October 23rd, 2006
Jon Ronson's visit to the set of Deal Or No Deal is fascinating. An air of desperation and paranoia reigns, apparently:
[Presenter Noel Edmonds...] writes in his recently published self-help book, Positively Happy, that he can't abide negativity in the workplace. Noel hates negativity. He even advises readers, on page 88, to dump their sexual partners if they are too negative. I can't help thinking that, if I were Noel Edmonds' lover, he would dump me.
"But surely a bit of negativity makes you – you know – interestingly spiky and sassy," I suggested to Noel earlier, during a break from filming.
"I simply will not get involved with people who are negative," Noel replied. "I won't tolerate people in the workplace who are negative. I like realistic people, but negative people? No. Just get rid of them."
"I have a habit of being a bit negative sometimes," I said. "I'd hate my wife to read Positively Happy and dump me as a result."
"Then be careful," Noel said, looking me in the eye, "because she might."
There was a silence.
It is 10pm, back in the hotel. I have a drink with contestant Tony from the West Midlands. Earlier, during recording, Tony was standing behind Box 8 and Noel mentioned that he thought he looked like a funeral director. It got a laugh: Tony does look slightly undertakerish, with white hair, a white moustache and a long, thin face. Now, unbeknown to everyone else, Tony is desperately worried about it.
"I'm semi-retired," he says. "Everything in my life revolves around quarter past four. I do the washing, the cleaning and then I sit down. Deal Or No Deal is an addiction for me. So actually to get through the auditions and on to the show… I'm dreaming! Apparently the chances of becoming a contestant are 70,000 to one. And I make it through all that, and Noel calls me a funeral director." Tony pauses. "If only he could see the real me. Maybe I should have laughed or something. But to stand there and laugh at nothing? It's hard. And I didn't sleep well last night. There were police cars going up and down all night. Was Noel aware of that?"
Suddenly, Tony stops and glances at my notepad. "Where's this information going?" he asks. "Is it going to The Banker?"
There's a lot of paranoia among the contestants that things they say and do in the hotel might be relayed to The Banker – the mysterious figure on the other end of the phone who is never seen or heard. They fear that when it's their turn to play, The Banker might give them low cash offers if they've been deemed to have behaved in a desperate or cowardly or negative way back at the hotel.
"It isn't going to The Banker," I say.
Tony pauses. He narrows his eyes. "Are you giving it to someone who'll give it to The Banker?" he asks.
The article is excellent; well worth reading in full.