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On May 19, 1984, an out of work ice cream truck driver from Southwestern Ohio broke the bank on CBS' hit game show of the mid-1980's "Press Your Luck" and made TV history by setting a record for the most money won by a contestant in one appearance on a daytime game show; A record which may have been long been surpassed with the Big-Jackpot game shows of today, but still stands strong as the biggest win in "Press Your Luck's" history. Was it brilliance? Was it cheating? And how did he do it? "Press Your Luck's" host and crew, the family of Michael Larson - the man who walked away with $110,237 in cash and prizes - and Michael's opponents from that fateful day gathered in Hollywood 19 years later to relive the events of that remarkable event in TV history. Written by
Press Your Luck was one of my favorite game shows as a kid. I loved the enthusiasm of the contestants (although a lot of it was forced) and the big money you could win at the time. Peter Tomarken was the perfect host for the show with his zaniness. However, I didn't know until a couple of years ago about the Michael Larson incident that nearly brought the show down.
Mr. Larson was a gambler with a Ralph Kramden zen for quick rich schemes. He stumbled upon PYL and studied the patterns until he cracked the code that would allow him to win unlimited money if he could hit the buzzer correctly. He managed to get himself on the show and walked away with a sailboat, two vacations, and over 100,000 in CBS's money.
This documentary on the once great GSN talks about the incident with PYL execs, Tomarken, relatives and friends of Larson, and the two contestants that were playing against Larson that day. They show the very patterns that Larson was able to exploit, the stress that was coming onto Larson as his pot grew bigger, and his facial expressions via a split-second camera that CBS happened to have on them during the tapings. It's very well done and very engrossing.
Sadly, you can see this documentary only when GSN airs it and you'll have to wade through the worst commercials ever made. Still, it's worth watching to learn about how greed can eventually do you in.
One funny thing. An exec who met with Michael Larson, who claimed he drove an ice cream truck, was leery about putting him on the show. He felt that there was something not quite right with him. Today, if Mr. Larson were alive and wanted to appear on GSN's "Whammy:The All New Press Your Luck" in an attempt to break their bank he'd be brought in with open arms. There have been some very colourful looking people appearing on that game.
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