I guess my fascination with being a contestant on a game show started when I was a kid. A family friend won a shiny new car on the original Price is Right (then hosted by Bill Cullen.) She drove it over to our house to show it off, and I was hooked. I thought, “Why not me?” Of course there was a minimum age requirement for these shows so I’d have to wait.

As soon as I graduated from college, I took a day off from job hunting to try out for a few shows. At that time most of the game shows were shot in New York, and since I lived in a suburb, I could hit a bunch on the same day.

My first stop was my favorite show, Jeopardy. (The reason my head is filled with so much useless information.) Back then it was hosted by Art Fleming, and the board was not electronic. Some backstage person would pull out a piece of cardboard to reveal the answers. (It was funny when they got stuck. Technology ruined that part of the show forever.)

I checked in and was given one of their random tests, which had different categories, hoping I’d end up with subjects I knew. I sat at a desk and smiled as I started to answer questions and thought I had lucked out with the categories. Sports, movies, politics, books. And then my heart sank when I saw the last category.


I was embarrassed being Italian and not knowing a thing about operas, opera singers, the plots of operas. Sure, I had record albums of all the Italian singers; Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valli, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin. (Martin’s real last name was Crocetti and Darin’s was Cassotto. The old Italians hated that they had changed their names.) But no opera singers. My parents weren’t into opera either.

Anyway, I answered every question in the first categories and left all the opera questions blank since I didn’t want to take a wild guess and look like an idiot. I handed in my test and waited for the clerk to score it, but I knew I was toast. After a few minutes she shook her head. “I’m sorry.”

The fat lady had sung.

Whatever, I was off to try out for Three on a Match. One of the customers at my Dad’s store had recently been on the show and said it was fun, but he didn’t win. His “lovely parting gift” was a case of Rice-a-Roni. The poor guy got four dozen boxes of the stuff in the mail.

Time for another test. I was handed one with 35 questions. No specific categories, just basic knowledge. And the questions weren’t remotely as difficult as the ones on the Jeopardy test. I knew I’d only missed one, so I felt confident as I handed in my test to the woman doing the scoring. She quickly went through my answers and only circled the one I missed. She looked up and shook her head. “You got 34 correct. I’m sorry.”

I couldn’t believe it. “You need a perfect score to get on this show?”

“No, you needed to get between 28 and 32. We want average people.”

So much for reading a lot.

Later, game shows moved to California, so I figured my quest had reached an end. Decades passed.

But then I found out Who Wants to be a Millionaire was holding tryouts in New York on a day I’d be in town. It was the hot show, and the prize was off the charts. Who wouldn’t want to be a millionaire? I’d done pretty well answering questions as a viewer. And I had my phone-a-friend in mind, my old buddy Denny who was a walking encyclopedia. Prospective contestants had to make an appointment, so my wife and I did so.

This time it was simply a one-on-one interview. No questions, no tests. Even though I’d watched the show a lot I had no idea what they were looking for. But we each had a pleasant talk with a staffer and were told we’d be notified in the mail one way or the other.

Of course it was “the other.” We would not be millionaires.

Again, I figured I was done.

Until my sister-in-law told us that Family Feud was holding tryouts in Atmore. In this case you needed a group of five, and she needed a fifth. I hadn’t seen the show since Richard Dawson was the host and, again, had no idea what they were looking for.

When we arrived at Wind Creek Casino which was hosting the tryouts, I knew we were not what they were looking for.

Groups were dressed in costumes, or had themes, or wore matching shirts. People were bouncing off the walls like they had an I.V. of Red Bull. I watched several groups try out, answering questions from a guy playing the host while jumping up and down and acting so sweet you’d get a cavity. And I realized they wanted the kinds of people who bounce off walls.

We were not those kinds of people.

Again, we were told we’d get something in the mail if we’d made the cut, but alas, it was not to be.

So that’s probably it for me as far as trying out for game shows. Though if one happens to have tryouts nearby, I might give it a shot.

Hey, with food prices so high these days, who couldn’t use 48 boxes of Rice-a-Roni?

Randy Tatano lives in Brewton and is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.

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