2005-12-22

Lame TV update


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One last difference between the Donald and the Martha, and it's really just a variation on the same old theme. Tonight on Martha's live finale we were at the moment of truth for Bethany and Dawna. Martha was reviewing the girls' strengths and weaknesses and moving in for the kill. Bethany is creative, but a bit of a wildcard and often doesn't play well with others. While Dawna may have seemed uninspired at times, she does have good executive skills and Martha would like to offer her the job... after an awkward pause everyone suddenly realized that Dawna had been hired. Instead of a simple, "You're fired!" we have, "I'm going to have to ask you to leave, and then write you a nice note." Instead of, "You're hired!" we have, " I'd like to offer you the job." The show has no punch! And now, the show has no sequel.

Speaking of lame shows, I caught a slice of "Deal or No Deal," before Martha. First of all I can't get over Howie Mandel with a goatee, and nothing else up top hair-wise. He used to be this chunky comedian with a perm. After disappearing for a while he returns as a pirate! And the name of the show, "Deal or No Deal," how many seconds did it take them to come up with that one?

The basic premise is: there are 20 suitcases, and each has a dollar amount shown inside. The dollar amounts range from $50, all the way up to $1 million. You select one suitcase and ultimately can have the dollar amount shown in that suitcase. Problem is you don't know how much that is. You begin to select from the remaining suitcases to get an idea of what you might have, or rather, what you don't have in your suitcase. At each step along the way contestants are offered a lump sum of money to stop and forgo the unknown amount in their suitcase.

For example, one guy got all the way down to two suitcases left, so he knew that his suitcase had either $50 or $200,000 in it. At that point, he was offered $99,000 to stop. He could take the $99,000 or go on and get whatever was in his suitcase, $50 or $200,000.

Actually it's a great study in statistics, economics, and risk tolerance. Statistically, the $99,000 that the man was offered was slightly less than the expected value of his proposition if he were allowed to carry it out an infinite number of times. Half the time he gets $50, and half the time he gets $200,000, for a value of $100,025. But he only gets to do this once, and that's where economics comes in. Obviously for almost everyone the difference between $50 and $99,000 is a lot bigger than the difference between $99,000 and $200,000. I'm OK losing the second hundred thousand dollars as long as I can lock in the first.

Where it gets interesting is when things aren't so cut and dried, when there are a number of suitcases left and the contestant is only being offered $30,000 for example. That's where different people's risk tolerances come into play.

Basically, it's an over-hyped lottery. There is no skill involved, only luck.

Personally, I'm waiting for the day when they come up with the kind of lottery described in that book we had to read in high school, where they had a lottery and the "winner" was taken out and stoned to death. I mean, would you rather watch idiots get hundreds of thousands of dollars for being idiots, or have stones thrown at them? Easy choice.

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