Status Quo Game Show
aka: You Cant Win
"No, of course not. The posh kids always win."
When a show's main characters go on a Game Show Appearance
, most of the time, you can expect them to come home defeated, because Status Quo Is God
. Can sometimes be extended to other contests. Note that exceptions tend to happen when significant prizes are not
And if they do
win, expect them to be quickly hit by financial trouble that their winnings will be just enough to cover
More heroic characters will often sacrifice the win for Friend or Idol Decision
. More selfish characters are usually done in by their own greed.
See also Crack Defeat
. Compare Failure Is the Only Option
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Anime And Manga
- One episode of Sailor Moon S had Usagi and Mamoru enter a couples contest alongside Usagi's old friends Naru and Umino and newcomers Michiru and Haruka. Usagi and Mamoru blow it and Michiru and Haruka blaze through it, but they opt to pull out in the end. Naru and Umino end up winning it in the end.
- The early episode of Sailor Moon would have contests being revealed almost all the time, but they ended up being fronts for Jadite and gathering energy from Queen Metalla.
- An episode of Tenchi Universe has the girls, minus Sasami, enter a Beauty Contest at a resort planet. It seems that Kiyone would end up winning it for them, due to the fact that the people find her farmer's tan sexy. However, bounty hunter Nagi shows up and one ups everyone, winning the contest. On the other hand, despite Nagi winning the contest, Ryoko ends up stealing the money anyway.
- One episode of Suite Pretty Cure ♪ had the girls (which now added Ellen to the team) participate in a sand sculpturing contest, with Hibiki and Kanade entering for different reasons (the prize was a year's worth of sweets from a shop she frequents and one of the judges was a crush, respectively). Despite a comedy of errors (Ellen accidentally saying their sculpture was of Hummy, Ellen klutzing out and destroying the first sculpture, and the Quirky Mini Boss Squad showing up to cause trouble, they end up entering... and losing out to a random team. However, they consider it a win - they got Ellen to have fun, at least.
- One episode of Dinosaur King has the heroes appear as contestants on a game show, whose theme for that week just so happens to be dinosaurs. Hilariously, their opponents are the Alpha Gang, in Paper Thin Disguises. The heroes lose and the Alpha Gang actually wins (purely by accident, as a matter of fact) ...only for the Alpha Gang to lose the money before they can give it to Dr. Z, so, in the end, nobody wins.
Film — Live Action
- ''Stay Tuned had a game show entitled "You Can't Win!"
Live Action TV
- In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, the twins would have done extremely well had Cody not decided to be greedy and 'Risk It All!' Guess what the lesson of the story was...
- 227: Mary and Sandra on Wheel of Fortune.
- And later the whole family on Family Feud, where Sandra does horrible in the first section of Fast Money, and Calvin nearly wins it all on his own...except for switching his final answer from the one that would've won them the big money.
- The Odd Couple: Felix and Oscar appear on Password, where they lose (and Felix has to be forcibly ejected), and Let's Make a Deal, where they win but their winnings are immediately confiscated.
- Smart Guy: Teenage girl wants car. Has to sit in one as long as possible to win. Shoves out what seems to be her one remaining rival. As she's celebrating, though, it turns out someone who'd been in the trunk is the winner.
- Cheers: Cliff, Jeopardy!
- The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's recurring character Eunice sings "Feelings" on The Gong Show. Despite her conviction that she doesn't need lessons because she's "a natural" she gets gonged, and her despair is shown by a Fade to Black.
- Roseanne had an apparent exception, with the family winning the lottery and living it up. However, it was then revealed that they hadn't won the lottery, that almost a whole season had been All Just a Dream, and things were actually worse off than before.
- I Love Lucy: Lucy wins a $300 prize when one of her dollar bills matches a bill's serial number announced on the radio, but she loses the bill and her subsequent attempts to get it back end up costing $299. In another episode, Lucy schemes to win a Hawaiian vacation on a game show, but Ricky shows up as a guest on the same program and deliberately sabotages her in the most humiliating manner possible.
