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GAME SHOW


 game show


Channel Five’s Game Show had just reached the top of the ratings and the 300th episode was planned to be exceptional. During the filming the host Clive Cussons collapsed suddenly. Paramedics could not revive him and believed that he had died from a severe anaphylactic reaction. They advised Michael Scott, who headed Channel Five’s management team, that it was unlikely that a post mortem would be required.

 Michael Scott thought Clive Cussons’ death had occurred at a very opportune time for their competitors. He contacted the Assistant Commissioner and asked that his death be investigated. John Sentinel and his team were assigned to the case.

 

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ISBN:   978-1-922229-09-0
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 198
Genre: Fiction
- Crime

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Author: Carole Roscoe
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2013
Language: English

  

Author Profile

  

After working extensively in nursing and clinical psychology Carole took up a research position with the Commonwealth Government in Canberra. On its completion she returned home to Queensland. 

She is now writing full time which she has wanted to do for many years.

 

ALSO BY CAROLE ROSCOE

 FLUVAX

SEVEN MINUTES

CALM WATERS

IMAGE

ON THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT

 

CHAPTER ONE - part sample

 

 

Michael Scott went to work at fifteen. He found he had a natural talent for knowing how to make a good deal. When he’d saved a little money he started to invest in commodities and over time focused on coal. When an overseas company decided to close a small mine because they considered it was no longer profitable, he and a partner bought the mine. By making improvements to the equipment and the extraction process and reducing the time it took to get the coal to the nearest port, he cut costs and restored the viability of the mine.

He spent many years in coal mining and made a substantial fortune. His wife died when he was in his early forties leaving him with their two sons, Colin and Peter. He’d tried to do his best for them. He wanted them to have opportunities that had not been available when he was young, so he sent them to one of the best boarding schools in Sydney for five years. He’d phoned them regularly and they came home for Christmas holidays but they had grown apart.

 

By the time they were seventeen he hardly knew them. They’d wanted to continue study at Sydney University so he’d paid their fees and given them an allowance. When he attended their graduations he had mixed feelings. He was very proud of their achievements but knew in his heart that the family had fragmented. There were no close bonds. Colin and Peter were as stubborn and independent as he was and they would make their own way in the world.

He’d been forced to retire from his management position in mining after a sudden heart attack in his early sixties. It took him months to recover his strength. His doctor hadn’t minced words. He spelt out the risk factors for heart disease. Michael was overweight. If he wanted to avoid a second heart attack he could not continue to eat take-away food because it was convenient to do so. He had to eat a more balanced diet and take regular exercise. Morning walks would be sufficient but he had to do them, not just intend to. His blood pressure was too high and had to come down. His cholesterol was also high.

He’d been a heavy smoker. Smoking was a luxury he could no longer afford. Every time he inhaled from a cigarette he did more harm to his body. Free radicals were released into his bloodstream along with damaging chemicals. Michael always drank water that had been filtered. His doctor pointed out how irrational it was for him to insist on drinking clean water while he was poisoning his system with nicotine.

He’d used alcohol to relax of an evening and thought nothing of it. His doctor spelt out that in excess, alcohol increased his blood pressure and the level of blood fats which would clog up his arteries. By the time his doctor had finished reading him the riot act Michael wondered if life was going to be worth living. While he was considering that, his doctor added a further warning. If he returned to a highly stressful position he’d have a second heart attack within twelve months.

Michael was a very determined individual but his doctor was canny. He’d been around for a long time and knew how to motivate people. He implied that he didn’t think Michael had the intestinal fortitude to turn his life around and take better care of his body. That did it. Michael resolved to prove him wrong. He stayed on his diet unwillingly at first, but as he found foods he liked he lost weight. There were benefits. As he cut down drastically on sugar and fats and limited his alcohol to one or two drinks, he started to feel better. He stopped smoking, regained his sense of smell and for the first time in years started to enjoy food that he’d thought was tasteless. He hadn’t realised what smoking had cost him.

He bought a beach-side unit in Sydney where he’d be closer to his sons and their families and hoped over time to get to know them better. He also found that walking near the beach of an early morning lifted his spirits and gave him time to think. But there was something missing. In his heart he knew that he was bored and still had the drive to control a substantial enterprise.

