Micallef breaks his own promise for Brain Eisteddfod

He was determined to appear elder statesman-like, but it wasn't long before Shaun Micallef was resorting to serious madcap for his new 10 quiz.

“I actually have to be a real host. I’ve never done that before,” Shaun Micallef says of his new 10 series Brain Eisteddfod.

“I have to be functional. I have to remember things. It was more a surprise. I thought ‘This will just be like Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation.

“I went in with the best of intentions, promising myself effect that I would not be stupid. That I would show the audience a more elder statesman, kind of a more-reserved figure. But by about halfway through the first record, I was pulling bananas out of the filing cabinet, doing stupid stuff again. So I’m afraid I broke my promise within about four seconds.”

Viewers will doubtless be happy that he did just that. Year 11 students from two schools go head to head in questions on Foreign Language, Australiana, Mathematics, History, Physics, Art and more.

“I was trying to think of a show where you just beam everybody in”

Produced by Lune Media, the series was created by Micallef in response to lockdowns.

“I was trying to think of a show where you just beam everybody in from wherever they were. University Challenge used to use a tiered effect with students. I thought, you could probably have them at a studio in Adelaide and (another team in) another studio. That would be a nice, inexpensive way of a way of taking advantage of the technology that was developing, and also it’d be just safer,” he continues.

“But then, of course, we realised there’s a delay in Australia. So if you’ve got your team in Perth you’d have to wait five seconds for an answer which puts them at a slight disadvantage to a program where you have to be first on the buzzer.”

So while it has no direct links to It’s Academic or even Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Micallef acknowledges the genre similarities.

“In the end, they’re all the same thing. They’re all ‘Here’s a question on a card, wait for an answer, press the button.’ So I think the difference is probably is the conversation around the questions and answers, getting to know the students,” he explains.

“There aren’t too many kids of that age being truly represented on television”

“I think it’s interesting way of getting to know a bit of the population of this country that we don’t often see on television, or if we do they’re probably on a soap played by a 27 year old. There aren’t too many kids of that age being truly represented on television, because they got stuff to da. They’ve got to go to school.”

In between the format questions, our trusty host takes time to get to know his contestants, and draws upon his own experience in the classroom for learning.

“It’s sort of what you would have in a classroom if a substitute teacher came in and didn’t really know what they were doing -which is kind of (like) me.

“I’m not suggesting for a moment that this is Dead Poets Society”

“I’m not suggesting for a moment that this is Dead Poets Society, but there is a sort of natural humour that comes from the back and forth between the teacher figure and the student figures. That’s kind of what’s happening here.

“My best days at school were with a teacher that was very inspiring, and used to tell jokes all the time. And we told jokes back. Lo and behold, at the end of the term, you found that you actually knew some stuff about Shakespeare, because you’ve been talking about it in that context. So for me, that’s very comfortable.”

Questions are based on year 11 academia, penned by long-term co-writer Michael Ward. There’s no prize on offer -although Micallef suitably jokes about one- and filming took palce at 10’s Pyrmont studio with a very vocal crew, parents and school representatives in lieu of a COVID limited studio audience.

“All we’ve got there is the crew and some parents and chaperones representing the school. That’s it. So there’s maybe about 10 people around there and it’s a very unprofessional crew who just don’t seem to shut up.

“It feels a little bit off-Broadway. I quite like that about it.”

Shaun Micallef’s Brain Eisteddfod airs 7:30pm Wednesday on 10.

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