"It's not the final answer, and you just lost a lot of money."
August 24, 2009 11:13 AM   Subscribe

As George Carlin once said, "it is an infinitely more interesting news story for a team to repeatedly fail at the highest level than it is for them to finally win." After ten years and over 1,500 episodes, last night's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (the US version) featured its very first Top Prize Loser. Ken Basin, of Los Angeles, incorrectly guessed that LBJ prefered Yoo-Hoo over Fresca, and walked away with $25,000 instead of $1,000,000.

He's not the first person to screw up a game show, though. And to tie it back to Carlin's original quote, there's no Top Prize Loser worse than the Buffalo Bills, who lost the Super Bowl four (1 2 3 4) consecutive years.
posted by Damn That Television (81 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch.

I might have chickened out at a quarter million.
posted by GuyZero at 11:15 AM on August 24, 2009


Better to have nearly won and lost than to never have nearly won at all!
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:17 AM on August 24, 2009


LBJ liked Fresca?

That doesn't really jibe with my vision of the guy picking dogs up by their ears while leading a Cabinet meeting seated on the toilet.
posted by box at 11:17 AM on August 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


That doesn't really jibe with my vision of the guy picking dogs up by their ears while leading a Cabinet meeting seated on the toilet.

Fresca is much more bad-ass than Yoo-Hoo. Fresca is a bitter citrusy diet soda, whereas Yoo-Hoo is really viscous chocolate milk in a little bottle.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:24 AM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


And he has a blog.
posted by tittergrrl at 11:28 AM on August 24, 2009


So just how many times did he fail to win $1,000,000?
posted by DU at 11:29 AM on August 24, 2009


He fails to win a million dollars all the time. We all do. I am currently failing to win a million dollars at this moment.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:31 AM on August 24, 2009 [19 favorites]


box, I just need to tell you that you made my day. I hope this will return the favor.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:31 AM on August 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


So just how many times did he fail to win $1,000,000?

Thanks to YouTube, forever.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:32 AM on August 24, 2009


So just how many times did he fail to win $1,000,000?

Well, if you are including both on and off camera, he failed to win INFINITY TIMES

But on preview, it seems everyone got here before me. But I'll post it anyway to be a good loser, and be famous for my failing.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:33 AM on August 24, 2009


I expect to fail to win a million dollars tomorrow morning in the shower.

I am a compulsive failer.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:34 AM on August 24, 2009


I like to think that millions dollars are failing to win me.
posted by pwally at 11:34 AM on August 24, 2009 [12 favorites]


Sounds to me like he won $25,000.
posted by rocket88 at 11:38 AM on August 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


Sounds to me like he won $25,000.

For a one-shot gameshow. Not bad for a day's work (plus whatever screening he went through).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:39 AM on August 24, 2009


Sounds to me like he won $25,000.

Don't distract from the imaginary loss of $975,000, it ruins the moment.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:39 AM on August 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


For a while the Buffalo Bills were like that team that always has to play the Harlem Globetrotters.
posted by cimbrog at 11:40 AM on August 24, 2009


Missing the final question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire after instructing the audience on when they should clap is like getting a question so wrong on Cash Cab that the driver, due to fits of laughter, plows the cab into a gaggle of tourists, one of whom turns out to be your long-lost twin.
posted by Damn That Television at 11:42 AM on August 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


I went to college on a basketball scholarship paid for by the Washinton Generals. It was required that I never actually play or learn to play the sport.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:43 AM on August 24, 2009


I really thought they stopped making this show years ago, or at least turned it into some daytime show hosted by some woman.

Odd..
posted by xmutex at 11:44 AM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Argh. Trivia is trivial. How is this a question?

It was mentioned less than 89 times in usenet before this year.
posted by sleslie at 11:48 AM on August 24, 2009


posted by Damn That Television

Epony-painful
posted by lalochezia at 11:48 AM on August 24, 2009


We all do. I am currently failing to win a million dollars at this moment.

No, you aren't. (Most likely.) Failures consist in something; this guy's consisted in his answering a question incorrectly. What are you doing such that you're failing to win a million dollars?
posted by kenko at 11:52 AM on August 24, 2009


I really thought they stopped making this show years ago, or at least turned it into some daytime show hosted by some woman.

It's a special 10 year anniversary thing. I wanted to try out but alas a previous game show fail disqualified me because it was too recent.
posted by kmz at 11:54 AM on August 24, 2009


(You know what else Fresca was used for?)

"LBJ liked Fresca?"