When he heard that there were plans for a fourth commercial free-to-air television station to start up at Artarmon as Channel Five if sufficient money could be raised, he was definitely interested. Three men were involved in the enterprise. Jerry Bruckner had made a number of short films which had been shown at the Sydney film festival. Emil Zimmerman’s main interest was in electronics. He had sold some of his ideas to a large computer company in the United States for an undisclosed sum which was said to be in the millions. The third man, Kevin Sutcliffe, had an accountancy firm in the city.

He contacted them to get more information about their plans. The meeting lasted for four hours. The three men said that they had met at university. Michael asked them what they wanted to see on television. They must have strong views if they wanted to invest in a television station. Jerry Bruckner, who was tall, thin and intense, said that he wanted more Australian productions shown on television. He thought far too much time was devoted to American content. Emil Zimmerman, a smaller man with untidy hair and glasses, was particularly interested in interactive television. He wanted the audience to feel they were able to participate. As things stood, people could send photos and items of interest to the TV stations or comment about programs via the internet.

“How many mobile phone calls or texts do you receive in an hour on a normal day?” Michael asked.

“I’d get about a dozen.”

“How long does it take you to answer them?”

“It could be a few minutes or a lot longer if I have to look up something.”

“If many thousands of viewers sent texts to the TV station, do you know how many people would be needed to answer them?” Emil Zimmerman looked thoughtful. Michael turned to Kevin Sutcliffe. Unlike the others he was dressed in a business suit. He was taller than Emil Zimmerman and of a heavier build.

“I’m an accountant. I think we can make this business pay.”

“And your main source of income would be…” Michael left the sentence unfinished.

“We could make a lot of money from advertising.”

“Why do you think advertisers would prefer to use Channel Five instead of the existing three commercial stations and SBS?”

“If our programs attract enough viewers and we get good ratings, advertisers should be interested.” Michael smiled.

He liked their energy and enthusiasm but they hadn’t drawn up a well thought out management plan. He could do that and something about the venture really appealed to him. One of the other commercial TV stations had moved to larger premises leaving the buildings at Artarmon vacant. Kevin Sutcliffe bought them for Channel Five after they had passed all building, pest and termite inspections. The buildings were repainted and cleaned and were ready for operation.

Michael negotiated a deal and they signed an agreement. He would purchase 51% of the shares in the company and would run it. They would all be part of the management team and their responsibilities would primarily be in line with their qualifications and abilities. When the deal had been sealed Jerry Bruckner asked Michael why he wanted to be involved in the enterprise. Michael gave the matter some thought before he answered slowly.

“While my doctor would like me to stop working, I’m not ready to give up on living. This is a new challenge. I know the sorts of things I would like to see on television. I can bring years of experience in running a company. I have many contacts some of whom may be interested in advertising with us. Basically this is something I can really get involved in for some years to come.” They seemed satisfied with his answer.

Throughout his business career Michael had made a practice of listening to people. This had the effect of making him popular with his management team and workers. It had also resulted in staff coming to him with ideas for improving the way things were done. He’d implemented some of their suggestions and had seen that they received the credit. Before Channel Five began operating he had insisted that extensive surveys of the potential audience were carried out to find out what people wanted to watch. The results of the surveys were studied in detail. The management team then implemented a number of practices which proved to be popular with viewers.

In their responses to the surveys, people had been extremely critical of the way in which some channels continually disrupted programs to include an increasing number of commercials. Some had said that when particular channels showed popular programs, the amount of advertising material was almost equal to the program content. Others commented that commercial channels had ruined their enjoyment of programs by cutting a vital part of the action to make time for commercials.

The management team decided on a different approach. Channel Five would show commercials for three minutes at the beginning of a program and for three minutes every fifteen minutes thereafter. After six months they assessed the feedback they received from advertisers and the amount of revenue they raised. The businesses which advertised with them reported that many customers told them they’d seen their product advertised on Channel Five, so they were satisfied. Michael Scott concluded that the other commercial stations’ approach of using excessive and repetitive advertising was counterproductive. Viewers apparently switched channels or went to make a cup of coffee.

