Sunday, September 10, 2006


The Billion Lira Note

While talking over dinner at the festival, conversation naturally turned to... television. (Hey, I'm only human.) Apparently about 15 years ago there was an Italian game show that would give a gigantic wad of lira to the contestant -- equivalent, say, to 100,000 Euro. The one rule was that you had to spend all the money in an hour.

Anyone who has encountered Italian shop hours, or tried to get any order filled quickly there, will quickly realize why this is the most cruelly funny idea ever devised for a game show. Contestants would typically try a car dealership first, resulting in exchanges like this:

"I want to buy a car!"
"Excellent! Come by tomorrow and we'll do the paperwork."
"No, I need it now. Now!"
"I have the money in my hand! For your most expensive car! This hour! The. Money. Is. In. My. Hand!"
"Today's not so good."

It being Italy, a wine merchant was the next logical stop:

"I need 20,000 bottles! I have your money right here!"

The show's producers rarely lost their money.

This is surely the only game show to be the living embodiment of a Mark Twain story.

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