Game Shows Can Teach Valuable Lessons

Embarrassingly enough, I am a huge fan of game shows. Given this, you can imagine my excitement when I was sitting in the living room with my siblings last week, doing homework and watching a ridiculously silly comedy show, when a familiar scene ran across the television screen (and it wasn’t the ever-popular Simpsons). It was Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Ecuadorian style. Instead of Regis Philbin asking contestants “Final answer?,” Alfonso Espinosa de los Montero was inquiring, “¿Última palabra?” I quickly got way too into the program (to the amusement of my brother, who was laughing at my extreme enthusiasm)—alphabetizing Spanish colors, answering questions about superheroes (El Hombre Araña, anyone?) and the Pythagorean Theorem, and having a plethora of vocabulary and cultural facts go completely over my head.

The title of this phenomenally entertaining program is ¿Quién quiere ser millonario?, but in reality, even if the contestant answers all fifteen questions correctly, he or she does not receive a million dollars. Instead, the winner walks away with $50,000. In Ecuador, that means he or she has won: four years of university study with money to spare (I let my dorkiness subside during the commercial break enough to ask my sister how much a year cost; she told me that medical school, the most expensive post-secondary school, is about $8,000 per year); 200,000 bus rides or 200,000 granadillas (a delicious tropical fruit belonging to the passion fruit family); 50,000 freshly squeezed, incredible mora (imagine the best blackberry you have ever had, multiply the awesomeness by 745, and you still aren’t remotely close to how beautiful these berries are) juices; or 600,000 roses.

Unexpectedly, ¿Quién quiere ser millonario? highlights something important: There is clearly a difference in the economy of Ecuador and that of the United States, just as there are clearly differences between the two cultures—the typical Ecuadorian greeting consists of a kiss on the cheek, ears of corn are eaten with cheese, cups of coffee are drunk with cinnamon, and being timely is not crucial, for example. However, for each distinction, there is a common spirit, a common essence, a common thread running among all of us. I mean, who doesn’t love screaming at the television when you know the answer is “A,” yet the contestant is still going to choose “C,” even after using two helplines?