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Epic Fail / Game Shows

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  • Wheel of Fortune has many examples:
    • On several occasions, contestants have mispronounced a puzzle that was completely filled in, and been ruled incorrect as a result. Known examples include SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS in 1989, DOUBLE INDEMNITY in 1990, PRISTINELY in 1994, FRANCIS FORD AND SOFIA COPPOLA and OVERHEAD SQUARE AND SHEEPSHANK ARE TYPES in 2004, and FLAMENCO DANCE LESSONS in 2018. Yet another from 2014 is mentioned below.
      • Subverted with DESE DEM AND DOSE GUYS in 1989. A contestant read off the first word as "desi" instead of a thickly accented "these". Host Pat Sajak asked for a ruling, and decided that "he's got all the letters up, I'm taking it."
    • The one that takes the cake was REGIS PHILBIN & KELLY RIPA (January 2010). All three contestants butchered the answer at various points, with one of them doing so twice... and of course, culminating in the fourth incorrect guess being given with the whole puzzle revealed. Watch the carnage here.
    • On several occasions, a contestant was so dominant that his/her opponent's chances at playing the game are severely limited – and more than once, those opponents fail on their few opportunities. One example: A 1996 episode where a contestant got only one turn (the third round, which she started)... and promptly landed on Lose a Turn. Even worse, she didn't even get to call a letter, because the Speed-Up round was solved before it got around to her.
    • One contestant in 1989 seemed to have their Bonus Round in the bag with M_LAN _TAL_ showing on a Place puzzle. However, she pronounced the first word of MILAN ITALY as "Mill-in", then "My-lun"note , and neither was accepted.
    • Another contestant from 1989 had T_E __R_P_LIS showing for a Landmark puzzle in the Bonus Round. The answer was THE ACROPOLIS. Guess which word the contestant ended up getting stumped on? (He said "Toe", "tie", and "tee", but never got around to "the".)
      • Other two word puzzles where the contestant somehow got the harder word but missed the easier one include _AR__ET _L__R (where a contestant got PARQUET but not FLOOR), ___ERED BR_D_E (where a contestant got COVERED but not BRIDGE), __L_PSO _E_T (where a contestant got CALYPSO but not BEAT) and _L_MORO_S _O_N (where a contestant got GLAMOROUS but not GOWN
    • Some bonus puzzles have actually been missed with only one letter missing: CORK in 1992, NIFTY in 1994, AWARD and MENU in 1995, and GLOBE in 2011.
    • Unsolved Toss-Ups aren't unheard of either. Usually, these stem from someone giving a wrong answer with only a couple letters missing, thus allowing very little time for anyone else to ring in. Other times, it just happens to be a term that all three players are unfamiliar with, or just a collective brain fart — whatever the case, most players at least try to solve Toss-Ups for a little extra scratch, especially the second and third ones, since they respectively determine who starts Rounds 1 and 4. However, one episode in 2003 had a Toss-Up answer of WHAT A RELIEF where no one even rang in. (If this ever happened on another episode, it was likely thrown out and replaced with another Toss-Up, as this was known to have happened on a March 2014 episode.)
      • On two different occasions, the Toss-Up puzzle PONDEROSA PINES went unsolved.
    • On countless occasions, players have accidentally called a letter that was already called (which, barring Free Playnote , means that the player loses their turn), even though the players have an offscreen "used letter board" to decrease the odds of this happening. Most of the time, however, it can just be chalked up to nerves or a slip of the tongue. However, one round in May 2002 had players call a letter that was already called three times.
      • A couple players have accidentally called the same letter twice in a row.
    • In the Bonus Round, the player is given R, S, T, L, N, and E automatically, then asked for three more consonants and a vowel — which means "among the 20 letters we haven't given you already". Again, some players have been known to accidentally call a letter that is already given to them, and again, it can usually be forgiven — host Pat Sajak will just remind them that they're already given that letter, and ask for another. However, one poor player in February 2004 took it Up to Eleven: given an Event where RSTLNE revealed ____RE__, she guessed T, N, and S, each time being told that it was already given. K and W were her next picks… followed by R! Eventually, she spit out D, and Pat said "Now call a vowel other than E" (which she did, with O). Unsurprisingly, she failed to solve DAYBREAK.
