Thursday, June 24, 2010

Growing Up Game Show

Today when I was on the treadmill, TLC decided to air a program about "police women" (aka people who will NEVER let you off with a warning) instead of something I actually wanted to watch. I ended up watching "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader" instead - I know, you thought it had officially died. Actually, they've not only kept it alive on late-afternoon television, but they've changed the rules to make it even easier than before - now even if you miss a question, you're still in the game (your winnings just go back to zero). While the maximum prize has been diminished (from $1,000,000 to $250,000), it's still a pretty easy game show - a high humility risk, but questions those of you who weren't homeschooled can answer (while we were reading before we were potty trained, you were learning useless factoids like what a megalodon was). For those of you looking to make a buck in an unconventional manner, I've provided a handy cost/benefit analysis of some game shows for you.

"Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?"
Well, I sort of let the cat out of the bag on this one, but let's go through the motions anyway.

Costs: You are almost certainly going to have to say "I am not smarter than a fifth grader."

Benefits: Maximum winnings of $250,000. Some questions may be true/false or multiple choice. You can have your fifth-grade helper "save" you, "copy" his or her answer, or "peek" at said answer. Even if you answer a question incorrectly, you're still in the game.

Strategy: You get to choose the order of your questions, each of which is worth a set amount, so you get to decide how to allocate your "cheats" and natural smarts in order to lose the smallest amount of money possible.

"The Price is Right"
Losing Bob Barker dealt a serious blow, but if you've been watching it just for the outdated set pieces ... well, those are mostly gone too. Anyway, it's a classic and what many of us watched when we were sick (or for you homeschoolers, when you finished school three hours ahead of schedule).

Costs: Literally! You have to know standard pricing for everything from coffee-makers to cars (and it's all California prices). Since California isn't known for its common sense or sound economic choices, this could be harder than you think. You also have to be chosen to participate in the bidding, win the bidding, (hopefully) win your game, win the Showcase Showdown, and win the Showcase. Your chances of making it through these are slim.

Benefits: You can win an assortment of prizes (occasionally cash) at progressing levels. However, these prizes tend to be ugly furniture sets. You really go to this one for the experience.

Strategy: To get on in the first place, try to be energetic and have something clever and mildly "come hither-ish" on your fitted t-shirt. To win bidding, hope everyone else thinks that a home training machine is ridiculously expensive, so you can bid $1. If that fails, bid $1 more than the competitor who stole your original guess. During your game, pay attention and don't be stupid. Showcase showdown - pray that the wheel loves you. Showcase - add up everything in your head, and knock about $3,000 off what you think the price should be. Remember, it's always the closest without going over.

"Wheel of Fortune"
For people who can't get enough of the puzzle section in the newspaper, and probably have cats. Lots of cats. Oh, and if you're in the "Wheel Watchers Spin Club," you probably meant to sign up for the "Weight Watchers Spin Class" instead. I always find this mildly confusing and insulting.

Costs: If you're really not good with words, this could be rough. Basically, you're playing hangman, while spinning a wheel to determine how much money you'll get for guessing a letter correctly. If you lose (or guess a letter that has already been guessed) it's a little embarrassing. Vowels cost you $250 - that's why you have to "buy" them. My name would cost you $1,000 even.

Benefits: They pay you money for guessing a letter. Think about that. If you know your alphabet and can spin a large game show wheel, you could win big. The trick is to guess in a good order. R, S, T, L, N, E ... and sometimes Y, right? Also, Vana White could be a big plus for some of you. And you know. Pat Sajack is pretty cool too.

Strategy: Spell real words. Don't get stuck wanting it to be "Chopsticks" if there's only one c. Guess well - look for words like "the" or ending in "ing" or with "'s" somewhere. Also, don't land on the "bankrupt" or "skip a turn" sections.

This show is the antithesis to "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" The questions are hard, the money small, and you're probably going to lose to a guy from MIT who invented wireless internet.

Costs: Hard questions, relatively small money, and however much a question is worth, if you guess incorrectly, you lose that amount of money. You're also trying to buzz in faster than the previously-mentioned nerdy genius, and the frizzy-haired librarian in a blazer who'll probably move on and try "Wheel of Fortune" at 6:30.

Benefits: If you're good at this game, you're brilliant. You've probably invented something, saved the world, or spend your time editing Wikipedia and thus know everything about everything. Alex Trebek will share some funny and mildly embarrassing story about your life with everyone in America watching network television at 6 pm. The waiting song they play while you write your guess in Final Jeopardy! is used for every break in the action in everything, so you already know it, and it sounds like "I'm a Little Teapot" at the end.

Strategy: Know when you're right, know when you're wrong, and react accordingly. Don't "accidentally" buzz in, and don't overthink it and let the librarian's trigger-finger get the best of you. Also, if you aren't very strong in the Final Jeopardy! category (like "Mid-Nineteenth Century Australian Sporting Events"), DON'T WAGER EVERYTHING. Strategy for what to wager depends on the category and how much money your opponents are wagering. Many an MIT grad has been crushed due to strategy (or lack thereof) in Final Jeopardy!

Cost/benefit analyses are helpful, and one of the most applicable economic concepts I've ever come across. You should now be fully prepared to make an educated choice about what game show fits you best. Start practicing the cheesy grin.

(Technically I didn't wear my business casual on the treadmill.)
But I really did think of all this in:
Black pencil skirt, gold cap-sleeve short belted jacket, purple and gold beaded dangle earrings, black and silver watch, and gold and ecru giraffe-print wedges with turquoise piping.

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