Let’s face it, not every game show is Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune. Over the years, TV executives have tried desperately to create the next great American game show. One of those attempts, as game show enthusiasts might remember, was the Million Dollar Money Drop. Here’s everything we know about the rise and fall of this game show relic.
‘Million Dollar Money Drop’ Premiered In 2010
On December 20, 2010, the very first episode of Million Dollar Money Drop premiered in FOX’s primetime slot. The show was hosted by actor Kevin Pollak, and it delivered the over-the-top sets and the nail-biting suspense typical of reality TV of the era.
The game’s premise was fairly simple. At the start of the show, a couple would be given $1 million in cash. Then, they’d be given a series of multiple-choice trivia questions, one by one.
The couple would then have to bet the entirety of the cash on their answer to each question. This means they could divide their cash between multiple answers to increase their chances of winning, or, if they were confident, bet it all on one answer. If they made it past the seventh and final question, whatever cash they had left was theirs to keep.
While FOX had high hopes for the show when it premiered, it quickly became swamped with controversy.
While most game shows have contestants start with nothing and compete to take home money and prizes, Million Dollar Money Drop is a rare premise in that contestants are meant to lose money as the game progresses.
As audiences soon found out, the pressure of having fumbled $1 million in cash can sometimes be too much to bear.
The First Episode Exposed The Cracks
In the very first episode, engaged couple Gabe Okoye and Brittany Mayti became the first contestants to try their luck on the new show. They were a likable couple—they revealed that they were both working and attending school full-time, as well as saving up for their wedding.
They began the show with high hopes and initially seemed to be faring well. While they never seemed 100% confident in their answers, they made it to the fifth question with $880k still in their possession. However, in a devastating turn of events, the couple lost all but $80k in a bad bet.
The fifth question asked, “Which of these was sold in stores first?” The couple initially bickered over two answers: the Sony Walkman and Post-It Notes. However, Okoye became certain that the note-taking product was sold before the portable music device and bet $800k on his answer.
Unfortunately, the show revealed that the Sony Walkman went into circulation in 1979 while Post-It Notes didn’t hit shelves until 1980.
While the answer was devastating, the couple cut their losses and moved forward with their $80k. Unfortunately, they lost their remaining money on the seventh and final question, ultimately walking away empty-handed.
The Couple Was Vindicated
After the episode aired, it came to light that the couple was right: Post-It Notes may not have been sold nationwide until 1980, but they started selling in four major cities in 1979. Interestingly, per the Daily Mail, the note-taking product even started selling under the name “Press N Peel” as early as 1977.
Once FOX was able to confirm the mistake, it invited Okoye and Mayti to return to the show and compete for a second chance. However, the couple hesitated.
Understandably, it seemed like they couldn’t bear the possibility of repeating what happened, even if it meant losing out on the slim chance of winning $1 million.
Interestingly, the show’s host, Kevin Pollak was unsympathetic to the couple. He told the Hollywood Reporter that they never had any real chance of winning since they lost money on the final two questions.
“They still got the final question wrong. They never had a chance to win that money. Ever. No matter what. They got the last question wrong,” he remarked.
However, Okoye and Mayti weren’t the only ones burned by the controversial game show. Per the Hollywood Reporter, contestants Andrew and Patricia Murray filed a lawsuit after they lost $580,000 in what they claimed was a misleading question.
As it turned out, even the British version of the show, Million Pound Drop, found itself in a scandal after mistakenly deeming a couple’s answer wrong (per the Daily Mail).
The Show Wasn’t Renewed For A Second Season
In all honesty, FOX likely would have forgiven the show’s missteps if it had pulled better ratings. However, per TVSeriesFinale.com, the show only averaged about 5 million viewers an episode. That may have been due to the show’s frustratingly long drawn-out suspense, or its majorly disappointing conclusions.
No matter the reason, for FOX’s primetime slot in 2010, those numbers just wouldn’t slide. This meant that Million Dollar Money Drop got the axe shortly after its first season wrapped.
The game show wasn’t without its fans, though. In fact, Variety reported in 2019 that TV personality Michael Strahan was in the process of developing a revival with himself attached as the host. It doesn’t seem like the effort quite amounted to anything, though.
As it stands today, Million Dollar Money Drop has, in itself, faded into the realm of obscure game show trivia.