#88: The Millionaire Tournament Of Ten
The Final Answer To One Of The Worst Tournament Ideas In History

Syndication: (November 2009)

There's nothing more exciting in sports than a tournament.  Such tournaments that get people excited is the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament when millions of people fill out brackets, pick upsets, and then promptly rip it to shreds when all of their picks go bust in the Sweet Sixteen.  There's also tournaments in wrestling that get people excited, such as the King Of The Ring tournaments where superstars in the WWE compete up to 3 times a night in order to be crowned King of the Ring and get a shot at the title in the process.  But when you think of Tournaments in game shows, two shows do it better than anybody else: Jeopardy and the $100,000 Pyramid.

Jeopardy's tournaments are simple: 15 of the season or two's biggest winners come back and try to win a grand prize of $100,000, currently it's $250,000.  How this works is that the 15 contestants are broken up into 5 games.  The winner of each of the games, advance to the Semi-finals, plus the 4 biggest non-winners.  Then in week 2, The 9 Semifinalists play a game and the winners move on to the Two-Day Finale where the Finalist with the highest combined score in both games wins the grand prize. 

The $100,000 Pyramid's tournament was another great idea.  They took the 3 people who had the fastest times in the Winners Circle over a period of 7-8 weeks.  Those three people competed like in the regular shows, except for three things.  The first one was that there were no bonuses on the pyramid, save for $5,000 for winning a 21-21 Tiebreaker.  The second one being that the first person who conquered the Winners Circle won $100,000 and the tournament was over.  The third one was that if nobody did it, then the person who scored the least in the winners circle would have to sit out the next game while the third player took their place.  Some tournaments dragged on for 2-3 weeks until there was a winner.

Now with those prime examples on how to do a game show tournament out of the way, let's visit Millionaire in 2009.  It's been 6 years since the last Millionaire was crowned.  So, they had to do something to keep the show relevant.  They added the clock format and that turned out to be a bad idea because nobody was going to only take 45 seconds to answer the $500,000 question and made the show even more painful than what it has become over the course of stagnation over the 6 years before the clock format started.  I would go on, but that's another induction for another time. 

So, to help give away the $1,000,000, a tournament was devised for the first 9 weeks of the season.  What followed, was a classic example on how not to create a tournament and improperly calling it a tournament in any way, shape or form.

The Tournament of 10 started off ok.  It was announced that the top 10 money winners who used up the least amount of time to answer their questions would come back for a shot at the Million.  So far, so good.  Now the rules was that the 10 biggest winners would get to come back and get to see the $1,000,000 question from their stack of questions with their banked time to either answer the question or walk away.  The catch is that they had no lifelines whatsoever.  Now that's fine since when somebody actually made it to the big question, they hardly had any lifelines at all to use, so that's fair.

Now here's where it starts to turn to utter crap.  The only way you could answer the question is to risk all of your winnings, save for $25,000, which was the safe haven mark.  If you were right, then you'd have control of the million until someone of higher rank answered their question correctly, knocking you out of the million and they would take control of the cash.  If you were wrong, then you lose your money, except for the $25,000 save haven mark.  This really irks me because you've already won the money and probably have already spent the money in your head and figured out what to do.  Now they expect you to put that money up for not even a sure thing?  It just reeks of budget-saving measures.  I mean, going back to the clock format, it was nothing but a budget-saving measure in many ways than one.  They knew that nobody would risk their money on a higher level question with only 45 seconds on a clock and they could time everything out, so they could cut on production costs as well.  You don't see Jeopardy doing this where they would bring back past winners and have them play again, but only if they risked half of their earlier winnings.  The $100,000 Pyramid didn't do this, Sale of the Century didn't do it when they had tournaments.  The only tournament that did this was Street Smarts, but at least that tournament was done better than this one, since it WAS a tournament.

