Long-running WKAR game show prepares to enter final season
Fans of WKAR-TV’s “QuizBusters” should cherish the upcoming season of the program, as it will be its last.
The Emmy award winning quiz game show that features high school students throughout mid-Michigan will conclude with its 29th and final season.
“This year is going to be something of a celebration of the history of the show,” said Matt Ottinger, host and producer of the telecast for all 29 seasons.
Ottinger, also a telecommunications coordinator for Okemos Public Schools, said that while he had always been an avid lover of game shows since his youth, he never realistically envisioned himself actually hosting one at any point.
“I always loved them, Ottinger said. "It was almost sort of a silly dream to think I would ever host one, but it was always in my mind as something I would like to do."
While volunteering at WKAR as a student at MSU, Ottinger seized his moment when the opportunity to host a new quiz game show came knocking.
Ottinger attributed his successful audition for the host of QuizBusters to his willingness to work behind the camera in addition to just being in front of it.
“I think it was the fact that I was such a fan and could contribute behind the scenes and not just be the guy who reads the questions,” Ottinger said.
The program hosts teams from 64 schools throughout mid-Michigan, and Ottinger has publicly stated that as many as 100 different school districts have sent teams to compete.
The telecast consists of two divisions. Students on the winning team in each division win $5,000 tuition scholarships to MSU. The team that wins the whole competition, or the Grand Champion team, is awarded five one-year textbook scholarships granted by the Student Book Store.
Aside from providing high school students with the opportunity to attend MSU through scholarships, QuizBusters has allowed students to display their academic talents to the public.
WKAR General Manager Susi Elkins said this engagement with the audience has prompted the growth of the show over the years.
“I think we have 64 episodes now, we have 64 teams which is incredible,” Elkins said. “It's just grown so much, and that’s because it's resonated with the community and people really have appreciated the chance to showcase how smart our students are and how hard they work.”
Elkins worked for QuizBusters when she was a student at MSU, and then again as a full-time producer for the show after she had graduated from the university.
While making the bold decision to end the show was a tough one, Elkins said it was a mutual decision between Ottinger and herself.
“We wanted to be proactive and really decide when it would be the last year and really play it up and have fun with it,” Elkins said.
As the final season of the program approaches, Ottinger said a new feature will be added; past contestants will have a chance to send in video clips that will be displayed during the broadcast, sharing their experiences with the show and the impact it has had on them.
“In some cases it will be people who were just on and in some cases it will be people who were there in 1989 when we first played the game,” Ottinger said.
The final season of QuizBusters will begin Oct. 7 and conclude with the Grand Championship Series in Spring 2018.