Quiz Show Goofs

Friday, August 20th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A graduate student will get a second chance
at $1 million after a game show goofed when it ruled that his
answer on a $64,000 question was wrong.

David Honea, a doctoral student in computer engineering from
Raleigh, had won $32,000 on ABC's new prime-time show "Who Wants
to Be a Millionaire." But in the show, taped Wednesday and
broadcast Thursday night, he was stopped in a quest for $1 million
by a question on which of the five Great Lakes is the second
largest in area after Lake Superior.

A correct answer would have given him $64,000 and put him only
four questions away from the big prize. Honea said Lake Huron. The
show said Lake Michigan.

The show's host, Regis Philbin, told Honea that he had lost, and
he accepted the results. But after the show Honea decided to voice
his doubts. "A couple of other contestants said, `You've got to
talk to them because you were right,"' he said today.

After several hours of fact-checking, the show's executive
producer, Michael Davies, returned with the news: Honea was correct
and the show was wrong.

"He said, 'You don't have to worry. I can tell you right now
you've won $64,000 and you are going to get a chance to win from
here,"' Honea said.

"I felt awful," Davies told The New York Times. He said the
confusion stemmed from the fact that Lake Michigan is
second-largest in volume but Lake Huron is second-largest in
surface area.

"Every game show makes mistakes," Davies said. "It happens on
`Jeopardy' every so often, but they're not in prime time."

The show taped a new segment to explain that it erred and that
Honea would be back to play again, and it was tacked on to the end
of the broadcast Thursday. He said some of his relatives had
already turned off their TVs and missed the happy ending.

Honea, 31, can win $125,000 and a chance to keep playing if he
answers another question correctly. But if he guesses incorrectly,
it's back to $32,000. After hearing the question, he can also
choose not to answer, and keep the $64,000.

The final show will be taped Aug. 28 and broadcast Aug. 29, the
last day of the show's scheduled run, which is 13 shows playing
nightly for two weeks with a day off for "Monday Night Football."

"I don't think I'll take too many risks with that amount of
money," Honea said. "After that, I might be scared to answer even
if they were asking your mother's name."

The show, with its marathon of nightly episodes and big payoffs,
is intended to evoke the old quiz shows that enthralled the nation
in the '50s, until some were found to be rigged. And it's off to a
promising start.

In its first three airings, Monday through Wednesday, the show
won the time period and built on the audience of its ABC lead-in,
according to Nielsen overnight figures measuring roughly half the
nation. More significantly, its Tuesday and Wednesday broadcasts
drew roughly 7 percent more viewers than the previous night's