- Cosby and Caroline In The City both had characters win large sums of money in contests sponsored by sports teams, only to learn afterwards that they had relatives who worked for the team and were thus ineligible for the contest.
- Married... with Children absolutely loved this trope:
- In one episode, Kelly went on a sports trivia game show (after Al taught her all he knows about sports) and almost won the grand prize, only to fail the final question, which was about Al's "four touchdowns in one game".
- Peggy once won $10,000 in a bingo contest, only to have to spend it all on taxis to arrive safely back home (after Al forgot to pick her up).
- Subverted in an early episode when Al and Peg cheat their way onto a game show for newlyweds, and Peg's efforts (at torturing Al) win them a new sports car. It's never seen or referred to, even in episodes involving Al's broken down Dodge, until an episode years later. (Typically handwaved as being due to insurance and/or tax issues.)
- Boy Meets World, the episode is appropriately titled "The Eskimo". Mr. Feeny assigns Shawn to get him Super Bowl tickets, so Shawn enters a radio contest in which he must be the last person to leave the radio's billboard in the January chill. His final competition is, yes, an ice cream cone-eating fellow in Eskimo garb (Phenotype Stereotype). Shawn gives up the contest, but still makes it to the Super Bowl himself.
- The Young Ones appeared on University Challenge, against a team of upper class twits.
- Although there's no prize (other than a trophy) for winning, so it wouldn't have mattered even if they had won.
- In an episode of Fame, Leroy won a lot of prizes on a TV game show, and then he got hit by the tax bill. In order to pay it, he had to sell everything he'd won, and since the tax bill was based on the manufacturers' suggested retail prices, and he couldn't sell any of the stuff he'd won for anything near that, he wound up breaking even.
- While this wasn't technically a game show, one episode of The Greatest American Hero had Ralph become a baseball player. One plot element plot had him cheated out of his salary by being given a contract which disguised insurance as income. This had no relation to the rest of the episode, and seemed to be there only to avoid the change in status quo that would be caused by making Ralph a millionaire.
- In an episode of the Life Lesson/Inspirational show McGee and Me, the main character, Nick, ends up on a Double Dare-esque gameshow. Most of the leadup consists of Nick getting increasingly arrogant about it, up to and including when he discovers his opponent is a girl. He's promptly creamed (literally) and learns a valuable lesson in humility.
- No one in Saturday Night Live's "Celebrity Jeopardy!" sketches ever wins. And this includes Trebek, believe it or not.
- In one My Family episode, Michael arranges for all the main characters to appear on The Weakest Link together because he believes that as the smartest member of the family he's sure to win the prize money. He's beaten in the last round by Alfie.
- In one episode of Kenan & Kel, the title characters enter a wedded couple game show which has a house as the prize (as Kenan wants to live on his own to have privacy), with Kel dressed as a girl named Kelly. They lose because, apparently, Kel and "Kelly" have different Trademark Favorite Drinks.
Kenan: Her favorite drink, can I reiterate one more 'gain, is ORAAANGE SODA!
Host: Ok. Alright. Kelly, what you say?
[Kel holds up a sign that has the answer "Root Beer"]
Host: Oh, I'm sorry, Kenan. Root beer!
- Again, not exactly a game show, but in the BBC series Crime Travellernote Jeff (the detective) decides to arrange a lottery win for himself, against the strong advice of Holly (the scientist). The junior cop he passes the note of the winning numbers to reads it upside-down, losing him the jackpot but nevertheless winning a few thousand pounds... just enough to replace the time machine components wrecked by his attempt to break causality.
- In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Kimberly is on a game show called Trick or Treat against Skull with the grand prize being a brand new car. Unfortunately, Rita Repulsa's Monster of the Week picks that time to attack, so Kimberly feigns fainting on stage and throws the game so she and the others can go fight the monster. Thusly, Skull wins by default. This, however, ends up being a Status Quo Game Show for him as well, since it was discovered that Skull was cheating (by Bulk sitting in the audience feeding him questions), so the car was taken back by the station.
