Behind all the glitz and glam, game shows have some dark secrets and scandals that they’ve tried to keep hidden.
“Cash Cab” Contestants Get Fake Cash
Contestants on Cash Cab are shown leaving with tons of cash in their hands, but while it looks like lots of cold, hard cash, it’s not that at all. It’s fake! The money Ben Bailey hands out isn’t real—it’s just for show. After the show airs, contestants are sent a real check in the mail. This is probably done for tax reasons so the network and the IRS can track the money legally.
Rigged Plinko Game Caused Drew Carey to Panic
One of the most-loved games on the Price is Right is Plinko, but it’s hard to win big in this game. That was until 2008 when a contestant won $10,000 each time they dropped a chip, making $30,000 in total. Host Drew Carey panicked and thought, "I’m going to jail. I’m losing my job. There’s gonna be a scandal," he said during an interview with Jeff and Larry’s Comedy Roundup on Sirius XM. Before he could continue freaking out, a producer stopped the woman from putting a fourth chip in and told Carey that the game was rigged with a near-invisible fishing line because they were shooting a commercial prior to the season. Don’t worry—she was still given the $30,000!
Drew Carey Shares Worst Plinko Cheating Scare
Contestants Aren’t Randomly Chosen for “Price is Right”
The Price is Right is one of the longest-running game shows—it’s been on the air for almost 50 years and there are over 10,000 episodes! One of the most exciting things is when the announcer says, “Come on down! You're the next contestant on The Price is Right!”. But did you know the contestants aren’t chosen at random? They’re pre-screened by producer Stan Blits. “I am looking for energy, sincerity, and potential humor. And if they can equal my energy or exceed it and maintain it, they are at the top of the list," Blits told the New York Post.
“Wheel of Fortune” Only Shoots 35 Days a Year
Jeopardy! isn’t the only show what shoots multiple episodes in one day—Wheel of Fortune does as well. Hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White only shoot the show 35 days a year and the days are stretched out across nine months. However, when they tape, they usually shoot six shows within six hours. “We can crank them out pretty quickly. A typical day for us we’ll start at noon and by six o’clock we’ll have done six shows with two different audiences. We’re pretty efficient,” Sajak shared with WCOO-TV.
Stunt Artists are Hired for “American Ninja Warrior”
Watching contestants run, crawl, jump, swing, and hang from obstacles as they compete to become the next American Ninja champion is entertaining and we’re in awe of how strong they are. How is it possible that they look like professionals? Well, it turns out that American Ninja Warrior hires stunt artists and professional athletes to make the show more entertaining. The show isn’t as exciting to watch after knowing this small, important detail.
Platforms are Used So Contestants are the Same Height
Have you ever wondered how every contestant on game shows like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune are the same height? They can’t possibly all be the same height and that’s because they’re not! There’s a platform under the stage that each person stands on to make it appear as though they’re the same height. For Wheel of Fortune, the platform allows everyone to have an equal spin because they are all reaching the wheel from the same distance.
Brutal Staff Rules on "The Steve Harvey Show"
Not a game show, but Steve Harvey, who hosts Family Feud, apparently has very tough rules for his staff. According to a leaked email from Harvey to his talk show team that included rules like, "Do not open my dressing room door. IF YOU OPEN MY DOOR, EXPECT TO BE REMOVED." The email was revealed in 2017 after the show went off the air.
Multiple Episodes of "Jeopardy!" Filmed in One Day
Jeopardy! is on five nights a week with one episode a day, but multiple episodes are filmed in one day. According to the official Jeopardy! website, the show tapes five episodes a day around 46 days a year for the regular-season episodes! Contestants are instructed to bring multiple outfits to make it appear as though days have passed since they were last on the show.
Alex Trebek Couldn’t Talk to the Contestants
We’re used to seeing Alex Trebek having small talk with the contestants during and after the show, but before the show, he wasn’t allowed to speak with the contestants unless cameras were rolling. During commercials, the only interaction he had with the contestants was to pose for photographs with them. This was done to avoid any claims of cheating. "Communication is limited to just hello,” former contestant Shannan Younger shared with Better.
"The Price Is Right" Contestants Don't Always Get Their Prizes
While watching The Price Is Right we are always envious of all of the amazing prizes the contestants walk away with. From dining room sets to luxurious vacations to new cars, the prizes are amazing. However, according to Reddit user BladeBronson, the contestants don't actually go home with the prizes they won. Not only are some of the prizes won given as cash equivalents, but the contestant can't request money instead of the prizes. The only choice they do have is to decline the prizes. After this user won iPads, movie tickets, and snacks for a year, they were just given cash.
“Cash Cab” Preselects Contestants
Who doesn’t love the idea of jumping into a cab and not only getting a free fare but walking out with a chunk of money? With Cash Cab you can hop into a cab, answer trivia questions, and win money. But it turns out that hailing a cab in New York and ending up on the show isn’t that easy—there may be a vetting process. Some contestants admitted to being prepicked and that they were told that they were taking a cab to the location of shooting for a different show. But others are randomly selected while trying to hail a taxi.
“Million Dollar Money Drop” $800,000 Mistake
Any show that has a $1 million prize is exciting and Million Dollar Money Drop, which has contestants being given $1 million and working together to answer questions to keep the money, is no exception. On the premiere, contestants Gabe Okoye and Brittany Mayti lost $800,000 when they answered a question incorrectly. But after the show aired, viewers noticed that they answered it correctly. The producers ended up releasing a statement saying that the research team was wrong and they offered to let the couple come back on the show, but they wouldn’t give them the money they lost. Host Kevin Pollack told The Hollywood Reporter, “This story is a moot point. They lost everything on the next question. It’s a non-story.”
