There were 2 astounding things that happened on the last of the 11 new nights of Millionaire. The first winner of the hot seat, Ken, went the whole night. He was scintillating in his knowledge and his shrewd gambling. He used his first lifeline (double dip) going for $100,000 and two more going for $500,000. I will say that the questions for prime time Millionaire are a bit easier than the ones I watch on the daytime version 5 days each week. The geography questions in particular were easy. The $250,000 question was where is the geographic center of North America. If Kansas had been on the list, I would have gone for it (it is the geographic center of the U.S.) but the choices were Wyoming, North Dakota, and 2 other states. I vaguely remembered seeing that part of North Dakota listed that way on a map. Ken had no hesitation and picked North Dakota.
The $1,000,000 question was obscure and required a complete guess. It was what was the 4th item that Lyndon Johnson had on tap at the White House. The choices were YooHoo, A&W, Fresca and something else. It would have been a nice time for Ken to have the double dip lifeline available but he put it to good use to get there. He had the audience lifeline, which is pretty useful because few of them could have known the right answer. I certainly didn't. If you had the time to poke around on the Internet, you could have found this on Wikipedia:
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote that Fresca was the favorite drink of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had a button installed on the desk in the White House's Oval Office which would summon his military aide to bring the drink.
But the audience would not have had access to this information and Ken had no lifeline let other than ask the audience. They told him with 40% for YooHoo. which he was leaning toward himself. He got a bit macho and went for what was clearly a poor choice. He took a gamble with a 25% probability of winning an extra $500,000 vs. 75% chance of losing $475,000. The math of this comparison would have been instantly obvious to a Harvard Law School graduate like Ken. He went for the fame I think more than the money, but he is now infamous and only $25,000 richer than when he arrived in the hot seat.
The second major surprise of the evening was neatly done by ABC. Regis Philbin had been hosting a series of celebrities for play for $50,000 if they got one question right with one of four lifelines (including asking Alan Alda or Donald Trump). He called out Meredith Vieira to play for the $50,000. As the U.S.'s only other experienced Millionaire host, Meredith first told the remaining 9 contestants who thought they were out of it that they would be the first 9 contestants for the new season on her show. Next she told Regis that the joke was on him because he was the celebrity for the evening and she would ask him the $50,000 question after he chose a non-profit to give to. He chose Cardinal Hays High School in the Bronx. That question was about which of the following was not an winning answer to a $1,000,000 question. Meredith gave him a huge hint by almost telling him that Richard Nixon was one choice. Regis remembered that 93 million miles (the distance from the earth to the sun) was another one. Regis knew he could win no matter what with those 2 eliminated. There were 2 answers left and he chose double dipped and chose Peru first, then got the right answer (I don't remember what it was but it was not important). Meredith used her classic misdirection "No" in response and called him a pain in the ass and them told him he had won.