Sure, didn't you ever see those photos of him in the unitard and the Ghillies with the legwarmers on? He started that whole thing. That and crapping with the bathroom door open while talking to people. Yeah, he was way ahead of the curve. Loved cyclamates. He'd've drank DDT if they'd let him.
Big into ballet, LBJ, so no way he'd drink Yoo Hoo. It's more for bowlers.
Here’s a photo of him battement glissé into a pirouette à la seconde, technically challenging in a white house staff crowd with his working leg in second position à la hauteur and his arm grand battement en devant in front of the press. As you can see he nearly Échappé from JFK.

And here he is tours chaînés déboulés alongside the conference table done on demi-pointes into a fouetté rond de jambe en tournant that put him nose to nose with Rich Russell.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:56 AM on August 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


What are you doing such that you're failing to win a million dollars?

I suspect it's the same thing that is causing me to fail to understand why you would want to ruin a joke, small though it might be.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:57 AM on August 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


LBJ liked Fresca? That doesn't really jibe with my vision of the guy picking dogs up by their ears while leading a Cabinet meeting seated on the toilet.

Actually these are entirely consistent - a guy like that doesn't need to drink scotch and smoke cigars to look tough, he knows he's the leader of the fuckin' free world and he'll drink what he pleases.
posted by rkent at 11:57 AM on August 24, 2009


I'm not one who typically watches the show, but I was flipping past when I saw he was on the million-dollar question, so I stopped there. In seconds I was yelling at him for being an idiot, so I suppose that explains why I don't watch the show much - it's bad for my blood pressure.

Yeah, I knew the answer.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:03 PM on August 24, 2009


What are you doing such that you're failing to win a million dollars?

I am failing to be on the show Who Wants to be a Millionaire and failing to have gotten to the final level, where I am also failing to get the question right.
posted by DU at 12:05 PM on August 24, 2009


Tangential: I once lost someone a chance at moving into the big round on WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE. A guy I know from a wacky trivia game I used to do got the chance to be on WWTBAM, and of course solicited a number of his teammates to be his potential phone-in folk. If we were interested, he said, we would have to email him our phone numbers and our areas of expertise by 7 pm on a given date, and then he'd tell us whether ABC would need us during filming 3 days later.

I emailed him at 6 on that given date, and then 3 days later was nervously waiting by my phone for word from him; I ended up calling one of the other guys I knew was his phone friend, and the other guy basically said "if you haven't heard from him by now they're not taking you." So that was that; I wasn't picked to be a phone-friend candidate. I went home.

The following day I got an email from the contestant saying that he was sorry he hadn't gotten back to me -- my initial email had gotten caught in his spam trap, so he hadn't know I would have been willing. He then went on to add that he got up to being one question away from breaking into the big-money questions, but lost on the question "what part of the body does a snood cover?" "So if you knew the answer to that," he said, "i'm REALLY sorry I didn't get back to you."

...I responded that, in fact, my background in history and in theater/costuming would have rendered me more than equipped to answer this question. He responded with a single word email: "....FUCK."

But he was in better spirits a couple weeks later -- he discovered there was a website called "snood.com", and ordered one of their t-shirts and proudly wore it to the next trivia night.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:08 PM on August 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


The really odd thing was how every one of the preceding questions fit into Ken Basin's tortured history as a plucky young kid who fought his way through Harvard to become an entertainment lawyer.

(He blew the last question to avoid having his brother commit suicide in a bathtub full of cash.)
posted by benzenedream at 12:10 PM on August 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


I lived in the same dorm as Ken one year in law school. He's extraordinarily bright, winning the top prize for all students his second year. I never thought of him as being, well, this big of a loser.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:15 PM on August 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I shall not drink and I will not accept any bottle of Fresca.
posted by digsrus at 12:17 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember reading that LBJ had a Fresca fountain dispenser installed near the Oval Office. And lets keep in mind that it wasn't the aspartame-sweetened frou-frou soft drink that is modern Fresca. In the 60's, Fresca was sweetened with saccharine. It was grapefruit-flavored because grapefruit was the only flavor nasty enough to partially hide the bitterness of saccharine.

So make no mistake-- LBJ was a bad mother. His favorite soft drink tasted like someone laced a greyhound cocktail with cyanide, and it was carcinogenic to boot.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:17 PM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like Fresca. C'mon, it's fake grapefruit flavored. How could you not like that?

I totally would have guessed Yoo-Hoo, though.

