From the very beginning, human beings have sought out ways to entertain themselves, not because it is vital to our survival but because people need ways to distract themselves from the troubles of everyday life. Over the centuries, we have found a variety of ways to entertain ourselves, and over the past 60 years, the most common form of entertainment has come via cinema and television. We are incredibly fortunate to be living in 2017, because at this point in time, television has more to offer us than ever before, as most of us have literally hundreds of different programs to choose from, programs that cover every single genre imaginable, including the game show genre.
A game show features either individuals or teams who play some sort of game where they usually either have to answer questions or solve puzzles. If they win, they usually walk away with a fairly large sum of money or with some other kind of prize. The genre has been around for almost 70 years now, with the first show airing in 1938. And although it failed miserably, it did not cause any irreparable damage. What makes game shows so appealing to audiences is the fact that the vast majority of contestants are ordinary people who work ordinary jobs, and we want to see if they can succeed and win the grand prize, because if they can, then it means we can too. With that being said, though, the game show genre has experienced its fair share of controversies and scandals, and this article will identify 15 of those scandals.
15. The Coughs On Who Wants To Be A Millionaire
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire began airing on ABC in 1999, and the format is pretty simple—a contestant gets asked a bunch of questions that increase with difficulty, and if they get every answer right, they win $1 million. There have been several people who have walked away from the show with the grand prize, including Charles Ingram, who is the only U.S. contestant to ever be stripped of his win because of cheating. He competed on the show in 2001 and managed to cheat the system by using his wife, as well as a friend who were both in the audience during the episode. Apparently, Ingram would read out all of the possible answers to a question, and when he said the right answer, either his wife or friend would signal him by coughing, a plan that worked at the time of taping, but which ultimately got him convicted of deception after he was caught.
14. Deal Or No Deal Gambling Violation
Gambling may not be as deadly as drinking or taking drugs, but the action can become just as addictive, to the point that it completely destroys a person’s life, which is why quite a few states have banned gambling altogether. The show Deal or No Deal first premiered on NBC in 2005 and revolved around a contestant selecting 1 of 26 briefcases, which held a sum of money inside ranging from a penny all the way to $1 million. Over the course of the game, the contestant would have to choose to eliminate other cases while getting an offer to sell their case from The Banker after every single round, hence the deal making component. As the show went on, it offered viewers a chance to win money from home by just sending texts to the show, which got the attention of two lawyers from Georgia who filed a case against the show, claiming that it violated the state’s anti-gambling laws. The case was ultimately thrown out of court.
13. The Are You Hot? Fail
For a long time, the entertainment industry has put a lot of emphasis on people’s appearance, and there have been quite a few shows that have really taken advantage of that emphasis, including ABC’s shortly-lived Are You Hot? The premise was simple. People would compete to see if they could be crowned the most attractive man or woman in America, with the only criteria being their beauty and “innate sexiness.” The only reason this show existed was because of the popularity of the site hotornot.com in the early 2000’s. But just because it was based on a successful website, it did not mean that television audiences enjoyed the product. As you might have guessed, thanks to its demeaning and tasteless nature, the show was marred with controversy. And when you combine that with the incredibly low ratings it received, it is not surprising that it was cancelled after just six episodes.
12. The Problem With Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire
Generally, people get married when they love each other, but there have been numerous cases where one person wants to marry another not because they love them but because they love their money. In 2000, Fox decided that it was a good idea to capitalize on those types of relationships and created the show Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire, which featured a woman from every state competing to try and become the wife of a multi-millionaire, a man who they never physically met until the very end of the episode. It was Darva Conger who won the beauty pageant-like competition, and when the man was revealed to be Rick Rockwell, he married her on the spot. The show, though, never aired another episode, as it was declared to be far too demeaning to women, and as for the marriage, it turned out that Rockwell was actually pretty poor and had a restraining order against him from a past relationship, which led to Conger filing for divorce.
