by: Nelson Hicks Updated:
Before "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire," before "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" and before "Minute To Win It," there was "High-Q."
The WSB-TV locally produced game show that pits high schools against one another in a quiz bowl-type format taped its 800th episode Wednesday night.
The first High-Q aired on Oct. 18, 1986. In that match, Lagrange High School defeated Cherokee High School 155-40.
"At the time the show was conceived, it seemed high school athletics got all the attention in the media," said Bob Monti, who has overseen the show all 26 years for WSB-TV. "WSB-TV wanted to showcase academic achievement – to be able to shine a spotlight on the students’ academic prowess."
High schools send teams of four students to compete in the show. All public and private schools in the Atlanta viewing area with a student body of 100 or more students are eligible to participate. Twenty-seven schools take part each season.
Over the years, the station has handed out plenty of prize money, too. The season champion is awarded a $5,000 scholarship. The runner-up receives $3,000. More than $150,000 has been awarded during the show's run.
High-Q shows average 115 questions, so it's estimated that about 90,000 questions have been asked during the show. Subject matter includes current events, history, geography, literature, science, math and sports. Questions are provided by QNA Inc. of Decatur.
WSB-TV's John Bachman currently hosts the show, but former Sports Director Chuck Dowdle served as the host for most of the show's history. Bachman began hosting in the 2009-2010 season. Dowdle hosted from 1986-2009, although at first, he was just a fill-in.
"Our scheduled host for the show was let go the day of the first taping," Monti said. "I went to (Dowdle) that afternoon and asked him if he could fill in that night, assuring him we’d find a new host by the next game. Chuck 'filled in' for 23 years, hosting 732 shows."
"(I) do remember that through the years, history questions being asked were actually current event questions when we started," Dowdle noted on his tenure on the show.
More than 5,000 students have stepped behind the podiums at "High-Q" and competed through the years. The show has been nominated for several local Emmy awards and was recognized by the Council of Children for its contribution to children's programming.
As for memorable moments, Dowdle and Monti both commented there have been many, but one of the most impressive was Walton High School's run of eight consecutive championships in the mid-1990s. The school has won 12 overall.
As to what he took away from the show, Dowdle said it was "a lot of pride in a show and TV station that gave attention to our schools' best and brightest," he said.
"I'm proud that WSB-TV is committed to supporting and encouraging these high-performing students each week," Monti said.
"High-Q" airs at 12:30 p.m. each Sunday on Channel 2. Learn more about the show and see past games on the web at wsbtv.com/s/community/high-q.