Fact-checker's Day Off: Typo in Regis & Kelly's quiz question costs contestant her prize

Each morning, Live with Regis & Kelly gets a viewer on the phone and asks a trivia question about a previous show. Monday's question, posed to Natalia Gardner from Provo, Utah, was: "What 1996 film did we say featured a Chicago house that is currently up for sale?"

Based on that clue, Gardner hemmed and hawed. "Chicago, 1996?" she said, before coming up dry. The answer she was expected to give was Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The house where Ferris' best pal Cameron lived, the one where the red Ferrari goes crashing through the glass garage into a ravine, is for sale in Highland Park for $2.3 million.

After Gardner gave up, Ripa turned off-camera and told the show's producers, "I don't believe... How could that be 1996?" she asked "It seems like it would have to be 1986." Gardner said she thought so, too.

That's because it was.

Co-host Pat Sajak, filling in for Regis Philbin, grimaced. "Do you know any attorneys?" he asked Gardner, before glancing at the off-camera producers and wincing. "Actually, my brother-in-law," she replied.

"Better luck next time," Ripa said after awarding Gardner the consolation prize of $500 in china.

It seems pretty obvious that this failure is the result of a simple typo, but that can be one very expensive typo for a TV show.

TV competitions are serious business. Ever since the ugly Twenty-One scandal of the 1950s, the government watches very carefully to make sure TV shows are free of fraud and misleading questions -- I should know, since I once worked at one and I regularly had to defend the facts and wordings of every triple-checked question that made it to air. As evidenced by AT&T and Fox's notable lack of transparency regarding the disputed vote count of the recent American Idol finals, no TV show wants to lay bare the inadequacies of their procedures for fear of facing a shutdown or, at the very least, ugly and highly-public lawsuits.

The show is sure to remedy the mistake, and quickly, to avoid losing face. Programs do it quietly all the time. Now and then, you'll see a familiar face on Jeopardy! as Alex Trebek tells the audience that an old contestant was given a second chance because of a research mistake by the show during their first go-round.

In this case, Regis & Kelly has no legal leg to stand on, since not only is the year dead wrong, but also, the typo would have convinced anyone who knew the correct answer to not give it. It doesn't do much for the show's image of competence that it also misspelled the eventual answer to the question onscreen as Ferris Bueller's Day-Off.

Do they let the interns handle the contests over there, or just tipsy monkeys? Something tells me that Gardner is going to get that prize, a seven-night trip to the St. Kitts Marriott Resort & Royal Beach Casino, anyway. Shows never get away with tricking contestants, because they simply can't.

"We're working on a fair resolution," is what a show rep could tell me about the gaffe.

Update: The show decided not to give Gardner the big prize despite its error. Here's how producers elected to handle it: They made Gardner try again. She got another chance to answer a new question on Tuesday's show. It was based on Monday's program (during which she was probably quivering with fear and confusion). She got it wrong. Now she has two consolation prizes.
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