From the Homefront: So you want to be on a game show

Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of aviation forces at Coast Guard headquarters, for 15 years. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Military Family Advisory Network.

DesaRae Janszen, far left, competed on a military appreciation episode of The Price is Right. Photo courtesy of DesaRae Janszen.

DesaRae Janszen, far left, competed on a military appreciation episode of The Price is Right. Photo courtesy of DesaRae Janszen.

Written by Shelley Kimball

DesaRae Janszen was called to “Come on Down” on The Price is Right and Michael Walker competed for $2,000,000 on Million Second Quiz.

They share their game show experiences here to describe what it’s like to be an active duty Coast Guard member on a game show. Two shows are currently searching for military families to participate.

Janszen, who retired from active duty as a Coast Guard commander last fall, was the only Coastie to play on the military appreciation episode of The Price is Right. She found out about the opportunity to be on the show through an email the public affairs office for USCG Sector Los Angeles / Long Beach sent out to active duty members.

After an inspection of the required uniform of service dress blues, Janszen boarded a bus with about 35 other Coasties and set off for the show. When the buses rolled in, they were met by other buses from all other branches of service with bases surrounding Los Angeles.

The key would be getting chosen to play.

Janszen said that the public affairs staff member who did the uniform inspections gave them some advice.

“When he was briefing us, he said the key to getting picked was to be bubbly times 10,” Janszen said. She considers herself pretty bubbly (she started the Coast Guard Academy cheerleading team, if that is any indication), so she was partway there. She had one more ace up her sleeve.

“I drank a Redbull,” she said. “I figured that would times-10 me.”

They had been warned that there would be a lot of waiting around, she said, and there was. First, they separated everyone into groups of about 15, and went through each person asking random questions.

The question was relatively benign, “What do you do for fun?” But Janszen answered that she liked to go to football games, striking up a mutual appreciation for the University of Southern California with her interviewer. She thought that was good sign, but she became less convinced when they seated her.

She was at first seated on the aisle – a promising location for a show that requires contestants to race to the front of the auditorium from their seats when they are called to play.

“But then they moved a petty officer to the aisle,” she said, and she was asked to moved all to the way down the row against the wall. “Then I was sure I didn’t get it.”

As the game progressed, she saw her name on a teleprompter and heard, “Commander DesaRae Janszen, come on down!” She struggled to get down the row and out to the aisle.

“I had to fight my way, stepping over everybody and get out,” she said.

Finally at Contestant’s Row in the front of the auditorium, she had to bid on prizes. The person closest to the prize’s value wins the prize and gets to go up on stage to play. But it wasn’t that easy.

“When I was in Contestant’s Row and I was bidding, the Air Force guy kept bidding one dollar more than me,” she said. That’s a strategy to be just slightly closer to the price of the prize while also knocking out another player.

Finally, they presented a trip to Lake Arrowhead, Calif., and Janszen was the closest bidder. She got on stage to play for the coveted new car.

She was playing a Yahtzee dice game that required that she roll five cars on her dice to win. The other sides of the dice had monetary prizes. She was faced with the choice of taking a high money roll, or to risk it to roll for the car. Her roll equaled $4,000, which statistically was one of the highest money prizes in the game. She went with the money. The crowd was not happy. She walked away with the cash and the trip.

“I took the money, and the audience booed me. They booed me!” she said. “They wanted me to go to for the car. “

If you are interested in an experience like Janszen’s, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire is looking for Coast Guard active duty and family members to participate in its military-themed week of shows. They will begin filming in July or August, but even if you aren’t picked for that, you can participate in the show at a later date, too.

If you are interested, apply online or email with your name, phone number, email address, and an explanation of why you want to be on the show. To be eligible, you must be 18 years old or older, a legal resident of the 50 United States, including OCONUS, and you have never played in the “hot seat” on the show.

If your family can handle some harsher conditions, the people who produced Hell’s Kitchen and So You Think You Can Dance are looking for military families to brave two weeks in a remote location on an ultimate wilderness survival adventure. Everyone who appears on the show must be 18 years old or older. The show is slated to begin filming in October. If that sounds like the opportunity for you, email producers with your name, age, location, and an explanation about why you are a great candidate for the show.

If you are active duty, make sure to get approval before you apply. Active duty members’ participation in game shows requires prior approval from both the chain of command and the U.S. Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television Office (MOPIC). First, the active duty member must receive authorization from the chain of command before applying for a part on a television show. Then, the command will forward the request to MOPIC for final approval. That’s true, also, if a show approaches a command asking for Coast Guard members to participate, as was the case for Janszen. If approval is granted, then the member participating in the show must be on leave or liberty status for the whole event.

