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Series / 500 Questions

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ABC Game Show created by Mark Burnett in which a "genius" takes the plate with a goal to survive through 500 questions. The contestant is given a board consisting of 10 categories with five questions each (one of which is always a "random" category with no theme); the goal is to answer as many correctly as possible, within 10 seconds each, without getting three incorrect answers in a row.

Each question is worth $1,000, and every 25th question is worth $5,000. The contestant can give as many answers as they want (or can) in hope of giving the correct one, but they only get the money if they answer correctly on the first guess. Failing to answer correctly within 10 seconds earns them a "wrong"; answering a question correctly removes all wrongs, but if they accumulate three, they're gone. Some questions hold special challenges that sometimes involve the contestant's opponent: the next contestant in line. Oh, and the opponent has control of the board if the contestant has two "wrongs". The player only banks the money they've earned if they survive a round of 50 questions; if they clear a board they get a fresh set of 50 questions, and their challenger is replaced as well.


The series premiered on May 20, 2015 as part of a seven-episode, nine-day "event". It was originally meant to be nine episodes, but this was changed later on to air repeats on May 24-25 (Friday and Saturday) with two episodes being two-hour "doubles". The first season's ratings were good enough for ABC to give it a second season, which began with a two-hour episode note  on May 26, 2016.


Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Space: The $5,000 milestones (Season 1 only), but the special questions are a more literal example in implementation. They include:
    • "Battle": The two contestants alternate giving items from a list; the active player can choose to go first (if they're confident in their knowledge) or second (if they need a bit more time to think). The game ends once a player times out (5 seconds) or gives an incorrect answer. If the active player loses, it's counted as a wrong. If the list is exhausted, it is considered a draw (no money awarded and no wrongs added or removed).
    • "Triple Threat": The question has three answers that must all be given; if done, the contestant wins $3,000 instead of the normal $1,000. Did not appear in Season 2.
    • "Top Ten Challenge": A contestant must give five of ten answers from a list in 15 seconds. They can either play, or pass it to their opponent and hope they fail. Did not appear in Season 2.
  • Personnel:
    • Game Show Host: Richard Quest, CNN's eccentric London business reporter, hosted Season 1. Dan Harris of ABC's Nightline replaced him in Season 2.
  • Show the Folks at Home:
    • Averted in the first season where you really had to pay attention to all the questions and answers because they are never shown onscreen. The play-along factor suffers because a contestant can shout out multiple answers and Quest wouldn't say which is the correct answer even if the contestant says it before time runs out.
    • Played straight in the second season where the questions and answers in the main round are shown for the benefit of the home viewers. In the Lightning Round where only one answer can be given, Harris will give the correct answer if the wrong one is given.
  • Who Wants to Be "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?": From the network that made Millionaire famous, no less.

This show contains examples of:

  • Catch Phrase: "Miss three in a row...and you...are...GONE!"
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger: Of course.
  • Doomed Protagonist:
    • If the contestant makes it past the 48th question on a board (28th in Season 2) with no wrongs (or the 49th/29th question with only one), there's no way the challenger can replace them before being replaced themselves.
    • The last contestant of Season 1 (Richard Mason) made it to the podium just in time for Richard Quest to announce it was the end of the season. It was assumed that he'd start off Season 2, but he wasn't invited back and trivia uber-champion Ken Jennings was the first player of the season (almost certainly as a ratings stunt). Ken bombed out after just four questions, and it's been suspected that this was intentional on his part due to Mason not being invited back.
  • Epic Fail: Ken Jennings was brought on as the first contestant of Season 2. He answered his first question correctly but proceeded to miss the next three and got kicked off. It's been suspected that he took a dive due to Richard Mason not being invited back for Season 2.
  • Gone Horribly Right: According to a now-deleted Twitter conversation shortly after Season 1 involving one of the show's question writers and a "beastly" regular on another show, the producers expected a higher turnover rate from their contestants (evidently ignoring the fact they'd deliberately sought out trivia experts for the game, something typically not done by primetime network game shows in the States). On a more practical note, this also meant they had to pay out more prize money than planned (per said writer, the show didn't have much of a budget to begin with), and the producers were pretty pissed off about that.
    • These facts have led to some noting that while "big money" doesn't in itself make a show, trivia experts had to work more for less money compared to the usual contestants of shows by, for example, Endemol's US branch.
  • Large Ham: Richard Quest, but he's always like that, actually.
  • Mean Brit: Quest. Compare his demeanor to when a contestant gets a question right (an uninterested "Yes") to an incorrect answer (Suddenly SHOUTING! "A WRONG ON THE BOARD!" and leading the audience into chanting the Catch Phrase above).


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