|Fifteen to One
What's it like to be asked tough questions on the top-rated quiz show?
A report by the man with the answers:
Graham P Jackson
Created Sa 9-Aug-97
Main Content Last Revised Mo 30-Nov-98
William G. Stewart has a lot to answer for. He was largely responsible for
bringing Price Is Right to British screens, he warmed up the
audience and chose the contestants who would "Come On Down". Critics said
it pandered to the worst aspects of human nature. But ITV were happy - it
topped the ratings. He is also reported to be the man who saved Channel 4's
Don't Forget Your Toothbrush. The show just didn't work - an amazing
six pilots were recorded. Mr S. helped get it on air, and once there it was
Channel 4's most watched show.
These days, you can see the former Butlin's redcoat in
front of the camera, hosting Fifteen To One.
This is a daily quiz show, which he helped develop,
for people who take their quizzes seriously.
Fifteen contestants each have three lives; every time they get a question
wrong they lose a life. It's a simple format, devised by John M. Lewis, and
another ratings success for William G. Stewart.
Graham P Jackson decided he was up to the challenge. Here he describes
his adventure on Britain's toughest quiz show.
||You know how it is. You're
watching a quiz show. You narrowly avoid scoring a
conversion with a full cup of tea as your fist pounds
into the arm of the chair. How could he possibly not know
the answer to that simple question? Even Laa Laa the
Teletubby would have known that!!
And so, by a mixture of "I could do
that!" and "Put up or shut up!" you find
yourself standing looking grimly into the blackness at
the back of a TV studio, blinded by two dazzling
spotlights, whilst that nice Mr. Stewart asks Jackie the
first question. It's about an Irish film actor I don't
know, but she does. Not a confidence-booster. The
questioning moves relentlessly on towards me at number 9.
Thank goodness I know most of them. Now my voice has at
least half a chance of working when he gets to me.
Graham." Oh, no! It could be Brookside. Please don't
let it be a soap or a game show host. But it's Rab C
Nesbitt the "ranting Glaswegian street
philosopher" as William G Stewart extravagantly
describes him. Phew!! In the relief I don't even hear
Tony's question on my left. Pull yourself together,
Graham. Listen to every question. Keep warmed up by
answering them in your mind until it's your turn again.
The Council of Europe? Careful. Don't rush at it. Use
your 10 seconds. Not Brussels - too obvious. Must be with
the Parliament in Strasbourg. YES!!!
|Ooer - I thought I'd
followed the General Election quite closely, but I've got
myself into a bit of a muddle over the notice period. But
what's this? I remember the definition of the old
Imperial Gallon (10 pounds of water if you're interested)
from my primary school book of useful facts. Saved!! And
Mr. S remarks that I said it with great confidence. Great
relief more like!
Can't quite see
how near we are to eliminating all but the final 3
contestants which will end the round. Anyway, got to
concentrate; the questioning might come flying my way at
any moment if I'm nominated. But no! After two right
answers - they're good, these remaining people - one face
goes blank and suddenly Mr. S is turning to the camera
and telling people he thinks it should be worth their
while staying for the final round after the break.
|As I wander out from the
set the crew are already pushing the 3-person podium into
position for the final round. With the fascination of a
small boy in an engine shed I watch enthralled as they
plug in the cables connecting its lights, buzzers and
score panels. My reverie is broken by Laura who does the
voice-overs, looking just as stunning as when she
presents the trophies. We sit down together and draft my
pen-portrait, which introduces the final round. Given the
opportunity, I get in as much as I can about Canterbury,
Christian Aid Week and the St. Augustine 597AD
celebrations. As it turns out there isn't time to use any
of this and it's all edited out.
all the gizmos have been tested Margaret, Peter and I
take up our positions and, for the benefit of the sound
man, again say what we had for breakfast. The two makeup
ladies Pat and Di flit about dabbing at anything that
glistens - it's a very hot darkness under all those
lights. Just in front of us stands Mr S, being preened
and fluffed himself. One of the perks of his job, he
observes, is that every day he has his hair titivated by
young Jade. It's not stardom that counts in this
business, he muses, as the powder puff dabs around, it's
survival. He's been in TV 40 years, but remains curiously
reticent on quite where. Is it true he bears the heavy
responsibility of bringing us 'The Price Is Right'? If he
does he's not saying.
||And then we're into it.
"Fingers on the buzzers and we'll make a
start." Peter is good. Very good. He had his 3 lives
intact from Rounds 1&2 and keeps his record to the
end. Mr. S thinks this is a first. If I nominate him I'll
just increase his score. I nominate Margaret. She's good
too. In the blackness in front of us is an illuminated
orange scoreboard, including a readout of how many of the
40 questions are left. My position on it looks shaky. I
nominate Margaret again only to find I've given away my
perfect question on the speed of light. This riles me.
OK, as a librarian Margaret doesn't get it and loses a
life. But there's the danger that any moment now Peter
will start taking questions.
|Desperate times call for
desperate measures. I elect to take a question. The
inventor of Poker? Wasn't there an old Phil Harris comic
song with that in? Mentally I run through the words and
reach the name before my 10 seconds are up. YES!! That
does it. I've got two lives in hand so I'll risk it and
take another question. Success. A grim exhilaration takes
hold of me. It's rather like careering downhill on a
soapbox cart with no brakes. It's too late to stop now.
23 consecutive questions later and it's all
over! Did I really get them all? Peter immediately and
very sportingly says "Well done", albeit rather
wanly. It must have been hard for him to be shut out like
that. Margaret is very sweet and the rest of the 15 come
up and wish me good luck in the Grand Final.
|The Grand Final? It appears that my
answers, plus my 2 intact lives have rocketed me to
number 3 on the Finals Board, where I remain until all
965 contestants in this 64 show series have had their big
As I totter out into
the pale daylight to walk to the station it all seems
unreal. After 15 minutes my pulse rate is back down to
twice normal. So, we do it all again at the Grand Final,
Pictures by Rob Sedgebeer With thanks to Mike Brown
Fifteen To One Developed by Regent Productions from a format by John M. Lewis
Repeats of the early series are now being shown on Challenge TV
© Channel Four Television Corporation