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Consolation Prize
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"With trophies like that for the losers, who wants to be a winner?"
Pac-Man, "The Old Pac-Man and the Sea"

Welcome, welcome, and thank you for playing TV Tropes! [Applause!]

Unfortunately, I'm afraid you're not our big winner here today, and so we have to say goodbye! [Awwwwwwwww!] But you're not leaving empty-handed! No, you're going home with our fabulous Consolation Prize! Fast Eddie, tell our lucky losing contestants what they've won!

That's right, our Consolation Prize is a nice little gift basket loaded with various and sundry household goods and items, maybe some store credit, and we'll even throw in the Home Game version of our own Game Show! Wow, look at that shiny box! Courtesy of Trope Co.!

[Applause!]

Thanx, Eddie! And before our grand champion starts feeling left out, let me remind everyone that the Consolation Prize is, by necessity, of inferior value compared to our show's real prizes. Now, off with you runners up, and let us bask in the glow of our real winner!

[Cheers And Applause!]

What, there's no year's supply of Rice-A-Roni, The San Francisco Treat Ding! Ding!? That's THE memetic Consolation Prize, you know...

Example:

Arcade Games
  • The Stacker Arcade Game lets you pick a "Consolation Prize!" when you're close to the top. However, you only have one opportunity to take said prize - losing while going for the Major Prizes gets you nothing. That said, since the minor prizes are things like pencils and small plastic toys and the major prizes are usually video game consoles or iPods, not too many people choose the consolation prize.
  • Some crane games also dispense candy when you play them, so if you didn't get the toy you were after, you at least got some candy.

