Monday, January 24, 2005

Less Than Zero Sum Game Show

So I was watching this new game show on Comedy Central recently, Distraction. The idea of this show is you get asked trivia questions as usual, except that you have to endure other "distracting" things while answering them, like putting clothespins on your face or getting whacked upside the head by glass vases. It looks kind of fun, except one thing that troubled me.

The game starts with four players. After each round, one player gets eliminated until one player is left. He's the "winner," except that he must earn his prize by answering still more trivia questions. On the episode I saw, the guy won a car. Except that before he got to take it home, he needed to answer some trivia questions. If he got any question wrong, certain things would happen to his car, like the windshield would be sledgehammered, or paint would be poured all over the roof of the car.

My question is: Why would you want to win that? Are these people completely dense? Once you win the car, you're open to tax liability on the value of the car. The MSRP of the car is considered income to you; suddenly you owe a little more in taxes because your income is that much higher. This only gets compounded when your car is now no longer really driveable. If the windshield is shattered (which it was when this poor sap didn't know the answer to some really easy question), because now not only do you have to pay taxes on your brand new car, you have to pay to tow it and replace the windshield before taking it home. Oh, this guy also got another question wrong, resulting in paint all over the roof. That's detail work. Still more cha-ching. If he had gotten one more question wrong, his headlights would have been shattered.

Seems like a net loss for appearing on the game show, if you ask me.


Matthew said...

It would seem that the true purpose of such a program would be to parade stupid people on the air for whatever length of time the show is, and for the viewing audience to have the same reaction you did ('How dumb can people be?') This would apparently fall into step with numerous other shows out there (any of the "judge" shows, Jerry Springer, etc.), which are supposedly there to make people feel superior to those whom they are viewing on TV.

As for 'winning' a car, and the taxes/payments that come with it: I always hated it when someone would win a car on Wheel of Fortune, as it would, without question, be the fugliest 'grandparent' car on the planet.

Oh well. You can always sell it and hopefully make some profit.

Dennis! said...

True enough. People will do anything for the spotlight, I guess. Although I suppose as an amendment to my thoughts I should note that the taxes one pays on a "free" car are still lower than what one would actually pay for the car.

And the thing about selling the car, though, is that you then end up getting socked with capital gains taxes upon sale. The cost basis of the car being ZERO, you basically end up paying another huge chunk of taxes on whatever you get for it. Again, of course, the money you get is still money you wouldn't have had before.

Clearly I just think too much about this stuff.

Jon said...

Dehumanizing? Yes. cruel? Perhaps....but, I've been seeing the commercials for it and would love to watch it. It'll probably get old really fast, but i at least want to see one episode, just to see what all the hype is about.

Jon said...

I could have sworn I posted a comment here earlier- I typed it in and clicked 'publish your comment', but I guess it didn't 'take'

Anyway, I just said that I've seen the commercials for the show and would like to check it out. I have the feeling that 1 or 2 episodes of it would be hilarious, but after a while it will get old

Jon said...

Ok- I'm not crazy- my first comment is here now, but wasn't when I typed the second one last night. Well, considering that Blogger hasn't updated since the summer, I suppose this makes sense......grrrrrrrr

Dennis! said...

Jon: It's kind of fun to watch in a train wreck sort of way. I wouldn't make it a point to be in front of the tv for it, personally, but it was there and I saw it.

Damn, here I was all excited about how many comments I got, and all three were from you. Hahaha.