Additionally, if any entertainment project would like Coast Guard support, then it will enter into a written agreement that requires, among other things, that the Coast Guard will be depicted accurately and with dignity, that safety requirements are met, and that a Coast Guard representative will be present during filming to ensure the conditions of the agreement are met. For example, this kind of agreement was engaged for the filming of the The Finest Hours movie and for the Weather Channel series about the Coast Guard.

Getting approval became a point of contention for Michael Walker, a Coast Guard marine science technician, when he participated in Million Second Quiz in September 2013 on NBC. The game show tried to back him into appearing in uniform, when he told producers ahead of time that prior approval was necessary, he said.

He applied to participate in the show after seeing an ad for it on the Internet. At the time, he was stationed at USCG Sector New York. (He is now at Sector St. Petersburg, Fla.) He went to the audition in person.

“I didn’t know at the time that you couldn’t show up in uniform. I talked to my boss about it,” he said. “I didn’t know at the time, and I did go in uniform.”

The audition required being filmed while answering questions with the show’s host. He said it involved a lot of smiling, joking, off-the-cuff remarks.

“Basically, Ryan Seacrest likes to joke around,” Walker said. “What are you going to say when Ryan Seacrest jokes around with you?”

After some weeks went by, Walker got a call from the network, and he was told he was going to be considered for the show, but they needed him to come back within days. He told them right then that if they wanted him in uniform, it required special permission and he needed to start getting the go-ahead right away. The producers said they didn’t need him in uniform. Walker still needed to get permission from MOPIC just to appear on relatively short notice.

“I started freaking out. What am I going to do?” Walker said. “There are certain rules to follow when you are in the military.”

He got his release forms sent in and he requested permission to appear.

When he got to the show, he was processed with several other potential contestants. The premise of the show required that if you continued to win on the show, you had to stay sequestered on the set for a million seconds, which was about a week. He had to undergo both medical and psychological evaluations to be sure he could stay that long.

His episode was set to air on September 11th, which made him think the call-back was a bit of a ruse, and the producers knew they wanted him for the show even before the second round of quizzes and testing.

Producers also came back asking for him to wear his uniform. He was adamant that it was not going to happen at the last minute.

“That’s not how it works,” he told them. “It comes from a special unit in California. We can’t do it.”

He passed the evaluations, and he was accepted into the show. He was taken to wardrobe and given something to wear. And then he waited.

Finally, that night he was called to play. He was the first one up to answer quiz questions live on an outdoor roof that served as the studio location.

“Needless to say, I was nervous,” he said. “I was more nervous than I thought I would be.”

The questions were randomly selected, and the contestants did not even know the categories ahead of time. One was a question comparing the number of employees at Wal-Mart with the populations of cities.

“They were just throwing anything in the kitchen sink at you,” he said.

The rules were complicated and convoluted, and required answering within three seconds and double-button questions to send them to other players.

“I did pretty horribly on the questions. The first couple were nerves,” Walker said. “I blankly pushed any question in front of me.”

But because of the strange point system, it came down to one question to determine the winner of the round. The question came up, and it was a question about art.

“One of my worst categories ever,” Walker said. “I got eliminated.”

When he got home and saw the rounds that aired after his, he knew it would have been difficult to hang on for days on end.

“Those people were there for five days,” he said. “It would have been a long haul to keep winning and keep going.”

Walker said he would definitely sign up for another game show. But maybe not one with art questions.

Have you participated in a television show? What was it like? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

Portrait of Shelley Kimball.

Portrait of Shelley Kimball.


  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Auditions are currently open for a variety of specialty week shows, including military families. To apply online, fill out the application and send in a YouTube link with a 30-second video explaining why you would be a great addition to the military family week. You can also email with your name, phone number, email address, and an explanation of why you want to be on the show. To be eligible, you must be 18 years old or older, a legal resident of the 50 United States, including OCONUS, and you have never played in the “hot seat” on the show. You can check out a video of last season’s Armed Forces Week here.
  • Discovery reality show: If you are interested in appearing on a wilderness survival reality show with your family, email producers at (Naked and Afraid is one of their shows.) Include recent pictures of your family, as well as your name, age, location, and a brief explanation about why you want to join. Everyone who participates must be 18 years old or older.
  • Audition searches: There are several web sites that list auditions for shows, divided by location and category of person they need. A few options are here and here. You can check out On Camera Audiences to get tickets and be an audience member of a variety of shows.
  • The Coast Guard’s Motion Picture and Television Office: MOPIC is tasked with ensuring that the Coast Guard’s story is told accurately and with dignity. It approves active duty members’ appearances on television, as well as allowing filming on Coast Guard properties, and consults on scripts and productions.


The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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