Fanfics

Live-Action TV
  • Game Shows: Probably the originator of this trope, as spelled out in the introduction:
    • Many game shows have Bonus Rounds that, if the contestant unsuccessfully completes its objective (to win the grand prize), will award the contestant a consolation prize for components he/she did meet successfully. Notable examples include Fast Money in Family Feud ($5 for each point scored below the target of 200) and Pyramid ($50 to $300 for each category correctly guessed, depending on its placement on the Winner's Circle board, with Dick Clark famously adding the total aloud).
    • Many game shows that had Home Game adaptations also got a copy of the board game, as part of their stash of consolation gifts.
    • The Crystal Maze once ran a special edition of the show where the contestants were kids. They did really well but fell down at the last hurdle - the famous crystal dome, missing out on the grand prize - a trip to Disneyland. Or so they thought. In what also counts as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming for the show, the host suddenly revealed that they were going to Disneyland anyway.
    • Queen for a Day: The producers deliberately kept the consolation prize stash small for losing contestants, according to one history of the genre. The explanation: The show wanted to prevent fortune-seeking contestants who lied about their "dire" circumstances just to get onto the show. This was, because in addition to things that a contestant truly needed (such as medical care or therapeutic equipment to help a chronically ill child, or her out-of-work husband a decent-paying job), there were other gifts, such as fur coats, vacations and so forth as part of the stash. Even though the consolation gifts were comparably less expensive, such as a toaster oven or a camera kit, no legitimate contestant ever left empty handed.
    • Normally, even the unluckiest contestants on Deal or No Deal walk away with at least a small amount of cash, even if it's a single penny. But when a hapless contestant on the Australian version managed to win literally nothing, they handed him a Giant Novelty Check for the amount of "Nothing".
    • The Price Is Right: During the Drew Carey era, after a contestant lost an over/under pricing game on the first item (a roll of aluminum foil), he spontaneously gave the contestant the roll as a souvenir.
      • Drew has been keeping up the trend, if a bit randomly. If a contestant loses on a game based on grocery items, Drew will give the contestant the item that made them lose as a souvenir, whether it is walnuts, potato chips, or even whipped cream.
    • On the Taiwanese version of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, the first question is worth NT$1000 as well as a NT$500 guarantee (about US$17), so that players who flunk out in the first half of the game still get a minimal consolation prize, unlike the US version. But on the occasions that a contestant answered the very first question incorrectly, they were awarded a big novelty check for "ZERO YUAN".
    • In the Trebek version of Jeopardy!, third place contestants won a small prize like artwork or something similar while second place frequently won trips. All departing contestants would receive your standard bundle of grocery items along with the home game where applicable. The show then changed the consolation prizes to be $1000 and $2000 to the contestants that finished in 3rd and 2nd respectively.
    • Any Wheel of Fortune contestant who finished with $0 originally received parting gifts. This was changed to $500 cash in Season 20, and again to $1,000 in Season 23.
    • Ready, Steady, Cook! gives the losers a wooden spoon. While this might seem like an appropriate cooking-themed booby prize, it's a cultural in-joke that pre-dates the show by a long way (see Real Life below).
    • Concentration: An unusual case for the 1970s Jack Narz version in that consolation-level prizes, such as Bic writing pens, flashlight batteries and boxed Betty Crocker potato dishes were front-game prizes. Yes, you still could get Rice-o-Roni as a consolation prize if you didn't win anything, but there was the possibility that it was a front-game item as well.
      • Additionally, if you solved just one of the Double Play bonus round rebuses, you still came away with $100.
      • During the original NBC version, a winning contestant that had nothing in his prize rack when he solved the rebus won $100.
      • Also, when is the last time a car was offered as a consolation prize? Well, when you didn't win the game ... but during the course of play, you uncovered both Wild Cards. The car was yours from then on, and no one could take it away from you, even with a loss or an opponent's "Take" card note  or upon finding a "Forfeit" card note  and it was the only prize available. This "Double Wild means a car" rule was in play during the final three years or so of the original NBC version.
  • Averted with the original format of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and many shows that attempted to follow in its footsteps.
    • However, the American shuffle format plays this straight, awarding $1,000 to anybody who answers any of the first ten questions wrong.
    • Celebrity editions of such shows also award a guaranteed minimum for the contestants' charities, such as 1,000 in The Chase and 5,000 in The Million Pound Drop.
  • The Bozo Show: The long-running children's TV show (hosted by the eponymous clown) had a segment called the "Grand Prize Game," a progressive skill game where the youthful contestants had to throw a pingpong ball into a series of six buckets, each one placed further from the contestant than the last. The value of the contestant's prize package increased as the contestant's success continued, with a grand prize (in addition to everything else already won) awarded for getting all six. Very rarely did anyone fail to make the first bucket, but if they were so unlucky, they were given a consolation prize "just for playing" — usually, a towel with Bozo's face on it, or a balsam-wood airplane, each worth about $1 or $2.
    • Of course, if you were the unlucky child who pouted after getting just the consolation gift — such as was claimed in the "Cram it, clown!" urban legend — you might forfeit even that prize ... thus leaving with nothing.
  • A game show in a Mad TV sketch offered as a consolation prize a "lifetime supply of Rice-A-Roni... the board game"; one box.
    • Another skit offered Rice-A-Roni to contestant who wanted liver, but gets the Rice-A-Roni but can liver in it.
  • A Late Night with Jimmy Fallon sketch featured the game show Wheel of Carpet Samples. The winner got to keep his carpet sample, and the losers were left with a $300 gift certificate.
    • Wheel of Game Shows (which is rigged so that everyone loses) has a Led Zeppelin t-shirt with an L that fell off (making them read "Ed Zeppelin"), along with a Jimmy Fallon album.
  • The 1969 game Letters To Laugh-In scored viewer-submitted jokes read by the panelists. The highest-scoring joke each week won a trip to Hawaii, whereas lowest-scoring joke won a trip to "beautiful downtown Burbank". And since this was Fall 1969 as opposed to (for example) May 1975, there wasn't nearly as much to do there.

Music
  • Parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic in the song "I Lost on Jeopardy!", in which legendary announcer Don Pardo lists off all the stuff Al didn't win:
    Don Pardo: You don't get to come back tomorrow! You don't even get a lousy copy of our Home Game! You're a complete loser!!!

