Final answer: Being on TV's 'Millionaire' was fun

NEW YORK (AP) — Why, oh why, didn't I know the president of Nigeria's name?

I had swept through nine questions and logged $60,000 by the time I made my fatal guess as a contestant on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire."

The correct name of Nigeria's leader? It's Goodluck Jonathan. My good luck had run out.

"Millionaire" host Cedric "The Entertainer" dispatched me with a sympathetic farewell. The audience applauded warmly. I exited the stage. My moment in the spotlight and my bid to be a millionaire was over.

The loss I felt was only slightly eased by the fact that this was all for practice. No actual prize money was ever at stake. I had been invited to take part in a rehearsal show that will never be aired and no one will ever see. (Which means no one will ever know my lame-brain final answer.)

On September 2, the new season of "Millionaire" premieres for real (check local listings for time and channel), ushering in new host Cedric "The Entertainer," who follows Meredith Vieira's 11 seasons and, of course, Regis Philbin, who emceed the prime-time ABC version from 2000 to 2002.

The "Millionaire" run-through I appeared on was one of a couple Cedric would host just days before beginning the real-deal, five-a-day, five-days-per-week regimen that yields a season's requisite 175 shows in only 35 production days.

Cedric's credits include the "Barbershop" films, "The Original Kings of Comedy," a Broadway revival of David Mamet's "American Buffalo," and his current TV Land sitcom "The Soul Man," along with his thriving standup career. Clearly, he's a seasoned pro, complete with dapper wardrobe and signature trove of jaunty headwear.

Even so, hosting a game show calls for special skills, as he noted after our taping earlier this month on the "Millionaire" stage in upper Manhattan.

"You're standing beside someone who's playing for real money while you're entertaining an audience that's watching from the sidelines," he said. "You want to be funny for the audience, but you don't want to throw the contestant off."

Cedric isn't privy to answers to the questions he asks, which suits him fine.

"It's not really my job to act like I'm the smartest guy in the room, so I can relax," he said. "But you have to know the game. They're serious about the rules."

Yes, they — the producers — are very serious. "Millionaire" even has a production attorney, Scott Greenberg, whose job includes making sure those rules are obeyed.

"There can't be even the appearance of cheating," he said.

Greenberg gives each contestant a detailed briefing as part of the lengthy preparation process.

"Be careful how you use the word 'jump,'" he cautioned me at one point, referring to the newfangled life-line ("Phone a Friend is gone) where you don't know an answer and want to bail. "If you say, 'Cedric, I think I'm gonna have to jump this question,' that may trigger an actual jump. So try not to use the word 'jump' unless you really mean it."

Another briefing comes from executive producer Rich Sirop, whose tenure with the show goes back to 2000, when he was hired to answer the phones for one day.

Sirop shares strategies on how to best decipher a question. He should know: He leads the team that, isolated from the rest of the staff to ensure security, writes the questions — about 3,000 of them each season.

I guess I didn't listen well enough to what he had to say.

A question that stymied me had an obvious answer among its four choices, which happened to be the names of four department store chains. Never mind what the question was, Target seemed to scream "Choose me" over, say, Sears or Walmart. But I missed that verbal target and, instead, jumped the question.

For anyone who's somehow unfamiliar with "Millionaire" (which currently airs in 95 percent of the country and captures a daily viewership of more than 3 million), the game is played with a series of multiple-choice questions each of which, when correctly answered, has a monetary value. If the player clears the first 10 questions, the final four lead to really big money — like a million bucks.

But just one incorrect response sends you packing with a thousand-dollar consolation prize.

That wasn't going to be me. As I was introduced by Cedric at the top of the show and greeted with applause from the studio audience, I positioned myself across from him at the Plexiglas countertop, facing the huge video screen where my questions would appear. I was briefed, mic-ed and powdered. I felt jittery, sure, but I was primed to go all the way.

The first question was a gimme.

"Which of these hair-related phrases," Cedric asked, "is used to describe someone who suddenly starts acting crazy?"

The answer was (B): "Wig Out." I had scored a fast (make-believe) $7,000.

Thinking out loud is recommended by the producers. Not only does it help the player parse the trickier questions, it also builds suspense among viewers.

So I even agonized theatrically over all the options seeking which Washington landmark was described by Eleanor Roosevelt as "that simple shaft, so tall and straight" — a question that, of course, gave Cedric a mile-wide opportunity for cracking wise.

After answering the Washington Monument, I was (mock) richer by $1,000.

By then I was enjoying a surge in confidence. Nothing could stand in my way, I told myself, as my (pretend) earnings mounted.

"What would you do if you won all this money?" Cedric asked me just before the question that ended it all.

