by Chris Lepkowski
It started with a Coach Trip, continued with a Masterpiece, moved onto a Chase, and is about to shift onto a Letterbox.
TV game shows, each one.
And Joe Mayo’s personal tour of television’s trivia troves is not about to end any time soon.
From professional footballer to small screen regular, you certainly can’t accuse the 66-year-old of being anything but game for a laugh.
The Tipton-born striker made 76 League appearances for the Baggies, scoring 16 goals, notably featuring for John Giles’ promotion winning side of 1976.
These days Joe is more likely to be seen rubbing shoulders with Alan Titchmarsh or Bradley Walsh on daytime TV.
Joe is a rabid devotee of game shows, with his next appearance just a few weeks away.
You can catch him on Letterbox, presented by Mel Giedroyc (one half of Mel and Sue), at 6pm on November 1.
The rules are such: pairs of contestants go head-to-head to crack a series of passwords – with a prize of £2500 awaiting the winner.
So how does the 30-minute entertainment romp, to be shown on BBC2, end for Joe and his long-serving and long-suffering quiz partner Nikki Barnett? You’ll have to wait and see.
‘We recorded it in March …so it’ll be shown on November 1,’ he said.
‘Let’s just say that if we win, it’s down to me, if we don’t then I always blame someone else.
‘It’s like playing alongside Tony Brown – I had to do all the running for him too, just like I do for Nikki.
‘But, as with the others, it was great fun and we got to meet some fantastic people along the way.’
It was Nikki who first introduced her former work colleague Joe to quiz shows.
She convinced them to try their luck at Coach Trip – described by Joe as ‘Big Brother on wheels’.
The Channel Four production involved teams of two undertaking coach tours of continental Europe of several weeks, with teams of passengers having to outlast each other to reach the final and those voted out – via a red card system – being replaced by new couples the following day.
‘Nikki has always been game for a laugh and suggested we go on a “Coach Trip” – I thought she meant an actual coach trip. I had no idea what she was on about at the time if I’m honest.
‘Anyway, to cut a long story short, we ended up on this audition and we got onto the actual shortlist.
‘Basically we did well and were told to pack our bags and stand by our phones… I just thought, “yeah ok…that’ll be the last I hear of this”.
‘Anyway, I’m sat at home one night when Nikki called me to say we were going to Dubrovnik the following day.
‘Of course, I hadn’t bothered packing anything so had to throw loads of stuff into a bag. That night I finally sat down for the first time to finally watch what it was about and I honestly thought I was going to hate it. It was like Big Brother on wheels. You get a yellow card if you get a vote and a red if you get two votes and you’re off. We ended up winning and, just for once, I didn’t get red card – just like my football career…
‘Anyway, we got to Athens and were the last pair standing so that was a great achievement.
‘We won £600 of coach trips. Sadly I think that only gets you as far as Warwick for the weekend these days. I hoped we could get to Italy, but that cost about £3,000 each. But we had a great time anyway.’
The game show bug continued.
An attempt by Joe to apply for BBC’s Pointless failed – ‘we didn’t hear back from them, but I had two other shows ready to air so maybe they were sick of the sight of us’ – which meant sharp-eyed Albion fans had to wait until Joe’s appearance on Masterpiece for their next glimpse of the former Throstles man.
The ITV programme, presented by daytime TV doyen Alan Titchmarsh, involves three pairs. Each team must pick what they believe the highest-rated item from an assortment of antiques laid out on a table. The team picking the highest-valued item wins the Valuation round.
From there, the winner of Valuation picks what they believe to be the ‘masterpiece’, worth £10,000 or more. Values are not revealed until the end of the programme.
‘We were useless,’ admits Joe.
‘The actual programme with Alan Titchmarsh was a scream to record. But I was hopeless.
‘I know nothing about antiques. I had to pick out the £10,000 antique, got three picks but we were totally useless at that. Alan was a lovely bloke though.’
From there it was onto popular ITV show, The Chase.
Four strangers work together as a team to answer general knowledge questions with their opponent, the Chaser, being a so-called quiz genius tasked with stopping the contestants from winning potentially thousands of pounds.
To use a football analogy, Joe struck the outside of the post in the final minute of a cup final.
He knows he only had himself to blame…
‘It was absolute agony,’ he recalled.
‘Me and another lad got through for £7,000 and we got caught with a second left.
‘There was a question about Vitamin B42: “it contains which acid?”
‘Apparently they give it to pregnant women, which I didn’t know. That would have won it for us because I probably might have guessed that…but I didn’t, so we lost, right at the death, at the very last bit.
‘Anyway, I got home the next day and found a bottle of this Vitamin B42 next to the kettle. I’d only been taking it for a month. It was folic acid.’
Joe doesn’t intend to fall off the quiz show circuit just yet, with plans to apply for more in the future.
‘Nothing replaces football,’ he admits, somewhat predictably.
But, clearly, the adrenalin of appearing on national TV isn’t a bad alternative.
‘You do get a great buzz from it,’ he concludes.
‘Obviously football was more than that, and it was also my job.
‘This is just for fun and the great thing are the memories you make along the way – you meet some top people, make new friends and it’s a great laugh.
‘Nikki’s trying to get us onto other things now so, you never know, you might just see me pop up again somewhere…’