I have a small news roundup to do, but I felt this deserved a post of its own. And while “exclusive” might be stretching the truth a little, as I shared the night with at least 300 other people, this report is definitely exclusive to us!
After finding out last week that Neil was going to be hosting this, some hastily booked holiday time from work gave me the chance to head down to London (from Bradford) for the taping. I arrived fairly early, a good couple of hours before my friends, and that gave me the chance to scope out the building. This is something that served me well later when I was let out from a completely different door than I expected!
Even when my friends arrived, we ended up first in the priority queue, and as such when we were let into the studio we were led to what I would consider to be the best seats – front row, beside the centre aisle that the contestants enter the playing area from. After a few minutes with the warm-up man, Terry, they introduced Neil, brought him out and stood him in the aisle beside us to take a few promotional photos. Then things got started!
There were four contestants taped last night, though because they were overrunning there was some uncertainly if they were going to film the fourth one or not. Eventually they decided they would, but I unfortunately had to leave before they brought her out to ensure I’d make my coach. I won’t give you any details about the contestants or how they did, because that’s for you to see when (if) you get to see the episode!
Neil revealed to us fairly early on that he’d been over here for almost a week and had spent three days watching the British version of the show, and as such apologised for talking like a Brit occasionally! He slipped into an accent a few times on purpose, and at one point called one of the contestants “mate” which I don’t think was deliberate! He also said that in rehearsals he had kept slipping and saying “for two thousand pounds…!” instead of dollars.
He had spent the afternoon in the Cube playing some of the games and said that it definitely makes it harder once you’re inside.
We’ve all seen Neil do the hosting thing before, but presenting a gameshow is obviously a totally different skillset. It has to be said, he nailed that just like he has done everything else. He was serious when it was called for, but made the contestants feel at ease in a jokey way that was a joy to watch. Another pleasure was the way he interacted with the audience between shots – the nature of the game means there’s a lot of time spent showing the contestant the game they’re about to play, setting it up, none of which happens on camera so that it comes together seamlessly in the edit. Multiple times Neil came over to the aisle beside our seats and talked with the people around us, saying he was nervous for the contestant currently in the cube, or giving his opinion about the way a previous game had gone. A while before I left he asked us what we thought the hardest game had been so far and a bunch of us mimed the same action and he laughed and knew exactly what we had meant. There was one game that a contestant had played at a relatively high level (for $75,000), and he told us that depending on the amount at stake when the Cube selected it, the game would get harder – more to complete before it was counted as successful. He also said he’d seen people complete it in rehearsals at the very highest level, so he knew it could be done even at its hardest.
The warm up guy came out between shots and tried to keep the audience interested when other things were going on on the stage, and a few times Neil turned around to watch what he was doing with an amused or puzzled look on his face. When one man was asked to blow up a balloon as part of a challenge and failed miserably (he claimed to have been sucking instead of blowing!) Neil came around to watch him with a fantastic look of disbelief on his face that this was actually happening.
He dealt well with shouts from the audience – some (slightly annoying but I think well intended) heckling when he was posing for pictures at the start came in the form of a guy shouting “SUIT UP!” and Neil, who must be used to that by now, replied with “I DID!” There was one point when he laughed and somebody yelled out something about Dr Horrible, and Neil, facing the Cube with his back to the audience, did the proper Dr Horrible evil laugh.
He did a very good job of guiding the players without influencing their decisions too much. His personality meant that they were quite happy to tell him what they were thinking or feeling without too much stressing, and weren’t afraid to be a little sarcastic or jibe back at him on occasion.
All in all, I really hope that CBS decide to pick this up as a series, because Neil was clearly enjoying the experience and I would love to see more of it. And if they don’t, I hope that they at least air this one as a one off for everybody to see.
If anybody who managed to stay until the end has anything to add, please do get in touch!
EDIT: One of my friends who managed to stay after I left had this to add about something that was said after I’d gone: “Neil came over and talked in our general direction and told us he got to pick his suit out because if the show gets picked up, he will have to wear the same suit all the time and they will probably use the pilot contestants in various shows so as not to waste them.”