11. The Gong Show Finale
It was not until the 1970’s that liberal values really started to take off. But even with all of the social changes going on, the era was still pretty conservative, especially when it came to what was shown on TV. The Gong Show originally aired during this decade, and it became quite popular, thanks to its humor. Each episode would feature several contestants performing dubious talents, which were then judged by a panel of celebrity guests. Audiences seemed to really enjoy the show’s humor, but the same could not be said about NBC’s executives, who decided that the show was too silly and decided to cancel it in 1980. When Chuck Barris, the show’s creator, learned the news, he was fairly upset and got back at NBC by making himself a contestant on the final episode, where he sang the song “Take This Job and Shove It” before giving the finger to the camera, a move that left NBC in a heap of trouble.
10. Bullseye Serial Killer
It is true that game shows are made solely for entertainment purposes, but that does not mean that the shows cannot offer a lot more, and the British show Bullseye is a perfect example of that. The show incorporated the game of darts and had three pairs of people trying to win prizes that ranged from a new luxury car, to a rubber model of the show’s mascot. And in 1989, a man named John Cooper participated in one of the episodes. As it turns out, Cooper was involved in at least 30 robberies, but that was not all, as this psychopath had also s*xually assaulted two teenage girls and murdered four people. It was his appearance on the show that led to his capture, after police compared his face to a witness’ sketch, and he is currently serving four consecutive life sentences. This led the show to do more homework on their contestants because when cooper appeared on the show, he did so shortly after committing his second double murder.
9. Wheel Of Fortune Discrimination
Considering that it has been around since 1975, it is fair to assume that most people have seen or at least heard of Wheel of Fortune, which has been around 35 seasons consisting of more than 6,000 episodes. You spin a wheel that contains several dollar amounts on it, as well as other prizes and some negative outcomes, and based on what the wheel lands on, you guess a letter in the hidden word or phrase presented to you. If you guess it right, you get awarded accordingly. In one episode, a woman from the South lost all of her money because instead of saying the “Seven Swans A Swimming,” she said, “Seven Swans A Swimmin.” You read that right, she lost her money simply because she did not pronounce the letter G, which is quite common in southern accents, and as a result, the show earned a lot of online hate for being discriminatory towards Southern speech.
8. Bob Barker’s Legal Issues
It is true that Wheel of Fortune has been around for a long time, but The Price Is Right has been around a bit longer. And although the show is currently hosted by Drew Carey, it is Bob Barker who will always be remembered as the show’s true host. The entire premise of the show is that contestants have to guess the value of a certain object or a variety of objects, and Barker got to witness every kind of celebration imaginable during his 32-year run as host. The show does not only put objects and vacations on display, though, as there have always been models on the showcase floor to present those items, and as you might expect, the models have always been attractive. Barker may be beloved by the show’s fans, but not by several former models because he had to deal with several lawsuits over his career which alleged he wrongfully terminated and harassed models who worked on the show. All of those lawsuits were settled out of court.
7. Twenty One & Other Shows From The 1950’s
The first game show aired in 1938, and as it turns out, audiences at the time did not like to watch people try to spell words correctly, which ultimately caused the first game show ever to fail. That was not the most turbulent time for the genre, however, because the game show as we know it was severely threatened, thanks to the actions of most of the shows that aired during the 1950’s. Twenty One, What’s My Line?, The $64,000 Question—these were the names of just three shows, and there were more than two dozen other shows that aired during that decade too, most of whom shared one big thing in common: the fact that they were scripted. The whole point of a game show is to see a contestant’s genuine reaction when they win or lose and the overall route that led to their outcome, but in the ’50s, most shows followed a predetermined script, which did not sit well with Congress who had to amend the Communications Act to stop the shows from scripting.
