Feature Blogs

The "Magic" Of Television: Friday Night Games

Created on Tuesday, 14 February 2006 21:00
Written by Matthew Toomey


Last Tuesday, I was invited to the taping of an upcoming show on Channel 10 called Friday Night Games. Here’s a description of the show from the Channel 10 website – “Every Friday night, six celebrities and two members of the LIVE audience will be put through a series of hilarious challenges to test their skill, bravery and determination and ultimately decide the FNG Champion Team. Every show has been given a comical theme that will see our celebrities dressed as swaggering pirates, giant babies and enormous sausages. Most importantly FNG brings the fun back to television and is the must see show of the summer.”


The taping was an interesting one to say the least so I thought I’d share my thoughts on what really goes on behind the scenes.


I arrived at Dreamworld at just before 6:30pm and was escorted into the auditorium not long after. It seats 300 people. Half of the crowd were given a yellow flag and half the crowd were given a green flag. War paint was also handed out.


The warm-up host told us tonight’s competition was between AFL and NRL. This excited me and I thought we might even get an A-grade celebrity. My dreams were shattered when he announced the team line up. Representing the AFL team were commentators Christi Malthouse and Michael Christensen as well as ex-Swans player Dale Lewis (who retired in 2001). If you want Dale to appear at your function, you can book him at http://www.entertainoz.com.au/celebrities.cfm?cid=6692&oid=1354.


On the NRL team were Kevin Walters, referee Bill Harrigan and a player in the Australian women’s rugby team whose name escapes me. Call me a cynic but I really thought they could come up with six more high profile people.


Having been told who would be competing, the next job was for the warm-up host to get the crowd excited. We practiced our cheering, laughing, booing and flag waving. Cameras filmed our reactions because this “stock footage” was going to be used throughout the telecast. So in case there was a moment where we weren’t cheering (which turned out to be quite frequent), then they could use this footage in the telecast. How cool is the medium of television?


By 7:15pm, we were ready to kick off. Hosts Mike Goldman, Ryan Fitzgerald and Bree Amber (all of Big Brother fame) were brought out. There was some playful banter with Ryan giving Bree flak for the fact his team had won the last two weeks. I suspected straight away that Bree’s team was in for a win tonight.


Ryan then introduced the green AFL team and asked a series of questions about how they thought they’d go. When they cut at the end of that scene, there was a problem. Ryan had used the word “bugger” in his interview and since this wasn’t fit for television, the whole scene had to be re-shot. So Ryan introduced the team again, asked the same questions again and got the same responses. At this point I realized just how scripted the show was. It was as if every question and every answer had been rehearsed before the show began. I didn’t mind Ryan’s interview the first time but it was hard to laugh and be as excited when he did it for the second time.


The first game began and the teams had to jump on pontoons across a swimming pool whilst holding cream pies. The team to make the most crossings was the winner. At the end of the game, Christi Malthouse looked quite distressed and everyone could see she had a blood nose. She was raced off the stage and out of public view. No reference to her injury was made by the hosts.


When the second game kicked off, the teams were interviewed again. A member of the yellow team referred to Christi’s injury and so the interview had to be stopped and started again. I guess Channel 10 did not want anyone at home thinking someone had been injured. This is family entertainment after all. If you ask me, the idea of someone being injured would make it more interesting.


The second game saw the team’s in the pool trying to catch balls shot out of an elephant’s trunk. Since the yellow team won the first game, it made sense that the green team win this game. This is exactly what happened but the celebrities didn’t do a very good job of hiding this. The yellow team clearly had the lead but then took their foot off the pedal. It was blatantly obvious. At this point in the night, I had the realization that the result really had been scripted. The teams knew beforehand who would win each game. What a joke.


It was after 9:30pm by the time the third game got underway. It saw the female members of the team strapped to a spinning wheel and then turned around and around. When they were upside down, they used a bucket to scoop water up from the pool below. When they were right side up, they poured the water into another bucket on top of another team member’s head. He then emptied this into another larger bucket. The team who could collect the most water was the winner. I hope you understand this.


The yellow team set their target and then the green team began. Within 30 seconds, Christi’s nose started bleeding again. I’m not surprised considering she was suspended upside down. The game was stopped and Christi taken backstage again. We waited for over 20 minutes for her to return. When she did, she wasn’t able to continue on the spinning wheel so was substituted for another team member. The green team started again from scratch and won the game.


It’s also funny to point out that the 1st two games are worth 10 points, the 3rd game is worth 30 points and the last game is worth either 40 or 50 points (I can’t remember). It’s a classic case of stacking the points towards the end so that the result is still always in doubt for those who watch (unless you’ve read the script in advance).


The final game didn’t kick off until almost 10:30pm. By this time, the crowd of 300 people had been halved. They were too tired, bored and frustrated and have left. So that you wouldn’t see all the empty seats at home, large black sheets were placed across the empty seats so it wouldn’t look obvious. The hosts were handing out cheap giveaways to the audience during the ad breaks in another attempt to keep people from leaving.


Lo and behold, the yellow team won the final game to give Bree’s team the win. She promptly rubbed it in Ryan’s face. I swear the green team weren’t trying but you probably won’t pick this up when you watch it on television.


I finally left at 10:50pm and after dropping a few people home, made it to bed after midnight. In all, it took 3.5 hours to shoot a 1.5 hour show.


I loved It’s A Knockout when I was a kid and watched it religiously. Friday Night Games is a cheaper knock-off and I think of it as complete garbage. Is it because I’ve matured and lost my innocence? Some kids in the audience of Friday Night Games did look to be having a fun time. Perhaps I’m the wrong person to be in the audience of such a show. I wonder if It’s A Knockout was rigged too?


I’ve rambled on again but there’s just something fundamentally wrong with all of this.