Newspaper Comics
  • One Garfield comic strip spoofs this with a TV show announcer revealing that the lovely prizes for the runner-ups are tickets to "LOSER-ville!" Garfield thinks that there's finally one game show that's got that part right.

Radio
  • Groucho Marx's radio quiz show You Bet Your Life had a clever twist on the idea: if the contestants wound up losing all their money (or ended their appearance with less than $25 in winnings), Groucho would ask them a consolation question worth $25. The consolation question was one which it was almost impossible to get incorrect (though some contestants did miss it): "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?", "When did the War of 1812 start?", and "What color is an orange?" were among them.
    • In one episode, Groucho asked the contestants if they really wanted to bet all their winnings on a question. One of the contestants replied, "Why not? I know who's buried in Grant's Tomb."
    • An alternate game show used similar questions...but with a twist. Mentioning a specific Grant, or asking where Panama hats are made. In Ulysses S. Grant's tomb (which is above ground), there's both Ulysses S. Grant AND his wife, Julia! (Panama hats are NOT made in Panama, but in Ecuador.)

Pinball
  • Doctor Who has The Master's Bonus, which is obtained by draining the ball in a specific place.

Theatre
  • In Monty Python: Live At The Hollywood Bowl, several notable historical figures participate in a quiz show. When Karl Marx fails to win the Grand Prize, the emcee (Eric Idle) comments, "Well, no one leaves this show empty handed. So we're going to cut off his hands."

Video Games
  • Should the fates conspire in your favor and you encounter an Ultra-Rare monster in Kingdom of Loathing, but then you mess up and get beaten by it, you get a Consolation Ribbon instead.
    • Sometimes, this is a weird inversion. Unlike the prize you get for killing an Ultra-Rare, the consolation ribbon is untradeable; players who are wealthy enough to buy Ultra-Rare items often intentionally lose to the monster so they can get the ribbon.
  • In the Shadow Hearts series, if you fail on the Lottery, you get Tissues. In the first game, you need Tissues at one point to get one of Yuri's most powerful Fusions - which is why Margarete's prize for completing the Monster Arena is Tissues (in case you never lost the Lottery).
    • For those who feel that this seems a little random, it might be noted that tissues are in fact a common consolation prize in Japanese lotteries.
  • Modern Warfare 2 introduces Deathstreaks. When a player loses several lives without killing any enemies, they get one of four bonuses (that they select prior to the match). They are "Copycat", which allows you to copy the gear of the soldier that killed you, "Painkiller", which grants you a 10-second health boost upon respawning, "Martyrdom", which has you priming a grenade as you die, and "Final Stand", which lets you, upon receiving what should be lethal damage, crawl around on the ground with your primary weapon ready to fire. If you survive long enough in final stand, you get back up.
  • Ask a Gaia Online member about Potatoverseer.
  • There's a Team Fortress 2 achievement for the Sniper by this name. It requires the achiever to be on the receiving end of a Back Stab from a Spy, their natural and greatest enemy. Fifty times.
  • Inverted in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. When you send a lottery ticket to the mailbox, and you supposedly don't win, you get a ship part as a consolation prize. When you do win, they forget to put the prize alongside the letter, so you receive nothing at all.
  • Doing poorly in a mini-game in Final Fantasy VII 's Gold Saucer gets you a tissue.
  • The page picture is what happens when you completely blow a level in Bayonetta. Yes, this game is cruel enough that they invented a level below Bronze just in case you completely botch things.
  • Inverted in Billy Vs SNAKEMAN with the game "First Loser". Everyone who plays throws in X amount of ryo. The top twenty or so highest bidders get... one kunai! (Kunai are 100 ryo each in the game's shop, and used to perform the weakest jutsu.) The first player outside of the top ranks gets an extremely valuable item. Thus, you want to be the first loser.

Web Original
  • Neopets' Tiki Tack Tombola has the Booby Prize, which are usually even more pointless than the regular prizes.