- In The Golden Girls, the ladies go through great expense and Comedic Sociopathy to get to California to play on a fictional game show called Grab That Dough. When they get there, they decide to split up to increase their chances of winning (allegedly, in reality, glory hound Blanche wanted to cut the "dead weight" of Sophia and Rose.) In the end, Sophia and Rose's team lost, only receiving $100 each, while Dorothy and Blanche's team won and got to go to the bonus round, where they picked a prize from behind a curtain, Let's Make a Deal-style. They pick Window 3, and after seeing the first two prizes (a brand new living room set and a new car,) their prize is revealed to be... an electric skillet and a lifetime supply of soup.
- On Mama's Family, Mama winds up on Jeopardy. At first she does horribly, but some lucky answers get her to the final round with a decent amount of cash. In a subversion, she wins second place, a trip to Hawaii -thereby setting up a story arc.
- There's a straighter example in an earlier episode where the family goes on Family Feud. They almost win, but Mama blows it at the end with one mind-bogglingly stupid answer.
- All That actually had a sketch which was a game show called "You Can't Win." This was insured by sneaky things such as, in a challenge to eat 400 meatballs in 10 seconds, putting into the giant bowl 403 meatballs, 3 too many.
- Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has a sketch called "Wheel of Game Shows", where (as a Spin-Off of Wheel of Carpet Samples) audience members are subject to minigames that are outright impossible to win. From a recent episode, a "spot the difference" game was rigged to have a very obvious difference that Fallon ultimately denied the existence of, the red tissue someone asked to find was on the bottom of the tissue box instead of inside it, a rebus puzzle has an Unexpectedly Obscure Answer ("Play My Sports" instead of "Tickle My Balls"), and Fallon assumes people know how to play "Brownie Points" (you stack them, not eat them. They're allegedly laced with PCP).
- In Laverne and Shirley, the titular characters are out grocery shopping and become the store's millionth customer. The prize is a free 3-minute shopping spree. But they manage to royally screw it up: for they can only win what they get past the finish line within those 3 minutes. The two of them load the shopping cart with so much junk that it won't budge, and stuff their clothes with so much heavy stuff that they're reduced to crawling. In the end, all they win is exactly one box of Scooter Pies and a box of fish sticks.
- Dinosaurs: The family is on a game show with the subject being about TV... but their TV was destroyed by a meteor weeks ago, and Earl entered them on the show to win a new one.
- Bones: Intern and recovering addict Nigel-Murray goes on a winning streak on Jeopardy! only to fall Off The Wagon and spend it on Hookers and Blow. By the next season, he's spent the last of his winning on rehab.
- Miami Vice: Detective Switek appears on a game show in the opening of the episode "Phil the Shill," but the crooked host (Phil Collins, of all people) prevents him from winning.
- A political cartoon around 1988 had then-President Ronald Reagan on Wheel of Fortune facing the yet-to-be-solved game board which read "GET TO THE _OTTOM OF THE IRAN-CONTRA AFFAIR." Reagan: "Uh...is there a 'Q'?"
- Parodied in an early Bob & Ray Show:
Ray: ...Only employees of this station and their relatives are eligible to enter. The rest of you people [listeners], you're not eligible, so don't bother.
Bob: Yeah, so if you're related to us, get started on your postcard now...
Ray: For instance, if you're my brother, you have an excellent chance of winning.
Bob: Right. So if you're Ray's brother, get busy and fill out that postcard, and we'll send you this great prize.
Anime and Manga
- A partial exception exists in the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. Jounouchi enters a video game show in order to win a million yen and get his family out of poverty. While the producers try to cheat him out of the prize on the chance-based final roulette, Yami Yugi manages to put a stop to that with a Shadow Game that drenches the control panel with red paint, making them unable to tell which button is the red one that makes him a loser. Jounouchi wins, but the station goes bankrupt and he gets nothing.
- Because Yami Yugi's "Penalty Game" for the producer after the whole paint thing has him barge in on the cameras and demand money from the people watching (He puts his Mind On The Air, see), so they subsequently lose their offended viewers and sponsors. Nice job, Yami Yugi.
