Before the days of reality television ruling the airwaves, game shows staked a hefty claim and many have held on. Matt Erbstein of Phoenix, Ariz. has experience working with both types of shows. He used his creativity to create challenges for reality shows such as “Apprentice” and Ashton Kutcher’s success, “Beauty and the Geek.”
“We’re the people who think it would be fun to see a three-legged grape stomping competition,” Erbstein says.
But comparing reality shows with game shows is like comparing apples to oranges.
Reality shows attract strong competitive personalities and typically people who want recognition. Erbstein says game shows usually bring out fun people looking for a little excitement and the opportunity to go home with cash and prizes.
Nowadays Erbstein serves as the tour manager for the Wheelmobile. It’s a grassroots version of popular game show “Wheel of Fortune,” which first aired in the mid-70s. Pat Sajak and Vanna White have hosted it since 1981.
“There are no lights, bells or whistles [in the traveling show], but it allows us to interact with the fans and allows them to experience the show,” Erbstein says.
The Wheelmobile made its first-ever stop in Fargo, N.D. and gathered about 6,000 people in two days. The traveling team of six looked for people with great personalities, people with funny stories and things that are unusual. The show wants a good mix of people from various parts of the country.
“You wouldn’t want to watch the show if everyone was from L.A. – how boring,” says Suzy Rosenberg, Wheel of Fortune Promotion Director.
People who stuck out to Rosenberg were farmers (being from L.A., it was cool to see real farmers) and a firefighter who played bagpipes.
The crowd erupted in cheers when Marty, the traveling host, asked who had dreams about being on Wheel of Fortune.
“Your dream comes true today,” Marty said. “This is your stage, this is your microphone. If you want to tell a story, tell a story; if you want to tell a joke – tell a clean joke.”
Contestants were chosen at random, they competed five at a time during six hour-long live shows. Each person had a moment in the spotlight giving details about themselves and then picking letters and taking three seconds to solve the puzzle.
One contestant grabbed the microphone from the host, stunning him for only a second. She led the crowd in an animated rendition of “You are my Sunshine.”
When the host finally regained his microphone, he asked if she was ready to play.
“You bet,” she replied in true North Dakota fashion. “This is on my ‘bucket list!’”
The Wheelmobile takes 25 trips a year. The show’s contestant department will make the trip to Fargo in September to do a final round of auditions. Anyone who makes it through that round will appear on the television version of “Wheel of Fortune” in Los Angeles.
To view more photos of the two-day event, visit the Valley News Live page on Facebook.