Richard Quest knows that if “500 Questions” wasn’t the sort of game it is, his CNN bosses might not have been as keen on his hosting it.
The ebullient British reporter switches jobs and networks for the new ABC contest, which begins a nine-night run Wednesday (May 20), encompassing repeats on the Saturday and Sunday).
Created by Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “Shark Tank,” “The Voice”) and former FOX reality-show guru Mike Darnell, the show puts the purported “smartest people in the country” to the title test of answering general-knowledge queries … but if someone gets three in a row wrong, he or she is gone.
“Put this way: ‘You pays your money, you takes your choice,’ as we say in Britain,” Quest tells Zap2it of being invited to host “500 Questions,” which he believes was Burnett’s idea. “Having been asked, I was not about to have a postmortem on what it was they liked about me. They certainly wanted the gravitas and credibility that comes with someone from CNN, where I think they recognized that and were grateful for it.”
The host of the weekday CNN International program “Quest Means Business” and a frequent contributor to CNN’s coverage of major stories, Quest maintains the “500 Questions” contestants are “not just bright, they’re super-bright. They’ve got Ph.D.s, they’ve got master’s degrees — so they needed someone to hold this together who, though not in the same league of brightness as these men and women, at least is in the auditorium.
“I’ve talked to enough presidents, prime ministers, finance ministers and CEOs so that I’m not over-awed by meeting someone who’s clearly exhibiting a huge amount of brainpower in dealing with this,” notes Quest. “My goal here is to be fair to them, so that they can do their best.”
If “500 Questions” catches on, Quest could find himself with the widest fame he’s had in his career on either side of the Atlantic Ocean thus far.
“I’ve been in the public eye for many years with CNN,” he reflects, “but I’ve never been in this arena, so I don’t know what the reaction is going to be. Yes, people know me from my work internationally as a business journalist, and on news and aviation stories … but I don’t know what it’s going to be like when people come up to me in the street and say, ’10 seconds!’ or, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, prepare for battle!’ [two ‘500 Questions’ catchphrases]. It’ll be a testament to the strength of the format.”