Yoo-Hoo is weird. When you're in the mood for a Yoo-Hoo, look in the very next fridge door at the stop-and-rob: see? Real chocolate milk! Wouldn't that be better? Also: strawberry Yoo-Hoo tastes like elf ass.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:25 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


When you're in the mood for a Yoo-Hoo, look in the very next fridge door at the stop-and-rob

They don't have chocolate milk at hot dog trucks, which are the only places that ought to be licensed to sell Yoo-Hoo. Two dogs, kraut and mustard, with a Yoo-Hoo. Best lunch ever.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:28 PM on August 24, 2009


Metafilter: tastes like elf ass
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:31 PM on August 24, 2009


Two dogs, kraut and mustard, with a Yoo-Hoo.

Someone please describe a Zantac to help offset the sympathetic heartburn I'm getting here.
posted by GuyZero at 12:33 PM on August 24, 2009


I bet Kevin Basin is finding winning $25,000 infinitely less interesting than winning a million dollars.
posted by nanojath at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2009


Argh. Trivia is trivial. How is this a question?

I knew the answer. And thus, the meaninglessness of my life via the knowing of completely useless facts is underscored.
posted by dw at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2009


Sounds to me like he won $25,000.

For a one-shot gameshow. Not bad for a day's work (plus whatever screening he went through).


Sounds to me like he lost the opportunity to win $975,000 when it was within his grasp, which is the only sane. non-tortured reading of this story.

And it's terrible for a day's work, when that day includes the chance to earn 40 times as much just by guessing right, or 20 times as much by admitting you don't know and walking away.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:39 PM on August 24, 2009


Where I grew up they didn't have Yoo-hoo, they had Chocolate Soldier.
posted by scrutiny at 12:40 PM on August 24, 2009


Does Ho Chi Minh have anything like this? Huh? HUH?

*unzips pants pulls ice cold can of Fresca from briefs*
posted by Pollomacho at 12:46 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know fucking Regis wrote "yoohoo" in the mist on the bathroom mirror just prior to this. But seriously? I would not bet $475,000 based on nothing more substantial than a gameshow audience's instincts about LBJ.
posted by nanojath at 12:47 PM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Metafilter: tastes like elf ass"

The irony is, metafilter does taste like elf ass. It's entirely made of Tuesday and chicken telephone ice cream.

...and when we didn't have Chocolate Soldier we drank sand.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:49 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sounds to me like he won $25,000.

And I'm sure the Buffalo Bills toss and turn at night, having wonderful dreams about how happy they are that they won the AFC Championship 4 years in a row.
posted by Damn That Television at 12:52 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


At least this guy went out in a blaze of glory. Better to reach the summit, gamble it all on the last step, and lose everything than to waste all your resources scrutinizing the first foothill, ignore the advice of your sherpa, and then tumble back down ass-over-teakettle with your first overconfident move.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:54 PM on August 24, 2009


The following day I got an email from the contestant saying that he was sorry he hadn't gotten back to me -- my initial email had gotten caught in his spam trap, so he hadn't know I would have been willing.
Sounds like your pal wasn't very diligent in his WWTBAM preparation. I've been a phone-a-friend lifeline four different times so far (none of those people were friends; they'd found my name online via various trivia-related websites and trivia books I've written). Each time the contestant not only emailed me in advance, he/she also telephone me to narrow down my specific areas of expertise and to discuss "strategy."

I knew Fresca was correct just because I've read that before several times, but just by process of elimination I would've leaned toward it anyway - YooHoo was more of an East Coast beverage at the time, LBJ was concerned about his weight and Fresca was a diet drink, and the citrus-y flavor would've been the most thirst-quenching in the Texas heat of all the choices. Oh, and LBJ was a notorious booze hound, and Fresca makes for a much better mixer than root beer or chocolate.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:56 PM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


You drank sand?
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:56 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sounds to me like he won $25,000.

That's how it looks to me, too. That's a helluva question, too. Like he said, it's not something you can deduce with logic and reason; you either know that little LBJ factoid or you don't. I would've said A&W, personally, because it mixes so well with gin.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:16 PM on August 24, 2009


I knew the answer. And thus, the meaninglessness of my life via the knowing of completely useless facts is underscored.

