Created By: StevenT on October 6, 2011 Last Edited By: StevenT on October 16, 2011

Impossible Game Show

A game show host is determined to not let a contestant win.

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Trope
A character enters a game show and finds themselves at the hands of a Jerk Ass host who gives them Impossible Tasks or asks them very hard questions (usually claiming they're wrong even when they answer correctly).

There are several reasons why they would do this:
  • The prize doesn't really exist
  • The prize does exist, but the show would go bankrupt if even a single person won
  • The show is rigged in favor of the opponent


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: In the manga, Jonouchi signs up for one of these. Yugi (or rather, his other self) intervenes to stop the producer's cheating, and Jonouchi wins. But since the producer had never intended to give out the prize money, he'd already spent it and Joey gets nothing.

Film
  • Slumdog Millionaire: The game show host actively tries to prevent Jamal from winning because he thinks Jamal is literally too low-class to deserve to win.

Live-Action TV
  • At least twice in The Benny Hill Show:
    • In "Sale of the Half-Century" Benny as host tries to throw the game for a hot chick, giving her easy questions while giving the other contestants hard ones, but one of her opponents ends up winning anyway.
    • In a version of Name That Tune Benny is a host who successfully throws the game for another hot chick (her opponent is the one who can't win), hoping to go on the grand prize vacation with her - but it turns out she's the girlfriend of her opponent.

Real Life
  • Game shows rigged for a particular contestant to win was what triggered the quiz show scandals in the 1950s that resulted in a name change to "game shows" due to association, created a governmentally-enforced winnings cap, and killed off single-person quiz shows until Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? four decades later.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: Moe enters a bartending contest, which is rigged for (yet another) hot chick to win - but she refuses to participate in the final challenge, so Moe ends up winning.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "The Ducksters", Porky Pig is a contestant on Truth or AAAAAAH!, a quiz show hosted by Daffy Duck. The sole purpose of the game seems to be humiliating the contestants, giving them obscure questions (Daffy appears shocked when Porky actually gets one right), impossible challenges, and pain-inducing "penalties". In the end, Porky only wins the prize money because he threatens Daffy with bodily harm, and then uses it to buy the studio and turn the tables on Daff.
  • Inverted in Rocko's Modern Life. Dark Lord Peaches rigs a game show to make it easy for Heffer to win, not knowing that the prize is an eternity in Hell. Peaches makes all the questions ridiculously easy, but Heffer bungles them all, only winning the final challenge by chance.
  • In the Kick Buttowski episode "Faceplant" Kick enters the titular game show and loses. After some training from Ronaldo, Kick goes back on the show and blazes through every obstacle, but the Jerk Ass host is determined to not let him win because winners don't bring in ratings.
Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • October 6, 2011
    CaveCat
    This is You Cant Win.
  • October 6, 2011
    Lumpenprole
    Is there a trope for lethal game shows where "You Bet Your Life" is taken literally? When the goal is to always kill the "contestant" (victim) eventually, they end up overlapping with this trope.

  • October 6, 2011
    JohnDiFool
    This hews close to You Cant Win, but that trope is ostensibly about when the main characters cannot win because Status Quo Is God (which makes it meta), while this is where, in-universe, it is impossible to win.

    We have Deadly Game where you are literally playing for your life.
  • October 6, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Hmm, sounds like something I've seen in the Thursday Next books. It got reprised in One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, I just can't recall which one had it first....On rereading, I find it first appears in First Among Sequels. Thursday Next is training Thursday5 (a version of her from a book about her adventures) for a Jurisfiction Prose Resource Operative; attempting to reach the core of a book, they're confronted by a game show host running a prisoner's dilemma as a game show. The same host is guarding a bridge to Vanity Publishing in One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, and offers a similar no-win situation.
  • October 6, 2011
    SKJAM
    • Yu Gi Oh: In the manga, Jonouchi signs up for one of these. Yugi (or rather, his other self) intervenes to stop the producer's cheating, and Jonouchi wins. But since the producer had never intended to give out the prize money, he'd already spent it and Joey gets nothing.
  • October 6, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • At least twice in The Benny Hill Show:
      • In "Sale of the Half-Century" Benny as host tries to throw the game for a hot chick, giving her easy questions while giving the other contestants hard ones, but one of her opponents ends up winning anyway.
      • In a version of Name That Tune Benny is a host who successfully throws the game for another hot chick (her opponent is the one who can't win), hoping to go on the Grand Prize vacation with her - but it turns out she's the girlfriend of her opponent.
    • The Simpsons: Moe enters a bartending contest, which is rigged for (yet another) hot chick to win - but she refuses to participate in the final challenge, so Moe ends up winning.
  • October 7, 2011
    TonyG
    • In the Looney Tunes short "The Ducksters", Porky Pig is a contestant on Truth or AAAAAAH!, a quiz show hosted by Daffy Duck. The sole purpose of the game seems to be humiliating the contestants, giving them obscure questions (Daffy appears shocked when Porky actually gets one right), impossible challenges, and pain-inducing "penalties". In the end, Porky only wins the prize money because he threatens Daffy with bodily harm, and then uses it to buy the studio and turn the tables on Daff.
    • Inverted in Rockos Modern Life. Dark Lord Peaches rigs a game show to make it easy for Heffer to win, not knowing that the prize is an eternity in Hell. Peaches makes all the questions ridiculously easy, but Heffer bungles them all, only winning the final challenge by chance.
  • October 8, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    Truth In Television: Game shows rigged for a particular contestant to win was what triggered the quiz show scandals in the 1950s that resulted in a name change to "game shows" due to association, created a governmentally-enforced winnings cap, and killed off single-person quiz shows until Who Wants To Be A Millionaire four decades later.
  • October 8, 2011
    henke37
    • Sam And Max had to beat a gameshow that was called "Who is not gonna be a billionare!" Or something like that.
  • October 8, 2011
    Irrisia
    Running Man falls under the rigged version, both in the original story by Richard Bachman and the loosely adapted movie. Overlaps with Deadly Game, too.

