as much money as possible. There was only a slight obstacle: almost no mistake was allowed when “clearing the wall”, in order not to lose the accumulated credit. Day and night, my colleagues had recapitulated extensive encyclopedia and current newspaper knowledge – including the yellow press. All kind of questions could be asked: no matter if it’s the first name of “mother Katzenberger” or the name of the bridge crossing the Kattegat/ Skagerrak between Denmark and Sweden … and not to forget that there are also some speed questions. Of course only so called “open questions”, no multiple choice answers or even wild cards/ jokers.
Now or never, the show was on and we all were linked on, respectively got a radio microphone placed on the back (which by the way gets very warm over the time). I was nominated for the first TV transmission session (five recording days each a 90 minutes broadcast) as number eight or nine out of 1,500 applicants.
For the first two candidates the game was over quickly. Then, as number three, a real quiz champ or better quiz nerd entered the stage and played almost three broadcasts/ complete quiz walls and was able to take home € 118,000 after 196 correctly answered questions. He was denied another EURO 122,000 when he ultimately failed to know within five seconds whether Prince August von Hannover was also Duke of Brunswick and … Lüneburg. The long-term student M.M. really needed this money to continue his studies and livelihood and to be able to pay off a bank loan. With the remaining money he wanted to tour through Australia for a year or something like that.
The event went on, my chance approached. If and when you were brought to stage, you never knew exactly.
However, all of us had to be in the TV studio at 13.00 hours. Daily start was a good lunch buffet, followed by the styling. The recordings, however, only began at 19.00 hours – tense hours behind the scenes, which were somehow grueling and no appearance of the “Master” (of course he stayed in a First class Hotel like the dance celebrities).
Getting used to the course or better tenor of such a show, also needs a “trained” audience” (some spectators obviously travelled more than 400 kilometers one way to be part of the game). Admittance for small money was an hour before transmission. While seated, the audience had to undergo various instructions and rules of conduct. Not to forget: when, what, how long or intensely is cheered or commented, is not determined by them but up to an instructor with (text) signals. In addition a kind of ”front-cheerleader” whose task it is to get the masses in the right mood before takeoff. For some companions (as for my husband sitting in the crowd) this was childishly questionable, especially since it was not a cooking show or a banal sales show. Well, ….
Light off, all black, spot on … circling spotlights, twitching colors and flashlights, a droning jingle. Backstage in the callroom, we – the candidates – could follow the event on a monitor. The audience only has eyes for the well-known showmaster who moderates routinely, looking intelligently from behind his glasses. He has a good laugh, because he keeps all the answers on his cards (never without); and there is also a controlling referee.
The days go by and after five recordings the last candidate is the number seven on the “hot chair”. Then the game is over. Except some compensation expenses, no return. But who knows what could have happened to me. Beyond the TV set you feel always smarter while the mental pressure is really enormous. And the media/press in general likes to sarcastically talk about intelligence afterwards: ” J’s “superman” is out” or “omniscient candidate is embarrassing himself” etc. On the other hand, there were also many positive moments and lot’s of joking, laughing and blaspheming. On the second day for example I met two chimney sweeps right in front of the hotel when I was picked up. They wished me good luck and gave me a kind of guild coin.
Always extremely cool and relaxed was the camera crew, who have mastered every shot with brave routine, after enjoying the evening buffet extensively and being happy to go home punctually.
There are still a lot of details left to mention, but of course all candidates previously had to sign an extensive contract; among others a secrecy agreement and a 2-year participation suspension on other TV shows (actually even the taking of studio fotos was prohibited) …
But most important: all my former quiz colleagues have my highest respect.