FIN­GERS ON THE BUZZER

Early evening quiz shows will hog the prime time spot­light in Aus­tralia in 2015, mean­ing ri­val tele­vi­sion net­works will go head to head as they strive for the per­fect ve­hi­cle to drive up their rat­ings

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TV - COLIN VICK­ERY

IT is buzzers at 20 paces as Chan­nels Seven, Nine and Ten gear up for war with Mil­lion Dol­lar Minute, Mil­lion­aire Hot and Fam­ily Feud. For­get the up­com­ing 7.30pm re­al­ity stoush be­tween My Kitchen Rules, The Block Triple Threat and I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!

In­stead, the most hard­fought TV bat­tle of 2015 will be be­tween ri­val quiz shows.

Th­ese early evening pro­grams play a cru­cial role in de­ter­min­ing each net­work’s rat­ings for­tunes.

The Project has been on a rat­ings rise since Ten took a chance on re­viv­ing Fam­ily Feud with Grant Denyer at 6pm last July. Ten would love that trend to con­tin­ueafter sign­ing Waleed Aly to host The Project along­side Car­rie Bick­more and Peter Hel­liar.

And, after a slow start, Seven has gained trac­tion at 5.30pm with Mil­lion Dol­lar Minute, hosted by Si­mon Reeve. It’s now locked in a fierce bat­tle for supremacy with Hot Seat.

Nine started the as­cen­dancy of its 6pm news thanks to the strong per­for­mance of Hot Seat, hosted by Ed­die McGuire, which has screened at 5.30pm since 2005.

Back when An­tiques Road­show aired in the 5.30pm times­lot, Nine’s news was on the ropes.

“The lead-in to the news is ob­vi­ously very im­por­tant,” McGuire says. “The suc­cess of Hot Seat has been huge in help­ing Nine’s news, there’s no doubt about that.”

The think­ing is: Get your early evening quiz show right and you help your news and cur­rent af­fairs rat­ings. Get your news and cur­rent af­fairs right and the rest of the evening’s pro­gram­ming has the best chance of suc­cess. View­ers will hope­fully flow from one pro­gram to the next.

That is why it was such a big gam­ble for Seven to launch Mil­lion Dol­lar Minute in Septem­ber 2013.

The show, which re­placed the once-suc­cess­ful Deal or No Deal, was a Seven orig­i­nal. That made it an un­known quan­tity for au­di­ences.

Mil­lion Dol­lar Minute stum­bled early when orig­i­nal host Denyer left the show after just two months cit­ing vague “fam­ily rea­sons”.

Re­place­ment host Reeve, who had fronted kids’ quiz show It’s Aca­demic, was thrown in at the deep end.

“The big thing about th­ese (early evening quiz) shows is that they are like putting on a comfy old jacket (for the au­di­ence),” Reeve says.

“They have to feel right. That process takes a long time.

“What you are ask­ing of the au­di­ence is (for the tele­vi­sion show) to be part of what is hap­pen­ing around the home at that time of night.

“That is a big di­vide to cross (but) I think we’ve crossed that di­vide. Peo­ple ac­cept the for­mat now and ac­cept me as host and now it be­comes an arm wres­tle (with Hot Seat).”

The beauty of quiz shows is that you can tweak them. The half-hour Hot Seat evolved out of the longer-for­mat Who Wants to Be A Mil­lion­aire? which de­buted on Nine in 1999. Seven has also tin­kered with Mil­lion Dol­lar Minute, adding $75,000 and $300,000 safety nets to en­cour­age win­ning con­tes­tants to keep on play­ing.

“If you call the show Mil­lion Dol­lar Minute then view­ers want to see peo­ple play­ing for a mil­lion bucks or near enough,” Reeve says.

“We’ve had three $500,000 win­ners now – Dou­gal Richard­son, Jonathan Ma­her and Pierre Sut­cliffe. The au­di­ence love to invest in that jour­ney.”

Fam­ily Feud doesn’t pay big prize money; it is a for­mat that is nearly 40 years old in Aus­tralia. Hosts of past in­car­na­tions in­clude Tony Bar­ber, Daryl Somers, Bert New­ton and Rob Brough.

That hasn’t fazed Aussie view­ers, who have em­braced the re­boot on Ten.

But it did give Denyer a few sleep­less nights.

“The fact that it ( Fam­ily Feud) was an ‘old favourite’ was scar­ing me be­cause that can­not al­ways be suc­cess­ful,” Denyer ad­mits.

Dou­gal Richard­son savours his record-break­ing $535,000 win­ning mo­ment on

Mil­lion Dol­lar Minute.

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