On game shows, one of the most popular forms of entertainment, contestants display their knowledge and smarts to the entire nation. However, some contestants make complete fools of themselves and do things that not only dumbfound the host, but cause the audience to break out in complete hysterics.
To be fair, just like with the separate Game Show pages in What an Idiot (for longer-running programs), said players try their best to perform well. After all, they're in front of cameras and (often) a studio audience is watching their every move. Plus, they may be under a time limit and the show is taping to be shown sometime in the future. As such, it can be expected for some to be unusually nervous and as a result, give into pressure. Pat Sajak – especially after a Bonus Round loss of a seemingly easy puzzle – has said many times that playing the game at home or from the studio audience is far different than it is for the contestants, who are under stress to do well and sometimes fail to perform under pressure.
Then again, some contestants do give the wrong answer on purpose, just for a few laughs or simply to show off. That doesn't make them any less stupid, mind you, but instead become far more worthy of being here. These examples are classic instances of a contestant blowing it big time.
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1 vs. 100
One Mob member on 1 vs. 100 missed a question that essentially asked what a "#2 Dixon Ticonderoga" is, guessing a lunchbox instead of the right answer of a pencil. When asked to explain her guess, she figured that since "#2" is slang for a bowel movement, that "lunchbox" was slang for a really big bowel movement.
One contestant, when asked if the US flag has more red stripes, white stripes, or the same number of each, polled the mob and asked how many said they had the same number. After seeing the low response, she said that she knew the flag had an odd number of stripes. So either she was lying, or stupid.
One question asked how many six-packs would get you 99 bottles of beer, with the choices being greater than, less than or exactly fifteen. The contestant used a help, claiming to not know much about beer. The question also knocked out a ton of mob members who, when interviewed, said they weren't beer drinkers either. That's great, but the question was a math problem!
The $1,000, 000 Chance Of A Lifetime
1986: On a late-Season 1 episode of The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime, two couples (already struggling during a bad day on the show) were faced with a puzzle whose clues led to "IMELDA MARCOS".
You'd Expect: With numerous clues including "shoes" and "Philippines" showing, for at least one of the four contestants to recognize the name of the widow of the Filipino dictator, who was constantly in the news at about that time.
Instead: Both couples are completely stumped, and both admit they had never so much as heard of Marcos.
In another episode, all but the M's are showing in the puzzle "MOUNT RUSHMORE".
You'd Expect: At least one of the couples to recognize the name of a well-known national landmark.
Instead: Nobody can solve it.
Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?
The show's first ever contestant did not know Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached and thought Columbus Day was celebrated in September! He walked with $5,000, not answering a single question without one of his cheats. While not getting the first question may not seem so bad, consider this; he was a UCLA American History graduate!
One contestant didn't know how "vowel" is spelled when the question was how many consonants in that word. She thought it was "voul".
KelliePickler, who thinks Europe is a country where everyone speaks French.
Or even better, made a guess at a history question, based on how all the letters in the correct person's last name...were in HER last name! This proves the adage that you don't have to be smart to be rich and famous, just attractive.
If what she said is true, a mile has exactly 15 yards. It could have been some other measurement.
Another contestant horrifically flubbed the first question (1st-Grade Health), which asked if the esophagus connects the mouth to the nose (it connects the mouth to the stomach). The guy, a freaking pre-med student, says "True". If it weren't for the Save he would've been gone, but Foxworthy jabs at him by saying "Thank God you are not my doctor!" and "Did you go to any of your pre-med classes while you were there?"
"What 'O' is the generic name for any living animal or plant, including bacteria and viruses?" A contestant infamously answered "Orgasm."
Another contestant on Blockbusters almost immediately realized her mistake when she answered "Yugoslavians" to "What 'U' were the Eastern Europeans who originated the tradition of painting Easter Eggs?"
When the first 180 was hit on Bullseye, the partner failed to answer relatively simple questions and blew the chance for big cash.
One team managed to win all nine prizes on the bonus board (the eight numbered prizes and Bully's Special Prize for the center target), which host Jim Bowen congratulated them on as it had never happened before. Despite this, they decided to go for the Star Prize...and lost a two-week vacation.
A contestant on the Challenge version thought every country had a sun.
One particularly notable incident from the Canadian Cash Cab, with Adam Growe:
Adam: What relative of the seal has external ears and can rotate its hind flippers? Contestant 1: (deliberating) Is it...penguin? Contestant 2: I think it might be sea lion... Contestant 3: Probably sea lion... Contestant 1: I dunno. Maybe penguins aren't really seals after all.
Also from the Canadian version, when shown the video bonus question at the end and asked to identify what this◊ creature was:
Contestant: Are those jellyfish?
