James Sherry hosted Children’s game show A*mazing from 1994 to 1998. If you grew up in the 90’s, chances are you watched it. TV Flashback caught up with James who has been trying to revive the show.
1) How did you become involved with A*mazing?
I was hosting saturday disney in Brisbane as I had been for the previous four years and I heard on the grapevine they were looking at putting together this new game show, so I let the powers that be know I was interested, I auditioned and they gave me the job.
2) Can you explain a bit about the production process?
There was this production team behind the scenes who worked ridiculously hard, Pre-production had the team arranging auditions at the schools. The teachers selected a group of 20 students they were happy to have represent the school. Our team would then run them through some tests to select 10 contestants and 2 reserves. (Q&A, qwerty keyboard knowledge and Nintendo game tests).
3) Because the set took a long time to be set up, I believe ten episodes were filmed in 2 days, how did you cope with a tough schedule?
I have never claimed that making A*mazing was hard. I have always said it was fun, I would rock up to the studio in Brisbane or Perth, hang out with the best kids going around, play some video games and go home. But it is true, the set was massive. It took a long time to get it into the studio and set the lighting and cameras, so we did shoot 2 days back to back. 10 episodes.
4) A*mazing was very popular – what do you think contributed to the success of the show?
I think the show was popular because it offered a chance for success to everyone. Smart kids could answer the questions, athletes could fly through the maze gathering letters and keys and the video kids could excel on the SuperNES. Everyone could contribute to their school’s victory
5) Did you ever run the maze yourself? Or play some Nintendo during your down time?
I did go through the maze a few times, the first time I saw the maze I ran into it, the staging guys screamed at me because the paint was still wet and had to be redone. As for playing the Nintendo – of course I did. The crew who worked as the ‘contestant wranglers’ would stay after the first days shooting and we would all go to the production offices and have 4 way challenges of Mario Kart.
6) You would have met a lot of children during the course of the show, any moments that stand out as memorable? (They do say never work with children or animals).
For 5 years we did 2 series a year, that is 13 weeks a series, 2 schools each week with 10 (+2) contestants. That’s roughly 3000 young people who got to wear the overalls – and none of them were animals.
7) What aspects of the job made it enjoyable to work on A*mazing?
It was fun – plain and simple. It was fun to be the host, the kids playing had fun, the studio audience had fun, the crew had fun and the people at home watching felt that enjoyment coming through the screens.
8) Do people still recognise you from A*mazing and what are some of the questions fans ask about the show?
I still now have people come up to talk to me about the show. In all this time, there hasn’t been a negative comment, everyone remembers the show fondly which is really special. The most common questions is, “why didn’t anyone ever look behind the cactus? “
9) Most people who grew up in the 90’s remember A*mazing and have fond memories about the show, how does it feel to be involved in a show that made an impact with so many people who say ‘I love that show’ when remembering it?
I am very proud. I think anyone who was involved in the making of the show both in Brissie and Perth feels the same. It is quite incredible to think we had such a positive influence on so many people.
10) What will you treasure most from your time working on A*mazing from both a professional and personal perspective?
I met some really good people on this show. People that I still on occasion work with here and there. I also learnt a lot and developed a hosting skill set that I use everyday in this work life.
11) In the past few years you’ve been been trying to bring back A*mazing. Why do you think a network should bring it back and do you think newer technology would help improve the show for a new audience?
Nintendo switch. Enough said!
12) What are you up to these days?
I am producing and presenting with the AFL and Cricket Australia, Plus some other odd jobs around the place. Family also keeps me pretty busy.
Thanks to James Sherry for the use of the pictures. Visit BringBackAmzing on Facebook.