The popular game show pitting Massachusetts high schools against one another is back for a second season — “High School Quiz Show” returns! The program, sponsored by Bank of America, showcases 16 eastern Massachusetts public high schools who compete in qualifying matches, then six playoff matches before an eastern Massachusetts championship. The winners then go head-to-head against the western Massachusetts public school winners of As Schools Match Wits, a co-production of WGBY and Westfield State University.
“Based on the feedback that we got about the show and some things we learned from the process, we did make a few improvements this season,” says executive producer of “High School Quiz Show,” Hillary Wells. “Quiz shows really are their own beast.”
One such improvement was the addition of a new host for the show, the voice of local radio show “Matty in the Morning” on KISS 108 and host of NECN’s “TV Diner:” Billy Costa. “We wanted someone who is very connected to the community in a meaningful way. Someone who could help us expand our audience and bring an energy and feel that the show needs,” Wells says.
Costa is not the only familiar face scheduled to appear on the show this season; many celebrities such as high profile athletes, actors, and scholars have pledged their support by contributing video questions. Katie Couric, Phylicia Rashād, Alec Baldwin, Dennis Lehane, Mark Wahlberg, Noam Chomsky, and Queen Noor are just a few of the many famous names involved in “High School Quiz Show.”
“We also updated the look and feel of the show,” says Wells, which included updating the the color palette on the set. Based on feedback from the teams and schools that competed last year, the show was also restructured to be more competitive; this season it is based on a bracket format and a single-elimination tournament.
Additionally, the lengths of the final lightning round and the head to head round were increased this season, while the point value of the final round went from 10 to 20 per question. “What we found last year was that it was tough coming out of the third round to come back. We wanted to give the trailing team a chance to come back.”
In the end, though, what will audiences enjoy most about WGBH’s “High School Quiz Show?” “It comes back to the original intent of the show- celebrating and showcasing academic achievement,” says Wells. “The show attracts a broad multigenerational audience – younger siblings who are aspirational, and 90-year-old grandparents. There aren’t very many programs out there that attract this kind of enthusiasm and support.”
The first episode of “High School Quiz Show,” a battle between Natick vs. Acton-Boxborough, will be airing on February 13 at 7 p.m. on WGBH, after a marathon of the 2010 “High School Quiz Show” finals. In advance of the new season, the creators will be launching an online version of the quiz on their website so all members of the audience can participate. Also be sure to check out the website for more information on the game, the schools, and to watch video footage of “Super Sunday,” when over 70 public high schools in Massachusetts who were invited to the WGBH studio participated in taking a qualifying quiz for the show.
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