Michael Cleland


Michael Cleland

I was the Weakest Link


So you want to be the Weakest Link? Well, allow me to tell you how in a couple of easy steps.

At home, we’d watched the Weakest Link (WL) probably half a dozen times when it first started earlier this year.

Well, I put my name down for an audition. Within about a month I was at an audition with about 70 other people. There were shy people, “normal” people and plenty of larger-than-life people.

We had to fill out a questionnaire about why we wanted to appear on the show. Next was a general knowledge test. If you got less than 60 per cent correct, they said, “Goodbye” and you were led down the walk of shame and that’s your chance blown. Fortunately, I just scraped through!

Next, we had to stand up in front of the others and say why we wanted to go on the WL. “What is this, Popstars?” someone yelled out. So, with that, went my turn came to stand up, that prompted me to do a little spontaneous slow shoe shuffle Scandal’us number:

I’m not all that sexy,
And I can’t sing and dance for ****.
They kicked me out of “Popstars”,
So “The Weakest Link” is it!

Within 3 weeks, I got a call to come in. I had six days before the taping to learn all sorts of trivia. Everywhere I went in my car over those next few days, I played a CD I’d recorded loaded with facts and figures. Trivial Pursuit cards were de rigorat bed time.

Then it was off to Chadstone, the Fashion Capital, to get some “TV friendly” threds and a couple of other trinkets.

The day arrived. I was feeling really nervous, but even more excited. Lots of preparation had gone into this – the moment of truth was upon me.

Here I met my fellow contestants for the first time. It was a further 3 hours before we walked onto the WL set. We had our wardrobe chosen (the 3 shirts I’d bought especially were rejected and I was given a lovely mustard coloured shirt from Seven’s wardrobe department), went to makeup (just for “deglossing”) and then for some practise sessions.

First lesson was how to introduce ourselves. My lines were, “I’m Michael, 30, a web developer from Richmond.” I couldn’t help myself on my first practice – “Evil…. Dr Evil.” Ha ha!

Finally, we were given some tips. “You can say whatever you like and try not to pass. At least make some sort of attempt to answer the question.”

And with that, we were on set. Cornelia was hiding off in the corner when we arrived. Pretty soon, we were under way. Cornelia gave her intro – “Welcome to the Weakest Link … these contestants have only just met … let’s meet the team.” Taping stopped for a new camera set up and then we each did our introduction.

Taping stopped again. In fact, it stopped quite a bit and for five or ten minutes each time. If you ever watch the WL, you’ll notice that the camera pans or cranes around constantly. As a result, one episode takes about 4 and a half hours to record! Editing of the show takes 10 to 12 hours.

So, back to the show. I was very excited and a bit nervous. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was squirming on camera quite a bit . I was aware of it at the time but didn’t think the camera would pick it up.

Suddenly, we were into the first round of questions. No practise session – straight in. The set is silent except for Cornelia’s questions and your own thoughts. My thoughts were my worst enemy:

How much time is left? Should I bank or let the money build up? Did he get that right? Would I have known that? I hope I don’t stuff my question up. Oh God, I’m next!

My first question wasn’t too bad. “What colour are roses given on Valentine’s Day?” Without squirming, I said “Red.” “Correct!” Fantastic! Got through the first hurdle.

Pretty soon, the same evil thoughts entered my head and overtook everything else. Before I knew it, Cornelia was asking the next question. “Blah blah blah, seeing is …” Oh dear, that question was to me. Um. “Seeing is.” Is that something to do with sight? I really don’t know. “Pass.”

Before I knew it, I’d blurted out the evil “pass” word. This all happened in a flash. Well, hopefully someone else will get something wrong, maybe someone else will pass. I hope…

Third question coming – should I bank? There was only $200 to bank so I didn’t think it was worth it. “Which two English comedians signed off with ‘It’s goodnight from me and it’s goodnight from him?” Thank you Mr Ron Walker for keeping this in the front of my mind. “The Two Ronnies.”

“Correct!” That should redeem my stuff I, shouldn’t it?

In a few more moments, time was up. Taping stopped. We were then told to have a think for a moment and write down on a slip of paper who we wanted to vote off. Steve said the second hand revolved 3,600 times in an hour – that was dumb – he got my vote.

All the votes were handed it and a few minutes later, taping started again. We’d really already voted, but now we had to write on the big flip card the name of who we wanted to leave. We had to do this for a few minutes (and pretend we were still writing) so that the cameras could get all sorts of angles of us pretending to write, looking across to other contestants etc.. Then it was “Time now to vote off the Weakest Link.”

“Michael”, “Michael”, “Michael”, “Michael”, “Someone else”, “Someone else”, “Steve” (my vote), “Someone else”, “Someone else.”

After the second call of Michael, I had this sinking feeling. “Please, not the first round!!!” Four votes. I was nailed, history, gone.

The taping stopped again. I had about five minutes to think about being kicked off first – not a good feeling. At least it gave me a chance to think about my exit routine. While the cameras repositioned, Cornelia was off the set with a writer deciding on what little limerick she was going to use on bidding me farewell. Then back to it and Cornelia was asking the others why they’d picked me to go.

Graham said, “He let the team down.” Each time Graham was asked why he voted someone off, he gave a “I’m gonna drive the knife in” kind of response.

I’d seen the promos for a couple of episodes. The losing contestants that squirmed the most and rolled their eyes got a lot of coverage in the ads. So I squirmed and grimaced and rolled my eyes and looked ashamed as best as my non-acting skills would allow.

And then it was Walk of Shame time. “Seeing is believing and you better believe it! YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK – GOODBYE!”

I dropped my card and started the walk. But I wasn’t going silently – there was a promo to feature in!

To the surprise of everyone on set, I span around and thrust my finger in Cornelia’s direction and roared “Hasta la vista, baby!” then continued to stride off.

Then I was told to do it again as they had a techo problem. It was back to the set for a couple of minutes. “Guys, I could have been fun!” I said to the others. Nothing they could do now – their loss I guess.

My second take was the one that went to air. I don’t think it was quite as good and I did a really “Blair from Big Brother” kind of smirk.

Then it was up to the interview room for my post match review. I’d done my little Arnie impersonation, now for some more fun.

I’d bought a pair of half height glasses, just like Cornelia’s. I was intending to use them when asked why I was voting someone off. I’d practised at home holding the flip card with one hand, pulling the glasses out of my pocket with the other and putting them on. I was going to come back at Cornelia with some of her lines in her style of voice – but not to be.

So, more than happy to play the gallah role, I pulled them out in the interview. “I brought along a Cornelia prop. They cost me five bucks too.” Then in a pompus voice I said, “Opportunity knocks and he’s not opening the door.”

A bit more chit chat and then we decided that I close my interview with, “I am the Weakest Link. Goodbye!”

And so I was, and am. Goodbye!

Author: Michael Cleland

Michael is a passionate web geek who is sure that most problems can be solved with a big bowl of ice cream. A believer in social good and fan of great, useful content, Michael is an advocate for web accessibility, usability and mobile web based on open standards. You can find Michael on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. You can read more on Michael in the About page.


  1. I was watching this when it went to air and I only realised after it went to the commercial that the joker just voted off was someone familiar to me from school days. I still remember the whole thing 12 years later. Well done, Michael.

  2. Nice piece of writing, Michael – I was with you all the way!

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