    • An especially epic one on April 11, 2014:
      1. In Round 1, the yellow contestant (Julian) has $5,100, a trip to London, and the Million Dollar Wedge on the line. He has just filled in the last letter (C) on the puzzle "MYTHOLOGICAL HERO ACHILLES"… but mispronounces the last word as "Ay-chill-us", so they can't take it. It gets passed to his opponent, who solves correctly.
      2. Then in Round 3, Julian calls a wrong letter on THE WORLD'S FASTEST MAN, thus losing out on a car (he had both ½ Car tags), a Prize Puzzle trip, and a great deal of money. The second contestant doesn't spin for the last letters, and instead solves for the trip.
      3. Then, Julian missolves "ON-THE-SPOT DECISION" in the Speed-Up (Round 4) with only the vowels missing. A third time, the answer gets passed on to the next player, who solves.
      • The worst part of all? Julian still won!
    • In the episode seen here - during a couples tournament no less, meaning the guy making the mistake did it in front of his wife - the contestant solves the rather hard puzzle, but fails rather badly when Pat quizzes him about the location of Venice; he answers "Paris." After soaking in people's reactions, he realizes his mistake and changes his answer to France.
  • Jeopardy!:
    • A 1985 episode famously referenced a clue about the St. Louis Globe-Democrat (in a category about defunct newspapers), which at the time of production had ceased publication. By the time the episode aired, the newspaper had resumed production, and the publisher angrily demanded that a retraction be aired on the show. (The newspaper in question also published a rambling editorial, misspelling Trebek's name in a large font, front-page headline and throughout the copy.) Indeed, a clue was written – and selected – in a show later during the 1987-1988 season. Alas, by the time the correction aired, the Globe-Democrat had once again ceased publication, this time for good.
    • Like several game shows using categories or topics for questions, an "Oops!" category appeared on occasion. These potpourri-type categories were composed of questions that stumped contestants on previous shows.
    • A question that frequently stumped contestants, especially during the early years, centered on the first date/year of a particular century. The best-known example was Final Jeopardy! on the second episode of the Alex Trebek version, in 1984: "Date on which the 20th century began" (asked on the second episode of the 1984 Trebek version), for which the answer was "Jan. 1, 1901" – the reasoning being that there was no year "0" (zero), that the first year A.D. was 1 (one) and that all subsequent centuries began with the last digit being a "1." All three contestants answered incorrectly – each of the responses was Jan. 1, 1900 – and all three wagered their entire scores.
    • Ties at $0 have happened at least seven other times:
      • Another game in Season 1. The Final Jeopardy! clue asked for the 1984 date of the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls, the correct response being "Jan. 2, 1984". Neither contestant responded correctly (it's assumed they all wrote "What is Jan. 1, 1984"), and all three wagered their entire earnings.
      • A Seniors' Tournament quarterfinal in 1991. Because of this, a fifth semifinal wild card was added among the remaining non-winners.
      • A celebrity special on November 13, 1996. The house minimum at the time was $10,000 for each charity and all three celebrities entered Final Jeopardy! with less than $5,000. With no way to top the minimum, the round was played for fun with the celebrities wagering their entire earnings and not coming up with the correct response.
      • A celebrity special on March 2, 1998, with Jane Curtin "pulling a Cliff Clavin" (i.e., wagering all-in from a "lock", a score more than double that of second place).note  Since it was a celebrity game, she had the most before Final Jeopardy! and was therefore awarded the top prize for her charity.
      • A game on June 12, 1998; there was a two-player Final Jeopardy! due to the third player having a negative score; the two were tied at $7,600, both went all-in, and both got it wrong. This situation was basically a "prisoner's dilemma", in which the only logical wagers were everything or nothing; it just happened that neither trusted the other to wager $0, neither did, and both paid the price.
      • A Teen Tournament semifinal on February 7, 2013. Because of this, a wild card spot was available for the finals.