    (Edit for X Just X, even though it kind of is))
  • October 8, 2011
    randomsurfer
    WKRP In Cincinnati: Johnny accidentally announces that the prize in a "Name that Tune" contest will be $5,000 when it's supposed to be $50.00 - $5,000 is their entire budget for the year - so they cut together a bunch of very very brief clips of songs to make it impossible to win. But the 2nd caller gets it.
  • October 8, 2011
    JoeG
    • Slumdog Millionaire: The game show host actively tries to prevent Jamal from winning because he thinks Jamal is literally too low-class to deserve to win.
  • October 8, 2011
    Statalyzer
    You Cant Win. This is still that. Not enough difference.
  • October 8, 2011
    Statalyzer
    You Cant Win. This is still that. Not enough difference.
  • October 9, 2011
    Arivne
    This is not You Cant Win, for the reason John Di Fool gave above. In You Cant Win there's no requirement that the show be rigged or that the host be biased against the players. They lose because they have to lose for plot purposes.

    Tabletop Games
    • Paranoia adventure Send in the Clones. When the PCs go on the Date With Death show the NPCs make it impossible to win. The PCs aren't told the rules of the game, there's a special trick that they have to know to get any points and even if by sheer luck they succeed the Game Master is told to cheat to make sure they lose.
  • October 15, 2011
    AgProv
    Comedian Angus Deayton parodied the pan-European quiz game "Going for Gold" - in which, remember, most of the contestents did not have English as their first language. Sample question:

    "Spell the name of your native country." (The German contestant buzzes). "D-E-U..." (Deayton cuts him short). Oh, not even close, Kurt. It actually begins with "G", not "D". (Deayton then antagonises the Italian contestant with questions like "What is the shortest book in the world? Nobody? Oh, you should have got this, Giovanna, the answer is "The Italian Book of War Heroes". (This persists until Giovanna, after a question about the Mafia, mentions her uncle is in the audience with several of his, er, business associates. From Sicily. And he will get upset if she does not do well. Deayton gets the message, and frantically rigs the rest of the show for Italy to win.)

  • October 15, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    Done in Lobo Un-American Gladiators. The producer has murdered the winners of the previous two editions to cheat them of their prizes and can't get away with it the third time, so this time the contest is rigged to help his henchmen win.
  • October 16, 2011
    robybang
    • Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: Various games played with the audience are almost impossible to win, which is more for comedic effect than anything:
      • "Name That Guy": Contestants are asked to name obscure non-famous people based on their pictures.
      • "Wheel of Game Shows": A series of games where the instructions aren't explained or are impossible to win like "Yes or No" (where you have to say either yes or no and Fallon will likely change his answer if you did guess correctly), or "Pie on Your Face" (where contestants are lead to believe they're competing in a pie eating contest when they're actually supposed to push the pies on the floor where a picture of a face is placed).
      • "Wheel of Carpet Samples": The rules aren't explained, but various points are given or taken away based on which color sample the wheel stops on when spun. The "losers" get gift certificates to the Apple store. The "winner" gets a carpet sample.
      • "Wax On, Wax Off": A game with two guys. One guy answers trivia questions and is given money for correct answers. If he's wrong, his friend gets part of his chest hair waxed. Unfortunately, all the questions are on obscure topics like "Russian Land Treaties".
  • October 16, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The Late Show with David Letterman used to have "Beat the Clock" played with people in Rupert Jee's Hello Deli. They put up a 30 second countdown timer with the instruction, "you beat the clock, we stop the clock." The rules were never explained, and nobody ever won.
  • October 16, 2011
    DaibhidC
    The Angus Deayton example is specifically from an episode of KYTV.

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