It took 20 years of game show episodes, but finally Eddie McGuire was able to get Hot Seat on the road.
COVID 19 restrictions in a Melbourne lockdown ensured 6 weeks of episodes were filmed on the Gold Coast late last year, thanks to a deal with Tourism Queensland. But the move was always temporary.
“The Queensland Government just could not have been any better. They were rapt with the exposure.
“Part of the strategy we had going to Queensland was to be able to bring it back to Melbourne. If it went to Sydney it probably wasn’t going to come back,” he tells TV Tonight.
“But the facilities were absolutely first class. The people were great. But more importantly, we were able to take a good slab of people from here and use a great slab of people in Queensland. What was even better, we did a deal where we had internships for people at the Queensland University media courses. I think two or three people got jobs out of it.
“It took five or six semi-trailers to get it up there, with the lighting grid and everything. So it was a big logistical turnaround. Our crew had to go into lockdown for two weeks.
“The only thing was one episode didn’t record. So thank God, they didn’t win the million bucks. It was a $1,000 win. We got them all back and we did another show.”
McGuire maintains filming in Queensland has also been good for Brisbane ratings. Yet while Hot Seat leads on the East Coast, Adelaide and Perth loyalty to Seven’s The Chase stems from deep city ties.
“We suffer a bit because Adelaide and Perth are dominated by Channel Seven and their news. Perth in particular, it’s Kerry Stokes’ town, and he does a great job. (Seven has) the Telethon, AFL football in those two particular states, and the fact (Nine) were never really part of the Packer network. We only had the East Coast. We also know the East Coast is where it’s at for revenue and we’re killing them.
“But Andrew’s show is a ripper, and they’re both doing really good business, both in the top margin every night.”
The Chase also moved to Sydney during the pandemic where it now remains.
21 years since he first hosted Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? McGuire is now ready to lock into 3 primetime specials which revive the classic game show format.
“This show is one of the most successful worldwide hits. Paul Smith, Chris Tarrant, Regis Philbin, now Jeremy Clarkson. Slumdog Millionaire won the Academy Award. Quiz the (miniseries) has been great. So that whole zeitgeist has actually turned itself into a major worldwide franchise.”
McGuire is still drawn to a format which he believes can change lives for its luckiest winners.
“I really enjoy the show. For someone who has worked all his life, $100,000 is going to make a huge difference for him. We did record on Monday, and we had a guy win $250,000. One guy nearly aced the whole thing.
“When it’s like that, it’s just a joy. You’re dealing with people, learning their stories. Everyone’s got a story, as they say, in the Naked City.”
Nine will screen one Millionaire special with frontline and emergency workers, plus two celebrity specials. A fourth special with sports stars will air later this year. Having hosted more episodes than he cares to remember, McGuire also has strong ties to the Nine crew.
“Largely the camera guys are the same people who shot the very first Footy Show with me 26 years ago. Archie Sodeman, our floor manager, was with me at Channel 10. (Producer) Michael Whyte auditioned me for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire when he was at Grundys. We had to put a tranquillizer in Kerri-Anne’s drink!” he laughs.
“Without sounding obsequious, we have got such a gun group of people in our crew that it’s made so easy.”
It was also a year of challenges for McGuire with a trip to the US resulting in a mysterious illness.
“I thought I might have had it, to be honest. This is before anyone really knew about (COVID). My voice is still a bit raspy. I got this cough and couldn’t shake it. I came back, had chest x-rays, had a COVID test… everything. I think it was the closest thing you get to pneumonia, or a really bad bronchial complaint,” he explains.
After getting the all clear, McGuire resumed his Nine duties, including Footy Classified.
Two Millionaire celebrity specials will feature Rachel Griffiths with Rhys Muldoon, television and radio personalities Red Symons with Wilbur Wilde, actors Stephen Curry with Bernard Curry, radio hosts Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw, actor Samuel Johnson with novelist Hilde Hinton and music siblings Ella & Jessie Hooper.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Frontline workers special: Monday, January 25, 7.30pm
Celebrity specials: Monday February 1 and Tuesday February 2, 8.30pm on Nine.