On the American version, the one that made every Anime fan wince...or burst out laughing:
Ben Bailey: An alternative to permanent tattoos, what plant dye, popular in India, is used for temporary body art? Contestant: I know this! Ben: You do? Contestant:Hentai! Ben: (Aside GlanceBeat) The correct answer is "henna".
One rebus on Classic Concentration showed D+RACK+EWE+LA (the rack being of the type used by auto mechanics). Neither contestant could solve it after it was fully exposed, so host Alex Trebek started offering clues. When he said, "Bela Lugosi," the female contestant rang in and said, "Frankenstein."
1987: "In 1869, what did O.A. North invent that forever changed the look of your closet? A. Moth Balls, B. Coat Hangers, C. The Boogey Man." Almost every multiple choice question asked on Double Dare (1986) has a joke answer for C, so the contestants can narrow it down to a 50/50 shot of answering it correctly.
You'd Expect: Since the question had been dared by the other team, either give the right answer of B or try to double dare it back.
Instead: The team answers with The Boogey Man, resulting in laughter from host Marc Summers. Because of the dare, the other team gets $40.
1990 (Family): A question asking what the first James Bond film was. The team has just received this question back on a double dare.
You'd Expect: The physical challenge, perhaps a bold guess of Dr. No.
Instead: They answer with the wrong movie and mangle the title, Goldenfinger. The other team picks up $200 due to the blunder.
1992: "Which of the following is missing on a Manx cat? A. Tail, B. Hair, C. Sense of Humor."
You'd Expect: A guess of Tail (the correct answer) or Hair, maybe daring it to the other team if they're not sure.
Instead: They answer with Sense of Humor. Cue Marc's deadpan response, "I just read 'em, folks. That's all I do."
Face The Music
A 1980 episode of Face The Music had a tie game after a round. The two contestants (Dorothy, a 60-ish woman who stammers most of her answers and Michael, a young Asian-American man in his 20s) are shown pictures of Lawrence Welk, Catherine Bach, and Carroll O'Connor.
You'd Expect: Even on a game show where intelligence isn't a prerequisite, for one of them to at least recognize three well-known popular culture figures – the bandleader of a top-rated syndicated TV series, an actress from a show that was currently in the top 5 of the Nielsen ratings, and the star of probably the biggest show of the 1970s – bringing an end to the tiebreaker round after the first song.
Instead: A comedy of errors.
Dorothy rings in, spits out (after reciting most of the lyrics) "The Band Played On". She matches it with "Archie Bunker". (Her opponent, Michael, claps gleefully and hyperactively jumps up and down like a little kid when she gives the wrong answer. Correct answer: Lawrence Welk.)
Dorothy immediately identifies "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody". Even she should be able to identify Catherine Bach, or give a reasonable guess, but all she can say, "The girl in the picture but I don't know her name." (Michael tries to ring in but is denied.)
With a correct guess of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall", Michael answers Archie Bunker. Unfortunately, the producers were looking for the actor's real name (which Dorothy gets right, but since she didn't ring in first, she wasn't credited with the answer).
With all three pictures exhausted, a new montage is shown: Andy Williams, Lindsay Wagner, and Telly Savalas. Again, You'd Expect: With three well-known celebrities, a hastened end of the round upon a quick correct answer:
Instead: More bungling:
After Michael easily identifies the Bee Gees' "More Than a Woman", he answers Cheryl Ladd. Host Ron Ely is in disbelief: "I don't believe this!" as the audience is beside itself in laughter. (Correct answer: Lindsay Wagner.)
After Dorothy spits out reasonable guesses (half of them incoherent) before saying "Zorba the Greek", she finally gives a correct match: Telly Savalas.
Go may have run for just 79 episodes (October 3, 1983 to January 20, 1984), but it still managed to produce some moments:
Week of October 10: the clock gets to 99 seconds, stopping gameplay right then. Given that this followed six straight wrong answers, this may have been a good thing.
You'd Expect: The contestant in control, Dennis, to lock in with Singled Out, and then the captain, Darrell, will accept the answer. At the very worst, Dennis will give another answer if he's unsure and Darrell will overrule him with the correct answer.
Instead: Dennis, boasting that he has followed Chuck's career, answers Wheel of Fortune...and Darrell accepts it! How Woolery was able to maintain his sanity throughout the ordeal no one will ever know.
The Joker's Wild
"The Mesozoic Age had the dinosaur as its dominant form of life. What classification of animals are dinosaurs?" The correct response was "reptiles", but the contestant overthought her answer.
Contestant: Ooh, I know that. Uh... (timer buzzes; Jack asks her for an answer) Plistosisterines. Jack Barry: ...What was that? Contestant: Pliss...pliss... P-L-E-I-O-C-E-T-E-N-E-S-O-U-S. Jack Barry: (looking at his card as the audience howls with laughter) Uh, I don't have that answer down here...
