The American network Fox has been forced to make a humiliating backdown over an $800,000 question on its new quiz show Million Dollar Money Drop, admitting that it had been wrong to declare that a pair of contestants had given the incorrect answer.
On Monday night's premiere episode, Gabe Okoye and Brittany Mayi wagered $800,000 that Post-it notes were the first out of three products to be sold in stores. The other options were the Macintosh computer and the Sony Walkman.
Contestants on Million Dollar Money Drop start with $1 million and proceed to lose money on incorrect answers.
The couple were visibly distraught after the show announced that the Sony Walkman had been sold in stores before Post-it notes. Soon after, they lost their remaining $80,000 and walked home empty-handed. But the show's Post-it claim triggered immediate debate among viewers, as clips of the question spread across the internet.
For two days, the network stood by its claim that the Walkman was sold in stores a year before Post-it notes. It finally admitted on Thursday that the answer provided by Okoye and Mayi was in fact correct, offering the couple the chance to appear on the show again.
"Unfortunately, the information our research department originally obtained from 3M regarding when Post-it notes were first sold was incomplete," said Jeff Apploff, the programme's executive producer.
"As a result of new information we have received from 3M [the manufacturer of Post-it notes], we feel it is only fair to give our contestants, Gabe and Brittany, another shot to play Million Dollar Money Drop even though this question was not the deciding question in their game."
But in an interview with The New York Times, the couple wavered on whether they would take up the invitation to return to the show.
"To go through that again - maybe to lose again - that's a lot of stress," Okoye said.
The Walkman was first sold in stores in 1979, but internet searches following the episode resulted in some confusion about the origins of Post-it notes. Million Dollar Money Drop initially claimed that the sticky notes had first gone on sale in 1980; but it was quickly discovered that they had been "tested for sale" as early as 1977 under the name Press 'N Peel, and were subsequently sold as Post-its in 1979.
Fox said that since the botched question "was not the deciding question in their game", it was offering the couple a chance to appear on the programme again rather than awarding them a cash sum.
Million Dollar Money Drop is an adaptation of the British format The Million Pound Drop. An Australian version hosted by Eddie McGuire is set to air on the Nine Network in 2011.
Media Spy discussion: Million Dollar Money Drop