As we wrap up the first decade of the 2000s, it's time to look back on the past ten years and reflect on important things, like the biggest game show blunders! From hosting slip-ups, to network fumbles, to contestants who displayed a lack of know-how, here are the gaffes and goofs that got us chattering around the water cooler.
Jeff Kirby was a contestant on Jeopardy in 1999. He placed third and left with some nice parting gifts. Then, ten years later, he appeared on the show again. The problem? The contract he signed stipulates that no contestant can be on the show more than once, unless invited back. Kirby was forced to give up his winnings (he placed third once again), and was declared ineligible. The kicker? He wore the same tie for both appearances. Jeopardy brass certainly should have caught this one, but shame on Mr. Kirby for lying on his second application.
11. William Shatner, 'Show Me The Money', 2006This particular moment wasn't discussed a lot online or, at least for me, in the real world all that much, but it stands out to me as a hosting moment gone wrong. Matt Marr was the lucky first contestant, and he was flamboyant and easily excitable. Let's make this clear: he was a great contestant. Likely a casting crew's dream. Host William Shatner, however, didn't seem to know how to react to Matt and threw in several off-color comments. He called Matt out on his man-purse ("murse"), and made other remarks during the game that were just short of, well, ignorant. I love me some Shatner, but that moment was uncomfortable to watch. In the end, Matt Marr walked away with over $500,000 in prize money, so he got the last laugh.
10. Kati Knudsen, 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire', 2000There are many stories of WWTBAM contestants who either struck out on the first question, or made it far into the game only to blow it at the $500,000 level. Kati Knudsen fits into the latter category. Her question: "Which nation was the most recent member of the United Nations: Andorra, Czech Republic, Tonga, or Palau?" She waffled so much that Regis said her husband was decomposing behind her. She decided it was Andorra, then Tonga, and finally settled on Palau as her final answer, after illustrating a rather strange newspaper article she claimed to have read on the topic. The answer was Tonga, and Kati reacted with pure shock, turning pale and looking stunned. She had been determined to become the first female millionaire on the show.
Bingo America premiered on GSN in 2008 after the show was widely promoted as a way for viewers to play along and win money. Viewers responded by going to the GSN website and attempting to print out their bingo cards, but experienced a slew of errors, slow loading pages, and server time-outs. After the premiere, the entire website was down for several hours due to heavy traffic, and came back with a placeholder page apologizing for the troubles. Eventually the situation was rectified, but it took days to get things sorted out. Hundreds of viewers became frustrated with the whole process, and many gave up on the show completely.
8. Austin Aitken, 'Fear Factor' Viewer, 2005Fear Factor was extremely popular, and one of the key ingredients of the show was forcing contestants to eat disgusting things. From live insects to animal genitals, you could never be sure that your dinner would stay down when you tuned in. A viewer took this very seriously in 2005, and actually sued the production company for making him ill. Austin Aitken, who watched an episode in which contestants drank rats from a blender, claimed that he vomited, which led to his getting dizzy and disoriented and walking into a door, injuring himself in the process. The case was eventually thrown out of court.
There have been several contestants on Deal or No Deal who didn't know when to quit, but Richie Bell is the best example for this show of a gamble gone horribly wrong. Bell played during the "Million Dollar Mission", and when he was down to three cases, he had two million-dollar cases left in play, with the third holding only a dollar. He refused an offer of over $600,000 and proceeded to eliminate one of the million dollar cases. With a 50/50 chance of walking away with a million, he turned down the final offer of just over $400,000 – and ended up with a buck.
Drew Carey has done a terrific job taking over as host of The Price is Right overall, and I certainly don't want to imply that he isn't a solid host. He is. However, when a contestant guessed the exact retail price of his Showcase, winning both Showcases as a result, Carey showed no sign of emotion. No, make that he showed no sign of even a pulse. He deadpanned the reveal and ended the show, with only a slight mention that this hasn't happened in many years. Why? Because apparently there was a ringer in the audience feeding the contestant the prices of all the items. Still, Carey ruined the moment completely for viewers at home.
5. Kim, 'The Price is Right', 2008Maybe saying the name "Kim" doesn't mean much, but what if I added, "who bid one dollar LESS than the highest bidder on Contestant's Row?" I'll bet you know who I'm talking about now! Kim tried to emulate the popular strategy of bidding a dollar higher than the highest bid, but failed epically. Then, when Drew Carey read the actual retail price, Kim was sure she had won and bounded onto the stage. In her last chance to make it up for a pricing game, she blew it again – but this time Carey actually mistakenly called her up. You have to see this one to believe it, so here's the clip on YouTube.
When Who Wants to Be a Millionaire returned to prime time in 2009 to celebrate its tenth anniversary, many people wondered if we'd see another millionaire crowned on the show. Host Regis Philbin was back, and the scene was set for a memorable moment. We got one, all right! Ken Basin was the last contestant in the hot seat for the prime time revival event. He played a good game, and in a moment of overconfidence, decided to tackle the million dollar question – but he got it wrong. Basin lost $475,000 in this gamble, a first for the show.
3. NBC Runs 'The Weakest Link' Into the Ground, 2002
Networks often have trouble with hit prime time game shows. Once a game show becomes successful, they just can't leave well enough alone. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Deal or No Deal, and The Weakest Link are shining examples. Many times overexposure is the culprit, but in the case of The Weakest Link, the addition of celebrity episodes did the show in. When ratings for the game started to slip a little, NBC decided to push week after week of celebrity and themed editions. While these were fun once in a while, it got to be too much. Ratings tanked, and the show was canceled. Even the syndicated version suffered after that, and lasted only a short time longer than Anne Robinson's prime time game.
The Moment of Truth isn't exactly a wholesome, family-friendly game show to start off with, but when contestant Lauren Cleri decided to strap on a lie detector and spill secrets about her marriage and infidelity, it got a whole lot worse. As Cleri's poor husband Frank looked on, Lauren admitted she removes her wedding ring when she goes out with her friends, has cheated on her husband, and feels that she should have married another man. She has since recanted much of what she said on the show, but that doesn't excuse what she put her husband through.