Win Ben Stein's Money
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|Win Ben Stein's Money|
|Created by||Al Burton
|Directed by||Dennis Rosenblatt|
|Presented by||Ben Stein
|Opening theme||Symphony No. 9: Ode to Joy|
|Ending theme||Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||715|
|Executive producer(s)||Byron Glore
Andrew J. Golder
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Buena Vista Television
Valleycrest Productions, Ltd.
|Original network||Comedy Central|
|Original release||July 28, 1997– January 31, 2003|
Win Ben Stein's Money is an American television game show created by Al Burton and Donnie Brainard that aired first-run episodes from July 28, 1997 to January 31, 2003 on the Comedy Central cable network, with repeat episodes airing until May 8, 2003. The show featured three contestants who competed to answer general knowledge questions in order to win the grand prize of $5,000 from the show's host, Ben Stein. In the second half of each episode, Stein participated as a "common" contestant in order to defend his money from being taken by his competitors. The show won five Daytime Emmy awards, with Stein and Jimmy Kimmel, the show's original co-host, sharing the Outstanding Game Show Host award in 1999.
As noted in a disclaimer during the closing credits, prize money won by contestants was paid from a prize budget furnished by the producers of the show. Any money left over in that budget at the end of a season was given to Stein. If the total amount paid out during a season exceeded that budget, the production company paid the excess.
Stein's co-host was Jimmy Kimmel for the first three years. Kimmel left in 2000 and was replaced by Nancy Pimental, who co-hosted the program through 2001. Kimmel's cousin, Sal Iacono, who took over the role in 2002, was the show's last co-host. Although Kimmel left the program in 2000, he occasionally made guest appearances afterward, and hosted College Week episodes in 2001.
The game began with three contestants and $5,000 in Stein's bank. Five categories were always available for contestants to choose from, with pun-laden titles hinting at the questions' content. After a contestant chose a category, its value was revealed ($50, $100, or $150) and Stein asked a toss-up question open to all three contestants. Higher-valued categories were more difficult. If a contestant rang in and answered correctly, the question value was added to his/her score and deducted from Stein's bank. An incorrect response carried no penalty, but allowed the other two contestants a chance to ring in. The contestant who answered the toss-up was then asked a follow-up question worth $50. If he/she could not answer, either of the other two could ring in and attempt to score. If no one answered the toss-up correctly, the $50 question was asked as a toss-up as well. Once both questions had been asked, the category was removed from play and a new one substituted in its place, and the contestant who gave the last correct answer chose the next category.
The co-host would warn the contestants when there were two minutes left in the round. Once time ran out, the lowest-scoring contestant was eliminated and his/her total was returned to Stein's bank. If there was a tie for low score, one last toss-up was asked; an incorrect response allowed the opponent to advance by default.
Stein now replaced the eliminated contestant and turned over question-asking duties to the co-host, who always stated that Stein had no knowledge of any questions that would be used from that point forward. This round was played similarly to the first, with some rule changes. Stein chose the first category to start the round, and the values were increased to $200, $300, $400, and $500. Each category consisted of a single toss-up question, with no follow-up. If Stein answered correctly, his bank total remained unchanged; his podium always displayed a dollar sign instead of his total. The co-host announced a one-minute warning before the round ended. When time ran out, the lower-scoring contestant was eliminated, forfeiting all money won; in the event of a tie, a toss-up tiebreaker was asked, with Stein not participating. The higher-scoring contestant kept all money won and advanced to the final round for a chance to win the entire $5,000.
If at any point in the first two rounds of play (excluding tiebreaker questions), a contestant responded in the form of a question as if he/she were playing Jeopardy!, he/she would have to wear a dunce cap for the rest of the round. This had no effect on the scoring.
Bonus Round: Best of 10 Test of Knowledge
In the bonus round, the Best of 10 Test of Knowledge, both Stein and the winner of the second round were placed in isolation booths so that neither could hear the other's answers. The contestant had the choice of playing first or second. The person playing first was given 60 seconds to answer a total of ten questions, and could pass if he or she chose to do so; however, questions which were passed or answered incorrectly could not be returned to during the round. After the first person played the round, the other was given 60 seconds to answer the same ten questions.
If the contestant answered more questions correctly than Stein, the contestant won the entire $5,000 grand prize that Stein had put into the bank at the beginning of the show. If Stein answered more questions correctly, the contestant kept only the money won in the first two rounds. If the round ended in a tie, the contestant won an additional $1,000.
The isolation booth for the contestant was plain, with a hardwood stool and a bare hanging light bulb, while Stein's booth was more luxurious, with a leather wing-back chair and other lavish furnishings. Each booth also contained a clock that showed how much time was left - a cheap electric wall clock in the player's booth, an ornate desk clock in Stein's. In later seasons, the contestant's booth was made to appear in disrepair, with a large crack running down the back wall.
"Ben Stein's Cup" episode
At the halfway point and the end of the fourth season, three of the best contestants of the season who had earlier won $5,000 returned for a special "Ben Stein's Cup" episode, for a chance to win $25,000. In the first round, question values were $200, $400, and $600, with follow-up questions worth $200. In the second round, questions were worth $800–$2,000 in increments of $400. On both episodes, the winner attempted to defeat Stein for the entire $25,000.
The Dunce Cap
Stein often poked fun at rival quiz show Jeopardy!, given the few similarities of formats between both shows. As such, any contestant who accidentally responded in the form of a question was made to wear a dunce cap for the rest of the round.
Various pieces of classical music were used as the themes. The opening theme was the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy, which was repeated to begin the second round, and again if the champion won the $5,000. The closing theme was Ride of the Valkyries, from Richard Wagner's The Valkyrie. Other classical music pieces used on the show included:
- Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme by Johann Sebastian Bach (at the beginning of the show when Stein introduces himself)
- Water Music by George Frideric Handel (leading to first commercial break)
- Spring from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi (Coming out of the first commercial break)
- Eine kleine Nachtmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (leading into the second commercial break)
- Trepak (a/k/a "The Russian Dance") from The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (used to segue to the final commercial break)
- Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky (coming out of the final commercial break and cuing to the final round)
- "Awards section of Win Ben Stein's Money entry on imdb.com". imdb.com. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
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