Monday, August 17, 2009

Economy Pushes Game Show Contestants to Play for Keeps

Just a fascinating article... and it made the little light bulb go over my head. If the government doesn't want to be accused of just handing out money (not that they seem to care about any accusations) simply sponsor hundreds of game shows. Via game shows we can transfer wealth from the future generations to the current. Much better than creating a climate that actually creates sustainable jobs.

Just another example of what is happening on "Main Street" - Pooring of America 101... via USA Today -
  • Game shows are a TV mainstay as old as the medium itself, with legions of wide-eyed fans auditioning on a lark. For most, winning a bundle of cash or a big-ticket luxury item was a pipe dream, not crucial to survival. But the recession, tight job market, depressed stock portfolios and mounting bills have prompted a growing pool of new game show hopefuls: unemployed white-collar professionals seeking quick-fix stimulus packages to keep afloat in turbulent times.
  • Eddie Lawhorn was angling for any kind of payoff when he took the hot seat on the popular trivia game show in a two-week prime-time run on ABC. Sunday night,he marched off Millionaire with a hug from host Regis Philbin and a pre-tax check for $50,000. "I'm incredibly happy," says Lawhorn, 51, who was laid off recently from his $83,000 computer programming job for a Huntsville, Ala., defense contractor — his fourth layoff since 1992. "At least we've got something to live on and survive for the next few months. The difference this will make is so incredible." Until Lawhorn won in Millionaire's two-week, 10th anniversary prime-time run, he was about to tap his 401(k) retirement account; scrimping to cover expenses no longer cut it. "The bills never stop," he says. "You use one credit card to pay off another."
  • "I'm amazed at the number of people who are unemployed or are worried about their future," Philbin said after the show's taping. "Even those who aren't out of work are feeling the effects of the economy. You can tell this money is important to people."
  • If gamers were economic barometers, Meredith Vieira, host of Millionaire's seven-season syndicated series, gauged shifting sentiment in 2008. "When you asked what they're playing for, it was no longer the dream vacation, beach house or car. They talked about holding on to their homes, the debt they're trying to get themselves out of, the child that would have to leave college," says Vieira, who co-hosts NBC's Today. "There's still a sense of real need, as opposed to want."
  • Those who actually make it are playing conservatively, willing to take home less than they could have won in sounder economic times, Philbin and other game show observers say. Stumped by a question worth $100,000, Lawhorn passed. A wrong answer would have dropped his payout to $25,000. "I would have been more aggressive if the money wasn't so desperately needed," he says.
  • "People are happy to walk away with $2,000, $8,000," Vieira says. "They're grateful for whatever they can get."
So who are these people? The ones who previously thought they'd be immune - I mean they are educated (we were told outsourcing only happens to blue collar folk and the "smart jobs" would stay here), experienced, and simply make too much in the "new and improved US economy". Oh yes, I am sure almost none work in the public sector ;)
  • Lawhorn has ample company among strapped contestants. "You see lots of people in their 50s and 60s; college graduates, people laid off after 20 years, or those who now realize they won't have enough to live on," says Bev Pomerantz, a casting producer since the early 1980s. Before the economy soured, Pomerantz says, few prospective contestants skewed older, college-educated and unemployed.
  • Catch 21 players can win a maximum of $50,000 — apparently enough of a draw these days to lure auditioners atypical of the "average Joes" who usually want on. Casting for a third season run of about 200 shows, "it's absolutely clear we are seeing a lot of professionals who have lost their jobs or are looking for a way to supplement income," says producer Scott Sternberg.
  • NBC's popular prime-time Deal or No Deal premieres its second season in daytime syndication Sept. 7. Up to 20% of prospective players at summer casting calls in Boston, Pittsburgh, New York and other East Coast cities said they were unemployed, says producer Neal Konstantini, vs. about 5% in 2008.
  • "We're a blue-collar show," he says. "The people auditioning now? Stock brokers who haven't worked for two years. Fortune 500 company vice presidents. Stay-at-home dads. It's strange how many times you hear the words 'laid off.' They're in a tough spot."
  • Wheel of Fortune's head of marketing, Lisa Dee, oversees the Wheelmobile motor home that rolls through two dozen cities each year on promotional and recruitment drives. Recent appearances in Phoenix, Miami and other cities drew up to 5,000 or more, a 20% increase over past visits. "The crowds blew us away," Dee says.
  • More than 100,000 people auditioned for NBC's top-rated summer series, America's Got Talent, which offers a $1 million grand prize. ...Morgan says many U.S. hopefuls were spurred by the economy. "Things have dried up for a lot of people doing acts for a living," he says. "For many bitten by the recession, we're the Last Chance Saloon."
Now if you are not familiar with "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader" the title should tell you all you need to know. Literally you hope to not embarrass yourself for the chance for prize money.
  • Even 5th Grader, perhaps the only game with the potential to embarrass contestants more than Talent, is attracting upscale contestants. "We always tried to book successful people — doctors, bankers, lawyers — but they had money and they didn't want to look stupid on TV," says executive producer Barry Poznick.
  • Instead, the show has been deluged by prospects — laid-off teachers, idled airline pilots, wedding planners and others who in brighter times "wouldn't have given us the time of day," Poznick says. "We've had the pick of the litter. In this economic climate, there's less stigma."
Example... looks like full time game show contestant might be one of the fastest growing job sectors.
  • Actor Julie Sanford tried out for Catch 21 after losing her job as a Pilates instructor and Hollywood gigs dried up. Husband Doug works casting people for TV commercials, a business that also stalled. The couple still can't afford $700 a month in health insurance premiums and are trying to modify the loan on their home in Van Nuys, Calif. "I watched game shows but never ever pursued them," she says. "I'm looking at all kinds of possibilities — maybe other game shows."
  • Terri Pfahler, who was tapped for Millionaire's prime-time run, was laid off from her office administrator's job last March in Riverside, Calif. Husband Bob lost his district manager's job at Domino's Pizza in June as he recuperated from injuries in an accident that totaled his automobile. The couple have taken in a boarder, and Pfahler's mother has been helping with expenses. "We're thousands of dollars in debt," says Pfahler, 53. "Realistically, $25,000 would be enough to replace the car and pay medical bills. I just want our family to be able to breathe." Pfahler didn't make it into the money round. Before leaving New York, where Millionaire is taped, her husband was downloading forms seeking appearances on other game shows.
Green shoots. Green shoots. Just don't detach from the Matrix. Remember these people as you see long term unemployment claims drop.... it appears after some 70+ weeks of unemployment folks are heading to welfare [Jun 22, 2009: WSJ - Numbers on Welfare See Sharp Rise] , or the game show circuit.

Disclaimer: The opinions listed on this blog are for educational purpose only. You should do your own research before making any decisions.
This blog, its affiliates, partners or authors are not responsible or liable for any misstatements and/or losses you might sustain from the content provided.

Copyright @2012