      • A game on January 18, 2016 had two players tied with $13,800 with the third place player at $6,000 after Double Jeopardy!. This was also a "prisoner's dilemma" where the two leading contestants went all-in and got Final Jeopardy! wrong. To make matters worse, the other contestant also went all-in and missed Final Jeopardy! as well, bringing all three players down to $0 at the end of the show. To make matters even worse, it was Martin Luther King Day, and the Final Jeopardy! answer dealt with the Civil Rights movement.
    • The February 23, 2005 game has to be a record for how not to play Jeopardy!: a whopping 24 clues (out of 60) stumped the players, 16 of which were in Double Jeopardy! — including an entire category on Oscar hosts where no one gave a correct response. Even worse, one player was in the red for almost the entire game, and late in Double Jeopardy!, the second player knocked himself down to a negative score… just before five clues in a row in which no one gave a correct response. The last clue on the board was a Daily Double, which went to the only player who still had money — he got it wrong, but didn't wager big, so he ended up playing Final Jeopardy! by himself. The scores of all three contestants (counting both negative scores) added up to only $8,200 before Final Jeopardy!. What exacerbates the sloppy gameplay here is that this was during the Ultimate Tournament of Champions.
    • At least twice (once in 2006 and once in 2008), a contestant won the game with a total below $1,000, then finished third in their next game. Since third place receives a flat $1,000 regardless of score, and second-place a flat $2,000, this means they managed to play two games and win less than the second-placer they defeated.
    • On a few other occasions, an entire category has gone without anyone giving a correct response — but most of the time, as in the above game, the players will at least hazard a guess or two. Not so on January 2, 2013, which had a Broadway song lyrics category in which no one even saw fit to ring in on a single clue.
    • During the original Art Fleming NBC daytime series, there was at least one instance where all three contestants had negative scores at the end of the "Double Jeopardy!" round, meaning that no "Final Jeopardy!" question would be played that day. One author who wrote about the genre claimed this situation happened more than once; other recollections indicated that it happened only once (with the year often placed somewhere in the late 1960s). A three-way loss at the end of "Double Jeopardy!" has never happened on the Trebek version.
    • The March 12, 2015 game had two players with negative scores by the end of Double Jeopardy, thereby being disqualified from Final Jeopardy, one of whom had -$6800. And she had entered the round with $3200, meaning she lost $10,000 in one round. And she didn't even hit a single Daily Double, instead simply answering wrong on all six $2000 questions (so she at least got a couple correct answers in the round).
    • One game had a category called "Talkin’ Football". No one rang in at any point. On the final clue, Alex said, "If you guys ring in and get this one, I will die."
  • Family Feud:
    • One of the questions during Fast Money was "Name an animal with three letters in its name." The two people answered "frog"... and "alligator." In the latter's "defense", he said that he misheard the question as "three of the same letter". This same family also provided "Snow" for "Something that comes with a summer storm", and "Regular" and "Ethyl" for "Name a brand of gasoline." note 
    • Any contestant who has scored 0 points in Fast Money. Particularly noteworthy examples include one early game under the hosting of Richard Dawson where the first player got 0 (and dawdled so long that they didn't get past the third question), and the dreadful round on the last episode hosted by Ray Combs in 1994 (where the first player already had three zero-pointers before his teammate goose-egged).
    • One family in July 1991 scored only 16 points in Fast Money, netting the family a possible all-time low score of $80. The Dawson-era low was believed to be 46 points, or $230, sometime in the late 1970s. note .
      • Contestants who blow a seemingly easy chance to get just a few points needed to win Fast Money can be especially gut-wrenching to watch. Such as the Sass family on an episode that aired in May 2014. With 182 points, a Fast Money win was all but a sure thing, but Anna (playing second) – whether a case of extreme nerves, unable to do well under pressure or just bad luck – was unable to score one point in the four answers she gave. A seemingly good answer for the first two question – "We asked 100 men: On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to date a woman who's a 10?" to which she answered "4" ("5" was the No. 1 answer); and "Name a place where you keep looking at your watch," for which she said "restaurant" – each netted zero points, and from there it was all downhill. Her family – and host Steve Harvey, actually playing the whole thing straight as he seemed to know the likely outcome – consoled her as she did her best to hold back her tears.