"I'd buy a collection of hats like you've got," I fired back smartly.

"You would look smooth in this, brother," Cedric chuckled.

Oh, well. It was fun to pretend.

___

Online:

http://www.millionairetv.com

___

EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at https://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Cruise surprises CinemaCon with 'Mission: Impossible' clips
    Cruise surprises CinemaCon with 'Mission: Impossible' clips

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tom Cruise has made a surprise appearance at CinemaCon in Las Vegas to promote the fifth installment in his "Mission: Impossible" series. …

  • Singer Sledge remembered at funeral for talent, kindness
    Singer Sledge remembered at funeral for talent, kindness

    BAKER, La. (AP) — Percy Sledge was remembered for phenomenal talent and extraordinary kindness during a Tuesday funeral service marked by warm reminiscences from fellow musicians, family members and friends he made during a five-decade career that launched with his first and biggest hit, "When a Man Loves a Woman." …

  • Spotify's Top 10 most streamed tracks

    The following list represents the most streamed tracks on Spotify, based on the number of people who shared it divided by the number who listened to it, from Monday April 13 to Sunday, April 19 via Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Spotify. …

  • Actor William Shatner proposes pipeline to solve California drought
    Actor William Shatner proposes pipeline to solve California drought

    LOS ANGELES - (Reuters) - William Shatner in full Captain Kirk mode is looking to marshal a crew for a project with an astronomical budget to deal with California's drought problems, although some might call it a pipe dream. The "Star Trek" star has told Yahoo! Tech journalist David Pogue he intends to start a crowdsource campaign on Kickstarter.com to raise $30 billion for a pipeline to bring water from the Seattle area for use by thirsty California. Already, the idea has run into one big …

  • Piers Morgan quizzed by police over tabloid phone hacking
    Piers Morgan quizzed by police over tabloid phone hacking

    LONDON (AP) — Former CNN host Piers Morgan was questioned for a second time by British police Tuesday about tabloid phone hacking. …

  • Comedian Roseanne Barr says she is losing her sight
    Comedian Roseanne Barr says she is losing her sight

    American comedian, actress and TV star Roseanne Barr has revealed that she is suffering from glaucoma and macular degeneration and is slowly going blind. The outspoken, Emmy award-winning star of the 1990s hit comedy show "Roseanne" and former U.S. presidential candidate told the Daily Beast website that her vision "is closing now." "It's something weird. Macular degeneration is a chronic illness that causes vision loss in the center of the field of vision. An estimated 15 million Americans …

  • Gwyneth Paltrow files for divorce from singer Chris Martin
    Gwyneth Paltrow files for divorce from singer Chris Martin

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are officially uncoupling after the actress filed for divorce after more than 11 years of marriage. …

  • Gabby Giffords to receive DVF 'inspiration' award
    Gabby Giffords to receive DVF 'inspiration' award

    NEW YORK (AP) — Gabby Giffords, who's been devoting her time to pushing for tougher gun laws as she slowly recovers from her 2011 shooting, will now have $50,000 to donate to her cause, courtesy of designer Diane von Furstenberg. …

  • Beyonce's unretouched L'Oreal photos only latest in her long history of Photoshop controvers …

    Beyonce's unretouched L'Oreal photos only latest in her long history of Photoshop controvers …

    Celebrity News - Fri, Feb 20, 2015 1:47 AM PHT
    Beyonce's unretouched L'Oreal photos only latest in her long history of Photoshop controvers …

    Beyonce’s #Flawless image is embroiled in controversy once again. On Wednesday, a web site called The Beyonce World leaked 224 allegedly raw photos of the musician. The images showed Bey in full makeup for the 2013 L’Oreal ad campaign — but with the kinds of “imperfections” we all have — beauty marks, bumps, creases. In the wake of Cindy Crawford’s unretouched photos, the images have been praised by critics of a beauty industry that sets impossibly high standards, standards that Queen Bey …

  • Taylor Swift reveals ‘Style’ video

    Taylor Swift reveals ‘Style’ video

    omg - Sat, Feb 14, 2015 12:14 AM PHT
    Taylor Swift reveals ‘Style’ video

    The 25-year-old released the video for her third cut from platinum selling album 1989. …

  • My mother-in-law’s personal encounter with the pope

    My mother-in-law’s personal encounter with the pope

    Write Away - Wed, Jan 28, 2015 2:29 PM PHT
    My mother-in-law’s personal encounter with the pope

    For my mother-in-law Mrs. Elsa Yrastorza Yuzon, flying and soaring in the skies is part of her normal routine. But it reached new heights when Pope Francis boarded Shepherd One. …