We had long detailed meetings about “Crosswords” around a large boardroom table with a large entourage of interested parties — creative people, accounting and legal staff, William Morris and Program Partners staff. Everyone wanted to be with Merv, and he got personally involved in everything, from wireless games to slot machines to the minutest details of the production.
After several run-throughs, Merv found himself wanting a little more action in the game. He called his producers in the middle of the night with an innovation: “We’ll add three ‘spoiler’ contestants in the second round to add pressure on the original two contestants and keep the result in doubt until the very, very end.”
Shortly afterward, we got a new budget overview. Adding three more contestants per game made a difference. At the next meeting in the boardroom, we asked Merv about this in a number of ways, and each time he patiently explained to us mere mortals how the spoilers worked, and why they were absolutely essential to his vision of the game.
The next run-through I attended was very exciting, and Merv called me over to explain how his music would come in very subtly at the start of the bonus round — a beat skipped, then a timpani drum beat that would add to the tension without overplaying it.
He was proud of how everything was coming together, but so exceedingly generous in sharing his ideas with this modest distribution exec. Merv made each person feel they had a special connection with him. He was one of a kind.
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