Fun for all the family

19:33, Nov 25 2013
Whanau Factor's host Matai Smith.
FAMILY FUN: Whanau Factor's host Matai Smith.

Maori TV has brought the old fashioned game show back to Kiwi primetime. James Croot talks to Whanau Factor's host Matai Smith.

How did you get involved in the show and what attracted you to hosting it?

The producer of Whanau Factor Anahera Higgins approached me as she thought I had the skill and wit to pull off this role.  I've always wanted to host a game show having been a fan of shows like Wheel of Fortune and Sale of the Century , as well as iconic Kiwi hit It's in the Bag so this was the perfect ''golden opportunity'' to give it a go and I've really enjoyed the experience.

Have you had much say in the games that have been dreamt up?  

I didn't have that much say but I did meet regularly with producers before we started rolling to go through the various games to ensure I fully understood them and could relate the necessary information to the contestants. 

What's been your favourite so far?  


Family Whispers (similar to the concept of Chinese Whispers). That's where a family member in the team must pass down a particular catchphrase, song lyrics, proverbial saying etc with the hope that by the time it gets to down to their team captain, he or she can relay it back to me correctly.  Let's just say it produced some very ''interesting'' and sometimes ''hilarious'' results.  

What do you think is the appeal of this kind of show?

The appeal is simple.  It's real people on screen giving it their all to hopefully take home some great prizes while at the same time having some fun along the way.  But what's obviously a point of difference with this one is that one of the family members must have a strong degree of fluency in te reo Maori so as to help the other member ensure they get through to the final round.  Whanau Factor has bite-sized pieces of te reo for people to snack on throughout the smorgasbord of ''edutainment'' that we offer on the show. 

Growing up, what was your favourite game show?

Probably Wheel of Fortune , hosted by Phil Leishman and Lana Coc Kroft.  My Nan and I would watch it religiously and try and beat each other when it came to working out final answers as the vowels and consonants would light up on our screens.  I have to say I was pretty good at working out most of them but there was the odd one where Nan would scream the answer out before me and I'd be on cup of tea duty as a result. I hope Whanau Factor might remind viewers of the grassroots feel of game shows of yester year and perhaps reignite the need for this type of programme genre to take precedence once again in our everyday viewing habits.

What are the keys to being a successful host of a show like this?  

Ensuring you go out of your way to make the contestants feel comfortable and talk to them like you're one of their whanau.  So I do this by going and chatting to them before the show either in makeup or the green room to suss them out and make sure they're okay.  I think this is really important and it became my ritual every episode. In saying that, you can't have favourites and remain impartial because you totally want each and every one of them who comes onto the show to walk away saying, ''Man I really enjoyed my experience on Whanau Factor'' and must tell my other mates or whanau to give it a go.'' That's the goal for me with each contestant.  Every one of them must leave thinking they won, whether they actually did or not.

What's the biggest challenge of creating the show? And how much of the live recording doesn't make it to air?

The biggest challenge of creating this show is relying of each of our contestants to give it their all in every episode.  There's nothing like watching a show and seeing someone not enjoying their experience of whatever they may be doing.    

It's pivotal for contestants to walk away with a smile on their dial.  Most of the stuff we record does make it to air so there's not too much left sitting on the editing floor.  We tighten one or two of the segments, but there's definitely no editing in the final round where the contestants stand to win up to $4000 worth of prizes!  

That's my favourite round because one family member is blindfolded while the other family member has to describe to them in te reo Maori what they see up on the big screen.  Initially the picture is somewhat pixelated but then it slowly unravels itself and the family member then does their best to describe the prize to the other without actually saying what it is.  

For example if the prize is an IPhone then they start by saying, ''he pango te tae'' or ''it's black'' and then ''he mea iti'' or ''it's something small'' and then maybe as the picture becomes clearer they say ''ka taea e koe te whakarongo ki ngā waiata'' or ''you can listen to songs on it'' and by then the family member should have guessed it.  There are nine potential prizes to win all up in two minutes so that's when we see the pressure start to heat up and family members doing their best to describe what they're seeing.  

What aspect of making the show do you enjoy the most? There are heaps of fun aspects to this game show. One in particular is one of the games called Out of Time which requires me to dress up in costume.  For example, if the year was 1981, then I would have to wear clothes from that particular period - aka leg warmers, shiny track suits etc  - and then we place 12 items in front of the two teams and they have to guess which of those items is out of time or wasn't around in the 80's.   

Whanau Factor 8pm, Fridays, Maori TV