Thursday, September 29, 2005

Confessions of a Millionaire?

Dear Readers,

Let me let you in on a little secret: I, your very humble blogger, sat in the "hot seat" yesterday on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." So if you're interested in seeing one half of Woodshavings on TV, you can check it out on Nov. 21st. Mr. McCoy was nice enough to act as one of my lifelines. I'm not allowed to reveal my winnings, but I can tell you when you sit in the seat, everything changes and you're not in your livingroom anymore, prostrate on your couch, all comfortable sipping coffee like I normally am when I watch the show.

But I can tell you about the overall experience. The day starts at 8:30 in the morning where you're led into the green room with the other contestants. The disorienting energy courses throughout the room like a blind man on meth. Everyone has fantasies of what they're going to do with the money, demonstrating that American trait of feeling entitled to money that you have no claim upon. Let's be honest, if the American dream used to be work hard, get ahead, it's been inverted to work as little as possible for as much as possible. My hands are as red as the next person.

In the green room you sit and meet with your producer and go over your personal details that Meredith Viera will talk about on-air.

"So you came all the way from Scotland for this?"

"You're a journalist and you blog?"

"You'll write something about this tomorrow, right?" Right, so let me get back to it.

Afterwards, you get debriefed by Millionaire's lawyers and producers of the do's and don'ts of Millionaire. Let me just tell you that the nervousness washes over you like the waters of Lake Pontchartrain. You anxiously drink water, well I did, which naturally leads you to the bathroom -- for me, my levee broke every fifteen minutes. The show's production assistants then lead you into the studio to practice getting in and out of the hot seat. There it hits you that you'll be sitting here not too long from now, which in turn made my stomach churn. At times the anxiety came over me so hard that I didn't know which end of the digestive tract I had to worry about.

One of the times I came back from the bathroom, I find that the contestant pool has grown by four. These are yesterday's contestants that never made it to the hotseat or were in the hotseat at the end of taping the day before. All of a sudden a flurry of trivia gets unleashed as people blurt out obscure questions and answers that Ponce De Leon's still hunting for. I look at the gentleman to my right, we give each other understanding looks, shrug our shoulders and hope the Q&A period of this day ends soon.

Then there's lunch, but no one really feels like eating. I eat half a sandwich and that's the most I saw anyone eat. My stomach growls, it doesn't want food, it wants to purge itself.

The show's about to start. The four remaining contestants from yesterday are led back into the studio. We all sit in the greenroom watching. One guys hits the hot seat as we pull for him, telepathically trying to transmit our knowledge to him. He finishes. The door to the green room opens and my name is called. My stomach goes plunging to my heels. I'm led out to the studio -- which feels like Anartica on a cold day -- where I proceed to wait...and wait...and wait. Just because you're called into the studio means nothing. It doesn't mean I'll be the first one to go on the show from my group. Oh, no, it certainly doesn't mean that. The first show ends and I wait. As the second show's taping begins I go to the on-deck circle with two other people. From this point on, it's seemingly random. Anyone of us could go next. It's up to the producers surrounding us. They want it to be as dramatic as possible, sending you into the arena liked a scared Christian waiting to meet the lions. Most of the time, it's rather anti-climatic as commercial breaks take 10 minutes and 15 to 20 minutes in between shows. So you wait, or you pee if you're me. The worst is the half hour or more wait in between taping sessions where we're ushered back into the green room as they change audiences. At least I can eat half a tuna sandwich.

I'm led back to the on-deck circle again. The random selection isn't feeling so random anymore as person after person goes before me and I'm feeling like this day's never going to end. I'm tired, I feel bloated and gaseous and we're into the middle of taping the last show. All told I've been there about 10 hours, four of them in the studio waiting for the other shoe to drop. The woman sitting in the hotseat finishes. My producer looks down from the first step of the stairway leading up onto the stage, "And the next contestant is...Matthew Harwood." More than the other shoe drops.

I run up the steps. "Big waves and smile," my producer shouts. "Go." I walk out into the blinding lights. I can't hear or really see the crowd, even though I'm waving at them. Meredith is smiling her beautiful toothy grin. I step up onto the platform and shake her hand.

"How are you," she says.

"I'm great."

I sit down. I position myself in the hotseat. It begins.

So if you want to see how it all turned out, watch the show on Nov. 21st.