Channel Five’s children’s programs were particularly popular with viewers. They reported that their children had learned to improve their reading skills because they enjoyed the way information was presented. Other programs dealt with basic mathematics in a way not taught in any school, but the children absorbed the principles and thought of it more as a game. Parents who parked their children in front of television to keep them quiet while they prepared dinner or relaxed from the tensions which had built up during the day were able to justify their actions and feel good about it. By the time Channel Five had been operating for three years, the other commercial channels viewed it as a serious competitor.

The management team had seen the need to include some kind of game show in Channel Five’s programs but had difficulty reaching agreement on how to proceed. Michael Scott had insisted that another online survey was carried out. Participants were asked to respond to a list of questions and to rate the existing game shows on the other commercial channels on a number of points.

One channel ran a competition in which contestants needed a wide range of general knowledge to have any chance of winning a prize. On another, contestants picked a box and had to answer questions successfully to win the contents. These would include vouchers for holidays or household items. In the most popular program on the third channel, the contestant chose a case from several dozen without knowing the contents. He then had to select the other cases one at a time while trying to keep the one which contained the highest amount of money in play. He was offered a sum of money at intervals to stop playing or take the chance that he could win a larger amount if he continued. If he made the wrong choice he could finish up with less than $10.

Many thousands of people responded to the survey. Most of them wanted a game show based on luck rather than contestants needing to have a wide range of knowledge. They thought all contestants should have an equal chance of winning a prize. They preferred to have a greater chance of winning a small prize to almost no chance of winning a large one. They particularly wanted contestants to be selected in the studio not chosen in advance on some unspecified criteria.

Several people on the management team wanted to use a form of poker as the game of choice, but playing poker requires skill and there was already a game of poker on late night television. Michael Scott thought they should use dice. He suggested they obtain a large hourglass about one and a half metres in height set on a stand so that it could be spun in a circle. Two dice could be inserted inside the hourglass when it was manufactured. That would prevent anyone from tampering with the dice. The dice would have to be large enough to be visible to the audience.

Michael Scott did not want contestants chosen because they were good-looking young women or well-known entities who were participating in one of the channel’s talent shows. He thought the selection should be random. While he acknowledged this could lead to difficulties, he thought the risk could be reduced if people completed a basic questionnaire before they were issued with a ticket to the show. He suggested that they use a lucky dip. As people filed into the studio they could take a card from a box. If they drew one with a star, they would be called as a contestant. He wanted two contestants to compete by spinning the same hourglass to eliminate any possibility of differences in the equipment. They had a studio which could seat 150 people which would be ideal.

As the hourglass was not commercially available it was specially made with two dice of the appropriate size inside. A duplicate was obtained in case anything untoward happened to the first. After they arrived at Channel Five, management meetings degenerated into contests spinning the hourglass as they worked out the rules for the game. They were surprised to find that although the dice were numbered one to six, they could spin up the same two numbers about twenty percent of the time.

The team decided that each contestant in turn would be required to spin the hourglass in a complete circle. The sum of the two dice inside would be added and recorded. After five spins each, the contestant with the highest score would be declared the winner of that game and credited with $10,000.  He could then take the money and leave or play on. The loser would return to the audience and another contestant would be selected. To increase contestants’ chances of winning something, they decided to award $2,000 when the same two numbers were spun up. The team had difficulty agreeing on a name for the show but initially decided on Dice on Five.

Three men who had been involved in TV programs were asked to compère the show in front of a live audience which was then asked to rate their performance. The first to try out was George Thomas. He was a personable man in his late forties, tall, dark but not particularly handsome. He had hosted a long-running game show for another channel. He gave a polished performance but the audience thought he lacked sincerity and female contestants found his remarks patronising. He particularly liked using the term ‘little woman’. They scored him six out of ten. The second, Brett Harrison, was in his late thirties. He had been an elite sportsman and was tall, fair and full of himself. The audience didn’t take to him at all. They scored him four out of ten.

The third man, Clive Cussons, was definitely not the management team’s choice. Clive was 53, tall and thin, with light brown hair and a receding hairline. He had worked in television for twenty years on a variety of programs but nothing he had done had been particularly memorable. It was with some reluctance that the management team had asked him to try out to host the game show. He was diffident in his manner and somewhat awkward in his presentation. To their surprise the audience warmed to him and he seemed to respond. They rated him eight out of ten, their clear choice to compère the game show.  After the first few weeks, the audience renamed the show Dice with Clive and the name stuck.

 

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