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Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Trial
March 6, 2003 3:52 AM   Subscribe

*cough* Googol *cough* Transcript of the never broadcast edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in which an army major allegedly cheats his way to a million. Is this another quiz show scandal or simply a tickly cough?
posted by Hartster (42 comments total)

 
If it was a "plant" in the audience, then I blame the producers for allowing the contestant to hear audience reaction (gasps) and /or signals.
posted by davidmsc at 4:25 AM on March 6, 2003


Sounds to me it's just like the press your luck "cheat", Michael Larson. The guy simply outsmarted the show, and because this show actually has a big jackpot, the producers are sore. Next time, perhaps they will remove the audience?
posted by shepd at 4:35 AM on March 6, 2003


He didn't outsmart the show, he cheated and got caught.
posted by Summer at 4:40 AM on March 6, 2003


He cheated? It seems to me that to cheat he would require prior access to answers. I think he just got help.

I've always wondered when this would happen. I mean, it's such a stupid idea to have a show where the people can ponder on a question for as long as they want and expect the audience to keep hushed the whole time. Even in a posh theater there's people coughing and being a general nuisance, so why should it be any less so with a game show audience?

On the usual game shows, the pace is fast enough the audience member would have to cry out their opinion of what the right answer is to help the contestant.

The audience should be separated from the contestant in this type of show. Anyone who has watched the $100,000 pyrimad knows that it's hard to keep the audience quiet for a minute, never mind an hour!
posted by shepd at 4:49 AM on March 6, 2003


A bit of white noise should be easy enough to generate.

Back to the transcript, it certainly looks like cheating, but I'd want to hear it for myself before I swore on it.
posted by twine42 at 4:56 AM on March 6, 2003


One thing to note is that the alleged cougher-in-chief wasn't part of the main audience, but another contestant, waiting for the next fastest finger first round. Which would mean there was either some quick collaboration before the show, or some conspiracy to get two people onto the same show.
posted by simcd at 5:17 AM on March 6, 2003


I think he just got help.

Why is that not cheating?
posted by Summer at 5:32 AM on March 6, 2003


>Why is that not cheating?

Because I haven't read the rules yet? Is it in the rules that it is the producer's job to keep the audience quiet, or is it the contestant's job?
posted by shepd at 5:34 AM on March 6, 2003


Why is that not cheating?
Why is a blowjob not sex? It's all in one's definition.
posted by mischief at 5:35 AM on March 6, 2003


Yeah but, did anyone see the celebrity edition? They made a point of blatantly cheating everytime.
posted by BigPicnic at 5:42 AM on March 6, 2003


According to this article from The Telegraph, the 'Cougher' was in prior contact before the show. A quote:

Whittock denied knowing Ingram, but telephone records obtained by police showed that he had been in touch with the mobile phone of Diana Ingram, the major's wife, her brother Adrian Pollock and the Ingrams' home in Wiltshire. Calls were also made between Mrs Ingram's mobile and Whittock's daughter's mobile on Sept 9 and 10, 2001 - when the programme was recorded.

Sounds a bit fishy to me...
posted by PenDevil at 5:51 AM on March 6, 2003


People are so STUPID. Why would you do this with your own phone? Get it together and use a payphone, that's what they're there for. Prank calls and subversive activities.
posted by shepd at 5:54 AM on March 6, 2003


From the article:

He said his children had asked for a pony if he won.
posted by ashbury at 6:02 AM on March 6, 2003


The transcript is fascinating. So there were two coughers? One of the other contestants and another in the studio audience?

I have a hard time believing that he *didn't* cheat (or get help, or whatever you want to call it.) I mean, reading through his verbal though process, and it makes no sense. He flip-flops so many times, reads the choices out loud deliberately, contradicts himself... it all seems so fake to me. The consistent coughs, and now the cell phone records... seems like a smoking gun to me.

I would venture to guess that, perhaps the contestant rules indicate that no outside help (other than the Audience poll, and the "Phone a friend" lifelines) is allowed. Either way this is an interesting one.
posted by Fofer at 6:07 AM on March 6, 2003


The coughing by itself could have been accidental. The phone records, however, are a smoking gun.

One thing to note is that the Ingram's run to the money was split over two days, and Whittock was only in the audience for the second day. There was a marked difference in the way that Ingram approached the questions in the two days. On the second day, he appeared to be far more reckless, taking chances on answers he clearly wasn't sure about.

They also had insider knowlege of how the programme worked, since his wife had already been on the show and won £32,000.

