Hi there. Welcome back. We’ve got an interview today with Rossi Morreale.
This conversation was edited for capitalization and spelling.
Greg Palmer: Hi there. First off, I understand you played football in high school in Fort Smith, Arkansas. What made you decide to go into broadcasting instead of pro football?
Rossi Morreale: Well, I did play in High School and also played in College at the University of Arkansas…by the time I finished there, I realized that I wasn’t big enough for the NFL. I had the talent, but size is everything in the PRO’s.
GP: How did you get involved with game shows in general?
RM: That was my first game show. As far as hosting…I came out to Cali on Vacation and never left. I ended up working as a Casting director’s asst. We were casting Junkyard Wars and after 3 days of watching people audition…I decided to jump in front of the camera and do the audition when everyone left the room. A week later I booked the show.
GP: Now for the main reason we’re all here…….. Temptation: The New $ale of the Century. What could have become the return of a legendary show became one of Fremantle’s biggest flops. First off, how did you get chosen to become the host?
RM: Thanks for rubbing it in…;-) I auditioned. They had met with other possible hosts, Mark Wahlberg [Editors Note: I’m pretty sure he meant L. Walberg] and Drew Lachey and they just hadn’t found what they were looking for. I had worked with the casting director before and he said he knew a guy that he thought fit the role and brought me in and I booked it.
GP: Were you familiar with Jim Perry’s version [from the 80s]? Did you watch a few episodes before your first day on the job?
RM: I was familiar with Jim Perry’s version…which was a revival of Jack Kelly’s version in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I did watch a few shows to refresh my memory, but I was a big fan of game shows in general. Not only Jim Perry, with Sale and Card Sharks, but also loved Classic Concentration, Press Your Luck, Bumper Stumpers, etc…I used to love staying home from school to watch game shows all day.
[what we were supposed to get]
GP: “Temptation” was supposed to be based on the Australian revival of “$ale” at the time (also named “Temptation”). Did you watch a few episodes of that prior to your first show?
RM: Not only did I watch a few episodes, but I watched them LIVE. We flew to Australia to watch them tape for a week and that’s actually where we shot the pilot of our version to go sell it into syndication.
[What we were pitched:]
GP: What was it like working on the show?
RM: It was amazing. We shot 170 episodes in 28 days…not 28 straight, cause we took a few days off, but 28 shooting days. We were cranking out 6 a day and I loved every minute of it. It was fast and furious and we got to a point where we were basically shooting them live in about 22 minutes.
[What we Got]
GP: The interesting thing about this show, and in my opinion one of the factors that lead to its downfall, was that the contestants were predominantly female (with a few homosexual men). That limited the show’s audience quite a bit. I know I was disappointed because I wanted to be a contestant. How much do you think the casting affected the game?
RM: Well it’s funny you say that…because the first guy we had on the show (and he was totally straight) dominated everybody went the entire week and won a car. That probably scared them. We didn’t have the money to be giving away a lot of cars!! I don’t know if that affected the casting of the contestants or not, but I do know that we kept seeing men really take over the show consistently when they were on. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of women dominated the show, but most guys that came on won consistently. So, maybe that’s the reason.
GP: Also, the show’s prize budget was somewhat of a factor. It was much cheaper than other syndicated shows at the time, certainly cheaper than Wheel of Fortune. The biggest prize of them all was a $20K+ car. On the 80s version, you could buy all the prizes plus a $50K+ cash jackpot for $750. Over $100,000 in cash and prizes for just $750. On this show, you could buy a $20K+ car for $750 and that was it. As for the Instant Cash, the pot started at $1,000 (as it does in your version), but went up by $1,000 each time it wasn’t won (instead of $500). In your opinion, why was the prize budget so low?
RM: That was because the show’s budget was so low. You can’t compare Wheel of Fortune of today to the first season of our show…you have to go back to its original season and you’d see the money and prizes were tremendously lower. Remember when they would go shopping with their picture in the corner of the screen and buy grandfather clocks and golf clubs? WOF was WAY different when it started. We live in a day where if people aren’t winning life changing money, people aren’t as interested. To do 170 shows, we had to make it before we could really spend the money and we didn’t make it. If we had 20 seasons…you would have seen a different caliber of prizes.
GP: What really annoyed fans (including me) was how Temptation ripped off other game shows. The “Knock Off” and “Super Knock Off” rounds were knockoffs of Wipeout, which was hosted by the late Peter Tomarken in 1988. The “Fame Game” was a knockoff of the Toss-Up puzzle from Wheel of Fortune. Why do you think Fremantle did this?
