No-Limit No-Limit

By | July 8, 2019

So today a new international record is going to be set (it’s been spoilt pretty much everywhere so it’s not like this is news), Los Lobos are about to win a €4m+ progressive jackpot, on top of the €2m+ they’ve earned as returning champions on daily Spanish quiz Boom!, one of the shows from about five years ago everyone reckoned was going to be the next big thing, and then wasn’t. This is getting a primetime special.

Los Lobos in action last November. SPOILER: They win.

Our Italian correspondent CeletheRef tells us “Nicolò Scalfi, 87-times champion of the Italian “Who’s Still Standing?” couldn’t defend his title and went home with all of €651,000 the highest sum won on the show.”

It is not uncommon for champions on Tout le Monde Veut Prende Sa Place to rack up 100+ victories (and even then if they lose they can offer previous winnings to the winning challenger to walk away and keep the seat). Les Douze Coups de Midi also has champions occasionally rack up 50+ wins, the record holder having 193 appearances. People talked about those.

People talked about Jeopardy when Ken Jennings was winning. They talked about it with James Holzenhauer on his run.

They probably didn’t talk about it when Ian Lygo was forced to retire at 75 victories on 100%.

In making shows self-contained because they’re apparently easier to broadcast, is someone missing a trick? Pasaparabra allows its champions to return indefinitely. Alphabetical, as well has having an endgame which was to all intents and purposes impossible (sidenote: audiences will accept very-hard-but-doable, they won’t accept having to get 26 out of 20) kicked its champions out after 10 games.

The one UK exception is Who Dares Wins, but the record for that is only 12 games.

35 thoughts on “No-Limit No-Limit

  1. Alex

    Spain also has Saber y Ganar which has three players, and the top two stay on, with the third ALSO staying on if they win the endgame. The ceiling is 100 shows.

    1. Setsunael

      Actually – it’s even more complex than that. Champions can stay up to 100 programs – their hundredth appearance being a special show dedicated to them, with bonus games and tailored thematics for the champion, celebrating their departure.

      However there’s an annual tournament of champions held every end of year and special editions during weekends – top winners gets to re-enter in the program, allowing them to complete their 100-program cycle… or start another one !(200 being an actual strict win limit then)

  2. David Howell

    I honestly wonder if Alphabetical might have made this “win a Nintendo Hard endgame and win an £OMG progressive jackpot” style of game completely unviable because they implemented it to be literally unwinnable? (The Spanish version is fine, not only because of the speed of speech in the language but because IIRC all the answers are obscure words and the “questions” are their dictionary definitions.) Then again, that would also assume anyone watched Alphabetical. Then again, that show got renewed so evidently people did.

    British TV is if anything going away from this, the Catchphrase revival went with a no-risk money ladder of niceness in place of the old all-or-nothing endgame, and Pointless of course radically changed the endgame so the progressive jackpot essentially stopped being progressive because it went most days. (And for the type of show Pointless wants to be, I think that makes complete sense, plus it didn’t look right when jackpot wins came like buses and the first one was worth an order of magnitude more.)

    It’s an interesting contrast.

    Also worth noting how much of peak-DoND success was surely driven by its serialisation, even if each individual game was aggressively self-contained (to the show’s significant detriment, given the inherently variable natural length of a given game and the resultant clock spoilers). That aspect came from daytime central European TV as well of course.

  3. David

    This brings up an interesting question- is a show flawed if you can have such a long-running champion? You can say that Tout le Monde Veut Prende Sa Place is set up in such a way to encourage them (since the champion has so many advantages)- Boom IIRC has changed it’s format slightly over the time Los Lobos has played; Jeopardy the only thing that might be advantageous is that a long-time champ can get a knack for the buzzer system…Pasapalabra you’re at the mercy to a point of your celeb teammates in building up time…

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      It’s interesting, as far as I can ascertain they’re just very very good, especially in the 50/50 quickfire round, which is usually worth more than the actual bomb defusal element.

