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Game on
We look at 10 of the most amazing moments in game show history

By Diane Vadino
Special to MSN TV

Game shows may never earn the accolades of their prime-time siblings -- no one ever confused the "Jeopardy!" teen tournament with the season opener of "Game of Thrones" -- but they're even more a part of our cultural fabric: Critical darlings may come and go, but many of us have literally spent decades with "Jeopardy!" on in the background or grew up watching "The Price Is Right" on snow days and sick days. We'll be watching game shows from Mars someday.

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Part of their appeal is their unpredictability. No matter how many times we'd seen the early '00s smash hit "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," few of us could have predicted how the big prize would finally be awarded: smarty-pants IRS staffer John Carpenter finally using his phone-a-friend on the million-dollar question -- not to ask his dad which president had appeared on "Laugh-In," but to tell his father that the answer was Richard Nixon and that he was about to take the biggest prize in game show history. Speaking of the "Jeopardy!" teen tournament, Leonard Cooper proved the show's durability earlier this year by going viral, answering a Final Jeopardy question with "Who is some guy in Normandy? But I just won $75,000!" (The correct response was "Who is Dwight Eisenhower?"). Cooper likely would have gone viral even if -- as astute watchers pointed out -- fellow finalist Nilai Sarda had successfully answered the same question, which would have given him a $400 win over Cooper. That's not, of course, how it worked out.

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NBC is obviously hoping for more moments like this with its new game show, "The Million Second Quiz," which is hosted by Ryan Seacrest. The rules are complicated -- they'd have to be at this point, for any fresh take on the millennia-old trivia-game formula -- but, basically, contestants battle head-to-head to answer trivia questions, earning cash not for correct responses but for the length of time they stay alive in the game: "$864,000 a day" or "$10 a second."

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Like we said, it's complicated, but we're betting that the endurance factor will make for some surprising, revealing and funny moments. In the meantime, these are 10 of our favorites from game show classics:

It's not September

One of the greatest "Family Feud" greatest moments. After a contestant flubs the first question in the first round in spectacular form, host Richard Dawson loses it. But even better is his absolute inability to get the question out of his mouth during the second round. "I'm dying to hear it," says the mystified second-round contestant as Dawson repeatedly dissolves into giggles midway through it.

'Jeopardy!' goes viral

In case you missed Leonard Cooper's Final Jeopardy masterpiece, here it is -- with the kind of hubris known only to trivia-savvy 17-year-olds. Still, we're hugely relieved that this stunt didn't blow up in Cooper's face, and some quick math proves how easily it might have.

The ultimate 'Wheel of Fortune' fail

YouTube is littered with the dreams of "Wheel of Fortune" contestants. This is one of the most dramatic, simply because of the stakes. Trust that this is the hardest way to lose $33,450. Her horror is our horror.

'Wheel of Fortune' hall of fame

You know you've done a good job when seen-it-all host Pat Sajak calls your win -- with just a single letter called, an L -- "the most amazing solve we've ever had."

Aaron Paul makes his bid

Next time you're watching "Breaking Bad" and the sad story of ex-junkie screw-up Jesse Pinkman gets you down, just watch this clip of Aaron Paul's can't-stand-still appearance on "The Price Is Right." If he can recover from that Showcase Showdown conclusion, he can survive anything.

He didn't really need the lifeline

The best moment of John Carpenter's record-setting win on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" It's that little laugh, right before he tells Regis he'll use his first lifeline -- a phone-a-friend -- to call his parents.

Better answer: Sanitation worker

When Steve Harvey asked Rocco to name a "job that's dirty but somebody has to do it," he definitely didn't expect the answer he got: "Well, your buddies at work when this goes on TV ... that's about the best answer I've ever heard."

Guy wins girl -- also Showcase Showdown

Without a doubt, the biggest haul on "The Price Is Right" ever: Contestant Michael wins absolutely everything, with even Bob Barker impressed: "If this were in a movie, people would scoff."

Not a "Harry Potter" fan

You know how sometimes when Pat introduces the final puzzle he does so in a way where it's clear that he and everyone else already knows the answer? Yeah, that happens here, but it doesn't exactly work out.

So close, yet so far

The woman in this clip will be saying the words "exclusive nightclub" in her head for the rest of her life.

"The Million Second Quiz" premieres Monday, Sept. 9, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

Sep 9, 2013 10:23AM
totally missed the best one, on the newlywed game... dude asked:  where's the strangest place you've made whoopee... and the wife answered:  "the butt!"    entire audience erupted.... epic.
Sep 9, 2013 11:41AM

What about Hollywood Squares?  I want to say it was Paul Lynde.

Question:  How many balls on a standard billiards table?

Answer:  That depends, how many guys are playing?


And nothing from Match Game?  That game show alone could easily make a top ten to rival this list.

Sep 9, 2013 11:16AM
Favorite of all time, can't even remember the name of the game show, but it was over 30 years ago.  Couples were answering questions as rapidly as possible to get the most accumulated points possible. Anyway, the host (I think was Tom Kennedy) asked "what do you call a native of the state of Maine?"  And one guy hit the buzzer and screamed "Maniac".  Tom Kennedy lost it and all but rolled on the floor he was aughing so hard, as did the audience and I was laughing my head off at home.
Sep 9, 2013 10:52AM
Leonard Cooper looks like Michael Jackson circa 1979 before all the plastic surgery.
Sep 9, 2013 9:48AM
The Millionaire episode with Carpenter had the easiest questions, I think they figured out after that one that they had to make them a bit tougher. They were never quite as simple after that one!
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MSN TV's guide to fall TV: Get ready for NBC's "The Million Second Quiz" by taking a look at some of the most amazing game show moments on television