1.Who Wants to Be a Millionaire prevents contestants from cheating while using the "Phone a Friend" lifeline by having the chosen friends sit with "fully briefed security officers" who prevent them from consulting the internet and all other forbidden reference materials.
2.Despite these security measures, the British version of the show faced a major cheating scandal in 2003. Major Charles Ingram won the top prize of £1 million during his appearance, but his victory was apparently the result of conspiracy among him, his wife Diana, and their accomplice Tecwen Whittock.
Here's how the scam supposedly worked: Every time host Chris Tarrant asked a question, Ingram would read the four possible answers out loud, as though he were weighing his options. When he said the correct answer, an audience plant (either Diana or Tecwen) would cough. When he heard the cough, Ingram would know that that was the right choice. After the producers became suspicious and launched an investigation, the trio were ultimately convicted of "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception." The Ingrams continue to protest their innocence, and as of 2020 they were seeking to have their convictions overturned.
A miniseries about the scandal aired in 2020. It stars
Matthew Macfadyen (aka Tom from Succession) as Charles Ingram and Sian Clifford (aka Claire from Fleabag) as Diana. Here's the trailer:
3.Speaking of game show scandals, the "answer in the form of a question" format of Jeopardy was specifically designed to win back public favor after the 1950s saw a wave of game shows that were fixed by their networks. When creator Merv Griffin told his wife that audiences thought "networks...simply gave contestants the answers," she responded, "Why don’t you give them the answers?" She said that contestants could lose money every time they asked the wrong question and added, "That’ll put them in jeopardy."
4.If a Jeopardy contestant tries to buzz in to answer a question before the host has finished reading it, their buzzer's signal is blocked for a quarter of a second. This functions as a "digital policeman" that "keeps the game flowing." When Jeopardy first aired, contestants were allowed to buzz in at any time, which led to "quick guesses, negative scores, and general confusion."
5.The contestants all look like they're the same height because they stand on "adjustable platforms."
6.The programmers behind Watson, the IBM computer that competed on Jeopardy in 2011, once "fed" their creation the entirety of the Urban Dictionary, in the hopes that this "formalization of informal language" might help the AI "understand the way real people communicate." But Watson couldn't distinguish between regular slang and profanity, and once responded to a question with "bullshit." The Urban Dictionary was ultimately deleted from Watson's memory, sparing Alex Trebek from having to endure sass from a robot.
7.Pat Sajak and Vanna White only shoot Wheel of Fortune35 days a year, and days on set are stretched out across nine months. However, when they do tape, they can shoot six shows within six hours.
8.In the early days of the show, White and Sajak would often be drunk while taping. Pat Sajak said on the ESPN2 show Highly Questionable that they enjoyed "two or three or six" drinks and would "have trouble recognizing the alphabet" by the time they returned to set. They averaged four margaritas each every afternoon at a Mexican restaurant across the street from the studio.
9.The two hosts help write the puzzles, along with the executive producer and multiple other members of the cast and crew. In an interview with CBS Minnesota, Sajak and White revealed that a "tiny, two-person department" writes the prompts and ensures that "the phrases are presented properly" and spelled correctly.
10.In 1997, Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak switched places and hosted each other's shows for an April Fools' Day prank. Wheel of Fortune aired first, with Trebek dryly telling surprised audience members, "I’ll leave you to figure out why I’m here today." Sajak and Vanna White were the only two players that episode. Naturally, when Jeopardy aired later that night, Sajak was there in Trebek's place.
Here's Trebek's episode of Wheel of Fortune:
11.In 2005, a paralegal named Austin Aitken sued Fear Factor for airing such a gross challenge that he vomited, became light-headed, and bumped his head while trying to run from the room. In the episode in question, contestants were asked to eat dead rats. In a "handwritten four-page lawsuit," the plaintiff requested $2.5 million in damages.
The judge threw out the "frivolous" lawsuit and "warned [Aitken] against appealing." Matt Kunitz, the executive producer of Fear Factor, responded by saying, "Evidently, fear was a factor for him. We knew that justice would prevail and we're pleased with the outcome."
12.There was an actual person hidden inside Olmec from Nickelodeon's Legends of the Hidden Temple. He held a microphone in one hand and operated the lever that opened and closed the giant statue's mouth with the other.
13.The folks behind Netflix's Floor Is Lava keep the exact nature of the show's "lava" a closely guarded secret. Showrunner Anthony Carbone explained to NPR, "Look, we put a lot of research and money into trying to figure out what our lava was. That's why we want to keep it our secret." He compared the texture of the stuff to the sauce that coats Panda Express's orange chicken.
