How to get on a TV game show
I love TV game shows – if you want to take your comping a step further, there’s no better thrill! And despite what you might think, it’s not that difficult to get on a UK TV game show or quiz show – especially a brand new one. I’ve recorded 8 game shows and in this post I’ll share my tips on the application and recording process!
When I recorded Ejector Seat I found out they interviewed 3,000 applicants nationwide and 300 of them appeared on the show – that’s a 1-in-10 chance of getting on. Also, there’s no need to panic – it really isn’t as scary as it looks. Believe it or not, I used to be terrified of doing anything in public – it was when I got into comping I realised there were prizes out there that could only be won if you were brave enough to call up a radio DJ or appear on TV.
My first taste of the limelight was when I accompanied friends to a recording of The Price is Right and I was chosen from the audience to ‘come on down’. Actually, that’s a lie – they asked ‘Diane Coke’ to come on down. ‘I don’t know anyone of that name!’ I huffed (being called Diane is my pet hate!) but I was given a shove and soon found myself rushing down the stairs, waving my arms in a wild manner. As for correctly estimating the price of a rocking horse and small caravan, well, I was hopeless. I was one of the first names to be called, but lost every round so I didn’t get to play any of the cheesy games. Despite leaving empty-handed, the experience of being on TV gave me such a thrill I just knew I had to do it again…
Over the next few years I applied for several shows via websites and newspaper ads, and have recorded:
- Supermarket Sweep – where my good comping friend Kathy & I shared a £398 win (the pink Supermarket Sweep sweatshirt was more of a win to me than the cash)
- Are you smarter than a ten year old? – where I was delighted to win £7500 towards my wedding and honeymoon
- 1 vs 100 – in this National Lottery show, only one person from the hundred contestants gets a chance to play for the cash. I was sitting next to a lively transvestite – perhaps unsurprisingly, s/he was the ‘chosen one’!
- Divided – the most traumatic of the lot, where like idiots we argued away most of our £100K+ prize fund and I took £2,720 home
- Dirty Rotten Cheater – hosted by Brian Conley, this was one of a flurry of ‘mean’ gameshows that surfaced in the 2000s after the success of GoldenBalls. I was the ‘dirty rotten cheater’ and didn’t cover my tracks well enough, and was the only one of the 5 contestants who went home empty handed!
- Word Play – I went on this because my childhood hero Jenny Powell was hosting it! It was recorded on the cheap in a tiny studio, but was fun.
- Tipping Point – I made a right mess of this one and won nothing (read all about it in What’s it like on Tipping Point?)
- Winning Combination – this was fun to record, but I was the first contestant to be eliminated as my buzzer skills simply weren’t up to scratch!
After completing about 50 application forms and attending 20 or so auditions, you do start to get a feel for what the production team are looking for!
Here are my top tips on getting on a TV game show:
1. Look for contestant calls
Here’s the best places to find details of UK game shows and quiz shows that are currently looking for contestants:
- Current contestant calls for UK game shows (my own list on SuperLucky)
- Be On Screen
- BBC shows
- ITV shows
- Star Now
- Lost in TV
- Applause Store
- @officialcastme on Twitter
- Contestant Collective on Facebook
- Film and TV Casting Calls on Facebook
- Newspaper adverts – you’ll still see small contestant call ads in the Mirror, Metro, etc.
If you spot a good show advertised, send an email (you usually get an immediate automated response with an attached entry form) or complete an online application as soon as you can. The team will start calling people immediately (long before the stated application deadline) to arrange auditions.
A good tip is to apply for the new shows – they get far fewer applications as people aren’t actively looking to apply. Some of these shows might not even have a name yet!
You might see requests for people to film a one-off ‘pilot’ – this isn’t broadcast and may or may not involve a cash prize or payment. I’ve recorded pilots for Name that Tune with Frank Skinner, and Scrabble with Jeff Stelling – but neither show was commissioned for a series.
2. Find a partner to apply with
Lots of shows need pairs – Million Pound Drop, Pointless and many of the BBC Lottery shows. Ask your family and friends if any of them would be interested – or post a message on Facebook like I did! After responding to my Facebook request, my friend Sammy and I met for the first time at an audition for Timeline – although we were shortlisted, unfortunately the show didn’t actually go ahead. If possible, pair up with someone who has different strengths to you so you can cover all topics. Choose carefully – I have been to many auditions where you can immediately tell the ‘partner’ doesn’t want to be there, and they never make it past the first stage of the audition. I applied for Supermarket Sweep with my boss at work, Kathy, and we had such a fun day!
3. Spend time on your application form answers
Game show application forms often feature similar questions. I copy these into a document (I use Google Drive, but you could use Microsoft Word or a Notes app!) and then I can easily adapt the same answers for different applications. Get organised by preparing answers to these:
- What qualifications do you have?
- How competitive are you (give an example)?
- What’s an unusual fact about you, or party trick?
- What would you spend the prize money on?
- What are your pet hates?
- What are your best and worst quiz topics?
- What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?
- What are your hobbies?
- Which TV shows have you previously appeared on (with broadcast dates)
Make yourself sound as interesting as you can! The production team receive thousands of application forms, so you really need to make yours stand out by including some funny or memorable answers and stories.
