Friday, March 30, 2007

Ho Hum, Another Million Dollars

How can a million dollars be boring?

Attach it to another television quiz game.  Offer a million dollars to some lucky bastard if he can answer ten questions in a row.  (Don't worry...he can't.)

When Who Wants to be a Millionaire started on television, we were in awe.  A MILLION DOLLAR prize. But getting it was another story.  It was weeks before someone actually captured a million.  The questions were tricky, and hard. Getting the prize took skill, brains, and good luck.  We watched and the show was such a success that it soon had a bunch of imitators.

The race was on.  Who can give the biggest prize...and buy a larger audience.  Larger audience means costlier commercials and more loot for the producer, who can now afford to give even bigger prizes.

Quiz games used to offer prizes up to $64.  The "sixty four dollar question" became a metaphor for difficult queries.  Then television bumped it up to the "Sixty Four thousand dollar question"  That was so hard that they had to give the contestants the answers ahead of time.

Jeopardy rambles on with questions worth from one hundred to one thousand dollars each.  Contestants usually win about twenty thousand dollars. 

Deal or No Deal offers a million dollars, and a chance, should you make TWENTY FIVE correct guesses, to flip double or nothing.  I am waiting to see some idiot gamble a million dollars on the flip of a coin.

Guess which mystery guest is a rodeo clown and win a million dollars. The state lottery is on television, giving fifty million some nights. Answer trivia questions better than a panel of one hundred experts and win a million dollars. A million dollars is not what it used to be.

Poker tournaments online show players risking millions on the turn of a card.  There may be some skill involved, but the cards are still shuffled and dealt at random (I suppose)

But now there is a new million dollar game.  Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader.  Jeff Foxworthy asks selected adults to confront a fifth grade class and answer ten questions from the grade school curriculum.  Reward, the usual million dollars. 

Result: nobody can.  Last night questions were simple, and the contestants simple minded.  The hardest part of games was pretending to struggle finding the answers.  Question" How many moons does Mars have?  Contestant had to ask for help.  Answer: two.  She had guessed none, but was allowed to stay and proceed to seek the million. 

Next question: How many feet in a mile.  She had to pretend to struggle with this one..."ah ah, over five thousand...ah...two hundred eighty comes to mine..but so does two hundred twenty...ah I "lock in" 5280."  Great cheers from the audience.

It is a simple game, and fun to see if you can answer grade school questions, but lord, it is so SLOW.  Every grade school question is treated as if is the mystery of life...dragged out and discussed endlessly.  I never found out if the contestant won her million dollars, and I don't care... I went for a bath instead.  Million dollar prizes have become HO HUM.


msecz said...

she won 100,000 and is giving it to charity  :) there was nothing else to watch while I was on the computer.

chasferris said...

Thanks Sandra, (see comment below)  I am glad she gave it away, it was such a bogus contest.  And, I really didn't care."

jocalodave said...

Quiz or game shows have always appealed to mass audiences -- before television, they were popular on radio.

The appeal may be partly because we get to see people not very different from ourselves in a win-or-lose situation. We can relate to them, feel in awe of them or feel superior to them -- all can be satisfying sensations.

When the games were tough, we wondered whether we could possibly win if given the chance. In the era of "Deal or No Deal," when luck is the only factor, greed is probably the main motivator.

Reality shows have taken on-screen contests to new depths. "Contestants" often lie and cheat and dissemble. They expose character flaws that should have made the producers feel uneasy enough NOT to air some scenes; but the producers are obviously making decisions based on some very low set of standards -- probably "whatever will attract the most viewers."

Sometimes I think people a thousand years hence will pull out ancient video recordings of such shows and conclude that they were symbolic of the downfall of post-industrial civilization.

Talk about a vast wasteland -- changing the channel isn't enough. We should all follow Chuck's lead: turn the darned thing off and then go and try to wash the crud off.

monponsett said...

They should have a game show where, if they get questions wrong, some big Georgia prison guard comes out and just beats the s*** out of the contestant. THAT, I'd watch.