I don’t vote for American Idol. I don’t call Seacrest or text message him on my AT&T wireless phone. I’ve never auditioned for Survivor, though I did give about two seconds of thought to applying for The Benefactor. I’ve never even found my way to a local Jeopardy casting call. I’m typically not one for reality TV or for game shows. But I have this one vice…
Back when Who Wants to be a Millionaire? made its first run, I got curious and made about four attempts to qualify by phone. And I did qualify, at least as much as it was up to me. If you don’t know how it works, you call a toll free number and a robot guy asks you sequence questions, much like the fastest finger part of the show only without Regis or the national television audience. The questions have four answers, each one corresponding to a number on your keypad (1,2,3,4). You have ten seconds to correctly answer each question. Once you get one wrong, you’re done. To qualify, you have to get them all right. It seems like it was only four questions on the first run of the show, but I may be wrong about that. Now that it’s Super Millionaire, it’s five questions. Anyway, a few years ago I made it through all the questions and advanced to the next round. As it turns out, that just meant I got put in a pool with all the other eggheads who got through the questions. They never called my number, and I’m not a millionaire.
So as you may have guessed, I’ve been sucked in again this time around. I think it’s worth saying that, for me anyway, the draw really is as much the competitive (even self-competitive) aspect of the game as the money. I still love and want money more than I should, but not as much as I used to (or at least I hope that’s true). I’ve never had much money, so I don’t think I seriously entertain the prospect of winning a million bucks, much less ten million. I just watch the show and rant about how I could school most of the folks in the hot seat. Oh, and I absolutely thrash on the fastest finger questions. Really. My wife thinks I’m an uber-genius based on this fact alone. Which is a fitting segue to —
The last three nights, I went out on the first, first, and second questions. I’m ashamed, but it’s true. I’m a dummy. Well, maybe not quite, but I got a run of questions about stuff I just didn’t know enough about – bird parts and airplanes (if only I could use Todd as a phone-a-friend at this stage of the game).
Not tonight. Tonight I was ready. I’ve typically waited until pretty late to call, but tonight the spirit moved and it was time to shut everything else down and call Robot Regis (who answers the phone when you call, before handing you off to the robot question asker guy). I cruised through the first question (unscrambling the phrase batten down the hatches) and handled up on the second (chronologizing the publication dates of four books) and third (chronologizing the debut albums of Hootie & the Blowfish, Phish, Ashanti, and Busta Rhymes) without too much trouble. The fourth one required a semi-educated guess – I had to arrange four countries according to total land area from biggest to smallest. I knew the first two were Brazil and Argentina, and I was fairly sure Paraguay is bigger than Uruguay. I was right.
So here we are. Four down, and I’m one away from “qualifying” once again. In the 2.3 seconds between punching “4” for Uruguay and the robot asking me question five, I really psyched myself up for what was bound to be an almost unanswerable, totally obscure question about the style of high heels worn by the last four Miss Americas during the swimsuit competition. And then comes this —
Put these four movies from the 80’s in chronological order of their first theatrical release, starting with the earliest:
I couldn’t believe it. After some reasonably challenging questions about literature and geography, they were going to usher me to the ABC studios in NYC in a blaze of Brat Pack glory. This was a can’t miss. Or (and I’m sure you’re onto me by now) so I thought. As it turns out, I know a lot about the 80’s in general and 80’s movies in particular, but chronologizing (and yes, that is a word…sort of) four movies within the decade, especially when some of them were less than a year apart (and released when I was 8), is a little tougher than I first thought. See for yourself (and see what you come up with before you punch up IMDb):
1) Less Than Zero
2) The Breakfast Club
3) Sixteen Candles
4) Risky Business
I know the order of the last three, but I had Less Than Zero out of place. So Robot Regis will have to wait. And my little family goes on living as low-thousandaires.