- The "Ferrous Chef" storyline from the No Need for Tenchi! did this. Sasami is chosen to participate in an Iron Chef contest and her main rival is a young boy whose father is attempting to pass his shop down to him, but only if the boy wins three matches in a row - and this would be his third. The assistant to the boy's father confronts Sasami and begs her to throw the match, but she decides otherwise, not being able to live with herself if she didn't give her all. Despite another rival causing her to damage her knife (Ryoko fixes it) and the boy's father attempting to sabotage Sasami's attempts with an MSG-tainted carrot (Ryo-Ohki caught it and Washu calls out the man privately), Sasami does win. However, the boy's inspired by Sasami's cheerfulness and decides to try again, much to his father's delight.
- One story in Archie Comics has Reggie on a thinly veiled parody of Love Connection. He says he has a good time, but his date calls him a stuck-up, self-centered dick. His consolation prize is a board-game version of the show, and he's noticeably choking slightly as he accepts it. The last panel is everyone in the main cast, even his longtime rival Archie, feeling sorry for him for being humiliated on national TV. Even the reader is sorry for him.
- Since most movies aren't slaves to the status quo, they're usually exceptions to this trope. A notable example is Rosie Perez's character Gloria becoming a five-day champ on Jeopardy! in White Men Can't Jump.
- Despite being rather cynical and quite depressing at times, in Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal ultimately wins it all.
- Rocky's wife says this exact line to him in Rocky IV, trying to convince him not to box his Russian challenger.
- Mason Dixon's manager says it in Rocky Balboa, pointing out that if he wins, he beat up a 60-year-old... and if he loses, a 60-year-old beat the crap out of him.
- Surprisingly enough, it may have actually been played completely straight. He barely managed a split decision win, and there's a pretty good chance that it didn't do squat for his career or the sport of boxing. His half-hearted victory gesture said it all.
- It's implied it's going to help Mason's career; because of his padded record and soft fights, he was thought as a paper champion due to having never been through a grueling fight. When he defeats the legendary Rocky who still had some gas in the tank and does so with a broken hand that opened the window for another Rocky comeback, he finally dispels that notion as he too gets an ovation from the crowd and the respect of ol' Rock.
- If certain people didn't step in, the heroes of Dodge Ball A True Underdog Story would have actually lost the final dodgeball match with the villains, but would have recouped through a player hitting the jackpot.
- National Lampoons European Vacation opens with the Griswolds on a game show called "Pig In A Poke". They win by accident and the prize is a trip to Europe, setting up the movie's plot.
- The perpetually poor Weasley family wins a sweepstakes at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. They promptly blow the prize on a trip to Egypt, but the winner's photo published in the paper becomes a major Chekhov's Gun. Totally averted at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Harry gives his Tri-Wizard winnings to the Weasley twins: They use the money to start up their own business and are notably wealthier for the remainder of the series.
- Well, they'd bought everything they needed, they couldn't normally afford holidays, and their son worked on another continent — of course they'd go see him. Besides, the prize wasn't exactly huge.
- I'm not sure they did spend it all immediately, either; Ron's parents buy him a brand-new broom in OOTP, with the only reaction being at the thought that Ron might want a top-of-the-range broom (Ron asked for a cheaper, though still just released broom) while in COS, they worried about being able to afford everyone's supplies. IIRC, the difference in supplies wasn't that much less (figure about $160 difference, or about 32 galleons. A broom is likely something around 500-1000 galleons, if not more. Ergo, they have more money from somewhere. They don't take charity, so it can't be from Dumbledore. The twins hadn't set up WWW yet, so... ( also, at about $5 to the galleon, they won around $50k. A trip to Egypt from the UK would be roughly 1K at most. Ergo, mots of the winnings were probably saved.
Live Action TV
- Spin City, where Paul that show won the grand prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
- Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses went on Goldrush (a thinly disguised Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) and lost in the final round. Then the producers realized that, wait a minute, his answer was actually right. So they called him up to apologize and offer him the prize money. But he assumed it was a prank call and told them to give the money to charity.
