10 True Game Show Cheating Scandals
Cheating at game shows is practically as old as game shows themselves - and it's not always done strictly by contestants. In fact, in the most despicable cases, the "cheating" was more a result of producers rigging the game in the search for money than of greedy people seeking to game the gaming system.But hey, players gonna play and cheaters gonna cheat. It's just the way of the world, and game show cheats on either side of the line have been fairly common. Sometimes, their motives have even been altruistic. Here are a few of the more notable examples of game show cheating, of slick contestants and greed-frothing producers bending or breaking the rules of sportsman-like conduct for fun and profit.
Press Your Luck - Michael LarsonPhoto: CBSIt's hard to say if this one is cheating or just a case of someone figuring out the system. In 1984, Michael Larson used his VCR to record episodes of Press Your Luck and figure out exactly when to hit the buzzer to win the biggest prizes on the "Big Board." After winning a massive 35 games in a row without fail, Landon racked up $110,000 in prizes. CBS tried to get out of paying Landon his winnings, but the network had to admit that he hadn't technically cheated."
Pasapalabra - Adriana AbeniaPhoto: TelecincoPasapalabra is a Spanish quiz show featuring a segment akin to "Name That Tune." The lighthearted show regularly features celebrity guests, one of whom was a model named Adriana Abenia. Adriana did suspiciously well during this segment - owing the the fact that she had her cellphone hidden between her legs with the Shazam app on. Shazam identified each song the band played, and Adriana read off the answers. When she was found out, the audience laughed it off, the the host applauded her for her ingenious and brazen cheating.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? - Charles IngramPhoto: 2waytrafficOne of the better-known cheaters in modern game show history, UK Army Major Charles Ingram made history was one of very few people to win the full million-pound prize on the British show. Ingram conspired with two other people to win the money. One of them was audience member Tecwen Whittock, who would cough when Ingram pondered the correct answer out loud. Ingram was stripped of his winnings and Army rank, and criminally convicted of "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception."
Wheel of FortunePhoto: ABCNot all cheaters are contestants. In 2012, Wheel of Fortune made a go at cheating one Southern belle out of $1,400 on account of her accent. When Renee Durette pronounced "Seven Swans A-Swimming," she pronounced the last word "swimmin'," as you do, at least her her part of Florida. To the bafflement of all present, Pat Sajak pronounced Durette's answer incorrect. To her credit, Durette didn't hold a grudge against the show for cheating her out of her winnings, probably because of Southern hospitality.
Super Password - Kerry Dee KetchumPhoto: NBCWhat's in a name? Apparently, about $58,000 - and five years in prison. Kerry Dee Ketchum's big cheat wasn't in defrauding the game so much as it was in using the fraudulent name of "Patrick Quinn." When "Mr. Quinn" showed up to collect his winnings, he was promptly arrested by police. A viewer had recognized him on air, and fingered Quinn as Ketchum, who was wanted in three states for faking his wife's death in order to file an insurance claim.
Twenty One - Herb StempelPhoto: NBC
This was the first of the big game show cheating scandals of the 1950s, and one of the more interesting. Herb Stempel was a perpetual underdog, an average Joe with no chance of winning. But win he did, over and over again, becoming something of a national sensation in the process. The show's flagging ratings soared and continued to climb until Stempel was finally taken down by another player. Before that, though, he won $69,500 -- a stunning $612,000 adjusted for inflation.Well, Stempel didn't technically "win" the money, and he only went home with $25,000. That was the amount the show's producers paid him to show up every week, come off as the perpetual underdog, and get every answer right. Some say this kind of outcome-rigging for ratings was a blatant ethics violation. Others say Twenty One simply predicted professional wrestling.