  4. Brandon

    I think the reason Alphabetical was unwinnable in the UK might be to do with the language. I’ve seen the Italian and Spanish versions, and both languages are quite fast most of the time and not as ambiguous as English.The obvious thing to fix that problem would be increase the time limit. I think the problem with having a near-impossible big jackpot is that the viewers figure out after the few episodes (or maybe just the first episode) that no contestant will get near that. For example, Tutto × Tutto offfered a potential €3.7 million which is an exciting figure to put all over the adverts and get high viewing figures for the first episode, but after that most people will figure out that the format means not much will be given away in comparison. On the other hand, it didn’t seem to hurt Weakest Link that the only time any team got any more than 40% of the top prize was at the end of its 12 year run.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      What’s stupid about Alphabetical is that the endgame would have been very easy to fix – allow more starting time or reduce the amount of letters.

      And yet when it came back for series two they decided doing it head to head was in fact the problem.

      1. Brandon

        Another annoying thing is that the music for the final sounds as if it was supposed to be longer somehow, like using that time limit was a fairly last-minute decision.

        I had misremembered that the second run was recorded in the same block as the first, I’d forgotten about the format changes.

    2. David Howell

      I think the Spanish version actually has obscure dictionary definitions as “questions” in the endgame, which might help.

      But it really is such a simple balance fix and they didn’t do it. Top medieval game show analyst Occam would suggest they wanted the jackpot to be forever unclaimed, pocketing the however much per episode it built up by.

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        That would be silly though, because they’ve done themselves out of a lot more money by not getting a recommission.

    3. CeleTheRef

      same thing happened in Italy during the latest season.
      unfortunately, the golden bomb that season was worth a flat 100K

  5. Rubb

    Here’s a sad note: one of the members of the original team, José Pinto, left in December of the last year due to personal motives and they recruited a new member (show allowed that besides critcism from the audience). Two months later, he died from a heart disease. That day, they were recording the show and recorded a condolence message to broadcast it just before the program that had been recorded weeks before.

    1. David Howell

      A sad note indeed. According to this, he was a farmer who felt like he had to go back to work.

      Also per that link, apparently the tax on Spanish wins are close to 50%, meaning that in terms of post-tax winnings this team of four (?) have taken two years to cumulatively win possibly slightly less than the €3.5m Bernd Stadelmann won in one night on Schlag den Raab in December 2012.

      The biggest individual winner of any game show ever is and remains Arno Woesthoff, the lone 10m guilder winner on pre-euro, pre-DoND Miljoenenjacht. Apparently he also won 1m guilder on a previous episode (??), which would put his total winnings to the equivalent of almost exactly €5m and put him ahead of Stadelmann even after accounting for the 25% capital gains tax that is applied to Dutch game show winnings.

      This would have been so much easier if James Holtzmann had kept winning. On his 32-game trajectory, he would have passed Los Lobos’ ~€6.6m total some time around game 96 (and hit the €5m mark after 73).

      1. Brandon

        I’ve seen the Wikipedia article on Miljoenenjacht many times, and I’ve often wondered how he came back for a second episode. Was there some kind of winner-stays-on mechanic that fast-tracked him to one of the later rounds at that stage?Or was he allowed to come back for another episode following the same rules as the rest of the contestants, and had the incredible luck of beating the rest of the 1000 contenders twice ?

  6. Gordon G Donaldson

    as I suggested on Twitter the other day

    maybe Passapalabra/Alphabetical should be commissioned by Netflix UK as a debut foray into studio quizzes

    Maybe for an initial 150 show run

    for all ITV managed to disappointedly screw it up Alphabetical actually didn’t do too bad in the ratings ISTR

    an average of 1.4 million at 5pm for series 1 and settling between 800 and 900k in a 3pm slot for series 2

    I think Netflix UK would do Passapalabra MUCH MUCH BETTER

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      Except it wouldn’t work.

      The buzz of a longtime champion only works if everybody is on the same page, which broadcast media is good at because of its scheduling. There’s no anticipation on Netflix, because people will just watch the ones with the big wins, if they watch any of it at all.

