It’s a done deal
Andrew O’Keefe has a confession to make. If it was up to him, The Chase Australia would never have made it to air.
O’Keefe was fresh off 11 seasons of Deal or No Deal when Channel 7 approached him about fronting a local version of the hit British quiz show.
Million Dollar Minute was struggling in the 5.30pm timeslot against Eddie McGuire’s Hot Seat and needed to be replaced.
The Chase had been a success in the UK since 2009, with spin-offs everywhere from China to Germany, Russia and Turkey.
Seven decided it was Australia’s turn — but O’Keefe wasn’t convinced.
“If anyone had listened to me, there would be no The Chase Australia,” O’Keefe laughs. “I didn’t think it would work. I remember having a conversation with a Seven executive in which I said, ‘Are you really sure you want this format — where’s the novelty?’ ” How wrong O’Keefe was. Since it premiered on September 14, the hour-long The Chase Australia has grabbed a big audience.
Viewers quickly warmed to the larger-than-life Chasers — Anne “The Governess” Hegarty, and Aussie champions Matt “Goliath” Parkinson, Brydon “The Shark” Coverdale, and Issa “The Supernerd” Schultz. Next year, Mark “The Beast” Labbett joins the fray.
Finally, Seven has a program that is putting some real heat on Hot Seat — and they plan to grab more viewers by airing two first-run episodes this week in prime time.
“It exploded from about day three and it still seems to be on fire,” O’Keefe says.
“There are some immediate standouts. The Governess is such a caricature, physically and emotionally. The Supernerd is a charmingly geeky boffin. It makes my job a lot easier because they’re the stars.”
I never thought I’d see O’Keefe back hosting a quiz show. When I spoke to him a couple of years ago he was thoroughly sick and tired of hosting Deal or No Deal.
Let’s not forget that O’Keefe is a former lawyer. His TV career started with comedy, alongside Chris Lilley on Seven’s sketch show Big Bite.
O’Keefe gets to use some brain power as co-host of Weekend Sunrise but Deal hardly stretched the intellect. So why another quiz show? “Having consulted my wife and, more importantly, my accountant, I thought it was a really good idea to start working again,” O’Keefe laughs.
“You’re right, I don’t know that I was rushing headlong back into that style of (quiz show) project but once I was up to speed on what I’d be doing I thought, why not.
“I feel flattered that Seven felt I was the only person in the stable that could manage the various aspects required for that gig. I always treated Deal as a vaudeville experience. There was a lot of improvisation involved. I could indulge my love of absurdity and nonsense. This is a more cerebral experience.” So now it is game on. 2016 will see a fierce battle between The Chase Australia and Hot Seat as Seven and Nine continue to slug it out for quiz show supremacy.
“I ran into Eddie a couple of months back and we had a great chat,” O’Keefe says. “He has got the same kind of Catholic outlook on life that I grew up with so we’re naturally friendly.
“But he’s also my competition. We’re ( The Chase Australia) doing extremely well and I guess that’s largely come at the expense of Hot Seat.
“Eddie is a seasoned and fierce campaigner. I have no doubt he’s in the war room now planning the counter attack.”
“It exploded from about day three and it still seems
to be on fire”
ANDREW O’KEEFE ON HIS NEW SHOW
THE CHASE AUSTRALIA, CHANNEL 7, SUNDAY AND WEDNESDAY, 7PM
Andrew O’Keefe needs his wits about him on his new show, The Chase Australia.