Well it seems only right that we take a look at the research that went into What Happens in France now that we have read it! So over the Carol…
When I first decided I wanted to write a novel involving a game show, there was only one thing to do… get on one to find out what it was like.
I’m not exactly renowned for my general knowledge but I do have a penchant for The Chase hosted by Bradley Walsh. I checked out the ITV site and discovered they were seeking contestants, so after three days agonising over what to write my application, including all sorts of things I hoped made me sound interesting and stand out from the other hopefuls, I sent off the form.
Several weeks later, I was invited to audition at a theatre in Birmingham.
It was, to say the least, a blast. We were herded into a conference room where we first had to stand up and spout several interesting facts about ourselves before playing a fast round of charades. Next, we had a written general knowledge sheet to complete in a certain time, followed by another. Finally, we were randomly selected to make up teams of three, and filmed in the corner of the room, as if it was the show itself – Bradley Walsh wasn’t there but we managed to pretend he was.
To be honest, I didn’t think I stood a chance. There were contestants with outrageous outfits, hair colour, and some who were so intelligent they should have been auditioning for Mastermind. Some had already been on several television shows and were supremely confident about their chances, while others just giggled a lot and said hilariously ridiculous things.
At the end of the audition, we were told to go home and wait for an email to see if we’d passed the audition. I got one. I’d passed. However, I was now on a waiting list for the show and had no idea when I might get selected. I wanted to start writing the book, so I tried out for another show called Decimate and lo and behold, I was selected.
Decimate was another quiz show with rules that are far too complicated to go through here, and although the makeup lady managed to make me look twenty years younger and it gave me some useful information for my new book, I needed more. As it happened, the show’s producer had been somewhat taken with my enthusiastic approach and offered me the chance to be on a brand-new show called Masterpiece – a sort of quiz show, about antiques, hosted by the wonderful Alan Titchmarsh.
Now, I know the thick end of nothing about antiques but I cajoled my next-door neighbour, who enjoyed watching Bargain Hunt, into coming on the show with me and we journeyed south to a pretty pub, The Star, where we and our fellow contestants were put up for the night. There was a great deal of secrecy about where we’d be filming. Nobody had any idea, until the following morning when we were herded into minibuses and driven to a secret location, Firle Place.
I think it’s fair to say, most of the ideas for What Happens in France came from that experience. My fellow contestants were absolute characters – larger than life and hugely entertaining.
We shifted between makeup and mike up and shuffled around the massive stately home in awe and silence, trying not to fall over any cables or the men dressed in black, all the while desperately trying to ignore the cameras trained on our every expression. There were lengthy periods when one group of contestants was filming and the others weren’t – during which we sat in the dining room, swapped stories and ate our way through mountains of food. There was an incredible buzz that lasted all day until filming came to an end at about nine-thirty that night and we were all driven back to our accommodation.
Being on a television show gives you a massive adrenalin rush. Many of the people I met have since gone on to do other shows. I also go the bug and went on Tipping Point. Since then, I’ve had to stop applying thanks to deadlines and writing commitments.
Did I ever get onto The Chase? As it happens. I was invited for a show, but I couldn’t go… at the time, ironically, I was actually in France writing What Happens in France!
I wanted it noted that I have spent ages looking for clips on the shows and I CAN NOT GET THEM!!!!! I know the episodes Carol is in but nowhere can I get the clips – ho-hum!
Thanks Carol for this and I love how involved you got with the research!!!
Until next time xxx