Just when I thought I was the most annoying triviot in the DFW, the good people at Who Wants to Be a Millionaire came to town Wednesday to provide me with seven hours of sun-baked group therapy. Beginning at 3:45 a.m. (according to a bemused policeman at the scene), game-show-contestant wannabes lined up in and around the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth to be screened for the show. I got there at 9:30 a.m. and entered the line after it had wound around the building once and double-tracked back down 4th Street for a block.
Two more hours, and into the Bass for processing. About 50 of us were herded into a "pod" on the third floor. We were then given a background questionnaire to fill out, which asked things like, "What would you do with the million dollars if you won?" And, "Name three things you want to do before you die." And, "What would Meredith Vieira find interesting about you?" Next to me was a cheerful guy who told us this was the fourth game show he had tried out for this year. No luck yet, with either the game shows or, apparently, finding gainful employment.
Finally, our pod and four others made it into the theater, where a cheerful and startlingly young producer administered two 30-question, multiple-choice tests. We got 10 minutes for each. Sample questions and more from the day after the jump:
Finish this ad slogan, as made famous by Jay Leno: "Eat all the Doritos you want..." (Answer: "We'll make more")
Which film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1955? (Marty)
What's the largest gland in the human body?" (the liver)
In which movie series did a character played by Bill Paxton not get injured or killed: Terminator, Jurassic Park, Predator or Alien? (Jurassic Park)
As we waited for the scantrons to be graded, gimme T-shirts were tossed into the crowd. It reminded me of a tired, geek-filled Mavs game or the three hours you spend waiting for the average hip-hop concert to start. After another 45 minutes, I half expected Axl Rose to walk out on stage. Of course, I hadn't eaten for nine hours at that point.
And then, the cut: Of the roughly 250 of us competing for slots amongst our pods, seven passed the movie test (they wouldn't tell us the passing score), and 23 got through the general test. The professional contestant-to-be shambled off to his next tryout. My "overwhelming knowledge of useless crap" (my father-in-law's assessment) allowed me to pass both tests.
Last stop: the Bass green room, where more startlingly young producers interviewed the survivors for a minute or two each. I got a blunt, "What do you need the money for?" (ya know, "student loans, man") and a pleasant conversation about why the bistro across the street felt compelled to name itself Ciao ('chou'). So happens this producer is a New York Italian, and he took great humor in the fact that Texans needed a pronunciation guide for the word "ciao." I reassured him that it was only Fort Worthians.
My immediate prize: a trip back to Dallas on I-30 during rush hour. We'll find out by post card in "two to four weeks" if we're in the contestant pool or not, or get a call from a producer if they need us earlier. Then we have to arrange and pay for our own travel to and lodging in New York and hope we don't crap out on national TV. --Chris Dreiling