- In one episode of Frasier, Niles won an SUV when he had to make a half-court throw at a basketball game. He planned to use it to go antiquing.
- But, because Status Quo Is God, he instead ended up donating it to a policeman's charity.
- My Name Is Earl used the "last one touching the car wins" contest. Catalina wins over Randy, but when prompted for her Social Security number, she bolts, and Randy wins by default. The car is later gambled away by Joy's mother.
- A Double Subversion in Family Matters, when Urkel makes a shot for a huge cash prize, he hurls the basketball in celebration... the prize money was just enough to cover the repairs of the scoreboard he broke doing so.
- Al and Peg on Married... with Children win a sports car in a game show (technically, Peg won it by willing to zap Al the hardest in an electric chair - plus, they cheated to get on the show in the first place). It doesn't appear again for years, even during episodes that revolve around Al's lousy-running Dodge (handwave: they couldn't afford the insurance needed to drive it, a situation that was the key plot point of an episode, in fact). When it finally does pop up, it's abandoned on the freeway in a holiday traffic jam.
- An interesting zig-zag: One episode of The Nanny had Fran getting on Jeopardy! and winning in a Dark Horse Victory with a final score of $200. She loses her second game, and the status quo remains.
- On an episode of The Honeymooners, Ralph and Alice compete on Beat the Clock, but have to come back for a second taping to finish. Unfortunately, Alice has family obligations at the time, and Ralph finally comes to the decision to inform the show that they can't compete. Oddly enough, host Bud Collyer permits Ed to fill in for Alice, and they end up winning.
- A B plot on an episode of Las Vegas featured a girl celebrating her 21st birthday in the casino and pulling the handle on the slot machine at the stroke of midnight and hitting the jackpot. Unfortunately, the clock inside the machine still said 23:59, invalidating her win. At the end of the episode, she is offered a check for that same amount to do a commercial for the casino reminding people to wait until they are 21 to gamble.
- This one actually makes perfect sense. If word got out that a customer was robbed of a jackpot for the flimsiest excuse imaginable (and she wasn't even at fault!), it would be ruinous for the casino, and possibly other casinos in the neighborhood as well.
- Truth in Television: Quite a few people come to Vegas to party and gamble on their 21st birthday and start the party right at midnight. Unfortunate for those who live in states where your driver license always expires on your 21st birthday and most casinos won't (and aren't obligated to) accept expired I Ds. (They are obligated, however, to accept a valid passport, and those don't expire when you turn 21; remember that!)
- The situation was invented for drama. There's no bright red clock inside a slot machine and the only verification done is that the chip is functioning correctly. Assuming you weren't gambling before you hit (as in you weren't sitting there for an hour and it really was a matter of a few seconds due to clocks being out of sync), the casino would probably pay it after consulting with a Gaming Control Board agent.
- In general, everything you've ever seen about Las Vegas on Las Vegas is pretty much 100% bunk.
- On How I Met Your Mother, Barney goes on The Price Is Right and, not only does he win, but he guesses the cost of every item exactly right down to the dollar.
- Of course, it doesn't matter anyway, since Barney's character at many seperate occasions is stated to be absurdly rich already - for instance, having a wall-covering flatscreen tv that was brought in from Japan by a boat that could carry Godzilla. The money won on The Price Is Right undoubtly was a pittance for him, His reasons to go on the show were meeting Bob Barker (whom Barney believed to be his father) and getting Marshall and Lily some really nice wedding presents.
- Power Rangers S.P.D.: Dumpster-dwelling alien informant Piggy wins zillions in the lottery... and it sticks. He opens a restaurant, and from then on, the Rangers visit him there instead of the dumpster (which we never see again, except in one episode of the chronologically-earlier Power Rangers Mystic Force.)
- Real Life game shows, of course. Though with some, only the winner gets to go home with real prizes instead of "lovely parting gifts."
- Bassie & Adriaan: During the last series, "de reis vol verassingen", Bassie winning a quiz show is what sets in motion the main storyline. The prize was a trip for two to America.
