Interview with Mark Pugatch
Have you always been interested in game shows?
I have been an avid watcher of game shows since my youth. I particularly liked Jeopardy. My dad used to always tell me when I was young to always strive to have a jeopardy kind of mind...that is, a little bit of knowledge about a lot of subjects so you could always participate in a discussion and sound worldly. I also liked quiz shows that asked for knowledge and less those that relied on chance etc.
What made you interested in being a contestant on the Weakest Link?
My daughter, Courtney (aged 17) challenged me to try to be a contestant on the Weakest Link. The two of us always watch it together and she thought that since i did such a good job answering them at home, that i might be able to do so on the show.
What happened behind the scenes from when you arrived at the studio until taping began?
I was told to wait at the guard shack until 8:15 A.M. when I would be picked up by the staff. Several production assistants came by and picked up 3 of us, 1 from San Diego, 1 from the LA area and me from Yorba Linda, in Orange County, California. When we went into the waiting room, across the hall from the studio (NBC Burbank), we were told to hang up our clothes and go through a make up for hair and face. Then they told us that we were awaiting the arrival from the hotel of 9 out of town contestants, that had been flown in the night before and who all stayed in the same hotel the night before. The other 9 arrived and we were told to fill out contracts and releases, the same ones that we had filled out prior and faxed into them prior to our arrival on that morning. Then the wardrobe people came in and judged our outfits. There can be no blacks or greys, mostly colors and a blend of casual and formal. Then the lawyers came in and read the rules, you know how lawyers are. Then we talked about the rules for awhile. Then we did a mock walk through with all 12 of us-2 teams of 6. In order to eliminate the extra 4 contestants, we had to meet for a couple of minutes with a panel of the show's producers and convince them of our sincerity or desperation to get on. That must have worked because I made the final cut to the last 8. We were then herded to the studio and told where we would stand and what our positions were. Then a final wardrobe check, a makeup refresher, and placing microphones on us. A final walkthrough on stage as to how to use buttons and name plate, (where you write the victim's names) and finally, we were taken to the bathroom and lined up off stage for the taping which started around 1PM.
What was your impression of Anne Robinson and the behind the scenes people?
Anne is a very smart, perceptive person. She is nobody's fool and has a quick wit in terms of quickly matching your occupation, your answers, to how you did in a given round. She demonstrates a warmer side when she occasionally gets out of her "show persona" before the taping and during the taping when she acknowledges your "being screwed" by your fellow contestants. Don't miss questions about the Brits or England! The technicians, stage manager and all of the support people were great, especially the talent coordinators, Andrea and Laura. There was lucky Kari, the production assistant and the rest, who really went out of their way to make you feel less nervous and as comfortable as possible. What was going through your mind while the other contestants were answering their questions? when they were revealing their vote? My experience was unique I think, but there are a few observations I can make. You concentrate so hard on your questions and when it is coming around to your turn, that you really try to not think about the other questions. It is essential to watch the chain dollar board and know how much is in the kitty to bank, and to see if the one contestant before you was right, as to whether to bank or not. Beware of those who try to bank 0! At the end of the round, I felt elated that I was the strongest link. I had answered all of the questions and banked the most money, almost 90% of what was earned. I felt relieved that my daughter who said I would be eliminated in the first round was going to be wrong. Or was she?
I wrote down the name of Jennifer, who lied about her age on the taping, and listened as the names were revealed. I got a vote to my right and then 3 more in positions 6,7,8. I was shocked and disappointed and somewhat perturbed as my expressions illustrate. I could not have predicted this occurrence. It is a mixed bag of emotions for sure. You need to know why?
What advice would you give people going on the show?
Be careful if you are the only out of state contestant. Be careful if you are an attorney, this show's contestants seem to dislike them. This is not a game of knowledge so much as a game of luck, and how the questions fall. But on the other hand, it is a game that punishes you for being smart, a threat, a certain profession, from a certain place etc. Finally, there is a rule that we passed on to Ron and he forgot and fell victim to it. If the last 4 are 2 men and 2 women, and you are a guy, DO NOT vote for the other man....in all cases you will be voted off in the next round by the remaining women and miss your place in the finals...he went brain dead and lost his chance even though he was the smartest person! Evidence the puny $2000 they won on that round.
How did you feel about being voted off first, even though you were the strongest link?
I went through a series of emotions after realizing that my elation had turned into shock and anger and disappointment. Even though I wanted to look professional and not be a whiner, I wanted to know why. There were the time taken when Anne questioned each of the voters, although only 2 got on TV. They passed it off to the fact that I was an attorney...that was bad enough! They said I didn't need the $, they hated attorneys, and so on. When I walked off, I was stunned and felt worse that my daughter had been right. but for the wrong reason. I was not the weakest link or did anything to embarrass myself with. I banked all the money, I answered correctly all the questions! Then why? I decided to be a professional during the taping of the exit comments. I said they would pay for my exit and they did! It was not until the next contestant got voted off, primarily because he was a returnee to the show and now had gotten knocked off twice, that I was given the real reason for my early exit. All of the others were from out of town and 4 of them, had formed an alliance at the hotel during dinner the night before and on the bus coming in to do the following: -vote off the local contestant in round 1 -vote off the returning contestant in round 2 -hang together till only the 4 remained, and 2 did to the end. That was somewhat reassuring, but it then said that my ability or knowledge would not have even mattered, for anyone local in my spot was a goner...Ugh! Well, I feel good today and have heard that I did very well, it looked like I was too strong and they got me off early and that I was professional and civil...and everyone on the staff was pissed too, but what can you do. There is some talk of allowing me back on if there is a favorite loser segment like they have done in Britain, but who knows.
What sort of strategy did you have before going into the game?
The only strategy I had was to get on the show, and once on, not do anything to embarrass myself. I concentrated on my answers and the banking and thought about my initial vote off for some time as to what the right move was. I did not form any agreements or alliances and I guess believed that my knowledge would carry me as far as I could go....wrong! On the ride home, I thought if there was anything I could have done differently, like state a different occupation, visit with the people in the hotel the night before, or forge any alliances, but you know, I was honest and wanted to set an example to my daughter and the kids I represent that a job worth doing is a job doing well. I had my 9 minutes of fame, got screwed and lived to tell the tale, that my demise was not due to anything I did myself. That is a win!
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