From the final syndicated season: In this situation, a lady named Chris has won four games, and is currently in her fifth match leading her challenger, a guy whose name is also Chris, $400-$100. The categories are Disney, Famous Lovers, U.S. Constitution, Explorers, and Bid-Numbersnote (A special category where the contestant bids on how many questions he or she would like to answer, with a minimum bid of two, like in Bullseye). It is Lady Chris' spin, and she rolls JOKER—Lovers—Constitution.
You'd Expect: Lady Chris to pair either Lovers or Constitution with the Joker for $100, or go off the board and pick Bid-Numbers for $50 and bid anywhere from two to seven for a possible win (and prevent Guy Chris from beating her if she missed it).
Instead: Lady Chris goes off the board and picks Disney for $50, misses the question, and Guy Chris gets it right, bringing his score to $150.
Later: Guy Chris spins Disney—Explorers—Disney, picked Disney for $100, got it right, and brought his score to $250. Lady Chris then spins Bid-Numbers—Bid Numbers—Joker.
You'd Then Expect: Lady Chris to take Bid-Numbers for just $100 and bid the minimum of two questions. If she had missed and Guy Chris completed the contract, Guy Chris's score would have only been $450.
Instead: Lady Chris does take Bid-Numbers for just $100 (she first said $100, then $200, but the Judge immediately jumped in, stating that they had to take her first pick of $100), and she does get the first two questions right...but she had bid for three questions. She misses the last one, and Guy Chris gets the question right, winning the game with $550.
What Makes it Worse: Lady Chris was playing for a car.note (A champ won a car for every five opponents s/he defeated in the upfront game.)
Legends Of The Hidden Temple
Legends of the Hidden Temple has had its share of bad player choices, the most egregious examples being in the climactic Temple run. In this series of rooms, the players are met with various challenges such as assembling a 3-piece statue, pressing an actuator, or finding a hidden key to move on to the next room, and three random rooms have Temple Guards that take away their pendant of life or remove them from the temple. Once a contestant reaches the episodes' Artifact, all the doors are unlocked and the guards vanish. You'd Expect: Once a player manages to reach the artifact, they would blaze through the now-empty rooms to make it back to the entrance and beat the time limit. Instead: One contestant forgets that the doors unlock when he grabs the artifact, and drops the artifact to smash clay pots to find the key to open a door that's already open. He makes it to the temple steps, then realizes he left the artifact in the King's Storeroom. That team didn't get to go to Mexico.
The Shrine of the Silver Monkey claimed a lot of players via running out the clock. You'd Expect: it to be an easy challenge. Three pieces of a statue that stack on one another that face the camera. Base, Torso, Head. Instead: You wind up with these strange aberrations. Kids trying to stack the base on the torso, putting the torso on backwards, upside-down, or sideways, the head being put on through the side of the torso, all sorts of strange things.
Note: Lucky Ladders was the British version of the American game show Chain Reaction that ran from 1988 to 1993.
24 April 1991: We are at the third ladder, and the champion team of Prunella & Rebecca are leading the challenging team of Lyn & Pamela 170 to 70, needing one more word to win the game. At the point, the Lucky Ladder is KID-GLOVE-BOXING-?-?-?-BOY. Prunella takes a letter under BOXING for her teammate, with the letter "D" popping up.
You'd Expect: Rebecca to say "DAY" to win the match, as Boxing Day is a famous holiday in Britain.
Instead: Rebecca says nothing.
Then: Lyn takes a letter under BOXING for his teammate, with the letter "A" popping up.
You'd Then Expect: Pamela to say "DAY" to stay in the match.
Instead: Pamela says "DANGER" after the buzzer.
Next: Prunella then asks for a letter for her partner under BOXING, with host Lennie Bennett stating that he can't give her a letter, as it would complete the word.
You'd Then Expect: For Rebecca to say "DAY" and win the match.
Instead: Rebecca says "DAD". Lyn then asks for a letter under "BOXING", and Lennie says that he can't give a letter under "BOXING".
You'd THEN Expect: For Pamela to say "DAY".
INSTEAD: Pamela says "DAP". Prunella then asks for a letter under "BOXING", Lennie can't give her the letter.
You'd THEN Expect: Rebecca to say "DAY".
INSTEAD: No answer, which is starting to drive Lennie crazy. Lyn then asks for a letter under "BOXING", and Lennie again says that he can't give him the letter.
You'd NOW Expect: Pamela to say "DAY".
INSTEAD: Pamela says "DAN". Prunella then asks for a letter under "BOXING", and Lennie reminds her that he can't, as it would complete the word.
You'd NOW Expect: For Rebecca to say "DAY".
