A long, long time ago I spent a couple of years as a Contestant Coordinator for The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game. Some things may have changed but I think much remains the same – and some shows, like Jeopardy, may have some somewhat different priorities.
The first thing that got scribbled on an interviewee’s form was TL or P/TL or N/TL. Those codes represent The Look, Partly The Look, and Not The Look.
Those who were NT/L had to immediately show themselves to be extraordinary (not just good) in other ways to have any chance at all of being considered for the show. Generally, they were thanked and shown to the door as quickly as possible.
Those with PT/L had a chance of doing the show. They were used when there was a shortage of TL applicants and often asked to come to tapings on a stand-by basis to be used in case of no-shows, etc. Stand-bys didn’t get on often, but they did sometimes.
The second scribble codes were Ax and S/Ax, for Reacts and Slightly Reacts. The more animated people rose to the top of the pile, the shy, quiet types had little or no chance.
So: Watch the show and learn its Look. Be T/L. If the men on the show almost always wear a jacket and tie and someone without one or the other appears out of place (or even just ‘noticeable’) to you, wear a jacket and tie. If you’ve never seen a guy with long hair or facial hair or visible tattoos on the show, it’s just not their Look.
Smile a lot and at everybody. Be animated; interact with the other contestants. Some shows want over-the-top animation; real people don’t jump up and down and cheer and do group hugs when one of them answers a trivia question. Watch the show and act like the people you see, even if it’s phony; if you don’t do it, you won’t get on that show.
Have a few personal stories ready; nothing blatantly sexual (for most shows) and nothing relating to being drunk – mildly embarrassing is a big plus. Keep them short and easy to explain. Keep up your smiling and outgoing act while talking with the researcher who is taking your story.
Mostly, it comes down to – do whatever you can to look like and act like the people you’ve seen on the show. They are the best examples of what the producer is looking for.