Anne turns the tables
Anne Hegerty was about to lose her home when she signed up for The Chase, Steve Kilgallon writes.
It’s a 60-minute quiz show, highly repetitive, filmed overseas, presented by a minor soap star and, by the time it reaches us, some two years old.
And yet every week, The Chase performs. When audience ratings company Nielsen releases its top 20 most watched programmes of the week, there it is. For the month before this story was filed, it ranked 13th, 13th, 14th and 13th in those weekly lists.
This doesn’t remotely surprise Anne Hegerty, one of the five ‘‘chasers’’, quiz nerds who each day hunt down a panel of four regular pub-quizzing Joes and, almost always, deprive them of any prize money while former Coronation St actor Bradley Walsh watches on and guffaws.
Nor does it surprise her that my 9-month-old twins are avid fans, The Chase usually being on in the background at tea time (it’s the repetitive musical stings that hook them, I reckon). She’s been sent quite a lot of videos of babies watching enraptured. Oh look, OK, and I’m a fan of the show, too.
In part, The Chase‘s rampant success probably doesn’t shock Hegerty because she’s already seen the impact of the show on her own life. She was a beneficiary, on the brink of losing her home, when it turned her into the sort of celebrity who spends her holiday season doing panto.
She’s autistic, she says, and that makes it difficult for her to multi-task. She was a freelance proof reader, and pretty good at it, but not so good at doing all the accompanying admin work. ‘‘I just simply couldn’t keep it going and the result was I wasn’t paying my bills, but I was trying not to go on benefits on the grounds that I just thought that was sort of giving up. I wasn’t giving up.’’
But she was at risk of losing her Housing Association [a voluntary social housing body] flat due to unpaid rent until one of their staff members visited. ‘‘She was stepping over piles of unopened mail and realised we had a problem. She said ‘we will fix this, I will get someone to help you’.’’
A social worker called Jeff McKenzie – ‘‘He’s wonderful, I love him’’ – duly arrived, sorted out her bills, secured her a benefit called Disability Living Allowance and taught her to cope. Then she learned of a ‘‘high level quizzing circuit’’ and joined the world of elite quizzers, populated by Eggheads cast members and Mastermind contestants, just in time to
Silence, 8.30pm, Saturday, Rialto
Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson star in Martin Scorsese’s 17th century-set drama about two Portuguese Jesuit priests who travel to Japan in an attempt to locate their mentor. ‘‘Less showy than The Last Temptation Of Christ, more gripping than Kundun, the third part of Scorsese’s unofficial ‘religious’ trilogy is beautifully made, staggeringly ambitious and utterly compelling,’’ wrote Empire magazine’s Ian Freer.
After the Storm, 8.30pm, Monday, Rialto
A 2016 Japanese drama about a private detective who, after the death of his father, struggles to find child support money and reconnect with his son and audition for the second season of Chase.
She’s still on Disability Living Allowance – and very clear on explaining what it actually is, clearly because she’s had some stick for still claiming it despite her success (it’s not means-tested, and it is to assist people with disabilities to live everyday lives). Because she is now something of a celebrity, ‘‘it is difficult to go down the street without being recognised. It’s weird and interesting. There are times when you’re not absolutely crazy about it... but I hope I never take it for granted.’’
Hegerty’s in-show character – the matronly Governess – has translated comfortably to pantomime. She originally imagined her as a cross between Caroline Aherne’s comedy grandmother Mrs Merton and Harry Potter‘s Dolores Umbridge – ‘‘a bit creepy’’.
‘‘But a friend of mine said ‘you won’t be able to sustain that’, so I went down more of the standard scary route and, in recent years, at least one American viewer has compared me to Professor McGonagle from the Harry Potter films. So McGonagle, not Umbridge: I’ll take that.’’ It’s left her wearing expensive, ‘‘but stupendously unflattering’’ retro schoolmarm outfits she’s rather sick of.
Otherwise, no complaints. ‘‘I’d love to think it can go on and on, and the head of ITV said to Bradley [Walsh] recently that he thinks it hasn’t hit its peak yet.’’
There are two reasons why the show works, she says: the format, and Walsh. The ex-wife. ‘‘The film-making is so exquisite, and the acting so calibrated, it sticks with you,’’ wrote The Hollywood Reporter‘s Deborah Young. ‘‘It’s straightforward, you can tune in any time, see what point we’ve got to and what must have happened. And everyone loves Bradley. He’s so good. I can’t imagine we could have had anyone better.’’
Hegerty says Walsh’s apparent quizquestion ignorance is a front. ‘‘He’s a trained engineer, and there are no stupid engineers. The only stupid engineer is probably dead by now. There are times when I am pretty sure he is more likely to know the answer than the contestant or me.’’
Walsh does appear be the vital difference between the British version and the vastly inferior Australian imitation, which also screens here and features Hegerty and fellow Chaser Mark ‘‘The Beast’’ Labbett, but with a different host (there’s also US, German and Russian versions).
When we talk, Hegerty is home in Manchester, northern England, and engaged in a Facebook messenger conversation with Labbett, in Sydney filming the Australian show. It’s mainly about statistics: Labbett, a former maths teacher, maintains an extensive statistical history of the Chasers’ respective performances, right down to how many ‘‘push backs’’ they’ve sustained (where a contestant answers a question right that they’ve got wrong).
This leads us to the Celebrity Chase, which means a trade-off for the Chasers between the distraction of filming before a studio audience who moments earlier have been psyched up by a warm-up man encouraging them to sing The Way to Amarillo,
Finding Vivian Maier, 8.30pm, Tuesday, Maori TV
A 2013 documentary about a French nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one of the most accomplished street photographers. ‘‘More connect-the-dots detective thriller than traditional doc, John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s revelatory riddle of a film unmasks a brilliant photographer who hid in plain sight,’’ wrote Entertainment Weekly‘s Chris Nashawatay.
Hockney, 8.30pm, Thursday, Rialto
This 2014 documentary sees the charismatic British artist take director Randall Wright on an exclusive tour of his archives and into his studio, where he still versus the chance to chat to famous people in the green room.
Here the usual rules are subverted and it appears as if the celebs are lobbed up easier questions to facilitate the winning of prize money for charity. ‘‘We are pretty clear that there is a general desire for the celebrity teams to win,’’ Hegerty begins, then pauses. ‘‘Oh dear, I don’t know how to say this. Try to think how to be diplomatic, have a swig of coffee [she does].’’
Earlier, she’d been telling me about how competitive they all are. Caffeinerevived, she says: ‘‘So I think the thing is the celebrities have got to be willing to come on, and nobody wants to look really stupid. But I promise we are playing to the best of our abilities.’’ I believe her. ❚
The Chase, TVNZ1, weekdays, 5pm.
paints seven days a week. It also looks back at David Hockney’s formative years in the British Pop Art scene and his experience of being a gay man as the Aids crisis took hold, as well as his years working in California. ‘‘An amiable, agreeable study,’’ wrote The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw.
Episodes, 9.30pm, Thursday, SoHo
As the fifth and final season of this critically-acclaimed comedy opens, Matt’s (Matt Le Blanc) game show is a runaway hit, while Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) have to endure watching Sean’s loathsome ex-partner destroy their latest project. ‘‘As sneakily ruthless as anything on television,’’ wrote IndieWire‘s Ben Travers. – James Croot
Chase star Anne Hegerty: hates the costume.
Anne Hegerty with The Chase host Bradley Walsh, front, and fellow Chasers Mark Labbett, back and Shaun Wallace, right.
Liam Neeson stars in Martin Scorsese’s Silence.