Pak De Poen: De Show Van 1 miljoen (Flemish: Take The Cash: The Show of 1 Million) is known for being the biggest flop in Belgian television history. Launched on April 8th 1987, the same day that the government announced that they would allow commercial television, this show was intended to represent all the reasons why Belgian television was better kept outside of the hands of commercial institutions. Instead, it showed all the reasons why commercial Belgian television needed to exist.
The show was hosted by Manu and Réne Verreth, who were famous for their acting roles in De Collega's, a critically and commercially successful sitcom that was was financed by the National Lottery, which allowed them to put as much as 1 million Belgian francs (roughly US$33,500) at stake, as evidenced by the title.
The show itself was comprised of four rounds. Each round was composed of five questions related to all the shows that the BRT was known for at the time and a task that people had to do. Each answer would give the participant one point. There were also intermissions between each round where a music artist would sing or dance, after which lottery balls would get rolled that indicated a number. At the end of the show, the audience member that had that number on his entrance ticket would get 20 million BF (roughly US$667,000). There was also a final round where the winning player had to answer 10 multiple choice questions which were decided by the numbers on the panel. For each one he had right he would get 100,000 BF (roughly US$3,350) and he would stop if he failed to answer a question right. He could also ask to switch cards in exchange for the sum he won for winning the first four rounds (which was 50,000 BF or roughly US$1,667.50).
The first episode of Pak de Poen was not intended to be a parody of the game show genre, but everything that could go wrong went hilariously wrong. The hosts spoke in some of the most overly formal language known to mankind, the answer lights didn't always work properly, there was no clearly defined rule for answers to ambiguous questions note , viewers were called by telephone to win a few prizes, but the telephone also didn't work; and to top it all off, the final task—a radio-controlled car race—was rigged by accident because one of the cars didn't work properly.
Initially, ratings for the show were strong because 1) there was only one other TV channel (BRTN TV 2), and 2) most people loved the idea of watching a million-franc game show hosted by two of the most beloved figures in Belgian television history, but plenty tuned out as its problems became more and more apparent.
The first episode can be found in full here.
There were two more episodes produced under the name Pak De Poen Show, which had more preparation (going as far as to replace the hosts) and were better received, but the low ratings due to the backlash against the first episode forced the BRT to cancel it.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Audience Game: One member of the audience was called out to participate in a bonus round. If he got the answer right he would win 25,000 BF (about US$8,337.50).
- Audience Participation: There was a number panel. If your entrance ticket had the exact number that was shown on the panel you could go up front and win 20 million BF, which is more than the prize for winning the game. The fact that it was the highest prize that you could win on the Belgian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has to be one of the freakiest coincidences in Game Show history.
- Consolation Prize: The people who did not move on to the final round still got 10 lottery tickets.
- Lifelines: The contestant could ask to change the number of their card in exchange for the sum they won at the start.
- Promotional Consideration: It's obvious that it is financed by the National Lottery because all the losers still got 10 lottery tickets.
- Who Wants to Be "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?": The show did a lot of tropes that Millionaire was known for 10 years before the show was created. The sheer notoriety of this particular game show may be the reason why they renamed it there as Who Wants To Be A Multi-Millionaire.
Episode One Provides examples of:
- Luck-Based Mission: Multiple, both intentional as well as unintentional:
- The first four rounds are this due to mismanagement. You could have the right answer and ticked before your opponent but the host would not give you the right to answer because the lights failed to light up.
- The final task was an RC car race, but one of the cars didn't work properly.
- The final round was entirely decided by the number that was lit on the panel. You could not even get informed what the question was about. Making it a risk to strip yourself away from your cash in exchange for another answer.
- Rules Spiel: Considering that it's the first episode, it's not surprising.