One pounding beat. Then another. And another. And one last more.
A brass fanfare follows, alongside a snare, slowly going crescendo, then blasting before it pauses. Alongside this sound is a capture of a long, black, swivel chair that seems to be a kind executives sit on.
The atmosphere around the studio is black and serious. Spotlights show up, shining at the chair, then to four people sitting on one side.
This is how every Mastermind episode begins. This is what the game show is known for—its seriousness, shown in the dark studio and in the theme music entitled "Approaching Menace".
This is a game show where intellect counts a lot. This is not aired in the Philippines, but it is very popular in United Kingdom, where it aired since 1972, and stopped at around 1997, then came back at 2003.
There are 2 rounds in Mastermind. In the first round, the four people are going to be asked, one by one, by the game master about a specialist subject each of these contestants have chosen for themselves, which the player—I suppose—knows the best. That subject can range from human parasites to the life and works of an author.
Each will sit on that black executive chair, and the game master is in front of him/her. Each is given 2 minutes to answer correctly as many questions as they can. If they don't know the answer, they may pass. The stop of the time is signaled by a silent buzzer beeping 4 times.
When all the players are already done, the second round takes place, when each will be asked again by the game master on general knowledge—current events, facts, pop culture, etc. The time is extended to 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The order of contestants in this round is changed, the one with the least score in the previous round being the first to answer in that black seat, and the one with the largest score (or least passes in case of a tie) being the last to sit and answer.
The scores from the 2 rounds are summed up, and the one with the most number of correct answers (or most correct answers with less passes, in case of another tie) wins, and goes on to the semi-finals.
Whoever wins the semis will move forward to finals, where whoever wins will receive the title of "Mastermind" of that particular year (thus, Mastermind's an annual—let's say—tournament). The price is a well-crafted glass bowl, which I can say is a token/symbol of honor. I suppose there are no cash prizes, but I believe that the real prize is honor, like receiving an honorable mention in graduation, or being salutatorian or valedictorian of the class.
Not like any other game show
Mastermind may look boring for some of us, but this game's uniqueness and simplicity amazes me. It's very interesting to me that if there is just a broadcast of it on cable, or a local version of it here, I would watch it a lot.
The uniqueness and seriousness of this game is due to the game's creator, Bill Wright, who was inspired by his experiences in World War II, where he was interrogated by the Gestapo, Nazi Germany's secret police (source: Wiki, of course).
This is a game show of intellect and nothing else. It's close to a quiz bee, but I find it better than Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (which I also find great). We can learn a lot in this show, especially that there are questions in specific topics. Like other game shows, you may play the game, try to answer the questions, especially in the general knowledge part, and determine perhaps how much you know about things at the present.
What's also interesting about the game, when it was aired in the 70's to 90's, is that it was filmed at some highly regarded institutions, including Brittania Royal Naval Academy.
"Mastermind: Philippine Edition"
So, if there would be a Philippine edition of Mastermind, perhaps it will be held occasionally on the grounds of universities like UP, UST, Ateneo and La Salle; or on the halls of DOST and National Museum.
How about the game master? He should be a very intellectual person fit for the game's seriousness. Perhaps Edu Manzano (at the least) or Lourd de Veyra, or Freddie Abando, the serious-sounding journalist on People's Television (PTV), or Martin Andanar.
The language, in my opinion, could either be English (for formality and originality) or Filipino (for wider reach of audiences and local originality).
The station? I figure out PTV is a good place. They want useful programs, or "edutainment"? Then why not Mastermind? They air ASEAN Quiz Bee, so why not Mastermind? The game's broadcaster in UK, for your information, is a public station—BBC (specifically BBC 2).
TV5 can be a good spot as well, since they have WWTBAM. Probably next to Let's Ask Pilipinas, or before the current affairs program, though that can be difficult because they air PBA.
ABS-CBN is also a good broadcaster of game shows from time to time. GMA can have a good help with Mastermind, now that I miss game shows there, which I regularly catch before the primetime news. However, it seems unfit for a program like Mastermind. I also think of Light Network. Why not?
The big question, however, is will Filipino audience watch Mastermind? We're all fond of and used to a game show that is in a way contrast to Mastermind. Colorful sets, joyful atmosphere, and cash. Mastermind is a nice show, and it can appeal to many professionals around the country, from teachers to lawyers to politicians to scholars, from the honed brains of elders to the brilliant minds of the youth; but will it gain much audience to satisfy not only the viewers, but also the network?
Well, if PTV will air it, that won't matter, and I suggest that it be aired at late nights. Nonetheless, will they gain audience, especially that PTV is somehow passed by and not stuck on. Yet, a game show on public TV can bring positive response from viewers.
In addition to Mastermind's possibility on Philippine tubes, Mastermind can be used as a game in schools (on Foundation Day and quiz bees) and universities (in org events). This kind of games appeals to every intellect out there, either they are salutatorians and valedictorians or simply those who are humbly smart.
Mastermind is a very unique and intellectual game that honors the value of knowledge and wit. It can be a good show on Philippine TV, like Wheel of Fortune and Deal or No Deal, but it's doubtful if it will be appreciated by the majority of the Philippine audience.
It's enough for me, nonetheless, if I catch it on cable and make it a habit to watch. And if so a Philippine version takes place, I hope to join or be the game master.
How about you, what do you think? Is a Philippine Mastermind possible? Who can be the host, where is it best to air, and would you like to join? If you would, what's your specialist subject? Please have your say at the comments section, or on Twitter @adrianconoza, or on Google+, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.