    • Usually, when a contestant gives a dumb answer, there's something to indicate they at least heard part of the question (such as the five answers from the "Alligator" episode above). However, a contestant might give an answer that sounds completely unrelated to the question. One contestant from the Harvey version responded to "Name something women wear that was obviously designed by men because it's uncomfortable but sexy." with the answer "Texas", and Steve Harvey wanted to make sure that was the contestant's real answer.
  • The Hollywood Squares:
    • The (in)famous "You Fool!!" episode from 1999, wherein just one game was completed the entire episode. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried was the only remaining contestant in a "cat's game", meaning that the player must to give a correct response to capture him — instead of the usual rule of the square going to the opponent if the contestant agrees or disagrees incorrectly to the trivia question. However, the contestants incorrectly agreed or disagreed with Gottfried's answers NINE TIMES IN A ROW!!!! After it became obvious the contestants were struggling, Gottfried yelled out "YOU FOOL!" ... and by the ninth time, the audience was breaking down in laughter as a disbelieving Tom Bergeron (and every one of the other celebrities) began joining in with Gottfried.
    • There was at least one instance of a similar incident happening on the original Peter Marshall version as well, on a daytime show back in the 1970s. Several recollections suggest the celebrity involved was McLean Stevenson.
  • The Price Is Right:
    • Hardcore Price fans often apply the term to either an episode they consider particularly bad, or a particularly ill-fated playing of a game, especially when the wrong answer is obvious to everyone but the contestant. They've even coined the term "El Skunko" for when all six pricing games are lost, followed by a double overbid in the showcase round. In the latter instance, an example might be Clock Game, where the contestant simply gives random guesses and simply does not get the concept of binary search (which, if used correctly, can win the game virtually every time).
    • One infamous Epic Fail example on TPiR came during the 1980s with the Phone Home Game, a game where a contestant and a pre-selected home viewer teamed together to match three prices with grocery products to win up to $15,000; Barker would explicitly explain that the home viewer must not give the name of a product, or the turn was lost. It's not clear why – the rules were misunderstood or she simply did not want to play the game or be bothered – but the home viewer gave the names of products on all three turns, thereby losing the game with no cash won and providing that game's most glaring Epic Fail.
    • One for the show's staff. On Drew's first aired week, one of the prizes in Contestant's Row was a Coca-Cola machine, and from it model Lanisha pulls out a can of Pepsi.
    • One poor contestant in 1996 won all five chips in Plinko... but dropped all five in the $0 slots.
      • A worse situation happened in 2013, where a contestant didn't get the other four chips and got the one Plinko chip in the $0 slot.
    • For the final showcases, a contestant by the name of Jose thought for a while before bidding $150,000. A number so large, there were not enough digits able to display this vast amount. After Bob told him to rethink such a large bid, he reduced his guess to a (very) slightly more feasible $60,000, giving his opponent enough comfort to bid just $1 on her showcase. His was worth just over $20,000.
  • Press Your Luck:
    • At least two episodes ended in three-way ties at $0 due to an ill-timed Whammy.
    • Any time a contestant hit four Whammies in a row. One noteworthy instance was with a contestant who entered Round 2 with 4 spins and earned a Whammy on each of those spins.
    • Any time a contestant loses $10,000 or more to a Whammy. Even worse if it happened on the contestant's last spin.
    • Any time a contestant earned no spins at all in a single round. Three spins were earned by buzzing in with a correct answer, and after this, it went to multiple choice out of only three possible answers. Yet there were a total of three contestants over the years that managed this.
