It is time for some trivia, Talkin’ TV style.
Over more than three decades in Western New York media, WBBZ-TV’s John DiSciullo has been everything but a) a standup comedian b) a Channel 7 news director c) the executive producer and co-owner of “Off-Beat Cinema” d) program director e) charity dinner host f) a game show host.
The correct answer is f, and that will no longer be the case starting Monday when the guy nicknamed Mr. Television locally starts another career as the host of WBBZ’s new nightly game show, “Bragging Rights!” It airs at 6:30 p.m. weekdays through August.
This is a role DiSciullo seemingly was born to play, certainly much more than news director.
“I can exert my personality and be a talent I’d always wanted to be,” said DiSciullo, WBBZ’s promotions and production director.
His career has come full circle since he was chosen as a Temple University freshman to host the Philadelphia’s school’s version of “College Bowl.”
“That was a great coup,” said DiSciullo. “I still have my ‘College Bowl’ jacket.”
Before starting “Bragging Rights!,” the 52-year-old, balding, affable DiSciullo did more studying than he probably has done since college.
He went to YouTube to see how network game show hosts Richard Dawson, Regis Philbin, Alex Trebek and Gene Rayburn engaged contestants.
We pause now for another trivia question, Talkin’ TV style: Match the host with the game shows “Jeopardy!” “The Match Game,” “Family Feud” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” The answers will appear later.
But back to DiSciullo, who took something from every host.
“You mix a little Richard Dawson, a little Gene Rayburn, a little Alex Trebek and a little Regis Philbin,” said DiSciullo of his style.
“I watched an interesting documentary on YouTube about game show hosts and the differences between them,” added DiSciullo. “I will say what Regis brought to the table – the ability to be one-on-one with the contestant – was most important.”
DiSciulllo noted that Dawson was known for flirting with the ladies a little bit.
“I have,” laughed DiSciullo. “Maybe not as overtly as Richard.”
And what did he learn from Trebek?
“Alex owned it,” said DiSciullo. “Not to just step up and host it, but let’s all be together on this (production) team. I’m a team player on as many levels as possible.”
The head of the team is WBBZ owner Phil Arno, who is hoping that “Bragging Rights!” will become something to brag about as the station nears profitability.
“This is Phil’s show,” said DiSciullo. “It was his idea. Phil feels it is going to be the focal point of the hometown connection for the station, meaning anybody can play. You create a team of contestants. So it opens up the whole community to interact with the station in a way that is very unique and different.”
The station known for reruns of classic TV shows has local political and sports shows but the game show is different.
“This is open to everybody,” explained DiSciullo. “There hasn’t been for a long time a locally produced game show.”
He discounts Channel 2’s locally produced “It’s Academic” because, like “College Bowl,” it has a nationally packaged format.
WBBZ records three half-hour shows on Wednesday and Thursday nights in its studio in the Eastern Hills Mall. Two teams of three people compete for fun prizes like a tube of bacon-flavored toothpaste from sponsors. Each of 60 winners this summer gets an opportunity to be in a grand prize drawing for three, 40-inch television sets.
Each team is invited to bring cheering sections, which so far can range from a handful of people to 60.
“We’re hoping as the show airs that people will want to be engaged to come to see it or support the teams that are playing,” said DiSciullo.
During this past Wednesday’s taping, DiSciullo gave himself a pep talk before the questions started flying. “I’m channeling my inner Regis,” he told the contestants.
“He’s in his element,” Arno said upon hearing that.
Bob Koshinski, WBBZ’s general manager, feels DiSciullo has been practicing for this role all his life.
“John grew up watching Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin,” said Koshinski. “He has always wanted to do this type of show. He’s got a great personality and understands television and what people expect from a game show.”
In an episode made available for review, three sisters battled three male teachers from North Tonawanda in a trivia contest that included questions about Western New York, the classic TV shows that WBBZ airs and general knowledge. The questions come from producer Brian Kreib and a TV game consultant.
Many of the multiple choice questions weren’t as easy as my earlier trivia question. Dawson was the host of “Family Feud,” Rayburn the host of “The Match Game,” Trebek still hosts “Jeopardy!” and Philbin was the host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
The two teams had contestants loaded with personality, which DiSciullo was able to bring out in Philbin-style. The show also has guest scorekeepers, which gives DiSciullo someone to bounce off. David Bondrow, the executive director of the Lancaster Opera House, was the scorekeeper on one episode, which ended up being amusing since the wife of a North Tonawanda contestant used to babysit him.
Down the road, some local models and former Channel 7 morning host Ginger Geoffery are guest scorekeepers and the morning teams from Kiss 98.5 led by Janet Snyder, Nicholas Picholas and Shy Guy Shawn battle the morning team of 97 Rock led by Rob Lederman, Dave Jickster and Chris Klein. The episode included the campy song “But First, Let Me Take a Selfie.”
“We took selfies while we did the show and started to dance,” said DiSciullo. “I twerked a little, to which Rob Lederman said, ‘I don’t know if a man your age should be twerking on stage.’ ”
That leads to another Talkin’ TV trivia question: Name a veteran Buffalo radio host who does his show remotely from Florida.
The audiences shouldn’t expect to see network production values on “Bragging Rights!” The colorful but bland set is nothing to brag about. The rules of the game aren’t explained too well in an early episode and there aren’t graphics to identify the contestants. The prizes also are minimal.
However, “Bragging Rights!” has a few “fun, wow” moments. The question is whether the fun will translate to local TV audiences.
Time for the final trivia answer: Larry Norton.
Sorry, no bacon toothpaste if you got that one right.
But back to “Bragging Rights!” and the expectations game.
“Phil’s expectation and Bob’s expectation is to generate an audience with a local show that connects to the community,” said DiSciullo.
I’d bet DiSciullo’s “College Bowl” jacket that “Bragging Rights!” at least meets that low bar.