But now we all know the answer. And so your knowledge of meaningless facts is devalued.
posted by deliquescent at 1:18 PM on August 24, 2009


Unlike Fresca, Yoo-Hoo was not a national brand back when LBJ was President.
posted by Zambrano at 1:21 PM on August 24, 2009


... it was only available in the NYC area. The Yankees' Yogi Berra was the pitchman.
posted by Zambrano at 1:22 PM on August 24, 2009


Man, the only things I know about Fresca are that LBJ had a Fresca fountain installed in the White House and that it means "lesbian" in Mexico City slang.
posted by klangklangston at 1:44 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the 80s, when there was not much Fresca around, at the least none in the supermarkets of my childhood, my summer camp had an old out-of-service Coke machine from the 60s, one with "Things Go Better With Coke" on the side. One of the selection panels was for Fresca. It read: "FRESCA" and under that, "IMITATION CITRUS FLAVORED ARTIFICIALLY SWEETENED DIETARY CARBONATED BEVERAGE." I was intensely curious: what sort of crazy soft drink needed that many modifiers? When it showed back up in the marketplace in the early 90s I drank a lot of it, precisely because it was so weird, until I got into the natural foods business and gave up soda altogether.

Wink is better, though.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:15 PM on August 24, 2009


I asked this very question at my trivia night a couple of years ago, and I know I'm not the only one. It's one of those "trivia question"-y questions that show up every once in a while. The longer you do trivia stuff, the higher your chance of coming across this little factoid.

The thing about trivia is that if you know it, it's easy, and if you don't, it's hard. It's not often that a writer of trivia questions is smart enough to lead you partway to an answer. (He said.) You either know the answer or you don't, and sometimes, it's just dumb luck.

He didn't know about LBJ's Fresca fountain, and so he screwed the pooch. It happens. It sucks, but it happens.
posted by chicobangs at 2:21 PM on August 24, 2009


You would think $1,000,000 would be life changing, but WWTBAM pays the prizes out by annuity only. You'll get $250,000 the first year (admittedly, a good year) and then $37,500 each year for 20 years.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:32 PM on August 24, 2009


Uh that would totally change my life.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:33 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing about trivia is that if you know it, it's easy, and if you don't, it's hard.

I host trivia contests for a living, and my metric for writing a question is that even if you don't know the answer, once you hear it you should slap your forehead and say "Oh! Of course!"
posted by EarBucket at 2:36 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can't you usually sell these annuities to someone to get whatever the PV at a lame interest rate would be or simply ask to get the PV from the show directly (I'm too lazy to calculate the PV of $37,500 at, say 2% over 20 yrs but it's less than $750K obviously).
posted by GuyZero at 2:37 PM on August 24, 2009


Selma: But ... don't you love me?

Troy: Sure I do! Like I love Fresca. Isn't that enough? The only difference between our marriage and any one else's is: we know ours is a sham.

posted by porn in the woods at 2:50 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


$37,500 each year for 20 years

Um, I have a pretty good salary, and another $40k a year would still make a pretty big difference.
posted by flaterik at 2:57 PM on August 24, 2009


Sounds to me like he lost the opportunity to win $975,000 when it was within his grasp, which is the only sane. non-tortured reading of this story.

Really, he lost to opportunity to walk away with $475,000 more than he did. He didn't know the answer, and I don't think he could have eliminated even one of the possible answers. So he was taking a 1 in 4 shot at $1M, and in a situation like that, it makes more sense to walk.

Of course, it's a game show, so it's probably worth it from an emotional level to just throw an answer out there. But unless you can get the odds to 1 in 2 in a situation like that, it's probably not worth a guess.

The audience, of course, didn't help. But on these questions, they're not going to help. Even if 70% had said Fresca, you might have asked if that were the obvious answer and thus not been the answer.
posted by dw at 3:05 PM on August 24, 2009


Sidhedevil: Fresca is much more bad-ass than Yoo-Hoo. Fresca is a bitter citrusy diet soda, whereas Yoo-Hoo is really viscous chocolate milk in a little bottle.

Okay; so again, I say: LBJ liked Fresca?

rkent: Actually these are entirely consistent - a guy like that doesn't need to drink scotch and smoke cigars to look tough, he knows he's the leader of the fuckin' free world and he'll drink what he pleases.

Mayor Curley: So make no mistake-- LBJ was a bad mother. His favorite soft drink tasted like someone laced a greyhound cocktail with cyanide, and it was carcinogenic to boot.

I think this is one of the tragic legacies of the George W. Bush administration; that people have somehow started remembering Lyndon Baines Johnson as some sort of badass.
posted by koeselitz at 3:10 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this were Fark we could link to a picure of him swinging his beagle around by the ears.
posted by mecran01 at 3:37 PM on August 24, 2009


So, Earbucket, is this particular question about a president's soft drink of choice good from a trivia standpoint?

To myself, it was "What the heck? Fresca?" but some may say the same thing 20 years from now about GWB and Broccoli trivia.

