• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

8 of the biggest game-show scandals of all time

·9 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Mike Richards on the set of "Jeopardy!"
An undated handout photo of former "Jeopardy!" host Mike Richards, who was also the executive producer of the long-running daily TV quiz show. Carol Kaelson/Sony Pictures Entertainment/Handout via REUTERS

Mike Richards was supposed to take over as "Jeopardy!" host but stepped down days after the announcement when past controversies resurfaced online.

Mike Richards on the set of "Jeopardy!"
An undated handout photo of former "Jeopardy!" host Mike Richards, who was also the executive producer of the long-running daily TV quiz show. Carol Kaelson/Sony Pictures Entertainment/Handout via REUTERS

Following the death of longtime "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, executive producer Mike Richards was lined up to helm the show. However, as Richards' new role was confirmed, past controversies and allegations of harassment and sexist comments resurfaced.

The Ringer reported that Richards often used offensive and demeaning language to describe women on his podcast "The Randumb Show." He hosted the podcast from 2013 to 2014, during which time he made multiple disparaging comments, saying one-piece swimsuits make women look "frumpy and overweight."

"It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago," Richards said in a statement following The Ringer report. "Looking back now, there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast and I am deeply sorry."

He stepped down as the host of "Jeopardy!" on August 20. However, after controversies failed to die down following his resignation, it was also reported that Richards would exit as executive producer of "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune."

"Twenty One" contestant Charles Van Doren famously cheated his way to fame and fortune ... but it turned out the show was in on it.

"Twenty One" host Jack Barry and contestant Charles Van Doren on set looking at chalkboard with $122,000 written on it
"Twenty One" host Jack Barry and contestant Charles Van Doren. NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

In an effort to add more drama and intrigue to the NBC game show, Van Doren was supplied with the questions and answers before the 1950s show aired. According to Rolling Stone, he appeared on the program for 14 weeks, earning him $128,000, and making him a star. During his appearances on the show, the game show's ratings also went through the roof as viewers tuned in to see if his winning streak would continue.

"Twenty One" repeatedly shot down rumors that the show was fixed. However, on November 2, 1959, Van Doren admitted to congressional investigators that the show had supplied him the material beforehand. The revelation changed the rules surrounding game shows and made cheating on them illegal.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree perjury but served no jail time. The scandal was documented in the Oscar-nominated film "Quiz Show," which starred Ralph Fiennes as Van Doren and was directed by Robert Redford.

The real-life Charles Van Doren passed away at the age of 93 on April 10, 2019.

Serial killer Rodney Alcala appeared on a 1978 episode of "The Dating Game" during his murder spree.

rodney alcala
Accused serial killer Rodney James Alcala in court in 2010. Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

You might assume that contestants on highly popular game shows like "The Dating Game" are vetted for dangerous criminal records before being allowed to compete — however, in 1978, one infamous contestant appeared to slip through the cracks.

According to Rolling Stone, Rodney James Alcala, who became known as "The Dating Game Killer," appeared on the game show during his killing spree. At the time he competed on the show, Alcala had already been convicted of raping an 8-year-old girl, a crime for which he only spent 34 months in jail.

Introduced as Bachelor Number One, a "successful photographer," Alcala was chosen as the winner but the bachelorette ultimately refused to go on a date with him after meeting backstage, saying, "I started to feel ill. He was acting really creepy. I turned down his offer. I didn't want to see him again."

Alcala was convicted for eight murders, though authorities say he may have been responsible for as many as 130 murders, according to The Associated Press.

He died at the age of 77 on July 24, 2021, while awaiting execution for the murder of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe.

Former "The Price Is Right" model Brandi Sherwood-Cochran sued the game show in 2010, claiming she was let go from her job after becoming pregnant.

Models of "The Price is Right" Brandi Sherwood, Lanisha Cole, and Rachel Reynolds pose with "9Lives icon Morris the Cat."
"The Price Is Right" model Brandi Sherwood-Cochran in 2008. Michael Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Brandi Sherwood-Cochran, who appeared as a model on "The Price Is Right" from 2002 to 2009, sued the show and its producers, alleging discrimination. She claimed she was let go from her job after returning from her maternity leave to find she was no longer needed, according to Goliath.

She also alleged that producer Mike Richards treated her differently after she told the show she was pregnant. According to Newsweek, he allegedly said, "Go figure, I fire five models. What are the odds one of the ones that I keep gets pregnant?"

She was awarded $7.7 million in a discrimination lawsuit but was later stripped of it because the jury was given "poor instructions" prior to the deliberation. In 2016, she settled with the show for an unknown amount.

