I Want to be a Game Show Contestant
One day my wife came to me and told me that she wanted to apply to be on a game show called “Power of 10”, a new show hosted by Drew Carey on CBS. I told her that it sounded like a fun idea and encouraged her to go for it if she really was serious. As part of the audition process, she was required to submit a three minute video of herself asking what she would do if she won $10 million dollars, and answer a test question; “What % of Americans think they are smarter than George W. Bush?” We had fun making the video and I spent several hours editing down the best parts of what we had taped. We sent the tape in and didn’t expect to hear anything else.
Several weeks went by when my wife received a voicemail message saying that the production team was interested in speaking to her to ask more questions. Naturally, we became excited at the prospect that she could actually be chosen to be a contestant. Having been the one who made the audition video, I felt reassured that my talent in filming and creative eye for editing was now being appreciated at a “higher level” and that in no time, the academy would be taking notice.
Weeks passed before we heard anything else. Having had a call back from the show, we were excited at the prospect that this could really be a possibility. “Do you think they were really interested?”, we asked each other. Then more calls came with more questions. One day the phone rang. “You are going to be a Power of 10 contestant” they said. We were brimming with excitement and could not believe that she was picked. We wondered how many other people she beat out to win this opportunity. This was really starting to become fun. The next step was for the casting department to decide who would be chosen as Robin’s supporter. I applied for the job, but so did other friends and family members. I reminded the department that I made the video and hopefully my “warm and bubbly” personality showed. After a few days, I got the call. We would both be there together! Now we had to prepare.
Since Power of 10 was a new show, there were not that many questions that had been released, so we were trying to read deeply into every single one that had been asked to see if there was a pattern developing in the way poll questions were being answered by “the average American”. Every time I seemed to be on a winning streak with the practice questions, another one would come along and I would be way off the right answer. “This is going to be interesting”, I thought.
I had been chosen as my wife’s “supporter” and would be there to assist her on every question if she got past the pre-game money elimination round against her opponent.
The day of taping had come. We were scheduled to be picked up at 10am in a limo at our home. 10am came, 10:10, 10:15. We called the production company to check to see if something was wrong. We agonized at the prospect of having come this far, only to have our ride not show up and miss our chance. 10:20, 10:30, 10:35 our car showed up! In the car, we ran into bumper-to-bumper traffic going through Manhattan on our way to Astoria, Queens. On the ride there, we talked about the point at which we would take the money and walk away. I suggested that as my wife’s “financial adviser” I would insist on walking away at $100,000 (unless of course we decided to go for it). Some supporter huh? What would we do with the money if it was $100,000 versus going for $1 Million? “How would our life be different”, we asked each other.
We arrived at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens and met the casting and production people whom we had spoken at length by phone. For legal reasons, the “supporters” are segregated from the “contestants” for the entire day until the taping is complete, so most of the day was sitting around talking to the other “supporters” about life, this opportunity, and whether we wanted to play the Scrabble game that was sitting in the room.
Later in the morning we were taken from the “Green Room” (which isn’t green at all, more safari color, but soothing none the less) down to the set to meet the Executive Producers and hear about the process, what to do, and what not to do. After about half an hour, back to the green/safari room. More waiting around.
Make-up time. Turns out that these Hollywood makeup people are good, who knew? They managed to cover up that enormous pimple (don’t you just hate hearing that word?) that had developed the day before with ease. More sitting around waiting. “Richard, you’re up…”
I was taken down the elevator and back to the set to get mic’ed up. I met the brother of the other contestant who was playing the supporter role of the contestant playing against my wife. Nice kid, in school and playing with his brother. We wished each other luck. Lara Spencer from CBS’s “Insider” walked right past us and said hello. Pictures of the Sesame Street characters lined the hall since Kaufman Astoria Studios was also the home of the Sesame Street set. I jokingly asked if anyone had any connections with Elmo’s agent to get my girls a meeting with him, Mr. Noodle, and Dorothy. Unfortunately, Sesame Street was on break and a meeting would not happen. “Show Time!”
We were both taken into the studio where the set was filled with hundreds of audience members. Just hours before, the set was silent, not now. My heart raced with anticipation and excitement. “I really hope she wins”, I thought to myself.
Lights, Camera, Action! My wife and her opponent, Daniel walked up the ramp onto the stage with Drew Carey. “Welcome to the Power of 10, I’m the host, Drew Carey”.
Drew Cary asks Robin, “So is it true your husband picked you up in a U-Haul on your first date?” That is true, but, with good reason, I thought. “How would I respond when I got up there to say what really happened”, I thought. It really was a great story, but what would happen if she didn’t win and the world remembers me for the guy who picked his wife up in a moving truck on their first date. As I thought about this scenario, one of the questions they answered turned out to be “What % of Americans think a movie is a better first date than dinner”? How about moving, I thought…Back and forth the questions went, Daniel scored first, Robin the next two right…One more and we’re playing for the money! The score was 2-2, next one plays for the money…”What % of Americans have been fingerprinted?” My wife had to be fingerprinted because of her job working with kids. Would this influence her answer? The answers were locked in and the “answer meter” starting rolling around up and down. Eventually it landed closer to Daniel’s answer than Robin’s. That was it for us. Our journey was over, almost.
I never thought about how disappointed someone could potentially be in this scenario, but in reality, the disappointment was truly palpable. Most people have no idea what it feels like to have $10 million dollars right there for the taking, then have it ripped away from you in a flash. The months of leading up to this show was so exciting and now it was gone. It was very tempting, and at times, did feel a real sense of failure. I should have answered this way instead, I should have paid closer attention to this or that. Robin was the contestant, and I could only imagine what she was thinking. I knew how much she wanted this and how upset she looked afterward. We were both taken off stage, back upstairs to to another “safari green” room where other contestants who had already gone were released. Most people had the same feelings that we did. We reminisced about what could have been, and talked about our real lives.
Lessons from a “Loser”
Since some of the shows have not aired, I can’t talk specifics, however speaking to other “losers”, like us, we realized how lucky we really are to have everything that we do in life. If we learned anything, it’s that “Loser” is a state of mind and nothing else. We have two healthy children, a home and roof over our head, we shop at Costco, and we eat sushi whenever we feel the urge. To think about this experience as losing would be to negate all the things mentioned above, plus the fact that “What % of Americans actually succeed in getting on a game show?”We are “winner’s” in every sense of the word. Somtimes, we need a dose of reality to wake us up to realize how lucky we are to live in a country that provided such an opportunity to us, and that we should be grateful that we have the opportunity to get up and decide what we want to do with our day, any day of the week. Be greatful every day for what you have today because you don’t know what tomorrow brings.
Seeing Upside Down
As I sat there still feeling quite disappointed, I thought to myself, “How can I make something good out of this?” A while back, now friend, Martin Dunkerton inspired me to make a movie about personal achievement. The movie is coming together. What if we could use this experience losing as a segment about overcoming adversity in the film? What if we could get the people involved in Power of 10 to talk about the long road of failures that they had on their road to success? Our loss could potentially turn into something positive. I contemplated, even though she was the one who lost on television, we basically do everything together so the loss was shared. I’m her biggest supporter on air and off. Supporter means helping the other see things that might not be apparent at the time.
Who knows if any of this will come together, but if I have learned anything, it’s that being positive is more fun than thinking like a loser. Out of adversity, your greatest opportunity may be staring you right in the face. Stand where you are, see things right side up. Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual and some assembley is required. Have a great day!