Who Wants to Be a Slumdog?

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Hot Seat is probably the only game show I watch with some regularity. It goes down rather well with my afternoon tea, and it’s satisfying to get the answer right before the contestants do. What’s really interesting about the show is how most contestants do the ‘slumdog routine’ these days.

If you’ve watched Slumdog Millionaire you’ll know that the movie is about a Mumbai quiz show contestant who explains how he knows the answers to the questions. Behind each answer lies a story, and each story links with another to tell the tale of the boy from the slums who makes it to the quiz show. Every other Australian I meet asks if I’ve seen the film if I tell them I’m from Mumbai. Since answering in the negative seemed to kill the conversation, I decided to sacrifice a weekend to Slumdog Millionaire and Australia. Nothing to do with Hugh Jackman – it was meant to be an educational experience.

Slumdog Millionaire does depict the madness of Mumbai’s train stations, but there’s little else of the city in it. As for Australia – I still haven’t come across a local who says ‘crikey’.  Neither movie has done much for my conversational skills. Still, the ‘slumdog routine’ seems to have caught on in the game shows – or was it always there?

Millionaire Hot Seat on Channel Nine is hosted by a genial chap named Eddie McGuire who prompts interesting anecdotes from the contestants. “Jane has actually met Muhammad Ali,” he says excitedly. “Tell us about that…” It seems having an interesting story to tell is one of the qualifications for being on the quiz show. The whole slumdog routine is as important as getting the answer right.  

To another contestant McGuire poses a seemingly difficult question about the location of Deakin University. “I actually should know this, Eddie,” replies the young woman.

“Oh, and why’s that?”

“Alfred Deakin was my great-grandfather.”

This, of course, provokes exclamations of surprise and much disbelieving head-shaking while the clock ticks away.

“Lock it in, Eddie,” I said, “and get on with the quiz. The answer is Warrnambool.”

“You should be on the show,” said my flatmate, after I’d managed to beat most of the contestants to the answers.

Yeah, right. It’s not like I have any interesting anecdotes to go with each answer. The only reason why my head is filled with such useless trivia is because I once worked for an encyclopaedia publisher.


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