  • On the first season of Lingo, the Bonus Round was as follows: get a word right, get a ball to draw. The already-covered numbers on the Bingo-esque Lingo board form a pattern where only two draws are needed to get five in a row (a "Lingo") and win the bonus prize. However, one team got only one word right, and another got none. The team that got none also tried to make "approach" a five-letter word in the main game, and shot themselves in the foot in Bonus Lingo with stupid guesses such as "Kazaa". Likely for this reason, Bonus Lingo was re-tooled in later seasons so that a.) every Lingo in the main game awarded a "bonus letter", which could be added to any word at any time to make figuring it out easier, b.) the pattern was changed so that only one draw was needed for a Lingo, and c.) the spelling part of Bonus Lingo was sped up from the main game to make it easier to score draws.
  • On Match Game, in one Super Match round, host Gene Rayburn had asked the contestant "Cuckoo (blank)", and the contestant answered "Cuckoo, friend and ollie"note . The entire studio went nuts over her mind-bogglingly stupid answer. Robert Walden, the celebrity that she had been paired with through the Star Wheel to play the Head-to-Head Match, hastily writes a joke answer of "Accordion" (referencing the fact that she had given said answer to a front–game question) before showing his actual answer, "Clock".
  • A number of quiz shows from the late 1960s and early 1970s – including the Who, What or Where Game and the original Sale of the Century – had rules where falling below zero at any time immediately eliminated that player from further play. These games spotted the players a small bankroll ($20 for $otC, $125 for the betting-type 3 Ws and – like Jeopardy! money was deducted for incorrect answers, but enough incorrect answers meant falling to or below $0 and sealed the player's fate.
    • The "$0 means goodbye" rule was eliminated for the more familiar 1983 $otC.
  • A rare meta example of the trope: NBC's Million Second Quiz pretty much touted itself as changing the way game shows are played, introducing the concepts of an always-running event (even showing live feeds of the competition while the show itself isn't airing) and a truly interactive experience where viewers can actually become contestants by participating in a supplementary mobile app. Immediately after its first airing, both selling points crashed and burned as the mobile app became unusable due to server crashes and, not long after that, the live competition experienced a literal showstopper as it fell victim to numerous technical problems of its own, leaving the live feed to become, as one Facebook comment put it, "three guys sitting around doing nothing and a bunch of Subway ads". All of these Game Breaking Bugs happening in such rapid succession led much of the viewer base to suspect that NBC really Didn't Think This Through.
  • Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?:
    • One episode had a contestant in the first round get every single question wrong—including the final question where she'd risked all the fifty Acme Crimebucks she'd started with.
    • On three occasions, a gumshoe was unable to place any correct marks on the map.
  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?:
    • Several contestants under the original format's money ladder ($100/$200/$300/$500/$1,000, with the last value being the first "safe" zone) bombed on the $100 question. The first to do so got "What animal did Hannibal cross the Alps on?" wrong by guessing "llama" instead of "elephant" (to be fair, this is more of a $1,000 or $2,000-level question; $100 questions were usually ridiculously easy to help ease the contestant into the game, often made even easier by almost always having "D" be obviously wrongnote ). As a result, anyone who missed the $100 question, or otherwise bombed before reaching $1,000, has earned the Fan Nickname "llama".
      • To exacerbate this, some contestants who get the $100 question wrong will immediately realize their blunder... fractions of a second after saying "final answer." For example, you can see the very moment this kid's heart sinks upon realizing how truly epic his fail was.
    • One contestant during "Walk In and Win" week (near the end of the original format) burned all three of her Lifelines on the $200 and $300 questions, and walked away from the $500 question. She was the only contestant under the original rules to ever walk away before hitting the $1,000 "safe zone".
  • One contestant on the Bonus Round of Card Sharks encountered four jacks that all went against the odds. The first was followed by a king, the second by an ace (aces are high in this game), and the third was followed by the fourth. With the fourth being the last in the row, she asked to swap it out and got a 9... which was followed by another king, meaning that even staying with the jack would've resulted in the last card being against the odds too.
    • Under the original rules, uncovering the same value card meant that you lost money. One contestant got hit particularly hard with this by fining all four treys in succession. (The latter part of the original version and the 1980s revival gave this an Obvious Rule Patch by declaring that uncovering the same value card resulted in neither a gain nor loss of money.)