Western Animation
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, after losing the lost treasure the villains had been trying to get by retrieving the 12 Talismans for the Big Bad (who betrays them) due to said Big Bad being destroyed, one of the henchmen notices the said Talismans left behind, and asks his boss if he'll be happy with a consolation prize (and keep in mind, the Talismans give their wielders magical powers).
  • On 2 Stupid Dogs, the dogs are contestants on a The Price Is Right-type show, where the consolation prize is a box of dog biscuits. Naturally, the dogs want the biscuits, and try to lose on purpose, but they just keep on winning.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode, "If You're So Smart, Why Are You Rich?," The Riddler failed to kill the corporate executive who cheated him out of a job thanks to Batman, but at least he escaped and has the satisfaction that the exec now is plagued with a terrified paranoia for the Riddler to strike at him again.

Real Life
  • Many contests, especially youth-related (and especially more where young children are involved) give ribbons, certificates, etc., to everyone who participated, meaning that even a contestant who fared poorly — but at least did his best — went away with something.
  • In Britain and the Commonwealth the traditional consolation prize is a wooden spoon. The Other Wiki has a whole article on this; it started at Cambridge University as a prize for the lowest-scoring Maths student to still earn a degree, but was eventually discontinued. The Six Nations rugby tournament awards a (theoretical) "wooden spoon" to the overall losing side, and many smaller quizzes, competitions and tournaments will give away a real one (sometimes with some kind of decoration, as a kind of anti-trophy, but sometimes just an everyday kitchen utensil).
  • In pro sports like football or hockey, missing out on the post-season playoffs hurts bad for any team and its fanbase. However, the team and their fans can occasionally enjoy some schadenfreude and get some of their pride back if they still play well enough to ruin the playoff hopes of whichever other team is their major rival.
  • The Olympic Games gives certificates known as "victory diplomas" to the fourth through eight participants, and the Pierre de Coubertin medal might be this to those who show sportsmanship while losing higher prizes.
  • Many people think bronze medals for the third place is this, specially in elimination tournaments where the two semifinal losers play for bronze. It's commonly averted as the bronze winner is usually happy to actually win anything (while the silver medalist might content with his prize but would have preferred to win gold).

Notable aversions

  • Wheel of Fortune used to offer consolation prizes to any contestants who finished with a score of $0. Starting in the early 2000s, they now get the "house minimum": first $500, then $1,000.
  • Similarly, Jeopardy! has always paid full winnings only to the first place winner ever since Trebek joined in 1984. The second- and third-place contestants originally got parting gifts, but now, second and third respectively get flat amounts of $2,000 and $1,000.
  • On the current version of Lets Make A Deal, when a contestant gets Zonked, Wayne Brady will often (but not always) give them a bit of money (usually around $100) so they don't walk away empty-handed.
  • On Sale Of The Century, losing contestants still kept everything credited to them in the main game, including their score in dollars. (Of course, the latter usually wouldn't be much, as it was a rare occurrence for the winner to have a score greater than 100, much less the losers.) It was possible, and in fact not even terribly unusual, for a contestant to lose yet get a bigger single-episode haul than the winner, by virtue of prizes that don't count towards the score - although of course, the endgame prizes offered to the winner were much more valuable, and only the winner can come back and get one step closer to the lot.
  • The Hollywood Squares (and many other Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley produced shows) had consolation prize packages that often totaled $1,500 and these were nice gifts! (For instance, on one Heatter-Quigley show, the loser walked away with a photo session at Olan Mills studios, a microwave oven (and a couple other kitchen appliances), a water softener, a $300 Iowa Pork Producers gift certificate, and some Sarah Coventry jewelry. Other contestants have received things such as two-night stays at a local resort, encyclopedias, gift certificates to clothing stores, car care packages and much more. Keep in mind this is what the loser receives!)
  • Family Game Night will give the families who played and lost $100 for playing, and they still get a shot at the Community Chest. If they happen to pick the winning combination, they have a shot at the car.

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