Double Dip This

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By popular demand-- OK, one loyal reader left a plaintive request on my voicemail-- my thoughts on Super Millionaire.

They're giving away too much money.

Look, on the original show, reaching a million dollars was a terrific goal. "A million dollars" has a mythic stature in our culture that no other dollar amount rivals. It's the ultimate goal. That's part of the genius of the original Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. In the new version, reaching a million after twelve questions is an anticlimax with three more questions left to come. Sure, there's a ten million dollar carrot dangling in the distance, but for most players that's a pipe dream. A million dollars, however, is very reachable. Hell, from $100,000 to $500,000 is a free freaking guess. And therein lies the problem.

On the original show, nobody was really satisfied at $64,000. Happy to have gotten that far, yes. But wanting to go on. Disappointed not to have made it to triple digits. Tempted by the phenomenal pot odds-- risking $32,000 to make an additional $61,000 and get a look at the next question-- into taking a chance. But now, how can anyone not be satisfied at $500,000? Wanting to go on? Sure. Disappointed not to have made it to 7 digits? OK. But also absolutely thrilled to be leaving the game with half a million dollars. And that takes a lot of the tension out of the game.

The dollar figures are just too large.

It's always heartbreaking to watch a contestant leave with $0, but when last night's contestant botched the Tinkertoys question it was gut-wrenching. Her lost opportunity was much greater than any llama before her. It wouldn't surprise me if she was bawling her eyes out backstage, as the realization hit that she'd thrown away an easy $100,000 with a solid chance at $500,000 or more. On the old show, there was always a chance at a life-changing amount of money, but the odds were heavily against you. Now the odds are astoundingly with you, and that makes failure far more painful.

Meanwhile, they've overhyping the "next dimension" of the game-- enough already. The harsh lighting looks terrible. The centrifugal barfometric camera has got to go. The artificial drama of "who are the wise men tonight?" is overplayed, especially given their tiny bit of game involvement. As for Regis, he's got some great qualities as a host, but an unfortunate tendency to make the game about HIM. Witness his vaguely racist presumption in spontaneously nicknaming the first contestant "the Kimmer" because his last name was Kim, or making jokes at the contestant's expense. He calls attention to himself instead of making the contestant shine. Regis has great energy and enthusiasm which takes the show to a more vibrant level than Meredith Vieira's more low-key approach. But Meredith comes off as a nicer person, making her version more pleasant to watch.

That's not to say, of course, that I wouldn't jump in Regis' hotseat in a nanosecond if given the opportunity. Which somehow sounds dirty.

The truth is that throwing vast sums of money at people makes for compelling television. We want to see contestants agonizing over the risks. We want to see them in their moment of elation. Super Millionaire will be back in May, and probably every sweeps thereafter for a long time to come.

9 Comments

Aaaahhhhh....

Thanks.

I can now go back to the rest of my life.

You're right. It was *very* painful to watch that lady blow the TinkerToys question. Obviously she wasn't sure of her answer (else, she'd have answered it correctly, no?) So why not use a life-line? Ask the audience? Hell, sit for a minute and bite your lip before blurting out a guess.

I'd bet a million she was inconsolable backstage. You could see it in her eyes. After she answered she gave Regis a double-take, as if to say "oh f*** did I really just say FINAL ANSWER???"

But hey, it *WAS* compelling television. As was watching Bobbo walk away with a cool million. I can't imagine anyone strategizing their way to $10,000,000. You'll either know the answers or you won't. There's almost *no* reason *not* to use the Wise Man *and* Double Dip (in that order, please) on the $500,000 question. I'm doing everything in my power to get to 500,000. If I'm lucky I'll know the 1,000,000 question and won't need help. And if I'm unlucky, hell, I've still got half a mil.

I think the lady had a 3 year old son. If she doesn't own Tinkertoys, she should at least know what they look like since she's probably been in a toy store many times.

"Vaguely racist"? "Racist" is so strong a word, are we sure we really want to be using it when "vaguely" might fit in front of it?

I don't think the problem is the amount of money but the new payout structure. I think almost nobody is going to go beyond 1,000,000 due to the x5 multilier right after a break-point number. Before you would lose half of what you'd earned - now it is 80% going from 500K to 1Mil. As Snoop says, use whatever it takes to get to 500K and if you either have something left or absolutely know the questions, keep going but the pot odds now make guessing a very bad idea, except to get TO 100K where they highly encourage it since with the two new lifelines 100K should almost equal 500K so this question (the 50K to 100K question) is an effective 10x multiplier and thus, as far as pot odds are concerned, worth an entirely random 25% guess and most guesses will be much better than that.

I have a particular question about the rules. On the night with the woman Astronaut as one of the Wise Men, the guy lost on the Earth's crust question. He had a strong feeling it was one answer but knew he wasn't sure so double-dipped (probably a mistake given who the Wise Men were). However, when that answer was wrong he seemed to have no idea about the other three. Is he allowed in the middle of the Double Dip to interrupt and ask the Wise Men? Neither he nor Regis made any mention of considering this and it seemed an obvious thing to do given his level and unsureness about the answer.

It isn't addressed in the official rules, but one gets the impression that once Double Dip is invoked, no other lifelines can be taken between the two answers. Of course, 50-50 can be used first, but nobody managed to save it getting through the second tier. I'd like to see somebody pull that off and have the wise persons available for the $1 million question. I'm pleased their bringing it back -- and they seem to be keeping it to short runs. Ideally, the daily version will continue in syndication while the network version makes periodic appearances. Given my pathetic performance while trying to qualify by phone, it's pretty obvious I have a better shot at getting on the daily version anyway.

Oh, and I agree with Dave, Peter. You shouldn't throw accusations of racism around based solely on use of a nickname.

I don't believe that you're allowed to consult the Wise Ones during a Double Dip. That's why I couldn't understand why he didn't ask them first. Heck, it's very possible one of them would have known the answer and he could have saved the Double Dip. At the very least they could have narrowed down his options.

Wise Ones *then* Double Dip.

Interesting that you think its illegal. I couldn't see a reason for it to be but also found it strange they didn't talk about it.

Anyway, Stephen, I don't agree with you about the ordering in all cases. The Double Dip is effectively a better version of the 50-50 where you choose two bad answers to eliminate. The best time to use the 50-50 is when you have it down to 2 answers but there is a 1 in 3 chance (even if it is truly random) it won't help you even in this best case scenario. In the same situation, Double Dip is guaranteed to work. The problem with the guy I was talking about is he only had 1 good guess and then no idea and that ALSO he had a person on the Wise Men group that was very likely to know the answer. If you only care about 500K, then your order is always right but if you want to save one of the lifelines to consider going on, you should use whichever one seems appropriate for the question and what you know and who the Wise Men are.

Hi Meredith!! I love millionaire!! That's my favorite show!! You are so pretty!! I wish that I could meet you someday!!

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