If you've been reading the site over the last few days, you've probably noticed a little TV program called The Phone. We happened to score ourselves an interview with Executive Producer, Chris Berry, who was happy to give us a few insights into what the reality-come-action game actually is...
So, The Phone; it's an interesting concept, but kinda complicated. How would you describe the show?
There's so much to it, it's difficult to explain. I think probably the easiest way to describe it is it's a cross between The Bourne Identity and The Amazing Race.
So if it's difficult to explain, why bother- why not go with a tried and tested, simple, game show format?
Well, it's just so different. It's a unique format that hasn't been done before and I think, purely and simply because of that, it has a lot of potential to peak viewer interest. One of the truly charming things about the program, is that it's kind of a heightened reality; whilst we're using real, unsuspecting contestants, there's a terrific subplot or drama that unfolds throughout. In fact, every episode has a storyline. So there's a true depth to it unlike any other reality program. It steps into a completely unknown reality format.
It reminds me of that show from a few years back called The Mole.
Yeah, yeah there are definite similarities.
It must have been pretty interesting for you to be producing a reality program that is essentially scripted television?
Oh absolutely. It was a relentless and demanding show to put together. Whilst Michelle, our writer, could start with a blank paper and create this wonderful back story and manufacture these clever and quirky little clues, essentially our key cast in each episode, aside from [host]Justin Melvey, was two unsuspecting people who had been plucked off the street, by answering a phone. So the slightly terrifying part of that was whilst we could invest in research- walk routes and figure out it would take x minutes to find a clue- if the contestants didn't find it on time, it would cascade throughout the entire filming. Depending on whether they found the clue or went in the right direction, all of a sudden we'd have to move five cameramen.
Speaking of the contestants, from the trailers and interviews I've seen so far, all the contestants seem to be young and good looking. How come?
We did, I guess, target locations where we thought young people might be- since it's a Fox8 program we wanted a younger player. But ultimately we were just pretty lucky that we found such amazing contestants, who played the game hard, enjoyed themselves and provided good dialogue.
Did it surprise you how competitive people got in the game?
We'd spent so long researching and creating this world called The Phone, it became really important that once the game started the contestants remained in that world. I think that was the exciting part for the contestants- they got to forget about their day to day lives for a while, were completely emerged in this world called The Phone and had a ball.
Did anyone actually turn down the offer to get involved?
We did get a couple of people, but we'd just move on. We'd either have to relax and wait for about half an hour to reset everything, because everyone around would have seen the situation, or we'd just move to a new location.
So how do you think it will be received by the Australian public?
I think, because it's unique, there'll be a high level of curiosity. At the same time, it's very fast paced. You don't have long sections where you could possibly fall asleep- you really have to charge yourself to watch it. Plus, we've got some fantastic contestants, that I think people will enjoy watching.
Are there any plans to make a second series?
I think everyone involved in the first one would put their hand up and agree to go through the pain again- the test to that will of course be whether the viewers like the first series.
In other words; note to the reader- watch the show...
The Phone premieres 8.30pm, Monday 19th on Fox 8.