Film and TV

Fox's Million-Dollar Ripoff

The website for Million Dollar Money Drop asks the question, "If you and a friend were handed a million dollars in cash and only had to answer a few simple questions to keep it, could you do it?" But in light of recent events, "Will the Fox Network let you keep it?" seems to be a more honest inquiry. And in the case of episode-one contestants Gabe Okoye and his girlfriend Brittney Mayti, the answer is no.

It's the kind of thing you'd expect at a traveling carnival. But we're not talking life-size stuffed animals here. We're talking $800,000 bid by Okoye because he was certain the Post-It Note was available for sale in the United States before the Macintosh computer and the Sony Walkman. But the show told him he was mistaken, and one question later the couple left heartbroken and completely empty handed.

(The clip is almost unbearable to watch.)

It didn't take long before the network was flooded with calls, emails, and reporters all claiming that Okoye was, in fact, correct.

But as is the common practice in corporate America, the network outwardly denied any wrongdoing. On Wednesday, December 22 executive producer Jeff Apploff released a statement, saying,"The integrity of the questions and answers on our show are our No. 1 priority. In this case, our research team spoke directly with 3M, and they confirmed that although they had given out free samples in test markets in 1977 and 1978, it wasn't until 1980 that Post-Its were officially sold in stores."

Less than a day later he was back, singing a different tune based on "new information" from 3M regarding Post-Its (according to host Kevin Pollack, 3M was to blame for inaccurate information). It turns out that the product was originally tested for sale in four cities under the name 'Press 'N Peel' in 1977, sold as 'Post-its' in 1979 when the roll-out introduction began retailing nationwide in 1980. Apploff added, "We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the viewers who brought this to our attention, and we're thrilled to give Gabe and Brittany the opportunity to return to play the game." The glaring omission in Apploff's finely tuned PR presentation, apart from offering the couple the money, was any hint of an apology.

Host Kevin Pollack displayed even less remorse, telling the Hollywood Reporter that the couple, "...never had a chance to win that money. Ever. No matter what," and, "This story is a moot point. They lost everything on the next question. It's a non-story." He added, "There's a lot of talk about this on Twitter when it first broke in the guise of 'this show is awful, look what it's done to these people.' It was all I could do not to Tweet, first and foremost they would have lost anyway."

The couple, dating for over a year, had planned to use any money won on the show for their wedding. At the current time, they have no plans to accept Fox's offer to appear on the show again, as there's no way to recreate the circumstances of their original appearance. Sure, they got the next question wrong, but losing $800,000 in the blink of an eye would warp anyone's focus. Short of a ride in the DeLorean, we'll never know what may have been. And that's exactly why Fox should give the money back.

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Lauren Marmaduke
Contact: Lauren Marmaduke