Game show with humorous topics(usualy puns). In each game up to $5000 US is up for grabs with the remaining prize budget at the end of the season going to the host Ben Stein. In the first round three people select from five catagories, each with one randomly valued ($50-$150 I belive) question. If it is answered correctly the answerer is given first crack at a related bonus question worth $50. In the second round the low scorer is removed and replaced by Ben Stein, and their winnings are returned to the main prize. Ben does not gain any money if he answers correctly but the other players do not get the question (which is now worth $100-$500); there are no bonus questions. In the third round the low scorer from round two is removed and stripped of their winnings while the high scorer is pitted against Ben in "The Best of Ten Test of Knowledge"; each is asked the same ten questions and if the player beats Ben they get all $5000 while if they lose they only get their score. A tie in the best of ten results in a $1000 bonus.

This show supports my bitter theory: the greater the challenge, the smaller the reward. This is so because if you do something relatively mundane, something a lot if not most people can do, you receive popular acclaim and often financial reward from the general mob. They cheer you on because they are cheering themselves; what you are doing is really great only because they can do it too. Hence, "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?". A contestant wins a million dollars for knowing the answers to pop culture based questions, the answers to which have been thrust into his/her brain relentlessly due to advertising. This is as opposed to Win Ben Stein's Money, a show on which a contestant does his/her best to answer almost impossible hard questions for a mamimum reward of $6000 (usually less). The questions mostly concern "real" knowledge. (I'm sorry, but "Who is Gwyn Paltrow's current beau?" is not a test of real knowledge.) This show is exemplary, but unfortunately unique.

I hate to burst Metacogniziant's bubble, but the questions on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? are not all that different from those on Win Ben Stein's Money.  The questions worth under $1000 questions are easy and mostly pop culture-ish, to be sure, but after that the questions are pretty reasonably spread out through a variety of categories.  Especially in the highest three or four questions--obscure science and obscure history become the norm there. Your blanket claim that the questions on Millionaire are all pop culture-related leads me to believe that you jumped to conclusions about the show after watching it for about thirty seconds.

Another reason why Win Ben Stein's Money seems harder isn't because of the questions, but because of the format--free response instead of multiple choice.  I might have trouble coming up with the right answer off the top of my head, but if I had a list of four choices to choose from I'd be able to pick the right answer out.

The discontinuity in the prize amounts proferred comes more from the fact that Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is backed by a major network (ABC), while Win Ben Stein's Money, being on a cable station (Comedy Central), has a budget an order or two of magnitude less.  If you look at any game show that isn't backed by a major network and/or broadcast during prime time, the prise money rarely gets above four or five digits.

And if you want to compare two shows on major networks--the same network in fact--Jeopardy! gives out between $5,000-$20,000 to each winner, and the average winner of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? doesn't take home substantially more ($16,000 and $32,000 seem to be the median values).

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