The audience is pumped, the contestants have made their way on stage, the applause sign is flashing… and that very familiar Who Wants To Be A Millionaire intro music is now blaring in the studio. Entering stage center are carryover contestant Ed Toutant along with everyone’s favorite game show host, Regis Philbin. They each take their respective seats, the music fades out, and Regis looks into his camera and says, “Hello, and welcome to Wednesday night on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire……..”
Welcome back to Part Whatever and Change of my Millionaire Journey. It’s approximately 12:30 PM on Thursday January 18, 2001, and as you can see, the cameras have finally started to roll, and the action is now 100 percent real… but it takes Regis not even 30 seconds to fuck up by flubbing his introduction. So guess what… the whole walk-on scene has to be reshot once again. That forces Regis and Ed to vacate their impossible to get into chairs and go back under the tunnel with the promise of trying harder the second time.
So, as they say in Hollywood, we take it from the top. Regis and Ed once again re-seat themselves, and this time Regis’ introductory words come out smoothly. He correctly mentions that the phone-in game is currently open (Actually, it will be when the show finally airs in 13 days) and offers up the tidbit that in the show’s history covering some 150+ episodes, every state in the union has had at least one contestant reach the Hot Seat with two exceptions…
And that won’t be changing today, since nobody in my group hails from either Idaho or Rhode Island.
Regis mentions that Ed Toutant is the 18th Texan to occupy the Hot Seat…
Regis then goes over Ed’s past history as a wannabe contestant on Millionaire. Ed had already made it to New York once as an alternate contestant in 1999 without ever getting a chance to play in the Ring of Fire, and got on a second time as a finalist without making it into the Hot Seat the following January. When Regis asks him, Ed mentions this is his third time on the show, and….
Nope, the powers that be on stage don’t want that comment getting on the air, especially since it was in the rules that there was a lifetime limit of two appearances as a “finalist” on Millionaire. Fortunately, this goof doesn’t require yet another restart… they just pick up from where Regis began interviewing Ed. Though Ed alters his answer to it being his second appearance this time around, it turns out in the finished product that this whole interview question got left on the cutting room floor along with all the nude clips.
Ed is a “product planner for a large computer company,” which must be a mouthful to include on any resume. Ed then goes into a Dilbert-like explanation about what his job entails that is far from the comprehension of this lifetime product shelf replenisher for a large retail company. Ed’s cheering section consists of a pair of his
brother in laws brothers in law, Ed and Kevin. Say hello to my readers, guys!
Since Ed is single (YAY for us single guys!), these two are the husbands of two of Ed’s sisters. Ed initially calls them his sisters’ brothers, which would make for an interesting blue card tidbit on its own, but corrects himself without drawing another re-take. Ed mentions that he has five sisters along with a pair of brothers, which pretty much cuts down one of my blue card tidbits right there. What’s the shock value of four younger sisters, when Ed’s family could say “eight was enough”?
Ed is an adventurous guy! He has run with the bulls in Spain!
OK, the talk show time is over and it’s time to start getting down to the lucrative game show business. Regis always took this time at the beginning of each show to go over the game’s basic rules. Since it’s been so long since Millionaire has aired in its classic format thanks to twelve years of bastardization in syndication, this would be a good time to
stall some more give you all a quick rundown of how this popular game show worked…
Each Hot Seat contestant would be asked 15 multiple choice questions of increasing difficulty, each correct answer bringing the contestant’s winnings level up to the value of that question. Once the $1,000 and $32,000 levels were reached, the contestant was guaranteed to leave with at least that much money (and an invaluable experience to blog about later). Answer a question incorrectly, and your run was over with your winnings falling to the last safe haven level you had reached. You could walk away at any time and keep what you had already won.
You also had three lifelines available to use at any time you wished. You could ask the audience for their collective opinion…
You could phone a friend to see if they knew the answer…
Or you could use the
allegedly, maybe, possibly, could be, we’re not sure if it’s really random 50/50, which would take away two of the incorrect answers.
OK…. are you all ready out there?
Let’s do it! Let’s play Who Wants To Be A Millionaire with Ed Toutant!!!
And here is Ed’s first question!
$300 – What word means both “to silence” and “a silly trick”?
