TOAlthough popular, the Spanish gameshow Atrapame Se Podes (Catch Me if You Can) has a thuddingly generic premise. You answer some questions and you win some money, and that’s about the extent of it. Until this week, host Paco Lodeiro asked two contestants what the going rate for a gram of cocaine was. After some hesitation, both contestants correctly guessed that it was €60. And now the state-run TVG channel that airs Atrapame Se Podes has been forced to apologize for trivializing drug addiction.
According to the show, the answer was taken from a report published by the Spanish health ministry rather than first-hand knowledge, but you can understand the touchiness. The episode aired in Galicia, the north-western region of Spain that has become one of the major European gateways in the drug trade. Netflix’s Cocaine Coast is about Galicia. Amazon’s Operation Black Tide is a dramatization of the 2019 capture of a submarine carrying three tonnes of cocaine off the region’s coast.
The storm that the question created could have been easily avoided, but on the plus side it does at least allow Atrapame Se Podes passage into the controversial gameshow hall of fame. Almost since the dawn of television itself, game shows have been blindly wandering into all sorts of trouble thanks to moments of insensitivity. Below are some of the most notorious incidents.
The Moment of Truth
This 2008 US gameshow staked its entire reputation on asking controversial questions. The (deeply icky) premise of the show was this: contestants were hooked up to a lie detector and asked the most excruciatingly personal questions imaginable. If they answered truthfully, they won a cash prize. In one episode, a woman admitted that she wished that she had married another man and that she had cheated on her husband. On another unaired episode, another contestant said that she thought her father had sex with minors. The Moment of Truth only lasted a single season, perhaps because it was the very worst television show ever made.
The Newlywed Game
In 1977, this American gameshow – in which new spouses are asked questions about how well they know each other – threw up a question that quickly turned into an urban legend. Host Bob Eubanks asked the assembled new wives where the weirdest place they ever wanted to “make whoopee” was. One woman, perhaps misunderstanding the question, answered: “In the ass?”
As an aside, in 1979, there was a short-lived American gameshow called 3’s a Crowd, which riffed on the premise of The Newlywed Game by bringing on the male contestant’s secretary as well as his wife. The point of the show was to see whether a man had a closer relationship with his wife or his secretary. This was a real show that actually existed.
Technically not a question, but still enough to force an apology from the show, was the incident last year where a Countdown contestant used a homophobic word as a slur. During a letters round, contestant Matt Gould breezily declared the seven-letter answer “poofter” to Anne Robinson, and the moment made it to air. Gould subsequently claimed that he thought the moment would have been edited out of the final episode, and Channel 4 rushed out a statement stating that the incident “does not align with our values”. Strange, given that this isn’t the first time this has happened, as you can see from the above video clip from 2009, showing exactly the same word being broadcast.
My favorite incident, though, is also perhaps the stupidest. Those of you with long enough memories will remember Quizmania, ITV’s late-night call-in quiz show. In 2006, Quizmania posed the question: “What would you find in a woman’s handbag?” The assorted insomniac or drunk Quizmania viewers called in with their guesses, at a cost of 75p a minute, but sadly failed to get all the answers right. This, it turns out, is because Quizmania decided that one of the correct answers was “rawlplugs”. The incident was so stupid, in fact, that Ofcom found ITV Play to be in breach of its broadcasting code.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism