Q: The young contestants on “Genius Junior” seem to handle pressure well, no?
A: Yes, and I think there’s two different types of pressure. There’s the pressure for them to actually perform and succeed at the questions and the tasks at hand. But there’s a secondary pressure of being in front of an audience with cameras everywhere, and that’s a totally foreign environment to all of them.
So with those pressures I’m more comfortable and was keenly aware those are very unique circumstances. So yes, there was understandable upset that they didn’t get to move on to the next round … . I would go right to them and remind them we’re here to celebrate them and whether they move on to the next round or not, what they were able to do for the show and for the audience, for families was really awesome and inspiring.
Q: As a first-time game-show host, was this a learning curve?
A: A bit. I’ve always been a huge game-show fan. When I grew up, daytime game shows were a real presence on TV, so I watched “Sale of the Century” and “Tic Tac Dough,” and I always loved the rapid-fire game-show hosts. When we have game nights at our house with friends, I wind up being the one to explain the rules and keep things moving and try to be enthusiastic. So I am a fan of all things games. It suits me pretty well. I love it.
Q: Does this keep your improv muscles limber?
A: Yeah, definitely. That’s the nice thing about it not being live, is I can certainly go off script and if I see something with the teams like things are getting a little serious, I can add some levity and the kids are commenting or doing something unique, we can talk about it and sort of keep things a bit improvisational. … But whether we’re getting to talk to them before the game started or right before a single game begins, it’s fun to sort of pick their brains and see what quips they would come up with in a “Kids Say the Darndest Things” kind of way.
George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.