- The IT Crowd: Moss wins at least 8 episodes of Countdown, for which the prize (in real life) is a teapot. Winning 8 episodes does qualify him for the series championship; we never find out how he fared. (He could've won a 21-volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary.)
- In the Sam & Max: Freelance Police game Situation: Comedy, the duo take a shot at a game show called "Who's Never Going to be a Millionaire". Initially, the trope is played straight (They're given a extremely hard question and all the replies are in the manner of "Huh?"). Switching the questions with a stack of song lyrics makes things infinitely easier, and they win. The prize, however, is a million dollars... in food stamps. Instead, they fork it over to Bosko for his invention of the episode. In a talent show, Sam also wins a recording contract, which turns out to be useful much, much later.
- In PvP, Robbie wins the lottery and quits the magazine. Cole expects everything to Snap Back and is surprised when it doesn't. Later strips involving Robbie show him still living as a millionaire.
- In a storyline when people speculated status quo would be restored, Word of God flat out said, "Robbie won't be losing his wealth anytime soon."
- In the Looney Tunes short "The Ducksters", Porky Pig is a contestant on "Truth or AAAAAAGH!", a quiz show hosted by Daffy Duck. The sole purpose of the game seems to be humiliating the contestants, giving them obscure questions to answer (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 Daffy.
- Hey Arnold!: Arnold, his grandparents and two boarders use Team Spirit to beat another family on a game show called "Fighting Families" (similar to the old Nick game show Double Dare).
- One episode of Family Guy actually begins with Peter on Wheel of Fortune, winning the prize and setting up the plot for the rest of the episode. No setup for how he got on the show, he was just there, won, and the episode proceeded as normal.
- Though it was using the antiquated rules for Wheel of Fortune where all money won on the game show had to be spent there too for various services or goods.
- The Jetsons once competed against the family of George's boss, Mr. Spacely, on what was essentially a futuristic version of Family Feud. The Jetsons end up winning the contest, and a furious Mr. Spacely threatens to fire George on the spot if he takes the grand prize, instead of what's behind a special force field. George decides to trade the grand prize for whatever's behind the force field, and his family is upset until they find out it's a new food-making machine, which they've been needing since their old one had broken down. Mr. Spacely, meanwhile, won the grand prize...a lifetime supply of Cogswell Cogs, the goods of his arch-rival. Needless to say, Mr. Spacely isn't too happy with his prize.
- In one episode of Rugrats, Didi participates in a Jeopardy!-type game show, the Title Drop "Super Stumpers", and finds herself horribly outclassed by a snooty super genius. Even she realizes that she can't win. However, fortune smiles on her when Tommy, Phil and Lil raid the control room of the studio in an attempt to find the sun (she had mentioned earlier she wanted to "find her place in the sun"). She wins big time, but chooses a gold-plated dalmatian statue instead. Tommy, however, probably figured things out much quickly — she found her place in the sun.
- One episode of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo had Scooby and Shaggy competing against a super-smart brother/sister duo in a game spoofing The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime. Things are one-sided until the ghost of the episode appears and stops the show. Once the mystery's solved, the show resumes, and Scooby and Shaggy win when their opponents can't figure out what kind of phrase involves two 'z's in the middle of the word. Their prize? A lifetime supply of pizza, comic books and Scooby Snacks — which is fine by them.
- An episode of Cow and Chicken had the titular characters and their parents enter a Canadian version of America's Funniest Home Videos. They win, but it turns out that the Canadian Dollars to American Dollars conversion rate was horrible - something along the lines of $10,000 Canadian = $.05 American.
- The Flintstones has Barney take Fred's place on a prehistoric version of the Cullen-era The Price Is Right, and win a new boat, which (various hijinks later) sinks to the bottom of the sea.
- An episode of Inspector Gadget featured a local game show that was a MAD front. At the beginning of the episode, Gadget destroyed his old toaster, prompting him to go on the game show to win a new one. Guess what? He succeeded!