Do you remember how I recently went to an audition to become a contestant on a game show pilot?
Well, last week I got a call-back. They needed fifty contestants to fill up the first three rows of the studio audience, waiting to be picked out at random by the still-nameless young host. Remember, it was for a pilot episode, so the film would never make it to air, there were no real prizes to be won but we had to pretend that there was and be utterly thrilled that we'd won..... absolutely nothing.
I was emailed some instructions - Rock up at 5:30pm with hair and make up already done (which means 'do nothing' in my book), no plain white shirts or outfits with stripes or dotty things, just neat and casual please. Eat before you arrive and be prepared to stay until 10:30pm.
At the studio it was all grit and no glamour. The same daggy big shed with shabby black curtains arrangement that the auditions were held in. There were a few familiar faces -
"Hey Nudie Rudie! I thought you'd get in, good onya!"
"Kiwi flight attendant who got told off for standing on the chairs - you'll kill 'em tonight!"
"Groovy grannie, well done!"
Apart from excitedly chattering amongst ourselves - and taking several loo trips via a stressed-looking sub-sub-sub-producer who'd escort us tiredly through the props department making sure never to let go of her clipboard and ergo pen - we pretty well sat there for nearly two hours.
By this stage - 7:30pm - my stomach was grumbling. Well, more like whingeing and crying, to be more precise. Yes, I'd eaten afternoon tea at 4pm (a banana and a Farmers Union Iced Coffee), but a bottle of 'You'll Love Coles' water and a handful of Fantales provided by the program wasn't quite doing the trick. It felt like the inside of my gut was slowly being squashed and sucked down into a swirling chasm of lethal digestive juices, churning and sinking amongst the acidic ocean like an underpaid extra from The PerfectStorm. I was seriously considering sneaking out across the road to the deli to grab a sandwich and a nice hot cup of...
.....but nope, too late. The contestant-wrangler arrived with several more clipboard, head-set and bum-belt wearing black-clad guys and said it was Time. Time to turn off our phones and leave them and our bags behind before we went into the studio. Time to finish signing our lives away in which we'd promised never ever to reveal the name of the show, what games were played or who the host was. Time to reapply any lip-gloss that had worn off. Time to Put Our Crazy Games Faces On and Be Highly Energetic and Ready For Anything! ....... Lordy, what had I signed on for; I'm the girl who blushes if she has to ask what ticket to buy at the train station!
The next three hours were a bit of a blur. There were many games of musical benches being played as various black-clad clipboard-clutchers shifted us around according to sex - "Boy Girl Boy Girl", colour "We can't have two bright pinks sitting next to each other," and, sadly, age. "You need to sit here next to Todd, he's only 21." Oh.
The host was indeed rather nervous and the cameramen kept bumping into each other as the Floor Manager choreographed angles and zooms for each movement onstage. More Fantales were thrown out by the warm-up guy, an amiable chap named KB who did a sterling job of keeping 50 extraverted contestants and another 200 sugared-up audience members under control, still interested in the proceedings and willing to remain in our seats and clap as wildly as we could when told to do so by the Floor Manager. My hands ached; as did my face because the mindless grin plastered on meant that my over-stretched cheeks were starting to push up into my eyes.
Out of respect for the contract I signed, I can't reveal what I saw, but the evening did feature:
- A live goat who didn't disgrace itself or the model it was working alongside;
- An outstandingly hunky male model who got the biggest round of applause for the night (and that was just because he was wearing bathers and sitting erotically astride a jet ski);
- At least ten human beings standing around wearing head phones, eyebrow piercings (maybe it's a job requirement) and belt battery packs for every person actually doing some active work such filming, adjusting lights, operating the space-agey set doors or retouching the host's make up and hair; and
- The realisation that too many Fantales leads to a stomach ache, excessive clapping, inane screaming and utterly useless 'advice' to playing contestants about which prize, door, number or box to select.
And if the night wasn't already proving to me that - should the show be picked up and actually be filmed ready for viewing I might want to run in the opposite direction or consider applying for the Witness Protection Program - there was another announcement.
An English producer held a microphone to tell us that he was planning to use the pilot to pitch to the UK networks. With his sixty-something, acorn-shaped body, husky voice, Ronnie Barker glasses and that North England, "Oooh errr Reverend" accent that indicated a background in Brighton Beach stand-up nights, he said, "Now I need to you all to get up and BOO-GIE."
"BURN BABY BURN......" Well buckle my head to the side of an ant hill and butter my face with jam...... !!!
I was trapped, hemmed in from both sides with no escape in front or behind. Several cameras were rapidly rolling up and back along the floor and via the steps and everyone around me was doing their best Kermit Arms impressions, shaking their funky butts, whooping it up, cracking imaginary whips, rattling their racks (the women) or thrusting unashamedly (the men - except the Sale of the Century guy, who did the nervous 'step together, step back' that was usually my shy standby).
There was nothing for it, so I danced. I whooped. And clapped to the beat. I even...... you must understand how difficult it is for me to type this ...... did the John Travolta Finger Point move.
(Nods empathetically in shame and acceptance) I know. In time the horrors will fade. They just have to.