Hard Quiz

On Hard Quiz

Friday, December 2, 2016
Reflections on my five minutes of light entertainment fame

What caught my attention with the call for applications for a new, as-yet unnamed quiz show on ABC TV was the chance to nominate your own category of “expertise.” Here was the opportunity to select the topic of conversation for a few minutes on a national television network—after, of course, an application process, audition, shortlisting, interview, police check and eventually an invitation to an actual filming. But worth a shot and I would see what I could learn along the way.

Some months later, I was driving home from work on a Wednesday evening, feeling more nervous about watching the episode than I did about filming it back in September. And this was after I knew how it ended.

As a generalist by profession, picking a topic took some thought, particularly with my intention for “missional quizzing”—and I’m sure that’s a term no-one else has used, ever. It had to be a topic that would fit within the context and culture of the show but with another level of meaning or significance. For the purposes of the show, it needed to have some kind of story behind it. And it had to be a topic I knew something about and would be not too much of a burden to re-visit if I was eventually invited on the show.

I settled on C S Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia.” I remember first being read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Horse and His Boy in Years 3 and 4, respectively, by Christian teachers who made a significant impact on my education and my faith, even if only by virtue of these two books. I had re-read the books many times since and wrote an honours thesis on Lewis years later. I had also visited Lewis sites in Oxford a few years ago and, in any event, I was about due to re-read the seven Narnia volumes.

My goal for my adventure in “missional quizzing” was to be one of the final two contestants, meaning they would need to ask me another five questions related to my topic. Imagine if someone, somewhere picks up an old Narnia book and reads or re-reads one of these stories. As a younger person, they gave me a glimpse of God and faith that was attractive and formative, as well as leading me further into Lewis’ larger body of writing and thinking. Imagine if a half hour of “light entertainment” could have a small part of someone’s spiritual journey.

So, with the show broadcast and watched a second time in my house, my pulse rate begins to slow. It was fun—but not always comfortable.

Let’s not be too pretentious, it was a game and it was played for fun. In my family, I’m the guy who gets out the trivia board game when we’re together for holidays, and everyone else is patient enough to play along. There are so many good things to know in the world and this is one way to collect information and ideas. Hard Quiz is a similar game, just with better production.

But there were moments of discomfort. Comedian and host Tom Gleeson’s off-colour jokes are an inevitable part of the show and there is a sense in which some of them are funny, either by quick wit or good writing. Part of the role he is playing is to mock the “nerds” who volunteer to take on his show. But it was him who brought up the name of Jesus and the religious themes of Narnia.

As someone who works in media for the church, I was impressed by the Hard Quiz team’s attention to detail for something that is half an hour of disposable television. (I expect myself and my fellow competitors will be about the only people who will ever watch it twice.) But this played out in everything from the auditioning process to what we wore on the show to filming pieces repeatedly to get them right—and how they made us as contestants feel comfortable throughout the process. Everything was done to a high standard, which is why the show works and looks as good as it does.

And I achieved my goal of talking about something worthwhile for five minutes on national television. I don’t pretend that I have changed the world, but I think I have been a voice for something good within it. Perhaps more salt than light (see Matthew 5:13-16), but something good nonetheless.

Nathan Brown on Hard Quiz

Watch Nathan Brown answer the tough questions on ABC TV’s Hard Quiz.

Hard Quiz



Nathan Brown

Nathan is Book Editor at Signs Publishing. He is a former magazine editor, a published writer and an author or editor of more than a dozen books. He is also a co-convener of Manifest, a community exploring, encouraging and celebrating faithful creativity.