“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” Cheating Scandal
Even with the added security measures, the British version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire faced a major cheating scandal in 2003 after Major Charles Ingram won the top prize of £1 million. His victory was short-lived after producers uncovered a conspiracy regarding his wife Diana and their accomplice Tecwen Whittock after the show aired. Every time host Chris Tarrant asked a question, Ingram read the four answers out loud and when he said the correct one, his wife or friend would cough. But the Ingrams continued to deny the allegations and as of 2020, they were seeking to have their convictions overturned, as The Guardian reported.
Sajak and White Were Often Drunk While Taping
You’re not going to believe this one—Pat Sajak and Vanna White were often drunk while taping during the early days of Wheel of Fortune! They would drink an average of four margaritas each afternoon at a Mexican restaurant across the street from the studio. “Vanna and I would … have two or three or six and then come and do the last shows and have trouble recognizing the alphabet. I had a great time. I have no idea if the shows were any good, but no one said anything, so I guess I did okay,” Sajak revealed while on the ESPN2 show Highly Questionable.
The Perfect Bid Scandal
How often can you say that you’ve seen someone have a perfect bid during the Showcase on Price is Right? Well, it’s only happened once so obviously when it did, the producers were suspicious. In 2008, Terry Kniess became the first person to guess the exact price of the Showcase with a perfect $23,743. But after an investigation, it was concluded that his bid was a result of lots of preparation of studying the show’s patterns and help from the studio audience, which is not against the rules.
Phone a Friend Lifeline Removed After Cheating
While watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire we can’t help but hope that the contestants will make it to the $1 million question, but it rarely happens. The lifelines come in handy, but you may have noticed that one of them disappeared. Phone a Friend, which allows contestants to connect with a friend for help, was removed from the U.S. version in January 2010 after many friends were using the internet to find the answers, giving them an unfair advantage. But the lifeline is still there in the British version and to prevent cheating, security personnel from production stay with the contestants’ friends at their homes.
“Press Your Luck” Cheating Scandal
In Press Your Luck contestants answered trivia questions to collect spins on a gameboard where they could win cash and prizes. Like many other game shows, Press Your Luck dealt with a cheating scandal in 1984 when ice cream truck driver Michael Larson won $110,237 and trips to the Bahamas, Kauai, and a sailboat. It was the highest winnings total by a contestant in a single appearance on a daytime game show at the time. But CBS’s Standards and Practices department thought he cheated so they launched an investigation. It turns out that he wasn’t scamming anyone—he had memorized the board sequence and patterns.
A Wanted Felon Was on “Super Password”
Rodney Alcala isn’t the only criminal who was on a game show—Super Password also had a criminal on their show. In 1998, a contestant named Patrick Quinn appeared on the show and won $56,000, which was a one-day record, but he wasn’t who he said he was. He was actually Kerry Dee Ketchum, a fraud who faked his wife’s death to collect a $100,000 insurance policy and was wanted for crimes in multiple states. An Alaskan viewer recognized him and reported him to authorities and when Ketchum went to collect his winnings, he was arrested. He got five years in prison for insurance scam, as The Los Angeles Times reported.
Answering in the Form of a Question in “Jeopardy!”
While we still haven’t gotten over the death of Alex Trebek, we’re still watching Jeopardy! but it isn’t the same without the iconic host. But we bet you didn’t know that the show was actually created to win back public favor with the genre after the 1950s saw game shows giving contestants answers. Creator Merv Griffin’s wife suggested giving the answers to contestants and contestants would lose money every time they asked the wrong question, putting them in jeopardy. This is how the name Jeopardy! came about!
A Serial Killer Was on “The Dating Game”
If you’ve heard of Rodney Alcala, you may know that he was often referred to as The Dating Game Killer and there’s a reason for it. He was on a 1978 episode on The Dating Game during his murder spree!
Alcala was introduced by host Jim Lange as “a successful photographer who got his start when his father found him in the darkroom at the age of 13. Between takes, you might find him skydiving or motorcycling." The bachelorette, Cheryl Bradshaw, refused to go out with him because she found him creepy. It’s even creepier watching him onscreen after finding out about his killing spree.
Contestant Sued “Fear Factor” After Eating Dead Rats
Even though the food was FDA approved on Fear Factor, that didn’t stop contestants from getting sick while eating it. In 2005, a paralegal named Austin Aitken sued the show for airing a gross challenge that he vomited, became light-headed, and bumped his head while competing in. In the episode, contestants were asked to eat dead rats and he filed a four-page lawsuit requesting $2.5 million in damages. The lawsuit was thrown out and executive producer Matt Kunitz told Cleveland 19 News, "Evidently, fear was a factor for him. We knew that justice would prevail and we're pleased with the outcome.”
Contestants are Banned From Bidding Certain Numbers
We’ve seen contestants bid crazy amounts during Final Jeopardy, but there are some numbers that you’ll never see. Jeopardy! has banned certain numbers of particular dollar amounts from being wagered.
Numbers that allude to sexual things like 69, ones that have satanic references like 666, and ones that are linked to White Supremacy groups like 14, 18, and 1488 are banned. 69 was banned in 2018 after former champion Ken Jennings bid “$69” on every Final Jeopardy. “This is officially forbidden on Jeopardy! now, as of last year. Not even joking,” Jennings told a fan on Twitter.