What Went Wrong?, Episode 2: Interview with Mark L. Walberg

Hello again. It’s time for another episode of “What Went Wrong?” Today, I’m interviewing Mark L. Walberg. Unfortunately, he’s not the actor, but he is the host of Your Chance to Dance on CMT. For the benefit of those who’d like to associate a name with a face, here’s what he looks like.

Go ahead, say hello to him. I got the chance to interview him over Facebook. Now, he answered in shorthand, so I edited his responses. Basically, capitalization, punctuation, etc.

GP: Hi, Mark. First off, according to your Wikipedia page, you grew up watching game shows. What were some of your favorites?
MW: I used to watch Price is Right, Gambit, Joker’s Wild, etc…all the 70s game shows with my grandmother. My favorite is probably Pyramid.

GP: It also says you were working for Dick Clark Productions in 1985. What were you doing for the company?
MW: I started as a freelance “runner” at Dick Clark. I was a gofer and drove tapes around town. While at dcpi, I became a production coordinator and then assistant to an Exec In Charge. One day the warm up guy didn’t show up and Dick said, “get that funny runner” and I was on. Charlie O’Donnell threw me my first paying warm-up gig when he couldn’t make a tape day. warm-up led to announcing on Shop Til You Drop and Teen Win Lose or Draw and ultimately hosting my own shows.

GP: Now, your first national exposure on TV was Teen Win, Lose, or Draw for The Disney Channel. You replaced 3 members of The Mickey Mouse Club. First off, how did you manage to replace The Mickey Mouse Club?
MW: I was the announcer for Teen Win Lose or Draw because the host, Marc Price from family ties, was a friend and wanted me to do warm up. I don’t know anything about the Mickey Mouse Club or replacing anyone.

GP: Since you were a stand-up comedian, did you have any chance to get any routines with Marc Price?
MW: I was never a stand-up. I emceed a little at the Laugh Factory, but I was primarily a warm-up comedian. Entirely different gig. One is to make people laugh at your stuff, the other is about creating a relationship with the audience.

GP: Did you ever meet Michael J. Fox?
MW: Marc Price is an old friend. I knew him after Family Ties. Never met Fox! haha

GP: Mark, you were also the announcer/sidekick on Shop Til You Drop. How did you get involved with that?
MW: I was asked to do the warm up for the pilot which had a prize model and was hosted by Scott Herriott. When I arrived, they asked if I could lay down the “scratch track” for the announcer copy that they would replace with a “real” announcer in post. After the show was shot but before it was cut, the network said, “We’ll pick up the show, get rid of the host, get rid of the model and keep the announcer.” Pat Finn became the host and he and I became life long friends. On the first tape day, they needed a blindfold to be brought in so I did it. Pat and I had a funny and warm exchange and that relationship grew threw the next 4 seasons or so.

GP: What was it like working on the show? Do you have any experiences you’d like to share?
MW: Working on STYD was one of the best experiences of my career. I had a new baby, we did lots of episodes, I became best friends with Pat, I loved the crew and still work with many of them regularly. It was great.

GP: Do you think we could see a Shop Til You Drop revival any time soon?
MW: STYD is a good gameshow. I think it lasted as long as it did because it had staying power, therefore, I think it would be a great show to bring back sometime.

GP: You’ve done various shows for USA. You did Gonzo Games, The Big Date, and Free 4 All. All 3 were for USA. Why do you think Stone Stanley picked USA?
MW: I worked with Stone Stanley a lot in those early years. The Big Date was Howard Schultz at Lighthearted. I think we did a lot at USA because USA was buying a lot. And you do get a relationship with a network after a show or two.

GP: Now for some of the really big ones. Your first big hit was Russian Roulette, a pretty fun show IMO. I mean, seeing people drop out of the floor is fun. First off, how did you get involved in this?
MW: I simply auditioned for Russian Roulette. It went great. I knew everyone in the room, which is usually the case these days. Bob Boden was the exec at GSN and it was an exciting time there. Kennedy had Friend or Foe, Graham Elwood did Cram, Todd Newton was doing Whammy, Marc Summers, Chuck Woolery… I thought RR was a really great game. I liked getting to be comedic and a little mean. Gunner Wetterberg who created the show was a joy to work with. Great series to do. Lots and lots of fun.

