Monday, December 21, 2009

Post-Millionaire Thoughts

Well, the episode of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" I taped last October 1st aired this past Friday, and I'm glad it finally did.

I've heard back from a few folks who saw it. (I thought I'd hear from many more, but that's fine.) I've gotten back nothing but positive thoughts from everyone, and that really is appreciated. I didn't watch the show at the time it aired, as my heart wasn't in watching me fail to reach the second level.

I will watch it at some point this winter. I also have to admit I haven't watched the show itself since the day of the taping. I guess the reality of watching a dream go up in smoke was a bit too much for me to take, and watching other people win money would bring back the day too painfully. Since the first night in August 1999 I saw "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," I wanted to get on the show, and ten years later it finally happened. And it all ended badly.

Let me say that I have nothing but the highest respect for Meredith Vieira and the staff of the show. The background staff does a wonderful job preparing the contestants for the show, psyching everyone up as the taping is about to begin. (I still laugh when I think of the time they had us all do a "primal scream" just before we were introduced to the audience.)

I always wanted to know what it's like to sit in that "Hot Seat." Well, now I know. (File this under the "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it" category.) It was simply the most unnerving experience of my life. It's like every dentist chair I've ever been in multiplied by ten. All eyes are on you, and millions from around the country. A few folks said I looked as cool as a cucumber, but I was a mess inside. I had trouble concentrating fully on the questions, as I knew the clock was running. My head was running in about ten different directions.

And I don't want this to sound like sour grapes, but from the day I saw they first instituted it, I never liked the fact they put a clock on the questions. Before the taping, that question was asked of one of the coordinators, and he explained that a contestant a few years back actually took 54 minutes to answer a question! So they made the decision to time them. The clock really adds to the pressure of the show, and the ticking in the studio is VERY loud. But, being a contestant, you accept that being on the show, so I really can't complain too loudly about that.

The best part of the show for me was my banter with Meredith Vieira. She really is a sweetheart, and that was my only interaction with her on the day. I have to admit I wasn't crazy about her when she took over the show in 2002, as I was a Regis Philbin fan. But she won me over as the years went on. I loved talking about being a Red Sox fan with her, as she is originally from Rhode Island, and she's a big fan, too. And the discussion about me being a background actor was fun too, and put me at ease briefly.

And Meredith did something that I will forever respect her for. A week after the taping, I got a note from the show, and I thought it was just one of those "thanks for playing" things. But it was a personal note from her, and she "saluted" me for being "a Red Sox fan in Yankee territory." I can't begin to tell you how much better that made me feel, and I immediately sent her a thank you note for doing that.

I'm sure as time goes on I'll feel more pride for having appeared on the show. They told us backstage that over 20,000 people take the test every year, and just a few hundred are chosen. So I have to once again thank them for giving me the chance to appear. I just wish I could have made more of it.

As I said back in October, I guess I'm better suited to be a trivia host than a contestant.

And if Jenna Hager and I ever meet, we'll have something to talk about.

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