Metro Columnist Rick McGinnis, centre, collects his $1,000 prize from You Bet Your Ass hosts Stewart Francis left, and Sitara Hewitt.
LET’S GET TRIVIAL: Eagle-eyed Canadian Idol watchers are probably aware of Media Idol, a publicity event held by the producers of the show that invites writers, reporters, producers, camerapeople and anyone else employed in the business of covering Idol to audition for the show’s judges and win some money for charity. Like all great ideas, it’s being copied, which is how I ended up in a CBC soundstage on Tuesday afternoon being asked who was the dictator of North Korea.
You Bet Your Ass is a Comedy Network game show hosted by Stewart Francis and Sitara Hewitt, which debuted last year with a weekly slot and returns this fall with a daily one. The premise is simple — a Jeopardy-style trivia quiz show with blackjack wagering. Francis plays the vaguely hostile compere as a cross between Ted Baxter and Fred Willard, while Hewitt flashes a lot of leg as his foil.
Like most people, I’ve let my thumb rest on the remote whenever I channel surf past Jeopardy, shouting answers at the TV set and flattering myself that I could do pretty well on the show — not Ken Jennings good, but good enough to take home enough to fund a European vacation, or a big-ass TV. When the e-mail challenge from the show’s publicist arrived last week — step up and earn a grand for the charity of your choice — my ego, like a bull regarding a red cape, found it hard to resist.
For the first segment, I found myself sitting with CHUM FM reporter Meg Tucker and Sean Gehon, the Much Music VJ Search contestant who parlayed his runner-up finish into a job with Star! Daily. The first thing I learn is that being on a quiz show evokes a mental state not unlike smoking potent grass — time slows down to a sludge-like pace, your brain seems to get stuck in idle, but your mouth, for some reason, will manage to form words if you have even a half-formed hope of a correct answer.
Thanks to this primitive burst of energy from the lizard brain, I was able to survive into a second, and even a third round of the show, both surprising and embarrassing myself with a ready knowledge of reality TV trivia. I watched with surprise as Sean’s producer Sholeh, then Stephanie Earp and Greg David of TV Guide took the vacated seats next to me, but found myself alone at the end, thanks to a pair of questions on U.S. foreign policy that made me feel like the guy at the party who isn’t just good for Joey jokes.
My triumph was marred by the final question of the sudden death finale, a stumper that may or may not have had something to do with professional sports. Regarding me with exquisite condescension, Francis and Hewitt gave me the comedy quiz show equivalent of a mulligan and let it slide, then handed me a big-ass cheque for a thousand bucks that the nice people at Foster Parents Plan probably aren’t aware they’re getting yet. My petty ego got a nice stroking, and I got a chance to spend time with my peers in the TV media biz, who all seemed like nice people, but hey — neener neener neener, losers.