Without wishing to prejudge a trial, it looks bad for the defendants.
posted by salmacis at 6:07 AM on March 6, 2003


insider knowlege of how the programme worked

His brother-in-law had won too. WWTBAM allows multiple entries on the premium-rate qualification phone lines (this is where the prize money comes from). If you're rich enough, you can blitz the entry line for hours on end to bump up your probability of being picked. At least one other winner has mentioned using this strategy.
posted by raygirvan at 6:49 AM on March 6, 2003


Am I the only one who finds this less interesting because it was the British version of the show?
posted by Outlawyr at 7:08 AM on March 6, 2003


If it was on the American version, yeah, perhaps it would be MORE interesting to Americans, for about 5 seconds.

Then every tabloid, newspaper, magazine and crap TV "news magazine" would squeeze it dry of any intelligent discourse and harp on it incessantly until it became annoying to even think about. Every legal pundit and "expert" would spew forth their opinions and CourtTV would push out a Dramatic Reenactiment. No thanks.

I like the fact that it's happening somewhere else. I can read updates at my leisure, and it makes for interesting water cooler conversation for those who might not know what's newsworthy in the UK. Sort of like an interesting tidbit for those in the know. I'm curious to see how this turns out.
posted by Fofer at 7:21 AM on March 6, 2003


*sigh*

I thought the idea of all non American news being boring was a Fark.com phenomenom. I'm slowly being proved wrong.
posted by twine42 at 7:28 AM on March 6, 2003


The coughing/cheating during Celebrity Millionaire (in America) is allowed up to the $32,000 mark (it says so in the rules that scroll by during the credits). After that, they turn down the lights and no one is allowed to help. The reasoning is that they want these celebrities to play for a while and interact with Regis, plus win SOMETHING for the charities. But once you get to the $32,000 mark, the celebs have to earn it themselves.

Reading the transcript, it's really hard not to see how they didn't catch the cheating in the first place, especially with the whole "not knowing what a googol is" thing.
posted by grum@work at 7:45 AM on March 6, 2003


grum@work - I think they did. They allowed the game to reach its conslusion but then the contestant was challenged.
posted by Summer at 7:54 AM on March 6, 2003


Am I the only one who finds this less interesting because it was the British version of the show?

Let's not forget there wouldn't be an American version of the show if not for the British version. And I thought this was the World Wide Web, and that Metafilter was above this sort of comment.
posted by jontyjago at 7:59 AM on March 6, 2003


Yeah but, did anyone see the celebrity edition? They made a point of blatantly cheating everytime.

In the celebrity edition, all the money went to charity rather than to the person answering.
posted by ralawrence at 8:16 AM on March 6, 2003


"And I thought this was the World Wide Web, and that Metafilter was above this sort of comment". Final answer? Sorry, you just lost your pony. This is The Metafilter, for God's sake.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:02 AM on March 6, 2003


On the usual game shows, the pace is fast enough the audience member would have to cry out their opinion of what the right answer is to help the contestant.

yes - I think Millionaire is more likely to have this problem than most because people are kept quiet for long times while the contestant ponders, as you observed.

Occasionally on other shows, people will blurt out the answers from the audience. These are mostly edited out. (When I was a contestant on a quiz show, someone yelled out an answer. They stopped taping, admonished the audience, and re-did it with a different question they had in reserve.) They also stopped tape for a while when I gave an answer that wasn't quite what they were looking for, but close...the writers and producers and judges had to confer, and they had to make some fact-checking phone calls to determine if I was right or not.

This kind of stuff is what led to that disclaimer they usually show at the end of the credits: portions of the show not affecting the game or its outcome have been edited.
posted by Vidiot at 9:57 AM on March 6, 2003


Am I the only one who finds this less interesting because it was the British version of the show?


Would it be churlish to point out that one million dollars is worth less? Hmmm, yes it probably would.
posted by dodgygeezer at 10:21 AM on March 6, 2003


Is it against the law to cheat on a game show? I know it's immoral, but what is the legal issue involved? Fraud? Breech of contract?
posted by moonbiter at 10:55 AM on March 6, 2003


From the link by PenDevil:

Ingram, Mrs Ingram, 38, and Whittock deny "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception" by having Chris Tarrant, the show host, sign a cheque for £1 million.

