He’s been in the TV studio for more game shows and variety than he cares to remember, but John Deeks says studio recordings have a big problem these days: they struggle to get studio audiences.
There was once a time when going to a Television studio was a thrill -when places like HSV7 and GTV9 were like Hollywood coming to town. Enthralled families would line-up around the corner to see big-name stars up close and personal and marvel at the way the magic was brought to life in front of the cameras.
Now it’s a struggle says the man regarded as the Voice of the Seven network.
“You can’t get an audience anymore. Eddie McGuire is doing promos in the News offering $1000 for audiences to come along,” he tells TV Tonight.
“People are too busy.”
Deeks says it’s a bit easier for ‘event’ specials or variety shows, but smaller operations such as game shows or panels are doing it tough.
“And you’re not even talking about a big audience. Especially if it’s five days a week, forget about it.
“We were finding it very hard at the end of Wheel of Fortune to get an audience. Deal or No Deal you wouldn’t have a problem because a block would always become part of the show.
“But if they’re in the dark and they’re only there to clap, forget it!
“Now we say ‘Thank you for coming’ as opposed to ‘Aren’t you lucky to be here?’”
John Deeks has been with Seven for 41 years, and his voice is synonymous with the network. In addition to voicing thousands of network promos, he has been announcer and / or warm-up man for a parade of game shows, including The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud.
“I’ve read the News, I’ve been the weekend weather boy. I worked with Ernie Sigley on Saturday Night Live. I did the helicopter reports for the football -it’s been a kaleidoscope of things!” he laughs,
“I’ve had 34 years of doing game shows, going back to Wheel of Fortune with John (Burgess) and Adriana (Xenides), in Adelaide, and in Sydney with Rob Elliott.
“I hosted Family Feud in Queensland. Rob Brough went on to read the news so I replaced him. But the Olympics happened in Spain and they dropped it!
“But the consistent has been working on Tonight Live, Dancing with the Stars, Deal or No Deal, all the game shows, warm-ups for Acropolis Now, all of them.”
He notes working on Deal or No Deal as a recent highlight.
“It was 11 years that we did that show. Andrew O’Keefe is such a consistent, professional performer. It was sensational,” he recalls.
“I loved doing Tonight Live when it was Live in the early days because it was dangerous. They were so loose with the format, trying new things. Getting the audience involved was very important and making sure they were ‘there’ every single time.”
Digital technology has since allowed him to provide voice-overs at short notice from anywhere, whether home, car, or even baby-changing rooms in airports.
Yet in a fickle business ‘Deesky’ is also an industry survivor and team player.
“I think that’s how you stay employed: by being versatile. You have to be able to sniff the breeze a lot. I’m doing a lot of work for the (Seven-owned) West Australian Newspapers,” he explains.
“I do stuff for WA, South Australia, NSW, Queensland, and here in Victoria. It’s the whole network. I’m the ‘go-to’ guy thank God. But I’ve made it that way. I’ve really made sure they know I am available.
“They can call me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If someone passes away at 3:00 in the morning and they need to recut the Sunrise promo, you can call me, I will fix it.”
It also helps not to be in the centre of the spotlight, where hosts are hired and fired as quickly as shows are axed. His cheerful demeanour and positive energy makes him a favourite of execs and producers. Saying ‘Yes’ rather than ‘No’ has served him well.
“Don’t be a problem for them. ‘Get Deeksy to do it’ and it will happen. ‘Call Deeksy, he’ll get the voice-over done!” he says proudly.
“You have to be disciplined and say ‘Yes I can fix that for you.’ If you (complain) they say ‘He’s a problem.’ I’ve seen talent go into meetings with executives and say ‘I don’t know if I want to do that anymore,’ they say ‘Ok fine, thanks for coming.’
“I’m 67 and loving every minute of it. I hope I will continue to do it for many years to come.”