INSTEAD: Rebecca again blanks out. Then before Lyn can say anything, Lennie immediately jumps in and says that he can't have the letter, assuming that he wanted a letter under "BOXING".
FINALLY: Pamela says "DAY", giving her team 100 points.
Name That Tune
Late 1984: One particularly egregious instance on Name That Tune was during a semifinals episode, during the Golden Medley Showdown between Tammy (Warner, a well-known member of the online game show community) and Les. Things went back and forth repeatedly, until Les buzzed in for one song and said every single lyric except the actual name of the song. The judges gave him the point anyway.
The mistake was never realized, Les won, and in the finals he won $100,000...all because he was given credit for something he never actually said. Oh, and he was an annoying Jerkass the whole time.
For a game show that featured video games, the kids here couldn't play to save their lives. Seriously, who messes up trying to get 10-20 rings on Sonic the Hedgehog in 30 seconds or less?
A question of "How much does an ounce of gold weigh?"
August 1, 1985 (Super Password): One for the judges and the host instead of the contestants. At the end of a bonus round being played for $20,000, the contestant says the tenth and final word, "Inn", clearly after the buzzer.
You'd Expect: That if the judges were to check the tape, they'd declare it a loss and award the contestant $900 for getting nine of the ten words. Furthermore, the contestant's a Sore Loser, screaming and calling out the judges after host Bert Convy initially says he heard the answer after the buzzer.
Instead: After a commercial break, the judges decide to let Bert see the tape and declare for himself.
You'd Then Expect: That after seeing the result a second time, Bert would affirm that the buzzer beat her by a mile. Also, given that everyone had more or less calmed down, a second look would be beneficial.
September 19, 1983: On the very first episode of Press Your Luck, a contestant named Lana answered a question that was essentially "What model of car is the most frequently stolen?" with "Chevrolet" and "Mercedes". While these types of incidents aren't too common (a similar confusion between brands and types of gasoline happened at least twice on Family Feud), the unsure look on her face is what sealed the deal.
Press is a rare case where What an Idiot applied to the show producers more often than the contestants.
The Michael Larson fiasco. Apparently, nobody on the show staff (minus creator Bill Carruthers) or at CBS realized that the Big Board was predictable, even though Larson did just by taping and analyzing the show. And he wasn't alone: other contestants scheduled to appear after him had figured out the same thing and were planning the same stunt.
It's not as well remembered, but the show also had an embarrassing moment over this toss-up question: "Which well known cartoon character is known for saying 'Sufferin' Succotash'?" All three contestants correctly named Sylvester, but Peter Tomarken snidely said the answer was Daffy Duck, even as the audience booed. The show later did a funny Take That Me in which Voice ActorMel Blanc made a phone call to Tomarken to correct him on the matter...as Sylvester. All three contestants were given the chance to appear on later episodes. Watch it all here.
Early 1985: The most memorable example on Scrabble came on an episode during the short-lived "spelling" formatnote (where players were required to spell out the answer by filling whatever blanks remained with a cash bonus of $50 for each regular square remaining, $100 for each blue square remaining, and $500 for each pink square remaining). An incident that has been shown repeatedly on game show-related and Dick Clark bloopers specials (and probably the reason for why the format was changed back) had "M_SQU____" showing along with the clue "They love to fly over nudist camps."
You'd Expect: With the female contestant (Von?) possibly unsure how to spell "MOSQUITOS", for her to continue selecting tiles/letters to fill in the blanks.
Instead: A chain of at least four incorrect answers, beginning with Von saying "U" as her first guess.
You'd Then Expect: The opponent, Chris, to pick a tile and continue filling in the blanks to make sure he can correctly spell the word.
Instead: He immediately rings in and says he knows the solution, says "I", and is buzzed.
Later: Von draws a tile, which turns up to be an "I", then fills in a remaining blank with the other "S" to get M_SQU___S.
You'dThenExpect: If she was unsure of the word, Von could put in the "I".
Instead: She goes for the solve, saying "A". The buzzer sounds, and at this point the audience is beginning to laugh. Host Chuck Woolery: "I've never had this happen before. (beat) This is the first time."
Immediately Thereafter: Chris rings in and finally fills in the "O" in the second blank, and I and T in order to get MOSQUIT_S...then says "E". Woolery is dumbfounded as the audience is now in hysterics. "I'm going home! I don't know about you." The word went unsolved.
Who's Still Standing?
One particularly egregious example on Who's Still Standing? was a contestant who couldn't guess that the last month alphabetically was September (even with __P_E_B__ showing) and refused to rattle off the months, only getting it with .2 seconds left. He then failed to guess that Tony the Tiger was Frosted Flakes' mascot, and was gone.
One contestant didn't know that the topic of Al Gore's book An Inconvenient Truth was "Global Warming", even after most of the letters were revealed.