Game Shows

The 10 Biggest Game Show Scandals Of All Time Source:

For many years game shows have been enjoyed by families all over the world. They are unique shows that allow for an interactive viewing experience from home and are suitable for everyone from children to grandparents. They have typically been seen as some of the most wholesome viewing on TV, but things aren’t always as they seem on TV. In fact, there have been several different examples of scandals that have rocked these seemingly innocent shows. These scandals can range from a person blatantly cheating during the game, the show itself orchestrating the cheat or a number of different unsavory actions that have rocked the world of the game show.

10. Brandi Cochran

Kicking off the list is a scandal that occurred within The Price is Right, which is without a doubt one of the most popular and most watched game shows of all time. Former Price is Right model Brandi Cochran sued the game show in 2010 claiming she was wrongfully let go after becoming pregnant. She said that after she took her pregnancy leave and looked to return to her work, the show stated that her services were no longer needed. Cochran won a $775,000 judgment in November 2012, but the case was overturned in March 2013. A few months later 2010, former model Shane Stirling also claimed she was fired from the show because she got pregnant. Source:

9. Our Little Genius

Our Little Genius was a Fox trivia show that was about child prodigies who tried to win cash for their families. Unfortunately, the show was pulled before making it to air due to issues over the show’s integrity. The program was supposed to premiere in January of 2010, but it was reported that a contestant’s parent sent a letter to the FCC, complaining that a member of the production staff gave the child contestant and his parents a list of potential topics and specific answers to at least four questions that the child needed to know, which meant the show was likely completely staged and manufactured to have the child succeed. The show was postponed and eventually cancelled before ever airing. Source:

8. Adriana Abenia

This is one of the least serious scandals on this list, but still made many news headlines. Adriana Abenia is a model who is most notable for appearing on the front cover of FHM. During her appearance on the Spanish game show Pasapalabra, contestants had to correctly state the title and artists of several songs that played. As it turns out, the model had a phone hidden between her legs and on the phone was “Shazam,” which is an app that can identify any song being played. Abenia claims that she was embarrassed by her lack of musical knowledge, and then admitted during recording that she had her phone hidden between her legs. While this isn’t as serious as most on this list, it is shocking this doesn’t happen more often. Source:

7. Herb Stempel/Charles Van Doren

With television hitting the mainstream in the 1950s, the U.S. and other markets saw a boom in game shows. In 1956, the game show Twenty-One, hosted by Jack Barry, featured a contestant named Herb Stempel who won for six weeks straight. Eventually he lost to a man named Charles Van Doren, who had a nice little run of his own. Eventually, it was revealed that not only was Stempel’s run on the show completely rigged, but so was his defeat at the hands of Charles Van Doren. The show rigged it to attract more viewers and drum up more publicity. The scandal was portrayed in Robert Redford’s 1994 movie Quiz Show. Source:

6. Rick Rockwell

Long before marriage and relationship-centered shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette became hit TV shows, like in the present day, Fox pioneered the genre with a game show, of sorts, called Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, in which 50 women competed to win the hand of an unseen multimillionaire on live TV. Many viewers at the time were up in arms about the show’s premise and idea, but that didn’t stop 23 million people from tuning in to watch “wealthy businessman” Rick Rockwell marry emergency room nurse Darva Conger. The scandal occurred when it was revealed Rockwell’s main asset was a 1200 sq. ft. house and he wasn’t a millionaire at all, having lied about many other things he claimed during the show. Source:

5. Khaled El-Katateny

This is probably among the weirdest scandal/cheat on this list. Whether or not Khaled El-Katateny actually ‘cheated’ to win $100,000 on Millionaire Hot Seat is debatable, but he certainly used a strategy that was not intended by the show’s producers and could therefore be seen as cheating. The 19-year-old law student claimed in interviews following his win that he had correctly answered five of his questions based purely on the expressions and body language of host Eddie McGuire. McGuire and the producers of Millionaire Hot Seat have laughed off El-Katateny’s claims, and they believe that the host gave nothing away, but this is still as strange a scandal as any. Source:

4. Patrick Quinn/Kerry Dee Ketchum

This was a very interesting case and one that should make the game show fairly embarrassed. “Patrick Quinn” won a whopping $58,000 on Super Password in 1988, but his fortune turned out to be fairly short lived. “Patrick Quinn” was actually Kerry Dee Ketchum, a fugitive who was wanted in three states. A viewer recognized him, and tipped off the authorities. Ketchum was arrested when he showed up to claim his prize money. Ketchum was sentenced to five years in prison for faking his wife’s death to collect on a $100,000 insurance policy. It showed just how little of a background check TV game shows did at the time.

3. Rodney Alcala

This one is extremely strange and probably the most terrifying on the list. In a 1978 episode of The Dating Game, Cheryl Bradshaw found herself a winner, but in reality, she didn’t win at all. She won a “date” with convicted rapist and registered sex offender, Rodney James Alcala. Host Jim Lange introduced Alcala as a successful photographer, and not the serial killer that he was. Thankfully, Bradshaw refused to go out with Alcala, calling him “creepy.” Alcala is now on death row in California for his conviction on five murders counts and was actively killing and at large during his appearance on the show. Source:

2. Charles Ingram

Charles Ingram, a former major in the British army, became trapped in a UK scandal after being one of the few contestants ever to win the maximum prize of £1,000,000 on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Ingram had his winning payout suspended after multiple suspicions arose that he was working with one or more accomplices in order to hit the jackpot. A trial took place over the course of four weeks, which resulted in Charles Ingram, his wife Diana and another accomplice all being convicted of cheating during the game. It was alleged that they had coughed while Ingram pondered different answers out loud in order to signal the correct one. Ingram was also forced to resign from his position in the Army. Source:

1. Michael Larson

And coming in at number one is probably the most famous example of cheating in a game show. Michael Larson became notorious after famously figuring out how to beat the system on the CBS show Press Your Luck. Leading up to his episode on the show, Larson was a big fan and devised a plan to win. By pausing and replaying recorded episodes of the show, Larson realized that there was a fixed pattern to the spins, rather than something totally randomized. With a lot of practice and mind-numbing concentration, Larson was able to reliably hit the best prizes on the Big Board every single time. When the cheating scandal was revealed, it forced CBS to revise their game show system and tighten the rules across several other shows as well. Source:

Kale Havervold

Kale Havervold has been writing about video games, movies, tv and more for Goliath since 2015.