Monday, August 24, 2009

Official postmortem

On the advice of a couple friends, I decided to post an official straight-from-the-horse's-mouth postportem on the WWTBAM message board after my historic million-dollar miss. I thought it might be interesting/helpful to share it here (slightly edited to translate message board slang to plain English):


Hi! My name is Ken. You might know me as the guy who lost $475,000 in just over three minutes. I thought you might want to hear about that experience from me.

I could come up with a narrative about everything that happened for my show's taping, but it's all been discussed in great detail by the numerous people who were at the taping, as well as those who watched it tonight. So it might be more interesting to address a few things that have cropped up on the board tonight.

First, my answer on the million dollar question ("MDQ") was not a blind guess or a 25% chance stab at a million. I had eliminated A&W and V8 off the bat. I had a strong inclination toward Yoo Hoo before asking the audience, and only later did I realize why: there's a photo of LBJ meeting the Beatles in which he's drinking a Yoo Hoo (I have not been able to find it online since, but someone else has confirmed remembering this). Ask-the-Audience ("ATA") is notoriously unreliable in the third tier, yes, but I had a rather unusual audience...tons of former contestants and future contestants in the stands. That the unusually distinguished audience had the same inclination that I had gave me a lot of extra confidence. As I saw it at the time, I had about a 75% shot at getting it right. To me, that was good enough to go for it. Do I regret it? I sure as hell regret getting it wrong. But I don't regret the way I played the game. It wasn't a guess, it wasn't arrogance, it was a calculated risk, and it didn't pan out. In real life, most people have to risk bankruptcy to take their shot at a million dollars, and all I had to do was make a calculated wager with found money. If I was put in the same position again, I can't say I would play it differently.

I do admit to one strategic error: I should have used ATA on the Gremlins question instead of Double Dip ("DD"). I was iffy about using ATA (precisely because I was in the third tier, but it was pop culture, and I clearly had a strong feeling about what was right, so ATA would have been appropriate). Had I used ATA there instead of DD, I may have had DD available to me on the MDQ, and Fresca definitely would have been my second guess. Then again, I might have used DD for insurance on the $500k question and still wouldn't have it on the MDQ. I recognize my strategic error but I can't be 100% sure that it changed the outcome of the game. Being willing to take risks is what got me to the MDQ at all, so I can't say it was lunacy just because it didn't work for me every single time.

I've seen some speculation about my Phone-a-Friend ("PAF") choices. I play trivia with Jerome and Alan regularly; Dan is married to a law school friend of mine. Let's be clear, not all Jeopardy champions are created equal; Jerome is a film editor and writer, Alan is a playwright, and Dan is a political aide (who happens to be 20 years younger than the other two). They have very different areas of expertise. And talking to them afterward vindicated my decision to go with Jerome on the "Grace Kelly" was tangentially film-related, he was old enough to remember it, and it wasn't readily Googleable. I have nothing but great things to say about all 3 of my PAFs, and I so appreciate their clearing out their days to help me.

Re: the "now give me the million dollars" comment. I honestly didn't realize I said it, even after watching the show tonight, until someone noted it on the board here. I actually had to go back to my DVR to rewatch to see if it was true, and was very surprised to learn that it was. Whoever characterized it as saying "Big Money" on Wheel of Fortune/Press Your Luck/etc. was dead's just one of those things you say when you need to pump yourself up, I guess. I had no sense then or now that I was entitled to the million dollars (though boy would I have liked to get it).

To all those who complain that I had an easy stack: WWTBAM Executive Producer Michael Davies did advise us that some of the last stacks had been lightened for the last episodes of the show. As he described it, the questions were essentially shifted one over: something that would be $8k was $16k, something that would be $50k was $100k, etc. Didn't stop them from laying quite a trap on the MDQ with the Yoo Hoo option. I recognize that my road to the MDQ was easier than some, but in Millionaire, as in all other trivia contexts, the questions are always easy when you know the answer. There are plenty of people who wouldn't have gotten nearly as far as I did on the same stack. There are some who would have gone all the way. I most certainly did not have the easiest MDQ ever, nor, perhaps, did I have the hardest (I think the plane codes question was crazy obscure, and the audience got that right). I don't apologize for the questions I was dealt, and I still had to get into the hot seat to have a shot at all. If anyone's claiming that "the last 11 or 12 questions" in my stack were equivalent to $4k questions in the syndicated version of Millionaire, I can only laugh at the sour grapes. Have fun when you get onto the show, kids.

I do want to note that, by and large, the people I dealt with were great. The other contestants for my episode were fun, lively individuals, and I hope they kicked maximum ass on their Millionaire runs. We wanted someone from our group to make it rain (confetti), and I hope one of them did. Michael Davies called me to the control room after the episode and thanked me for the show and gave me a great postmortem pep-talk (for the record, there was no conspiracy about getting a million dollar run in the finale...sometimes the powers that be just get that lucky). One former million-dollar winner in the audience and her daughter were immensely positive both immediately after the show and when I ran into them the next day. Another former million-dollar winner (and several others) sent very nice personal messages. The only exception is the wife of one of the other contestants, who I heard (secondhand) claimed that she knew the answer to the MDQ and intentionally voted incorrectly to sabotage me. That, I think, is the most pointlessly spiteful thing I've ever heard of (certainly the most pointlessly spiteful thing I've ever been personally exposed to).

Oh, and if anyone's curious; Pam knew the right answer on the MDQ and voted for it. But that's why she's the real trivia whiz in our relationship.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Minor celebrities I love

While having a cup of coffee earlier this week at the Coffee Bean by Creative Artists Agency (down the street from my office), I found myself sitting at the table next to Alan Cumming. I really wish I'd asked him if his coffee tasted earthy...really earthy...

Friday, August 21, 2009

"I always feel like...somebody's watching meeeeeeeeee...."

Hello, my new friends! You seem to have found my "strange, trying-to-be-funny blog!" I'm not surprised...putting my real name and picture up isn't very stealthy, I admit (perhaps you're now wondering how my double-fisting of cocktails will affect the show?).

I briefly considered taking my blog down for the next three days/week/ever, but if it was good enough for public consumption when nobody knew or cared who I was, it's good enough for public consumption now that a small but vocal subculture of trivia nerds (I'm not judging, I count myself among you) knows and cares who I am.

So go forth! Dissect, analyze, judge. But most of all, enjoy the show on Sunday. It'll be a ride.