When it comes to game show hosting, Andrew O’Keefe is a stickler for getting things right. With big money on the line, the master of ceremonies has a pivotal role in proceedings.
So he was kicking himself for slipping up on the day I visited The Chase, by accidentally giving an answer to an incorrect question from Chaser ‘Goliath.’
“There are 2 fast money rounds. Each contestant gets their cash builder round. When they get an answer wrong in the cash builder round, you give them the right answer. Then in the final round if the Chaser gets it wrong, you just stop the clock and throw it to the contestants,” O’Keefe explains.
“This is out 9th show in three days and sometimes you forget which round you’re in. So I gave away the answer –which is the cardinal sin of this format!”
But in gameshow-land fairness is everything. Producers have contingency plans for every slip-up.
“The rulebook covers every eventuality. It’s bigger than the Bible. The rulebook says we replace the question with a new question. The Chaser must answer it incorrectly. He just wears it, and sometimes it looks a little embarrassing for the Chaser.
“I feel bad for everyone. There’s a chance the team could have got the original one, and won’t get the next. There’s also the chance it will throw the Chaser off their game and they are a very competitive mob.
“They love being the knowledgeable ones.”
Since launching in September 2015 as an adaptation of the UK original, the Seven series has had Nine’s Hot Seat on the run. Nine has been forced to extend their show to an hour, including confusingly messing with its own format, to try and hook viewers earlier. Nine is rumoured to be on the hunt for a replacement.
“You get a slightly different audience from 5 – 5:30 than you get from 5:30 – 6. Some people don’t get home until half past 5. What we’ve found is that the ones who come at 5 tend to stick around until 6, who are just augmented by a new bunch at 5:30,” he continues.
“It’s one of those shows where you don’t need to have seen the premise to understand the outcome. It doesn’t matter what time you tune in: it’s still going to be exciting, it’s still going to teach you something.
“It will engage you at every step of the process, hopefully.”
There are 5 Chasers pitted against a team of contestants. Goliath (Matt Parkinson), The Shark (Brydon Coverdale), The Supernerd (Issa Schultz) and Brits The Governess (Anne Hegerty) and The Beast (Mark Labbett). The mix of characters and general knowledge has driven the show to success.
“The format generally is clever in a way that I didn’t understand when I took the gig. It’s ostensibly a quiz show and we love the fact that it celebrates knowledge, much more than it celebrates cash,” he explains.
“But it feels like a sport because you have teams, you’re battling it out against an acknowledged champ, you’re working against the clock –it feels sporting as much as it feels intellectual. Those two things in balance make for a really exciting, entertaining show.
“It’s never over until the final 10 seconds of the programme. That’s great for executives, obviously. And the audience, I think, has really embraced and become enamoured of, our Chasers.
“They do an excellent job in projecting what are, to an extent, characters. But characters built very much on their own true identities.”
O’Keefe, who also hosts Weekend Sunrise, has been a go-to game show man for Seven since Deal or No Deal in 2003, along with other outings Dragon’s Den and The Rich List.
“Game show hosting is showmanship. It’s razzamatazz. But it’s also about relationships. People have to trust you to be kind with them, to be fair with them, and give a hoot about them,” he suggests.
“The worst mistake you can make hosting a show is disinterest or insincerity. I’m lucky because I do find all of our guests interesting. If you ask the right questions they’re always interesting.
“But if you don’t annunciate or articulate correctly, someone will mistake a word, then you’ve blown the question for them. For the first time ever in television (for me) I do vocal warm-ups.”
Yet while Deal or No Deal was a perennial afternoon hit for Seven, O’Keefe admitting to tiring of the format towards the end of its run. So how does he muster enthusiasm for The Chase?
“We opened 52,000 cases, so mining the mine with new ways to say the same thing can get a little fatiguing,” he admits.
“This, comparatively speaking, is an amble in the park, in the sense that half of my material is written for me. It consists of the questions. So I’m not constantly improvising to say the same thing.
“You’ve got the questions to rely on, you have the relationship with your Chasers to rely on and you have your guests. So between those three things conversation flows naturally.
“And you’re not revving up 250 screaming maniacs for 9 hours a day.
“So I find this a very congenial work pace. I love it.
“It’s naturally quite stimulating, because it’s interesting stuff. I really feel like, with the benefit of the brainiacs at our disposal, that I learn something every time I come to work.”
The Chase airs 5pm weekdays on Seven.