Areas of Expertise
Perhaps to create some
excitement and buzz going into the 2008-2009 season, several changes
were made to the rules of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Players who
reach the $1,000 level receive a new fourth lifeline, Ask the Expert.
(Switch the Question is gone, 50/50 becomes Double Dip) The player can
call upon the Expert at any time over a Skype connection, where they can
discuss the question.
Experts have come from all over the map. Former Millionaire winners
Nancy Christy, Ogi Ogas, Lyn Payne and Jeff Gross have all taken a turn.
Even Ken Jennings has had a week as the Expert. And anyone who got one
of those big winners on the other end of the line should count their
lucky stars that they got a game show champion and not a contributing
editor to Style Magazine.
The Ask the Expert lifeline has two main problems. First is the range of
experts. Besides the previous game show champions, some TV personalities
have been the helper: Bill Nye and Pat Kiernan helped hot seat sitters
win bundles of cash. On the other hand Rene Syler bumbled through her
week of episodes. I realize that it's a random draw as to who plays
when, and which Experts are there, but the difference in assistance is
staggering. During a Family Week episode, the Lawler family won $250,000
by asking Ken Jennings about which foodstuff was brought back from the
New World. Becky Johnson-Sabin was playing for $25,000 when she asked
Style editor in chief Lucy Danziger about which of four Canadian cities
was farther North than Seattle. Lucy's only help was to compare those
cities to her various skiing vacations. Becky left with $16,000.
Given the fact that you have to dance with who brought you, the other
problem is knowing when to use that particular lifeline. Just like there
are particular times when you should Ask the Audience, there are times
when you should Ask the Expert, and times you shouldn't. The Expert can
be as valuable as a Phone a Friend when the right kind of question comes
up, but if you don't, it's a wasted chance. And that means paying
attention. Pat Kiernan was an Expert for a week, but was of little help
when asked a US History question. Why? He's from Calgary, Alberta, and
went to school in Canada. No joy.
Given my choice, I think I'd rather have Switch the Question as opposed
to the Expert. Switch at least allowed you to jettison a question that
troubled you, and you might get something else that you know. It allowed
Ogi and Lyn to win $500,000, and it helped all kinds of other people.
And even if you switch at $50,000, it's still something nice to have in
your hip pocket. Ask the Expert is a crapshoot in who you get, and
whether you get a question where the Expert can lend expertise.
Travis Eberle will be your phone-a-friend...for a price. Negotiate
with him at email@example.com.