I guess that is the British version of fraud.
posted by notme at 11:42 AM on March 6, 2003


These articles keep saying that the show aired over two nights, but not whether it was taped over two days or not. I was recently on a 1/2 hour quiz show and they taped 4 episodes in one day. So, to me, it wouldn't seem out of line to tape two hour long shows in one day. Unless, the British WWTBAM airs live each time. Do they?
If that's not the case, how could Whittock not have been there for both tapings? Do they only keep the contestant in the hot seat, but bring in new fastest finger players? If so, then that explains that.
As for the previous collusion, the phone records are really damning. But I don't see how this could happen, unless it is airing live. When I went to tape my show, I didn't have a clue as to any of the other contestants. We all met the morning of the taping and then we were sequestered from anyone else until after our taping - cell phones not allowed and escorted to bathrooms, etc. Now I am not saying that there aren't opportunities to make deals with other players, ie, who to vote off and so on, but at least in my case there wasn't any opportunity to make any planned ahead agreements because it was taped and noone knew anyone ahead of time.
Which brings me around to maybe, Ingram's first ep. aired live and afterwards he got to go home instead of being sequestered in a hotel room, Whittock knew he was going to be on the next day in the FF round, contacted Ingram's family to make the deal and that's how this played out?
So yeah, um, I guess I shoulda just asked "does the British WWTBAM air live or is it taped and aired at a later date like in America?"
posted by thatothrgirl at 12:03 PM on March 6, 2003


------ Am I the only one who finds this less interesting because it was the British version of the show?
posted by Outlawyr at 7:08 AM PST on March 6------

YES.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:20 PM on March 6, 2003


I guess that is the British version of fraud

One type. In UK law, "fraud" is an overall category of crime, and in fraud cases people are charged with various more specific offences: "deception", "conspiracy to defraud", "fraudulent trading", "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception" (which tends to cover dishonestly obtaining cheques), and so on.
posted by raygirvan at 12:24 PM on March 6, 2003


In UK law, "fraud" is an overall category of crime

Same in the US, one category that pretty much covers deception for gain. There are subsets like Securities Fraud, but its all fraud. I think notme was commenting on the extremely long charge that the article chose to write out in full rather than just saying they were charged with fraud.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:52 PM on March 6, 2003


How much coughing goes on during other episodes of this show? I suppose that is for defense to sort out, can they find other random coughing to play for the courtroom?
posted by mutagen at 2:17 PM on March 6, 2003


These articles keep saying that the show aired over two nights, but not whether it was taped over two days or not. I was recently on a 1/2 hour quiz show and they taped 4 episodes in one day. So, to me, it wouldn't seem out of line to tape two hour long shows in one day. Unless, the British WWTBAM airs live each time. Do they?

The show was never aired. It was recorded over two days. He was challenged pretty much as soon as the recording finished, IIRC, so the show never went out.
posted by Summer at 4:04 AM on March 7, 2003


Has anyone else thought that this trial is just a publicity stunt for the show, like I have?

It must be set-up. No one in their right mind would think of using pagers to help commit a crime, especially when the crime being comitted is being done in front of tv cameras.
posted by tapeguy at 4:55 AM on March 7, 2003


tapeguy: No they haven't. Because it isn't.
posted by salmacis at 5:24 AM on March 7, 2003


Well said JontyJago. A potted history of Millionaire is available here for those of you that thought it may be a US original...
posted by andyHollister at 5:47 AM on March 7, 2003


Did anyone else find the transcript as hard to follow as I did? I'm not saying whether he was cheating or not - no point in opening up that can - just curious to see whether the transcript makes it seem worse or better than it is...
posted by hoborg at 9:31 AM on March 7, 2003


hoborg: applicability is something that worries me. The presumption that the coughs might be meaningful is going to bias the interpretation. I'd like to see a control experiment. For instance, how significant is it that the coughs appear in pauses? They might be signals, or perhaps people with coughs save it up for a pause so as not to interrrupt someone speaking.
posted by raygirvan at 10:31 AM on March 7, 2003


Wow, they really should have worked out a better system. I mean, "caugh if I'm right..." bleh, lame signal.

Should have used 'clear thoat' 'sniff' and 'cough' as seperate symbols.

If the guy had the right answer, the mark should have done nothing. If he had the wrong answer, the mark could have cleared his throat, sniffed, or coughed to indicate progressing 1, 2 or 3 leters forward, mod four. Would have been a lot simpler. Could have thought up another symbol for "I have no clue" :P
posted by delmoi at 12:09 PM on March 7, 2003


Of course, what I would have done was implanted a digital speaker and a UWB recever connected to a more powerfull radio to someone in the audience, which routed the information to a support staff off somewhere else, or something.
posted by delmoi at 12:12 PM on March 7, 2003


what I can't believe is that the guy had no idea what a googol was.

Wow, they really should have worked out a better system.

I bet some people have, and are enjoying their new abundant lifestyles thanks to it.

Their system definitely seems lame though - a cough or two coughs to confirm, on one occasion a "cough that sounds like 'no'" to defer, and on one occasion the gasps of the studio audience (doh!). The plant didn't respond to the swiss cheese question but basically answered every other question for the guy up there, who didn't seem to have a clue. That fastest finger thing is just not a good sorter.
posted by mdn at 12:59 PM on March 7, 2003


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