Request for Assistance from Mega Members

Rick Rosner


September 27, 2000


You suggested that I write a letter to the editor of Noesis in which I let members know what they can do to help me with Millionaire. Here’s where things stand: After I sent my first two letters to the show, the show’s lawyer offered this terse, boilerplatey response:

After reading your letters and reviewing our research, we continue to believe that the answer to your $16,000 question is correct. Of the four capital cities given as answer choices, Quito is the highest and, thus, is the correct answer.

This response indicates that they think the less they say, the less ammo and encouragement they give me. It’s certainly doesn’t address the points I made.

I’d sent a third letter that crossed in the mail with their letter, to which they didn’t respond at all. So last week, I wrote to ABC Standards & Practices, which is supposed to police the network. I’ve talked a little with Susan Futterman, the S&P Director. She’s friendly but incredulous that I would continue to pursue this. She told me about the extraordinary lengths to which she and her co-workers have gone to research other flawed questions. For instance, for a question involving Neil Simon, Woody Allen, and Your Show of Shows, she went to New York’s Museum of Broadcasting and watched hundreds of end credits; a phone call from Neil Simon telling Millionaire that the question was wrong wasn’t sufficient.

Rather than demonstrating Millionaire’s extraordinary conscientiousness, this story indicates that Millionaire’s self-celebrated generousness with regard to flawed questions is exercised when the facts give them no alternative. In my case, either they think the question has some shred of validity, or they think that the arguments against it are sufficiently subtle that no one will care, or that continued resistance on their part will make me desist.

They’ve yet to show me any of their research on the altitude question or offer any justification for the uniquely brutal set of answer choices.

I’d greatly appreciate any letters to Millionaire anyone may want to write. The general theme to all the letters I’ve written to the show is that the question, with its many faults, contradicts their reputation for fairness. I’d really like to see them offer anyone some explanation for the question beyond their general disclaimer that “The decisions of the judges relating to all aspects of the game, including questions and answers, are final.” The pertinent addresses are listed below. Thanks very much to everybody.

Broadcast Standards and Practices
ABC, Inc.
2040 Avenue of the Stars
Century City CA 90067-4785

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire
Valleycrest Productions, Ltd.
500 Park Ave, 8th Floor
New York NY 10022
212.310.5632 fax: 212.310.5515

 P.S. I realize that all this could have been avoided had I figured out the answer Millionaire was looking for in the first place. But I believe that their obligation to provide appropriate and accurate questions, especially in a game where each question is critical, should take precedence.

P.P.S. Some viewers thought I looked arrogant in the hot seat. Please believe that I felt the opposite of arrogant. I was very scared. The show edited out over 50% of my time in the hot seat, including at least many instances of self-deprecation.