It’s a done deal

Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - COVER STORY -

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.

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