  7. David

    A bit of an aside- apparently Richard Bacon will be the voice of Love Island USA…

  8. Unoriginal Name

    Final tally across Los Lobos run: 6,689,700 euros.

    I kind of wonder what it says about the final round that even a group on this kind of run couldn’t finally beat it until now.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      The way the round works they get a free guess at each question first time through, a wrong answer once they’ve gone through once ends the game. I wonder how many they pick up on the rebound typically? I guess if you can narrow down to two answers in the heat of the moment you’re OK. Does anyone have English translations of the winning questions?

  9. TheLupineOne

    Is it de riguer on Spanish game shows to call the name of the show to pass? At least saying “Boom” is a lot faster than saying “Pasaparabla” (or indeed, “Alphabetical”)

  10. Marc

    The questions, in English:
    1. In the summer, what cold food is usually served in a sandwich, cone or cup?
    2. Of which city is José Luis Martínez-Almeida the mayor?
    3. By what initials is a car’s navigation system commonly known?
    4. In 2018, what drama became the first Spanish TV series to win an International Emmy award?
    5. According to legend, on which hill did Romulus found the city of Rome?
    6. If they were on sale 3-for-2, how much would you pay for three T-shirts that cost €15 each?
    7. Actor Michael Keaton was born with what last name?
    8. According to the rules of accentuation, what type of word is the Spanish word “público”?
    9. Milk is mostly what liquid?
    10. Who wrote the novel “The Man Who Was Thursday”?
    11. In what country was the 2019 Women’s World Cup held?
    12. What color beaks do most crows have?
    13. In 1972, who had a hit with his version of the song “Sealed with a Kiss”?
    14. Which of his paintings did Picasso say was “an instrument of war for attack and defense against the enemy”?
    15. What gulf of the Baltic Sea lies between Sweden and Finland?

        1. Greg

          Primetime and pre watershed guess it’s on at 8pm then. Not sure how I feel about it being on every weeknight for 4 weeks.

      1. Oliver R

        I’m a politics nerd and would’ve probably got question 2 right, but only by guessing. It is a deliberately tricky current affairs question, since all mayors in Spain have either been replaced or re-elected within the past 5 weeks.

        I’m a languages nerd with a degree in Spanish and had to look up the answer to question 8. I haven’t heard the word used in a decade or more and would never have got it off the top of my head, against the clock. Only one of my lecturers was ever interested in teaching us technical terms like that. The rest knew it wasn’t relevant if we just wanted to pass our exams. (For reference, the English equivalent of the answer is apparently ‘proparoxytone’. No, me neither.)

    1. Brandon

      I would have scored 8 out of 15, what did anyone else get?

  11. John R

    Davina is back with her 4 trapdoors and £100k worth of tenners from Monday -seems to have turned into a bit of a reliable daytime show for Channel 4!

    1. Brandon

      If I’ve remembered correctly, they’re filming it on the Polish set where the Italian version also went for its revival.

  12. Des Elmes

    This thread has got me thinking of Wogan’s Perfect Recall – whose £100k top prize was very, very hard to win, but *was* winnable.

    Of course, winning it required correctly answering all 20 questions in the end game, *and* bidding on getting 20 correct answers – bidding on a lower number meant that you’d only win the prize corresponding to that number. At least three contestants answered all 20 questions correctly (and Tel would come back to questions answered incorrectly or passed on, if there was time) – but because they’d only bid 15, 16 and 17 respectively, they only won £3k, £5k and £10k.

    And did anyone actually bid 20? I can’t claim to have watched *all* 150 episodes, but the highest bid I saw was 18 (which, if met, would have paid £25k). Of course, if you *did* bid 20 and you only got 19, all you’d win was that elephant trophy…

    1. Brandon

      It also got me thinking about a way that The Hit List could have a progressive almost-impossible jackpot like Boom. Instead of the money won in the final all going straight to the contestants, they win half of it, get to come back next time and the other half is added to a jackpot that is only won when no money is lost (what would have won you £10,000 under the real-life rules at the moment). Although it would be very hard, it would definitely be possible, and would probably be won if the show somehow runs for hundreds of episodes. What do you think?


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