This is a piece of cake for Ed, as well as for me. As silly as this whole question was, it will always be in my heart as the first question I got to watch live, and play along with from one of the closest seats in the house. As neat as it was to get to watch this trivia showdown up close and personal, as I was getting to do, a good chunk of my time was spent looking to my left at the monitor where the live feed was being shown. I was as transfixed with this television screen as I was with the live action going on in front of me… yeah, I guess that’s how I roll…
A couple other interesting things I pick up on are the fact that there is no music playing in the background during this first question! There was fast paced music that would play during the $100-$1,000 questions for each contestant, but it apparently did not play in the studio. I would guess it had something to do with the fact that the lower tier questions were so heavily edited to allow for more time to ask the really challenging questions. Regis’ trademark line where he always asked the contestant if that was their “final answer” was almost always edited out for these early questions, yet it was asked each and every time during taping. Every action that was made by a contestant during the course of the game had to be verified by asking if it was their final decision to keep things on the up and up…
Oh yeah, the answer to the $300 question…. it’s C. Gag, of course!
$500 – By definition, an abridged dictionary differs from an unabridged one in what way?
A. More entries
B. Fewer entries
C. Larger type
Well, you know by how I’ve treated my tale here that I’m an expert on the word “abridged” (I’ll pause now while you unroll your eyes). Even though it’s easy, with one mistake meaning the boot, it’s always wise to talk out the question anyway. Ed does just that, and he knows that abridged means B. Fewer entries…
$1,000 – In January 2001, the U.S. Postal Service raised the price of a first class letter from 33 cents to what?
A. 34 cents
B. 35 cents
C. 40 cents
D. 43 cents
I’ll pause once again while all of my fellow Americans grumble about how cheap it used to be to send a letter just 13 short years ago…
Being the first month of the rate increase, this was still pretty fresh on my mind. Ed apparently got inside information from his brother who collects stamps, so this was an easy one grand for him. A U.S. first class stamp now costs forty-nine fucking cents, but back in January 2001, only A. 34 cents was required…
And with that correct answer, Ed has reached the $1,000 level, locking in at least a modest payday.
The triumphant music sounds, and the lights get dimmer! The music starts playing for all to hear, and we’re ready to roll with Ed’s middle tier of questions…
$2,000 – In the U.S., which of these everyday objects frequently bears the name “Otis”?
A. Fluorescent lamp
I know Otis is an elevator, but more importantly, so does Ed. He makes B. Elevator his final answer, and continues to chug along to the big prize…
$4,000 – Since 1995, who has been the permanent bandleader for “The Tonight Show”?
A. Max Weinberg
B. Paul Schaffer
C. Doc Severensen
D. Kevin Eubanks
How convenient that the first bandleader under Jay Leno, Branford Marsalis, is absent as a distractor. I know haters are gonna hate, but I loved the Jay Leno era of The Tonight Show… at least when I could watch it before I started working at Mecca in 1998. Leno’s my kind of comedian… he’s not afraid to poke fun at anyone, particularly those who are just asking for it, yet at the same time he doesn’t take himself seriously at all and offers up plenty of self-inflicted barbs as well. Heck, Headlines alone was enough reason to watch Jay every Monday night back in the 90’s…
Of course, the lack of a Marsalis choice wouldn’t have slowed down Ed… he mentions that he knows that D. Kevin Eubanks took over for Branford around the time mentioned in the question, and that’s his final answer…
$8,000 – In the late 19th Century, who were the Mugwumps?
A. Baseball team
B. Political faction
C. Army cavalry
Shit! This is the first question they’ve asked Ed that I don’t know myself. In the situation I’m in as a hopeful contestant-in-waiting, I can’t help but try to play through my mind what I would have done had I gotten this question in the Hot Seat. Do I trust the audience with a not-exactly basic American history question? Do I go ahead and burn the phone a friend lifeline since I do have someone for whom history is a strength? It’s impossible not to squirm a but in my swiveling, Bendy Side Out, ninth seat over the agonizing decisions I might have to make playing these questions for real rather than just for living room bragging rights…
Ed doesn’t need to put himself through the wringer like I am currently doing in Regis’ large shadow. He knows right away that the Mugwumps were a B. Political faction, although he doesn’t know exactly what their political ideals were. Since I can cheat now and bring up Wikipedia, I can inform you that the Mugwumps were Republicans who split from the party during the Presidential Election of 1884 to support Democrat Grover Cleveland rather than their own party’s candidate James G. Blaine (of Maine, as my history teacher would often add after his name….)
And with that question, Ed has knocked down six in a row, and eight in all, without the need for a steenking lifeline. This could be a looooooong wait to get that first crack at a Fastest Finger question.
But we still haven’t even reached the first of the five commercial breaks… but we have reached the first in-taping break in my story. While they did go straight on to Ed’s $16,000 question……. I’m going to leave that for next time. To find out why, tune in next Friday as we will all be witness to one of the most infamous questions that was ever asked in the history of the US version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire….
I’ll see you….. in September!