Executive producer Irad Eyal rejected a version that incorporated glow-in-the-dark chemicals, since they found out that "in large doses, that stuff is very toxic." The secret formula was perfected by "Hollywood's top slime manufacturers."
14.The mysterious lava (along with the rest of the show's set) can be found in an "old IKEA warehouse." The set can hold "80,000–100,000 fresh gallons of slime." It most likely smells a lot like bubblegum, since the crew was allowed to vote how the lava would smell, and that's what they chose.
15.Following George Michael's death, Richard Osman, an executive producer of the British version of Deal or No Deal, revealed that the singer once saw an episode of the show where a contestant said she was trying to earn £15,000 ($20,519.13 USD) to pay for IVF treatment.
16.Bob Barker, the longtime host of The Price Is Right, is an outspoken animal rights activist, and during his tenure on the show he asked its producers to stop giving away "leather jackets and fur coats" as prizes. They agreed, and the items were dropped from the prize roster.
17.Drew Carey, who took over hosting duties after Barker retired in 2007, once saw a contestant win an unprecedented $30,000 from the show's Plinko game. In Plinko, contestants "drop chips down a board, hoping to land them in a $10,000 slot," which this particular contestant did three times in a row. A producer stopped the woman before she could go a fourth time, and told Carey that the game was "fixed."
Carey panicked, thinking that this would be a scandal leading to the loss of his job and possibly jail time, but he needn't have worried: The game was rigged with fishing line to reach the $10,000 slot every time because it had just been used to film a commercial. The moment didn't end up in the episode, most likely to preserve the integrity of the game (and the egos of its producers), but the show did award the woman her $30,000 off camera.
18.Merv Griffin, the creator of both Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, composed the theme song for the former in less than 30 seconds. He received royalties from it for the rest of his life, and estimated to the New York Times that it made him around "$70 million to $80 million."
19.Only 32 teams across 120 episodes ever actually won the Temple Run round of the show, and according to host Kirk Fogg, that's because Legends of the Hidden Temple was on a strict budget, and producers were only allowed to hand out eight championships a year.
20.Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego, a geography game show that aired on PBS for five seasons from 1991 to 1995, was partly inspired by a National Geographic survey that showed a "tremendous ignorance of geography among Americans," according to the New York Times. One in four couldn't identify the Pacific Ocean or the Soviet Union.
PBS was also hoping to win back older audiences who had abandoned the network after "graduat[ing] from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street to video games and MTV."
21.All the food in the 1990s edition of Supermarket Sweep was real, except for the meat and cheese; fake meat was substituted because according to host David Ruprecht, contestants got "meat juices on their sweaters," which wasn't exactly "telegenic."
22.But in the 2020 edition of the show, "at least some of the meat is real." After filming, it was donated to local wildlife organizations, while "all edible produce and grocery items" were given to Los Angeles food pantries and shelters. The UK version of Supermarket Sweep also donates the food from set.
23.When members of the public answer Family Feud's phone surveys, they aren't told that their answers will be used for the show. The show employs an outside polling firm, Applied Research-West, for its surveys, and each participant is asked 30 or 40 questions per call.
24.Louie Anderson, who hosted Family Feud from 1999 until 2001, convinced the show's producers to increase the grand prize from $10,000 to $20,000. Anderson told the AV Club that his reasoning was that people watching at home were really rooting for the contestants and "liv[ing] vicariously" through them, so a larger prize on the line would make the viewing experience even more compelling.
25.Before he hosted Cash Cab, Ben Bailey worked as a limousine driver for five years to supplement his stand-up career. Naturally, when he took a driving test during the auditioning process for the show, he "aced" it and got a score of 92.
26.Not everyone wanted to play when they realized they'd climbed into the Cash Cab. Bailey recalled that one person quickly exited after explaining that they were in the Witness Protection Program and therefore couldn't appear on TV. Yet another couple refused to participate because, according to what Bailey told Channel Guide Magazine, "They were not actually a couple, if you know what I mean."
27.Paul Feig appeared on The $25,000 Pyramid in the hopes of winning enough money to "quit his day job so he could do stand-up comedy full time." He managed to do it, netting a prize of $29,000, and went on to a wildly successful career in the entertainment industry (among other accomplishments, he created Freaks and Geeks and directed Bridesmaids).
28.And finally: The $1 million grand prize given out to the winner of America's Got Talent is a "40-year long annuity," during which winners can expect to receive $25,000 (before taxes) every year. Alternatively, winners can request a lump sum instead, which comes out to around $300,000 — "again, before taxes."
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