It may seem like a paltry sum to today's fans of ''Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,'' but 45 years ago this week the whole country was abuzz about a new show called ''The $64,000 Question.''
In pre-inflationary dollars, that was lot of cabbage. PBS's American Experience Web site devoted to The Rise of the Fifties Quiz Show at www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/quizshow/peopleevents/pande05.html puts the sum into context this way: ''A three-bedroom split-level home in Bethpage, Long Island, cost $14,000, and a new Ford sold for a couple of grand.''
In fact, the more you learn about ''The $64,000 Question,'' the more it sounds like ''Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.''
Another site, Fifties Web, tells how ''The $64,000 Question'' launched the public career of a remarkable young woman (Dr. Joyce Brothers). It also recounts the scandal that shook the public's trust in quiz shows and saw them fade from view for several years.
The scandals are explored in greater detail at www.inform.umd.edu/EdRes/Colleges/HONR/HONR269J/.WWW/projects/venanzi.h t ml. Game shows -- especially those that offer big cash prizes -- have been imbedded in our culture, beginning with radio's first quiz show: ''Uncle Jim's Question Bee'' in 1936, according to a history offered by Katie Johnston at www.sjmercury.com/tv/center/gameshowgame.htm.
And if you can answer the question ''Which game show included the category Dead or Canadian?''' you may be up to the challenge of her quiz-show-style quiz about quiz shows. Got that?
(Here's my challenge: Anyone remember the name of the song that stymied know-it-all Ralph Kramden on ''The Honeymooners'' takeoff, ''The $99,000 Answer''?)
Find more game-show trivia, including info about the currently popular ''Win Ben Stein's Money'' (which with its mere $5,000 prize proves that sometimes money isn't the only way to get viewers), by way of About.com at www.gameshows.about.com/tvradio/gameshows. (By the way, it was ''Swanee River'' that foiled Ralph's dreams of a bigger apartment.)
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