What makes the tournament worse than what it sounds is that it ate up 4-5 minutes of airtime, and in certain shows, it did nothing.  Most of the time, the contestants would have over half their bank left, but then decide it's not worth it to risk it or they have no clue and decide to walk away.  Meaning, that time could have been used to showcase some more contestants.  In the span of the 10 days the tournament took place, you could have easily had 6-7 more contestants be in the hot seat and have not wasted the viewers time.

So, when the tournament started, the first two players in Alex Ortiz and Tony Westmoreland decided to walk away with their winnings intact, instead of risking $25,000 in order to answer it.  Then Day 3 came and we got to Sam Murray.

Sam Murray was the final person to qualify for the tournament, so he's just happy to be there.  And with the amount of time he saved, he was in the #8 spot.  Usually not a great spot to be in a real tournament, when you're going up against either a #1 seed, I.e. the best player or a #9 seed, someone who is equally matched than you.  He then sees this question...

"According to the Population Reference Bureau, what is the approximate number of people that have ever lived on earth?"
A: 50 Billion    B: 100 Billion    C: 1 Trillion    D: 5 Trillion

I would have a hard time with this one myself.  Although, it could be narrowed down logically between 50 billion and 100 Billion.  Sam would spend about two minutes trying to deduce it.  He was going back and forth and back and forth and then decided....

"Ah, what the hell.  B. 100 Billion, Final!"

Meredith immediately decides to tell Sam that 100 billion was wrong.  The crowd audibly groans.  Then quickly says the correct answer was 106.5 billion, so they rounded down....

And Sam becomes the first person to answer a $1,000,000 question right in 6 1/2 years. 

The tournament would proceed for the next few days, with Robin Schwartz, Ralph Cambeis, Tim Janus, Matt Schultz, Jeff Birt and Keilani Goggins all walking away with their winnings, and not wanting to answer the question.  The funny thing is that if any of them decided to answer, poor old Sam would have been knocked out with his original $50,000 in tow.   We reach the final day in the tournament and he's up against the #1 seed; Jehan Shamsid-Deen.

It all comes down to this.  If she goes for it and gets it right, she wins the million.  If not, then Sam Murray does.  Here's her question...

"A rare example of a word that rhymes with orange, the word "Blorenge" is a what?"
A: River in Ireland    B: Forest in Scotland    C: Mountain in Wales    D: Desert in Australia

Ok, now this is a $1,000,000 question.  I would have no idea what so ever.  Jehan was trying her hardest to come up with the correct answer and was able to eliminate D.  However, after much deliberation, right when the clock was about to hit zero...

She walked away from the tournament, meaning that after 6 1/2 years of waiting...

Sam Murray becomes the first person to win the million*!

Thus, the tournament is over.  While on the surface it did what it set out to do and gave away the million, it was nothing more than a hail mary attempt at trying to get people to watch the show in the hopes that someone would finally win the million.  Maybe it's the fact that I've gotten so tired of watching a show where I can't stand the host who's personality grates on me more than Vince Russo does in his entire wrestling career and the clock has made watching the show more of a chore when the contestants purposely burn lifelines, just to preserve time on the clock, especially the ATA Lifeline and the Expert and PAF Lifelines, well, before they eliminated the Phone a Friend, to further make the show worse than already what it is.  The show would limp on throughout the year, before undergoing an even more radical change than what the clock brought, but I'll get to that in the future.

Another thing is that while the idea for a tournament sounds like a far-fetched idea, I figured out how to make it work.  All the tournament of 10 players would play for one week with the bringing back of Fastest Finger, the winner would play Millionaire with the clock and the end of the week, the person who went up higher than anybody else would win the million, and if there was a tie, the person who spent the least amount of time going up would win the million.  It's a simple idea, but sometimes simplicity works.  And hey, it's probably a better idea than what we got.

So, with it being Patrick Wayne Award time, I wonder who got the votes?

Oh god. 

Have any questions about the site? Submit them to us via our Facebook page, our Twitter, and through e-mail. We'll be sure to answer them to the very best of our ability.

(c) 2016 - A CQS Production in association with SpectrumOne.