May 30, 2012

"31 Questions: Low budget TV at its most adequate."

Me in my hard won David M. Green cooking
apron with the real David behind me.
I got a call from from my friend Riyana a few weeks ago:  "Hey Gnomes.  Are you free to be a contestant on 31 Questions tomorrow night?  You get free pizza."

I wasn't sure how free I was, or if I really wanted to be in front of a camera (I'm far more comfortable behind them) but Riyana has put in a lot of volunteer hours for me over the last few years, and there was something very appealing about the opportunity to hang out on a TV set without being in charge.

So that's how I ended up competing on a community television game show, hosted by up and coming comedians and crewed by media students; an experience that was simultaneously heaps on fun, bad for my health and hideously embarrassing.

Arahora - Fergus in Hell

31 Questions is filmed in the same studio where we do No Limits and uses a few of the same people behind the scenes, so it was all familiar territory, and  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the girl doing my makeup had also done the demon makeup on Fergus in Hell (you know you're in good hands when your makeup artist has created masterpieces like this =>>).

My first moment of worry came when we got a little tour of the set and I realised that, as a contestant, I was expected to stand behind a counter for about forty minutes.

I've talked about POTS a few times now, and how ill standing for long periods can make me.  The idea of having questions fired at me in front of an audience whilst feeling that way was a bit distressing.

My second moment of worry came when I realised how hot the studio lights were going to be (heat being another killer for people with orthostatic intolerance).  I have a newfound respect for my No Limits cast who spend whole days under those lights when we shoot in there.

Having had these moments, I quickly decided that I would just have to get on with it and deal with the consequences later.  Hopefully the payback wouldn't be too bad.

The 31 Questions team were shooting two episodes that night and I wasn't in the first one, so after being transformed into someone who looks good on TV, I took a spot in the audience to get a feel for how it went.  It was a pretty straightforward game show format, not taking itself too seriously, and the hosts were genuinely laugh-out-loud funny (always a bonus).

I managed to get myself into that first episode by knowing the name of Inspector Gadget's dog when the contestants didn't and the question was thrown to the audience (you can't see me, but they had microphones on us).

Then it was my turn.

It went okay at first.  I got a few answers in, and hopefully wasn't too lame when David (the host) was trying to joke around with us during the "let's introduce the contestants" part of the show.

The real problems came about halfway through when we got to the round where David described events and we had to buzz in with the year in which they occurred.

Now, I'm going to start off by stating that even before I got ME/CFS, I was a bit crap at remembering dates, so a percentage of my inability to answer these questions can be put down to natural talent.

In addition to that though - and to the POTS which was definitely kicking in by then - this particular round, with facts being shot at us in quick succession, really engaged the working memory, which in people with ME/CFS, is quite impaired.

I had some cognitive testing done a few years ago when I complained to my doctor that I was having trouble reading.  At the time, I was worried that I was loosing IQ points.  Thankfully my intelligence quotient was about where it had always been.  My working memory on the other hand ...

Brain fog. Pic from this page.
When I tried to read, I would read paragraph one, then paragraph two, then paragraph three and I would think: I know this would make sense, if I could just remember what happened in paragraph one ...

Basically, my brain was having trouble holding information whilst also engaged in the task of reading.  Paragraph one was being lost before it could be converted to short term memory.  As a result, I could read the same passage four or five times and still not be able to follow the narrative.

This is what a lot of people with ME/CFS call "brain fog."

So I was having a lot of trouble keeping track of events as David reeled them off; as soon as one was out there the next would follow and soon it was just insensible white noise.  By the time David got to the last facts - the easy ones which should have made the year obvious - my head was in too much of mess to grasp any answers.

Thankfully the next round was movie quotes which is more reliant on long term memory and being a film geek.  I excel at film geekery.

And at the end of the day, I won the game!

My prizes were a box of lindts and a novelty apron with David's happy face on it (apparently other winners are now the cheerful owners of a David M. Green snow globe, a David M. Green puzzle, and a David M. Green board game).

By the time is was done, I was very relieved to be out of there, but also really glad I'd agreed to be part of it.

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