Disclaimer: I'm not an American.
posted by sleslie at 4:21 PM on August 24, 2009


I really wish the post didn't contain the answer, because I am absolutely convinced that I would have gotten it right.

I am also absolutely convinced that that guy is lame.

I am also totally positive that when I get to use the same word twice in a row, it rules.
posted by nosila at 4:23 PM on August 24, 2009


foxy_hedgehog:

box, I just need to tell you that you made my day. I hope this will return the favor.

That audio of LBJ ordering Haggar slacks over the phone was the BEST part of this thread. Talking about his "nutsack" and that he needed enough room for them to stretch back around to "my bunghole". Hilarious!
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 4:48 PM on August 24, 2009


Really, he lost to opportunity to walk away with $475,000 more than he did. He didn't know the answer, and I don't think he could have eliminated even one of the possible answers.

Exactly. He didn't lost $1,000,000 but he did bet $475,000 on his guess. Sure, he did win $25,000 but if he hadn't been greedy he could have walked away with $500,000.
posted by crossoverman at 5:46 PM on August 24, 2009


No, you aren't. (Most likely.) Failures consist in something; this guy's consisted in his answering a question incorrectly. What are you doing such that you're failing to win a million dollars?

I am constantly trying to win a million dollars in ways that are subtle and all-encompassing. I am the question to the riddle you haven't asked, in a box you haven't opened, and inside is one million dollars.

In every slice of every moment, I labor silently, wanting not recognition nor fame, but just the pure, soul-quenching satisfaction of winning one million dollars in cash.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:50 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Exactly. He didn't lost $1,000,000 but he did bet $475,000 on his guess. Sure, he did win $25,000 but if he hadn't been greedy he could have walked away with $500,000.

Yeah, but can you imagine not going for it? I mean, that's almost worse in a way. People would always bug you about it. And it's not an investment. It's a big, crazy shot at a prize on a game show.

I think if you're at Vegas and you're up quite a bit, it's better to walk away from the table at a high point, but it's hard to know when that is. The high point here is one million dollars.

But, walking away from a half million that was a sure thing would be pretty hard. Still, it's very likely this is the only chance he'll have to go for the final question, and that's pretty hard to walk away from, too. But he has none of his money on the table, so it's easier to risk when there's nothing to lose, and all the gains are imaginary until he cashes out.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:02 PM on August 24, 2009


Even if 70% had said Fresca, you might have asked if that were the obvious answer and thus not been the answer.

Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:00 PM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I was shocked when I read this, as I thought Fresca was a relatively new invention... but wikipedia confirms it:

"Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote that Fresca was the favorite drink of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had a button installed on the desk in the White House's Oval Office which would summon his military aide to bring the drink."

Wow.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 7:37 PM on August 24, 2009


Lyndon B Comic chimes in.
posted by shownomercy at 8:17 PM on August 24, 2009


Fresca - now with brominated vegetable oil!
posted by benzenedream at 9:51 PM on August 24, 2009


Can't you usually sell these annuities to someone to get whatever the PV at a lame interest rate would be

Yes, there was -- if I remember it rightly -- a This American Life episode about a fellow whose job was to broker such sales to lottery winners. I remember it as being vaguely depressing.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:01 PM on August 24, 2009


Is a Chocolate Soldier at all related to a Cleveland Steamer?
posted by arse_hat at 10:44 PM on August 24, 2009


Act Two. Show Me the Annuity.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:50 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dammit, now I want a Fresca button on my desk.
posted by Spatch at 5:25 AM on August 25, 2009


So, Earbucket, is this particular question about a president's soft drink of choice good from a trivia standpoint?

It's probably not a question I'd use, except perhaps in the final round, where I like to throw one or two real curveballs. It seems too obscure to me to really make a satisfying question for the audience. (Although I'm often surprised by what people do and don't know.)
posted by EarBucket at 2:10 PM on August 26, 2009


Funny... just the other day I was reading about the million-dollar failure music cue (scroll down to cue 93) that was recorded but never needed... until now.
posted by evilcolonel at 10:58 PM on August 27, 2009


We all do. I am currently failing to win a million dollars at this moment.

No, you aren't. (Most likely.) Failures consist in something; this guy's consisted in his answering a question incorrectly. What are you doing such that you're failing to win a million dollars?


I'm failing to win a million dollars in the lottery. I'm so bad at it I don't even buy tickets. BUT HOPE SURVIVES!
posted by mrgrimm at 4:35 PM on September 11, 2009


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