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Five Most Stunning U.S. TV Game Show Moments

Updated on June 26, 2015

Five moments - some good,some bad - that broke new ground for U.S. television game shows.

Ken Jennings, 2012
Ken Jennings, 2012 | Source

1. Ken Jennings becomes biggest game show winner: In 2004, Utah software engineer Jennings broke the all time game show earnings record while appearing on "Jeopardy!" Following the November 3 broadcast that year, Jennings' total earnings topped $2,197,000. That beat the previous total by $17,000, set in 2001 by Michigan engineer Kevin Olmstead on the U.S. "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" series. Jennings' "Jeopardy!" winning streak eventually lasted 74 games, with his grand prize money totaling approximately $2,500.000.

Ken Jennings becomes 74-day champion on "Jeopardy!"

'21" host Jack Barry with contestants Charles VAn Doren and Vivienne Nearing
'21" host Jack Barry with contestants Charles VAn Doren and Vivienne Nearing | Source

2. The Quiz Show Scandals: The popular 1950's program became famous for nearly bringing to an end all U.S. game show broadcasts. Without warning, "Twenty One" was canceled in 1958. The program's most famous winner, Charles Van Doren, testified before U.S. congress that he had been given the answers to all of the questions before each episode of "21". Prior to this, Van Doren had gained much positive notoriety from his "21" success, including being pictured on the cover of Time magazine and winning a regular spot on the "Today" Show. The scandal provided the basis for the 1994 Oscar nominated film, "Quiz Show".

Excerpt from "The Quiz Show Scandal" documentary

3. The first grand prize winner on the U.S. "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" show: In a November 1999 broadcast, New Jersey tax collector John Carpenter was one question away from becoming the show's first millionaire.Host Regis Philbin read the million dollar question: ""Which of these U.S. Presidents appeared on the television series "Laugh-In?", with the choices being Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, or Gerald Ford. Carpenter used his Phone-A-Friend lifeline to call his father. But instead of repeating the question, Carpenter told his dad he wanted to let him know he was about to win one million dollars. Which he did seconds later, by answering Richard Nixon.

First U.S. "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" grand prize winner

Jackie Gleason "You're in the Picture", 1961
Jackie Gleason "You're in the Picture", 1961 | Source

4. Jackie Gleason's "You're in the Picture": Legendary TV star Jackie Gleason's 1961 CBS game show, "You're in the Picture" lasted just one episode, becoming one of the biggest bombs in U.S. TV history. The program's four panelists had to put their heads through a cutout in a board, illustrating a famous scene in history or a song lyric . The panelists didn't know what was painted on the board, and their job was to guess what it was. The show was such a flop that Gleason returned to CBS the next week, and basically apologized on air for how bad the show was.

Pat Sajak and contestants during "Military Week", Wheel of Fortune", 2006
Pat Sajak and contestants during "Military Week", Wheel of Fortune", 2006 | Source

5. Michelle Loewenstein makes Wheel of Fortune" history: The Santa Monica floral designer won the program's first million dollar bonus round jackpot in an October 2008 broadcast. The final puzzle was a phrase, "leaky faucet". To qualify for the million dollars, Loewenstein had to win the spot during one of the initial rounds of the game, then spin the bonus wheel and pick the correct envelope with the "One Million" card inside. Then, she had to solve the puzzle. "The show's top prize had previously been $100,000.

"Wheel of Fortune"'s first million dollar winner


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    • MarshFish profile image

      Marshall Fish 2 years ago

      Thanks so much for the comment, Wendi. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.


    • lyoness913 profile image

      Summer LeBlanc 2 years ago from H-Town

      Interesting! I loved that movie 'Quiz Show.' I was fascinated. And, I am such a long time fan of Jeopardy! Great hub, I enjoyed it :)