RM: Well, I can see you’re really bothered by all this and I apologize for that. For the most part, as much as we were “the new Sale of the Century” we were more of, like you said earlier, a copy of Temptation in Australia. They had “Who Am I” or the Fame Game and instead of doing 2 Fame Games, they decided to do Knock-Off, which was a version or the Australian’s “Who am I”, where you would pick different squares and win different amounts of money. We thought it was more fun for the viewer, than just doing another “Fame Game”. Then with Super Knock-off it was just more dramatic then just asking 10 questions.
GP: And then there’s that home shopping aspect. It was tried in game shows before with very little success. Bob Goen did a game show produced by HSN for syndication (the Home Shopping Game). It lasted 1 year and was panned. Peter Tomarken hosted Bargain Hunters for ABC, and that had a home shopping element in it. It lasted less than a year, and Tomarken called the show “a piece of s**t”. Did you like the home shopping element? Why do you even think they even included this element?
RM: The home shopping aspect came mostly because of the digital age we live in. We all know the more the audience can actually get involved, ie…American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Glee, anything where you can vote or buy the songs you just heard, play along online or anything to get the viewer involved usually helps. We thought since we had a shopping show…we’d give people a chance to buy what they saw on TV. You’re about to see that again in the new NBC show Fashion Star on NBC. This time it might work.
GP: All in all, Rossi, I don’t blame you personally. I think you’re an all right guy. The problem doesn’t lie with you, it lies with Fremantle giving the format a lobotomy. In my opinion, you could’ve given Bill Cullen this format and he wouldn’t have known what to do with it. In your opinion, what went wrong? How would you have changed it?
RM: Well, I appreciate that Greg…I think you’re ok too. Unfortunately, a lot of it is perception. You loved the original and I don’t blame you. I did too, but there’s a reason it’s not still on the air. Times have changed and people got bored with it. So to bring a show back, you have to revamp it and change a few things or you’re just bringing back the exact thing that has already been cancelled. That’s wouldn’t be smart. So, all these creative people get together and see what was working in Australia and make a few American tweaks and hope for the best. No show that is successful in one country can move directly to another country and not be tweaked a little bit for the country’s audience. So they did what they thought would work and it didn’t. I truly believe that the main reason we failed is because My Network TV put ZERO dollars into advertising. People can’t watch a show that they don’t know exists. Plus, the time of day is tough, which is why Merv Griffin’s Crosswords and the Trivial Pursuit show that replaced us didn’t succeed either. Gone are the days of an afternoon full of game shows. Sad, but true!
GP: Much like Pat Bullard (who also got screwed by Fremantle), you had a reality show on ABC. Dating in the Dark. What’s it like working on that show?
RM: Dating in the Dark was fun. It was a creative, crazy social experiment that that was fun to watch. All we wanted to see is how people would react if they got to know someone without seeing them and we did. I really enjoyed and hoped it would have gone longer. Way shorter and easier days then doing 6 game shows in a row!
GP: How different is it from shows such as Temptation?
RM: It’s totally different…In these types of shows I just sit around and watch what happens and then pop in for second with a game or new information. With a game show I am in control of the game and I love it. I love to meet new people and see how they play and watch them win and get excited. It’s great. I would LOVE to do another game show.
GP: Do you prefer this to conventional game shows?
RM: No. I would much rather be a game show host. There is nothing like hosting a game show.
GP: So, do you have any future projects in the works that you’d like to promote?
RM: Yes, I just finished shooting a movie called “Life’s an Itch” that is in post production right now. It should be released this summer. So you can see more at www.lifesanitch.com. I’m also about to start hosting a new show that hasn’t been announced yet so I can’t give too much info. It will be announce next week, so I’d love to fill you in on it after it’s announced. It would be great if you’d promote it.
GP: Would you ever like to return to conventional game shows?
RM: Like I said earlier….There is nothing like hosting and running a game show.
GP: Finally, what advice do you have for people who want to go into your field of work?
RM: Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it. If you put your mind to something and work hard and have faith in God and yourself, you can accomplish anything. It’s a tough industry, but if I can do it….any of you can do it.
GP: Thank you very much for your time.
RM: My pleasure Greg…thanks for being patient. Sorry for the delay. If I ever get the chance to host another game show…I hope I can make you and your readers proud.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I have such a love-hate relationship with Fremantle. They save all their best shows for some other countries and give the United States crap like this! Rossi’s not to blame, he did what he could with it. There are just a few things that bother me. I’ll get to a few Video Bonuses in a minute. I’ve got to think this over.