If you’re a comper, don’t go into too much detail about the prizes you’ve won – most people won’t want to see successful compers winning yet more prizes on TV. In the past, production teams have been interested in my unusual wins like a butler for Glastonbury, or my Dad’s weight in chocolate – so focus on the quirky and fun prizes. Try not to send a passport style photo, but find one where you’re smiling naturally. For our successful Supermarket Sweep application, my friend Kathy and I actually had a photo taken in Tesco with a trolley!
If it’s a new show, Google the name to find out more about it – praising the format should get you Brownie points. If it’s already on air, watch a few episodes on YouTube.
4. Be enthusiastic during the phone interview
Be prepared to get a phone call almost as soon as you’ve sent off your application – sometimes the team will already be in the middle of auditions and will want to find out quickly if you’re suitable. When they call, be enthusiastic and chatty (you may want to leave the room if you’re somewhere public). Remember to tell them why you want to appear on the show (hopefully you’ve researched the format online).
They will usually ask you a few general knowledge questions. YOU DON’T NEED TO GET THESE RIGHT – in most cases, it’s better if you DON’T get them all right. Know-It-All brainboxes on quiz shows are boring, unless you’re an Egghead or on the Chase. That’s why Who Wants to Be A Millionaire eventually started auditioning and featuring celebrities when the standard line up of middle-aged male quiz addicts got dull. At the end of the phone call if you’ve impressed them they will invite you to audition – it can be very short notice!
5. Relax during the the audition
If you get an invite to audition (and well done on getting this far) it could well be on a Zoom call! Since the pandemic, real life auditions are at a minimum. If you do go along to an audition, it will usually be at a hotel in your nearest large city and last a couple of hours – you won’t get travel expenses. Some auditions have hundreds of people, and some just a handful.
My advice for the audition would be to make yourself look presentable, and if possible wear something to make you memorable (an extreme example of this is the drag queen I sat next to for 1 vs 100 – unsurprisingly s/he was chosen to be a contestant!). If it’s a Zoom audition, instruct your family not to disturb your call!
Think carefully in advance about what to say about yourself at the audition and practice a one minute introduction – you need to stand out, but you also need the viewers to be able to relate to you, so try and have a laugh!
For a real life audition, get there early and chat to fellow contestants – it will help you relax and you might even get tips from some of the pros who’ve been on lots of shows. Usually you will do a run through of the show, a written quiz and interviewed privately on camera. Again, it’s not a great idea to answer all the questions correctly even if you do know them – if it’s a multiple choice question, it’s important to talk through the elimination of incorrect answers before giving your answer (even if you know it straight away) – we see this on TV shows all the time, and it’s so viewers at home have a chance to answer from their sofa!
I’ve attended three Zoom auditions – two of them were in a group of about 15, and the Winning Combination audition was just a 1:1 call. I much preferred the 1:1 call.
6. Be flexible with your recording dates
After the audition, double check the filming dates with family and friends. If you get the call or email to say you’ve made the shortlist, offer as many possible filming dates as you can. For some shows they don’t know how long the filming will take, so you may need to keep 2 or 3 days free. You may be asked to be a ‘standby’ contestant and if you can get time off work this is well worth doing – most standbys will eventually get to be on the show and will have the advantage of knowing the show and set inside-out. If the studios are more than an hour or two away, you’ll usually be offered overnight accommodation at a hotel near the studio, and given travel and limited meal expenses.
7. Get your outfit ready!
A few days after shortlisting, lucky contestants will get a call or email with their recording date, and accommodation and travel details will follow soon afterwards (these expenses will be covered). You’ll be briefed on what to bring – in most cases, you’ll need 3 or 4 changes of outfit to ensure you don’t clash with the set or the other contestants. My ‘don’t’ list for Ejector Seat included spots, stripes, patterns, black, white, blue, skirts or heels…. If you don’t bring anything suitable you’ll have to wear something from the production wardrobe – when I recorded ‘Are You Smarter…’ my fellow contestant wasn’t impressed when he had to wear a bright pink polo shirt!
8. Swot up before recording the show
If you have the time, you may want to swot up – either on general knowledge or puzzle formats. Check YouTube or Google to see if you can find any similar quiz styles online, watch quiz shows on TV, play a game of Trivial Pursuit, go to pub quizzes – and download free quizzing apps to your smartphone. Ask your family to read out fast paced quiz questions too – my son loves doing this. Buy yourself some fun buzzers on Amazon (my affiliate link) to practice your ‘fastest finger first’ skills too!
9. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame
On the big day, try and relax. You’ll spend a lot of time in the Green Room with the other contestants – chat as much as possible so you’re comfortable with them and can have a laugh during the breaks in filming. Appearing on TV is (usually!) a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you can tell stories about for years to come, so savour every moment. If you fluff an answer it’s embarrassing, but it makes you human. If you’re talking to the presenter, use their name. Tell short, funny stories and don’t waffle nervously – try and be natural, as if you’re amongst friends. It gets easier with every show – honestly!
If you decide to go onto social media while the show is being broadcast, take the comments with a pinch of salt. There’s a few people who use Twitter for the sole purpose to criticise people who are on TV and they will have plenty of insults to throw!
10. Be a graceful loser
Winning isn’t the be all and end all. Each gameshow gives you valuable television experience and a better chance of getting on another one. Keep hunting out and applying for more shows, and hopefully eventually you’ll be a winner.
Hopefully this should give you a few pointers for how to get on a TV game show or quiz show – good luck, and let me know how you get on!
Also see my post of UK Contestant Calls for details of current shows you can apply to!