In 2021, after the details of the lawsuit resurfaced as Richards was named "Jeopardy!" host, he said, "I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on 'The Price Is Right.' I know firsthand how special it is to be a parent. It is the most important thing in the world to me. I would not say anything to disrespect anyone's pregnancy and have always supported my colleagues on their parenting journeys."

"Press Your Luck" superfan and eventual show contestant Michael Larson figured out how to cheat the system and win big by memorizing patterns from previous wins.

"Press Your Luck" host Peter Tomarken on set of the game show wearing brown suit
"Press Your Luck" host Peter Tomarken in 1983. CBS/Getty Images

The original "Press Your Luck" was hosted by Peter Tomarken, pictured, on CBS between 1983 and 1986.

In one of the most well-known scandals in game-show history, ice cream truck operator Michael Larson studied the patterns of the show's game board to maximize his chances of winning and avoid the show's "Whammy," which set a player's wins back to zero.

At the taping of his episode on May 19, 1984, Larson won a total of $110,237, the equivalent of $289,653 today. Though he technically didn't break any official rules, "Press Your Luck" made an effort to greater randomize its game board to avoid any other contestants following the same strategy.

On an episode of "Million Dollar Money Drop," a couple lost $800,000 despite reports that they technically gave the correct answer.

post it
Post-it notes cubes. AP Images

Following a 2010 episode of "Million Dollar Money Drop," in which contestants answered multiple-choice trivia questions, it was reported that a couple who correctly answered a question was not awarded their money.

According to Access, the question asked which product was first to be sold in stores in the United States: Post-it Notes, the Macintosh computer, or the Walkman. The couple answered Post-it Notes and lost their $800,000 earnings.

However, some claimed that since Post-its were market-tested in four cities in 1977, they were released earlier than the Walkman, which was sold starting in 1979.

"The integrity of the questions and answers on our show are our No. 1 priority," executive producer Jeff Apploff said in a statement. "In this case, our research team spoke directly with 3M, and they confirmed that although they had given out free samples in test markets in 1977 and 1978, it wasn't until 1980 that Post-Its were officially sold in stores."

A contestant once tried to use the Shazam app to cheat on "Pasapalabra," a Spanish game show where people guess the title and artists of different songs.

"Pasapalabra" host Christian Galvez wearing white jacket and yellow shirt in front of blue background
"Pasapalabra" host Christian Galvez in 2010. Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images

Adriana Abenia, a Spanish actress and TV presenter, was accused of cheating on the game show after she was discovered trying to use an app to find out the answer to a question.

According to Metro, Abenia intended to use the phone app Shazam, which records songs and tells the user the song title and artist, to win. She was found out after the phone lit up between her legs and began vibrating during the taping. Abenia was caught before she was able to use the app to cheat her way to the answer.

"To be honest I think she deserves a special prize anyway because, in seven years of organizing this TV contest, nobody has ever done anything like this and certainly not quite as brazenly," the show's host, Christian Galvez (pictured), said, according to Express.

Charles Ingram was accused of cheating on the UK version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" with help from fellow contestant Tecwen Whittock, who allegedly coughed to alert him to the right answers.

charles ingram and wife diana ingram arriving at court
Charles Ingram and his wife, Diana, arrive at Southwark Crown Court on March 3, 2003 in London. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

In a 2001 taping of the game show, Ingram answered 15 questions correctly to win the ultimate jackpot, despite a shaky start. However, according to The Sun, the prize money was taken away after show executives questioned the validity of Ingram's win.

After reviewing the recording, the production team alleged that fellow contestant Tecwen Whittock had alerted Ingram to the right and wrong answers by coughing and sneezing from the sidelines. They also allegedly found an instance of Diana Ingram coughing from the audience.

All three were eventually charged with "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception." The Ingrams were sentenced to 18 months suspended for two years (i.e. if they did not adhere to conditions set by the court, they would serve jail time), and Whittock was sentenced to 12 months suspended for two years. Both parties were also fined £15,000 ($20,000) and ordered to pay £10,000 ($13,800) towards prosecution costs, though the Ingrams ended up owing £115,000 ($159,000) in additional defense costs.

A major in the Royal Engineers, Charles Ingram was forced to resign from the Army in August 2003 following the court case.

However, the accused cheaters and their defense attorneys have maintained both parties' innocence over the years, even proving that Whittock suffered from a persistent cough that had nothing to do with alerting Ingram to the correct answers.

Read the original article on Insider

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting