Newsquest’s Telegraph and Argus journalist Nathan Atkinson reveals his experience as a contestant on TV quiz show
TWELVE seconds. That is all that stood between myself and Geordie teammate Roly winning £5,000 apiece on ITV’s The Chase last night, before our dreams were cruelly shattered by the Dark Destroyer, Mr Shaun Wallace.
But let us rewind a little. Back in 2013, I went on Pointless, as a faintly terrified 18-year-old boy with my Dad. We got as far as the head-to-head, on our second attempt, and as far I was concerned, the TV quiz bug had bitten.
In the summer of 2017, while I was working full-time at a pub in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket having just graduated from university, a close friend encouraged me to give The Chase a try.
After plucking up the (Dutch) courage, and remembering how much I’d enjoyed my Pointless adventure, I decided to apply.
Three months later, I took a call from a member of staff from the show, and I was accepted for an audition.
That took place up in Durham, with applicants encouraged to show off their personality as much as their quiz brain.
After a hideously early morning alarm, I boarded the train from Bradford just after 7am and trundled into London by late morning.
I soon met my teammates, Roly, Miranda and Milque, and was plonked down in a green room with them, where we spent hours getting to know each other.
After all, The Chase is a team game masquerading as an individual challenge.
We were then separated off into our own mini dressing rooms, with me watching a combination of gymnastics and Countdown to try, and fail, to settle the nerves.
Even worse, just as we were heading down to the set, there was a deodorant disaster. I’d forgot to pack any in my suitcase, and my body had decided to sweat the nerves out.
I borrowed Roly’s spray, but the make-up artist was horrified when, upon arriving in the studio, the spray had left white patches all over the shirt.
Fortunately, a quick spruce up later and we were away. I was selected to play last, meaning I had an agonising wait for my turn.
A couple of silly jokes between us and I felt like I was chatting with a favourite uncle, rather than TV royalty.
Shaun Wallace, who can come across as dour on the show, could not be further from his on-screen persona.
He is friendly, supportive, and even comes backstage after the show to speak to contestants, a small gesture that goes a long way.
As for the game itself, Roly roared out of the blocks, cruising back to the final with £6,000. But Miranda and Milque, the latter going big by taking the higher offer of £32,000, were soon sent packing by Shaun.
Now for my turn. I staggered to £4,000 in my cash builder of quickfire questions, but in my defence, Kylie and Jason weren’t singing hits together any more by the time I was born.
As for my head-to-head duel with Shaun, it was a real rollercoaster. In which I learned that I know more about golf than I realised, and that you shouldn’t ask me questions about sitcom actors from the 70s, unless they go by the name of David Jason or Ronnie Barker.
But I made it by the skin of my teeth, and Roly and I managed to set an imposing target of 15 in the final for Shaun to chase
As usual he was methodical and deliberate when answering, but still gave four incorrect answers. Roly and I got three of those right, keeping the pressure on.
Crucially with seconds remaining, Shaun made sure he didn’t get Princess Eugenie and Beatrice mixed up (I think we’ve all done it at least once) and he snatched the money away from us at the last.
Shaun could not have been more complimentary about my efforts, which meant a lot coming from a champion quizzer, and former Mastermind winner, like himself.
Meanwhile, Bradley, in his usual cheery manner wished me well and said he’d have to come to Bradford and buy me a pint. Well if the offer’s still there Mr Walsh…