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The answers on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" are as obvious as the show's name implies.

Dumb Question


Always looking to make a quick million, I tuned in to Regis Philbin's new ABC show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" when it began its recent run. I mean, who doesn't want to be a millionaire anyway? And I don't understand why the name of the show doesn't have a question mark.

Anyway, punctuation aside, within seconds I was totally hooked into watching highly degreed individuals - a guy who graduated from Harvard at age 19! - struggle over questions like, "Which of these impressionist painters used a technique of small dots - Seurat, Monet, Dali or Picasso?"

There I was screaming from my sofa, "Seurat, you fool!!! Seurat! Seurat!! What an idiot! How could he not KNOW this?"

For those of you who've been living in caves, here's how the show works:

Ten contestants, who have passed off-screen qualifying rounds and been flown to New York City, are seated around the stage's periphery. Regis asks them to put four items in chronological or geographical order, i.e. in what order did these individuals serve as Secretary of State? The lucky guy, and no I'm not being sexist - there have been maybe two female contestants on the show so far (a recent article in People suggests that the qualifying questions are skewed to white males), who correctly answers in the least amount of time, moves into the chair opposite Regis, center stage. The others hope for another chance during that show, but if they don't make it to the hot seat that night, they go home.

With a background of goofy spotlights and dramatic music, Regis then asks the qualifying contestant a series of multiple choice questions that, according to show rules, get progressively harder as the money gets bigger. At various points the player can take the money he's won and run; he also has three "lifelines" to use as he puzzles over the questions - he can poll the audience, ask the producers to remove two of the four possible answers or call a friend. Sort of like Bob Barker's "Price is Right" line "Come on down!" Regis asks each contestant, "Is that your final answer?"

Within seconds I realized what surely others have realized — that I knew every single answer to the unbelievably lame questions contestants were asked once they'd made it into the hot seat. We are talking about stuff that's inanely easy for anyone who has been living in the United States for a few years and has been awake. Granted, reading an occasional newspaper, seeing a movie or two and tuning into the tube could give you an edge, but, when I realized that not only I but my children, age 10 and 11, knew the answers, I decided action must be taken.

Convinced that, if I could answer questions like (real question) "What color is Big Bird on Sesame Street?", I could probably qualify, I dialed the toll-free number given on the show. I felt bold and smart. This could be my big chance. I started spending and giving away my million with wild abandon.

Between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. (EST), a recording comes on and after entering some ID info via touch-tone pad, they ask you three questions similar to the chronological ones used to qualify the guys once they make it to the show. You are allowed to call in and try to qualify twice a day.

Unfortunately, chronology is not my specialty - I hated memorizing important dates in history courses - so, while I did answer a couple of questions correctly within the given 10 seconds, I admit that I could not put four space-walking astronauts in correct order. How frustrating to know that once on the show I could be a winner and not be able to get to the show because of some dumb old astronauts!

Alas, as long as the show runs, through Nov. 24 this time around, I am relegated to my sofa where, with a child on each side, I blurt out the ridiculously easy answers as if I'm some kind of genius. We watch as these guys - strangely, a number of qualifiers have been tax attorneys - with sweaty palms and nervous mouths grip the console and assure Regis that, yes, in fact, that is their final

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