  • Password Plus has this Alphabetics playing where a contestant guessed none of the ten passwords. In addition, they were all fairly difficult to communicate.
  • In the Grand Finale of Nick Arcade, one contestant got a Game Over on Super R-Type within the 30-second time limit.

  • The Japanese game show DERO! has a round where a team of contestants stand on metal beams over a pit and take turns solving puzzles, while the active players' beam gradually retracts into the wall every second they can't come up with the correct answer. They're also given sink plungers to stick on the wall behind them to stabilize themselves when the beams become short. Players who fall down are out and win nothing for the round, while if the team gets 9 correct answers between them, they win money for each player left standing. However, on one occasion, celebrity contestant Sashihara Rino freaked out and panicked as the floor started retracting to reveal the pit and didn't even manage to walk onto one of the beams before she fell down and got herself disqualified - and took one of the team's plungers with her, all before the announcer even got a chance to give the Rules Spiel. Even host Yamasato Ryouta (Manager) was astonished upon making his entrance on the video intercom.
    Yamasato: Everyone, welcome to the Beam Room...huh? You're short one person...
    • Despite that, the 4 remaining celebrity contestants in the round still managed to clear it anyway.
    • Earlier before that, an episode ended with NOT EVEN A SINGLE CELEBRITY CONTESTANT SUCCESSFULLY ESCAPING!
    • In an awkward turn of events on a later episode, Sato Amina failed to recognize her fellow AKB48 member Maeda Atsuko, and indirectly got pushed off the beam by Torii.
  • Yet another game show example: March 31, 2008 on Tokyo Friend Park II was a special two-hour episode with the Japanese band Arashi as contestants. Instead of the usual 5 games for a 2-player team, they play 7 games taking turns between their 5 members. They pull off a Flawless Victory through the main game, earning an astounding 9 gold medals (each one being about 100,000 yen worth of gold) and a trip to Disneyland Paris for all 5 of them (for comparison, most teams get usually only manage 2-3 medals and no trip across 5 games). Then came the endgame, and this trope took full effect. As usual, they were given the option to trade each medal for a dart to throw at a dartboard where each space corresponds to a prize. Most prizes are usually worth about 200K yen, plus one space being a grand prize (in this case, a tour of the world), but a couple spaces are labeled "tawashi", the show's trademark Zonk. They proceed to trade all 9 medals for darts...and land 7 of them (across 4 different team members, no less) on the exact same "tawashi" space.
  • While it may be both an in and out of universe example, there's a British comedy game show called Epic Win. Contestants perform various challenges based on their unusual skills, and are awarded either an Epic Win trophy or Epic Fail sticker depending on their success.
  • On The Chase, there are quite a few examples of contests doing extremely poorly in either the cash builder, chase or final chase. None screwed up as much as one man named Keith, though. He got zero questions right in the cash builder, then zero questions right in the main chase. Anne Hegerty was absolutely embarrassed that this guy was apparently an ex-journalist. See it in this video.
    • It happened AGAIN, on the 30th of September edition! A town crier called David got zero in the cashbuilder, then took the zero offer on the board. Cue the somewhat hilarious 'for nothing, the chase is on!'
  • On 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Jimmy Carr attempted to distract the panel using two baskets of kittens, but things quickly went south when he couldn't control them and stop them from jumping out the baskets, so the game was pretty well derailed and the main one who was distracted was Jimmy himself.
  • Schlag den Raab had occasions where Stefan won 11 games for a final score of 66-0 shutting out the contestant.
  • The last two instances of the Banzai segment "Mr. Shake Hands Man 2" (Adam Sandler, and Rick Allen) had very poor times; the segment was retired after that.
  • During the final week of the classic Australian version of Wheel of Fortune, an extra Mystery wedge was added each day until the final episode, which had seven Mystery wedges. It wasn't landed on at all during Monday's show (3 wedges), and on each subsequent show (4 on Tuesday, 5 on Wednesday, 6 on Thursday, 7 on the Friday finale), the contestant that landed on it flipped over the lone BANKRUPT. However, it was eventually won during the finale in a later round.

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