6. Million Dollar Money Drop Post-It Mistake
In the history of game shows that offer $1 million jackpots, there have been countless examples of people losing the chance to become millionaires because of their own mistakes, but there have also been times when contestants lose that chance because of the show itself. Million Dollar Drop debuted on Fox in 2010, and in it, a team of people with some kind of connection to each other are given $1 million, which they will go home with if they can successfully answer seven multiple choice questions. In the very first episode, a couple ended up losing $800,000 when they “incorrectly” said that Post-It notes were sold before Sony Walkmans (basically, ancient iPods). But, as it turns out, they were right all along, as the Walkman was first sold in 1979 while the Post-It was actually first sold in 1977 while under a different name. This mistake led to the producers agreeing to give the couple another shot, which they never got because of the show’s cancellation.
5. The Super Password Criminal
Super Password aired between 1984 and 1989, and it follows a format used by a variety of different shows, as it featured two teams consisting of an ordinary person and a celebrity who had to guess a mystery word by using one-word clues. Based on the premise, you would think that the show would have had no problems, and you would be right because the show never suffered from any self-made controversial mistakes; it just allowed a criminal to win a lot of money. Patrick Quinn appeared on the show in 1988 and managed to win $58,000, which he did without cheating. The only problem, though, was the fact that that was not his real name. Quinn’s real name was Kerry Dee Ketchum, who was a convicted felon wanted in three states for fraud at the time of his appearance on the show. Considering that he went on a national TV show while on the run, you have to question how he was smart enough to win that money in the first place.
4. The Pasapalabra Cheater
As we know, game shows are especially popular in the United States, the UK, and Japan, but they are also quite popular in Hispanic countries too, including Spain which continues to air a show called Pasapalabra. The show pits two contestants who both have a celebrity teammate against each other, and every time a team gets the right answer to a question, more time is given to them for the final round where they have to guess a word based on its definition. In one of the segments, the teams have to name a song, and it was during this segment that celebrity guest Adriana Abenia was caught cheating by the host, who discovered that she hid her phone between her legs and was using it to get the right answers. You would think that this would be an automatic disqualification, but it was not. In fact, not only did everyone laugh about it, but the host even commended her for it too. Just sick!
3. The Dating Game Murderer
People love romance and want to see if other people can really find their soulmate, which is why terrible shows like The Bachelor are so popular. But even all of those shows had to start from somewhere. The Dating Game began in 1965 and primarily featured one woman who, after having to ask a series of questions, had to choose between three bachelors who were hidden from view, and when she chose, the pair would go on a date paid for by the show. Apparently, the show did not look into the history of its bachelors very well, as Rodney Alcala appeared as one of them, and actually won the date with Cheryl Bradshaw, who later refused to go on the date because she thought he was creepy. Creepiness was not the biggest issue, though, because Alcala was an active r*pist and serial killer who appeared on the show in the middle of his killing spree.
2. Second Million Dollar Drop Mistake
Multimillion-dollar lawsuits are filed on a fairly regular basis, and Fox has surely seen its fair share, including a 2010 lawsuit that they deserved to have filed against them because of the incompetence involved. As mentioned earlier, Million Dollar Money Drop cost a couple $800,000 because they did not do their research properly, a problem that they decided not to fix because they cost Andrew and Patricia Murray $580,000 due to more poor research. Apparently, they were asked what the most common password is, and they answered with “password.” But according to the show, the answer was actually “123456.” The only problem with that, though, was the fact that the show got that information from a questionable source. When the Murrays discovered this, they sued Fox for the exact amount they had lost on the show, and it is believed that this very public lawsuit was a major contributing factor to the show’s cancellation in 2011.
1. Press Your Luck & Michael Larsen
If you play a sport or a video game, you will likely notice that your adversary follows a certain set of patterns. But as Michael Larson proved to us in 1984, certain game shows use patterns as well. Larsen appeared on an episode of Press Your Luck, a show which had contestants accumulate spins by answering a variety of different trivia questions, then they would use those spins on an 18-space game board to win money and other prizes. To the untrained eye, the prizes on the game board seemed to be come up at random, but in reality, the board and everything on it followed a pattern, which Larsen noticed and used to his advantage. He recorded the show on his VCR and used it to memorize the pattern, which allowed him to win over $100,000, which CBS allowed him to keep after determining that what he did was not technically cheating.
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