NPR show to be taped live in western Mass.

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor



When this writer asked the producer of the National Public Radio quiz show "Says You!" if the program was inspired by the classic quiz shows of the 1950s and '60s such as "What's My Line?" Richard Sher laughed.

"I see it as outright theft," Sher said. "As my father said, 'If you steal, always steal quality.'"

The show, now starting its 10th season, is coming to Mount Holyoke College's Chapin Auditorium on Sept. 10 for a 2 p.m. taping before a live audience. It is heard weekly on 107 stations nationally, including WFCR at 1 p.m. Saturdays.

Described as a "game of words and whimsy, bluff and bluster," "Says You!" has its panelists trying to come up with definitions of words, answer riddles and bluff each other. On the "Says You!" web site (www.wgbh.org/radio/saysyou/) is a daily riddle that is typical of the show's challenges. A current one is "Even though it's all showbiz, no 'Oscar,' 'Emmy,' or 'Tony' winner would ever have a shot at a 'Patsy' award. Why?"

Check out the web site for the answer.

Sher said the older generation of quiz shows featured educated witty people who came into your living room. After coming up with the idea for the game during a round of "Trivial Pursuit," he realized he could devise a game in which it was less important to know an answer than to like the answer you have.

Sher is the president and founder of Pipit & Finch, a marketing and media development company, with clients such as CBS/Westinghouse; Hearst Broadcasting; RISO, INC.; and IBM.

He said that he recorded a pilot for the show and made an appointment with the programming executive at WGBH in Boston. To Sher's amazement, the executive listened to the entire show and eight months later the program was on the air.

"It was the easiest show to bring on the air," Sher said. "Why? I don't know. Maybe people like this kind of stuff."

Sher had little trouble finding panelists because "these were people in my living room. They are friends of long-standing."

Sher will be joined in South Hadley by public radio personality Tony Kahn; television producer and writer Arnie Reisman; "Ladies Home Journal" columnist and WBZ-TV consumer reporter Paula Lyons; public television executive Francine Achbar; actor Tom Kemp; and columnist/critic Carolyn Faye Fox.

Sher had never intended to be the on-air host, but took the role out of necessity.

Known for taping in locations around Boston, Sher said that this year the show is going to Ohio in October and the west coast in the spring.

Another big change for the show is that it will be produced in half-hour and hour versions. Sher is going to syndicate the show himself and wants to offer public radio stations an option.

"This is going to be a big year for us," he said.

The show always features a musical guest and at the South Hadley taping, The Mount Holyoke College Big Band, under the direction of Mark Gionfriddo will appear.

"Holyoke Hi-Jinx," as the South Hadley show is being called, will be part of WFCR's 45th anniversary celebration and is sponsored by Merriam-Webster, Mount Holyoke College and "The Valley Advocate."

Tickets, ranging from $45 to $20, are on sale at the University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center box-office. Telephone: 413-545-2511 or 800-999-UMASS. Tickets also available online at www.wfcr.org.