Prizes galore for the children who know the answers
Once a week, on the Granada TV network, this popular show goes out over the air. It all looks very spontaneous, and certainly is, as far as the questions and answers are concerned, but there is a good deal of careful preparatory work, done beforehand, in selecting the contestants.
You can’t just write in and say ‘I want to be a Quiz Kid’!
Sidney Bernstein, the chief of the Granada network, is very fussy. He likes contestants to feel happy and relaxed before the cameras, and he likes to be pretty sure that their general knowledge won’t dry up when the crucial time comes in front of the cameras.
The programme has been timed from the start, so that it should not interrupt school hours.
There are several rules that must be obeyed: Contestants must have permission from the Head of their school to take part in the Quiz. Parents must give their permission.
Contestants must have a bit of personality that ‘comes over’ to the viewers.
And then there is the general knowledge test that comes first, in the process of selection.
Tests are arranged every week, after the production team have sorted out the applications. These come in by the hundred, and are carefully sorted out before the first ‘heat’ is decided on by the production team, based on what the boys and girls write in their applications.
Granada like parents to attend the test session, along with the would-be contestants — but not to sit beside them while they fill in the answers.
On one occasion a mother, who sat next to her offspring and whispered the answers, ruined her daughter’s chances. The daughter possibly knew the answers herself, but the man in charge of that session overheard the whispering, and decided that on the live programme, with no mother to guide her, she might well be a failure.
After this incident it was arranged for the contestants to sit apart from Mum and Dad, and not be hurried or harried in writing their answers to the twenty-five test questions.
The test questions, incidentally, are changed every week, so there is no chance of Johnnie Smith passing on any information to his chum Maggie Jones at the same school, if she is selected for another Junior Criss-Cross Quiz.
There is, too, a questionnaire, filled in by the contestants themselves, about their school, their hobbies, what they want to do when they leave school, what kind of locality they live in — whether this is town or country is important.
While the boys and girls are filling in the test papers the man in charge of the operation goes quietly around, talking to the parents.
‘The lucky ones,’ he’ll say, ‘will be well taken care of. There will be transport to the studio, and transport back home, food and ice cream on the side. We do not want any one of them to be considered as a child prodigy, with a vast amount of knowledge swotted up for the occasion.’
Anyone living or near Manchester can apply to join in this game — but personality is essential if you are to be chosen as a competitor
Sometimes it happens that the boy or girl who was slowest to complete the test paper turns out to be the winner of a Quiz.
That, too, is taken into consideration, before the final selection.
It helps a Quiz Kid to know that the producers and the Quizmaster are far more nervous than he is, because these characters are responsible for the programme keeping to scheduled time. This is very important where every second counts.
As the Granada Network is situated in Manchester and the first British network to build its own studios rather than ‘adapt’ other buildings, the boys and girls in Junior Criss-Cross Quiz come from schools in the surrounding districts.
They must be between the ages of 12 and 14 (that includes contestants up to the day before their fifteenth birthday). There is at least one instance of a contestant who first appeared when he was 13, and ‘held on’ so long that he was well past his next birthday before the next challenger came in.
Mr. Bernstein, with a teen-age daughter of his own, is in favour of ‘treats’ for prizes, rather than money — things like a trip to Paris, a pedigree dog, a portable typewriter, a cine-camera, riding lessons, music and ballet lessons, for the successful ones.
If you live in the Manchester area, and feel you are a suitable candidate for a Quiz Kid session, write to the Correspondence Manager, Granada House, Water Street, Manchester, 3.