My Millionaire moment

Now that my Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? segment — or rather, Diane‘s segment featuring me — has aired everywhere it’s going to air (most recently in St. Louis, ending moments ago), I think I’m safe re-posting the original blog entry that I published, then quickly yanked offline at ABC’s request, in the immediate aftermath of the taping back in September.

Here’s what I wrote, in a post originally titled "Millionaire update" and timestamped 4:47 PM EST on 9/11/07:

I just helped Diane get the $16,000 question right on Who Wants to be a Millionaire!

Well, really, Google and Wikipedia helped her get the $16,000 question right. But my fast typing skills helped. :)

The question was, "What does a mycologist study?" (Well, it was
worded more verbosely than that, but that was the gist.) I forget what
the first three choices were, but the fourth choice — "d" — was

I was already on the Wikipedia page, and ready to blurt out "fungi," by the time she was done reading choice "b" (whatever it was).

They don’t actually let you stay on the line long enough to hear
whether they got it right (though I did stay connected just long enough
to hear Meredith Viera make a bad pun about me being a "fun guy"), but
she sounded like she was going to confidently go with my answer, which
would mean that unless the collective tubular wisdom of the Internets is wrong, she did indeed get it right. (I sure hope the Internets aren’t wrong, because I told her I was 100% sure!)

P.S. I hope there isn’t anything wrong with me revealing this
information. Certainly, I never signed any confidentiality agreement,
nor was I asked orally or otherwise not to say what happened, so I
don’t see how I can be violating anything by posting this…

Heh. As I explained later that day in a 5:53 PM post, the above-quoted 4:47 PM post was a problem — though I still maintain that I wasn’t violating anything — and I voluntarily removed it. Now, more than three months later, I’m finally re-posting it. (I briefly re-posted it earlier today, but then it occurred to me that the show hadn’t yet aired everywhere, so I yanked it offline again.)

By languishing unseen behind an iron curtain of self-censorship for more than three months, the post shatters the record previously held by this post, which was embargoed for just under a month at Professor Bill Kelley’s request. ;)

Anyway, the $16,000 question was the last one for today’s show. Diane will be a "holdover" contestant on tomorrow’s show, starting with the $25,000 question. Tune in to see what happens! (Check your local listings to find out when it airs.) Again I say: Goooo Diane, Beeeeat Meredith Viera!

17 Responses to “My Millionaire moment”

  1. Brian Foster says:

    I forget what the first three choices were, but the fifth choice — “d” — was “fungi.”

    Have the Millionaire people discovered a new letter nestled previously undetected among “a,” “b,” and “c”?

    (I’m just sayin’ — a three month embargo gave you plenty of time to proofread. :) )

  2. Mike says:

    Heh. And here I wouldn’t have needed wikipedia on that. Granted, it helps that for a time I could arguably have been called a mycologist, when I was using yeast as my research organism…

  3. David K. says:

    Sadly i think i could have gotten that one without a reference too, although probably not confidently if i were on the hot seat. Of course Mike you would probably be one of my life lines if i was on that show anyway :)

  4. jlr says:

    What, no film clip?

  5. Brendan says:

    I’ve already pissed off Millionare enough with my blog coverage of this, the last thing I need is to be YouTubing their episodes as well… :)

  6. I R A Darth Aggie says:

    So, you’re a fun guy, huh? more like a wise guy, if you ask me…


  7. Brian Foster says:

    Does ABC also not have guidelines or rules prohibiting phone-a-friends from using the internet to find answers during the game? I would have thought that they would ban such chicanery.

    Whether they could enforce it is a separate question, of course — although, if ABC asks phone-a-friends to agree not to use the internet if called, and then one does so anyway and admits it, I’d wager that ABC would be justified in disqualifying the contestant and refusing to pay any winnings derived from the inappropriate assistance.

  8. Brian Foster says:

    To be clear —

    I’m not accusing Brendan of cheating, as I assume that if ABC did have such a rule, he would have followed it. A fortiori, since he didn’t follow the rule, I assume there was no such rule, which surprises me and which motivated me to post. The second paragraph was just speculation of why ABC might not have such a rule, and then a counter-argument for how ABC could at least theoretically enforce it, if they had it.

  9. uscroger says:

    All the P’s and S’s will not save you from the lawsuit coming your way. ;O)

  10. uscroger says:

    The main question is what your cut will be from the nightly proceeds.

  11. Brendan Loy says:

    There is no such rule, Brian. Enforceability issues aside, we were never asked not to use the Internet to look up answers (we were asked various things, but not that), and it’s my understanding that lots of phone-a-friends do so, and it is widely understood and accepted that it happens.

  12. Becky says:

    You know, when I picture my millionaire moment, it usually involves me holding a winning lotto ticket screaming like a banshee. But uh, phone-a-friend is cool too…

  13. Brendan Loy says:

    Upon further review, here’s a 2005 article that states:

    PHONE a friend? Consult the world wide web more like. The makers of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the television quiz show, are considering tightening its rules over fears that people are cheating by using the internet to answer questions.

    Contestants on the show are allowed three “lifelines”, including an option to consult a friend at home, on their way to win prizes of up to £1m.

    The programme’s producers fear some friends may be sitting by their computers ready to search for the right answer if and when Chris Tarrant, the quizmaster, telephones them.

    Well, whatever “fears” they had, they clearly have gotten over them, and decided they don’t care — because, like I said, they never even asked us not to use the Internet, nor said anything that would implicitly preclude Internet use (e.g., “don’t talk to anyone else about the answer”). There was simply no mention of it whatsoever.

    Maybe they’ve bowed to the inevitable. Or maybe that article, from the London Times, is specific to the U.K. version of the show, and this was never a concern in the U.S. I don’t know. But any rate, I don’t see how it can be considered “cheating” if they never tell you it’s against the rules (if it even is). The trusim “ignorance of the law is no defense” doesn’t apply here, since there is no Who Wants to Be a Millionare statute book or case law that I can consult. :)

    Also, given my understanding that this is widely done — almost universally, even — I didn’t feel that I was morally “cheating,” either. (If I had, I wouldn’t have done it; likewise, if they had asked me not to do it, I wouldn’t have done it, the unenforceability of the request notwithstanding.)

    In the context of an entirely self-contained game, with its own internally operating set of rules, functionally independent of the world around it, I believe that rules which are never enforced and are universally violated can be properly treated as nullities (cough cough, Bush Push) because, within such a game, everything is relative. There is no absolute moral standard, separate and apart from the rules as they are written and enforced, to determine what constitutes “cheating” in such an environment, IMHO. Put another way, it’s only cheating if it gives you an unfair advantage, and if a) everybody violates the rule against it, and b) nobody ever gets in trouble for breaking the rule against it, then you aren’t getting an unfair advantage.

  14. Brian Foster says:

    it’s my understanding that lots of phone-a-friends do so, and it is widely understood and accepted that it happens

    Really? Huh. Admittedly, I rarely watch the show anymore, but I was a big fan for a while (mostly the Regis days), and the phone-a-friends usually sounded like bigger idiots than the contestants.* And that’s really saying something. So, I naturally assumed that most of them were going on top-of-mind knowledge rather than relying on online assistance.

    I say again — huh.

    *This is not a comment on either Brendan or Diane — apparently no station in my local market airs the show, so I did not see it. :)

  15. Bonnie says:

    I couldn’t watch it the next day. How did she do?