Around 200 people gathered at Melbourne Central Studios last night for a media preview of Channel Nine’s new game show 1 vs 100, the hit from the US and Britain which Nine is hoping will become its 2007 ratings flagship.

The host, of course, is Eddie McGuire — a fact leaked by Seven which manages the security at the Docklands studio — who is returning to a front-of-camera role after last year ascending to the CEO throne. So the obvious question becomes: is this the first move in a repositioning process that will see McGuire removed from the CEO’s office?

Last night didn’t provide any answers. Rather than working the room, McGuire was carefully positioned on stage throughout the evening, which protected him from the notebook-toters. An earlier press conference also appears to have left the question unanswered.

Throughout, Eddie was his sharp-witted, professional self. When he asked mock contestant Matt Tilley (a Melbourne commercial radio presenter) what he would do with the $1 million prize money if he won, Tilley said he would pay out McGuire and take his job. Came the response: “That’ll buy you a couple of weeks.” Was he referring to his salary, or the time he has left in the job?

The show itself is unlikely to revolutionise game shows. The emphasis is on show, with the set arguably the main character – event television, or at least the impression of it, comes to the weekly game show format. The electronic brain behind the lighting infrastructure is bigger than a 1950s supercomputer. Home viewers can expect sweeping camera shots, three storeys of flashing lights, and with 100 people in The Mob, plenty of noise. It’s all about scale. Otherwise it’s a straightforward Q & A, with the contestant able to go to the audience or The Mob for help and Huge Cash Prizes up for grabs.

As Eddie wound up, Melbourne socialite Lillian Frank, one of The Mob, raised her hand with a question. In thick Toorak-ese she asked, “With your other work, surely you’re busy enough already. Why this return to game shows?”

Eddie: Lillian, let me ask you a question. Why do you keep hairdressing?

Lillian: Because I love it.

Eddie: Precisely.

McGuire says it takes only 48 minutes to film a one hour episode, which means he can put 15 eps in the can in a week or less, which he plans to do with a second series mid year … if it rates.

With a such an abiding passion for game shows, we can expect Eddie to “make” time to fit it into his Boss Man schedule. And if some bigger gaps suddenly appear in his diary, well, that could be the happiest of coincidences.

Peter Fray

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