GP: Burton Richardson’s the announcer, but you really can’t tell it’s him because his voice is so low and reserved. It’s probably to build suspense.
MW: They kept pulling Burton back on RR. They wanted a tone. I’m friends with Burton as well. He’s an accomplished pilot and I’ve flown with him.

GP: What was it like working on the show? Do you have any experiences you’d like to share with us?
MW: Working on RR was a blast. Great people. Great director. They used to play the soundbite from Apollo 13 before each show. The “checklist before launch” scene. We also got so good at taping, we would see how fast we could get a 30 min episode show done. I think we did it in 34 minutes.

GP: Did you ever forget to “watch your step”?
MW: I never fell in, but I did jump in on April Fools I think!

GP: Next, I’d like to go onto On The Cover. It was on PAX, it really didn’t last that long, and that’s why I want to bring it up. How’d you get involved in that? What was it like working on the show?
MW: I was offered that show. It wasn’t the most fun to do. We did some episodes and launched but came off the air the next day. Then we reshot a pilot which I was asked to do without compensation and without an agreement- also with one-day’s notice. But once we got it straightened out, people seemed to like it. There was no live audience and it was a bit stressful, but I tried to do my best.

GP: It only lasted a few months on PAX. In your opinion, Mark, what went wrong? What caused the show to crash and burn?
MW: I really can’t tell you what goes wrong. Maybe the prizes weren’t good. Maybe PAX was in trouble. I can’t manage that part and it’ll make you crazy thinking about why one show works and one doesn’t.

GP: Next, Temptation Island. Your first reality show, your 2nd relationship game, and your first game with Fox. It looks hot. How on Earth did you get involved with this one?
MW: Temptation Island. well…I was really on the skids. I had done my talk show and The Big Date, but I couldn’t get a gig. I went back to doing warm-up and ended up doing the warm up for Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire for FOX. Mike Darnell saw me there and said I should do the warmup for all their shows. I told him I should host their shows. A couple weeks later, my agent was playing tennis with Mike and suggested me for T.I. I auditioned and then met with Chris Cowan. He and I really saw eye to eye and doing the show with him was a highlight.
GP: Now, how did you prepare for this? Sticking couples on an island and then tempting them, you were in an incredible position. Since you are an actor, did that help any?
MW: First of all, I’m not an actor. You may have me confused with Mark Wahlberg! I’m a host. Always have been. On TI, I felt that I could do it from the standpoint of “be careful what you wish for”. I was a happily married man and a few years older than the cast. My take was that I would give them what they asked for but I personally knew that it wasn’t all the fantasy makes you think.
GP: What was it like working on the show? Do you have any experiences you’d like to share?
MW: Working on TI 1 was amazing. The location was paradise and we knew we had a hit from day one. It was fast and loose and you really had to know how to host a live moment to make it work. I had all the freedom in the world to go with whatever I thought we should go with.
GP: The show only lasted 3 seasons. Why do you think that is?
MW: I think there was too much time between seasons. and the casts for 2 and 3 were weak.

GP: After that is one of your more controversial formats, The Moment of Truth. How did you get involved with that?
MW: I got a call at 9:30 on a Friday nite ftom my friend and producer Mike Maddocks. I was leaving a taping of a game show pilot I hosted and was still in make up and wardrobe. He said they had fired their host at the pilot he was doing and how quick could I get there. I got there at 10 and jumped in. That tape sold the show in 20 countries.

GP: What was it like working on the show? Do you have any experiences you’d like to share?
MW: Working on MOT was amazing. The show was huge. 300 people in the audience. And I was completely unscripted. I didn’t even read most of the questions beforehand. I didn’t enjoy the tension and subject matter, but from a hosting standpoint, it was a full plate.

GP: You dealt with a lot of dark matter. You asked some really controversial questions and turned a number of heads. People were admitting their infidelity left and right. They were admitting all these things on the air, and you were forced to listen to all this. (Of course you were, it’s your job.) How did you deal with all that darkness and controversy? How did you manage to sleep at night knowing all this?
MW: I never had an ethical problem with MOT. The people knew every question before hand. They had many opportunities to opt out. It was difficult often because it was emotional but I tried to be as human and non-judgemental as possible.

GP: The show was incredibly controversial, it had the potential to be a huge juggernaut. What went wrong? Why’d the show get pulled?
MW: Early in the taping, I said to Mike Maddocks and Howard Schultz, “We want a ten year run, and FOX wants ten weeks”. I feel they made it too controversial too quick and too often.

GP: If offered the chance to host a revival, would you take it?
MW: If offered, I’d consider.

GP: Now, I want to move on to something much lighter. Antiques Roadshow. You’re probably the first and only game show host with a gig on PBS. How did you get involved with this?
MW: I was asked to meet with the Roadshow producer. Lara Spencer was leaving and they were looking to replace her. It was a good meeting. Now, I’ve grown into really loving the show and we’re all very close.

GP: What’s your real role on the show? What do you actually do at an Antiques Roadshow taping?
MW: In every city we do three field pieces- one for each of the three episodes per venue. Those are all day shoots and take me anywhere imaginable. On show day, I tape all the opens, closes, and other stuff. I’m amongst the crowds and they really get a kick out of it. Lots of autographs and pictures. Really dear people.

GP: Your most recent gig is Your Chance to Dance on CMT. How did you get involved with this?
MW: I did the pilot for my friend Phil Gurin. They picked it up and I hosted 10 episodes.

GP: I think your talents are being wasted on this show. Absolutely wasted. Of course, that’s just me. What do you think of all this?
MW: I do the best I can for each show. The format is always more important than the host.

GP: I can imagine you enjoying this break. You don’t have to ask any questions, you don’t have to really deal with people, you just stand there and introduce people dancing. It seems like a job anybody can do.
MW: I enjoy doing a family show that’s variety entertainment. I don’t seem to do much but it’s a little more difficult than you think. haha

GP: Onto another note, Make Me a Millionaire. The show replaced The Big Spin and you replaced Pat Finn. Now, how did you get involved with the California Lottery?
MW: When Pat knew he was done he pushed for me.
GP: I bet you didn’t know this, Mark, but many of the games on MMaM were actually from Flamingo Fortune, a show from the Florida Lottery (where Rich Fields was announcing before he did Price). Anyway, why do you think the show got cancelled?
MW: Budget. Simply budget.
GP: Mark, there’s been an increasing trend of people you wouldn’t expect hosting a game show hosting them. You have Drew Carey on The Price is Right, Sherri Shepherd on The Newlywed Game, Steve Harvey hosting Family Feud (and Joey Fatone announcing, he replaced Burton), and Meridith Viera on Millionaire. why do you think this trend is occuring?
MW: I think promotable names is the trend.

GP: Mark, out of the shows you’ve done, which one is your favorite and why?
MW: I’m often asked that, and I honestly couldn’t say. Maybe Roadshow. Maybe Big Date… Maybe T.I.

GP: Which is your least favorite? Do you even have a least favorite?
MW: On the Cover and Free 4 All
GP: Finally, what advice do you have for people who want to enter your field of work?
MW: Advice…oh boy…… Well, hosting is all about listening.
GP: Thanks a lot, Mark. Good luck with Antiques Roadshow and Your Chance to Dance.

And don’t forget to watch Mark every week on Antiques Roadshow on PBS and Your Chance to Dance on CMT. Thanks again. Wink’s coming by next week, hopefully. Stand by for more!


About gameking77

I'm an average guy who loves game shows and interviewing people.
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2 Responses to What Went Wrong?, Episode 2: Interview with Mark L. Walberg

  1. Pingback: Response: May 28, 2011 | Slow Boat to The Land of Parting Gifts

  2. James Greek says:

    Did it happen to be American Bandstand where Mark filled in for Charlie?

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