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The United States version of Cash Cab (stylized as CA$H CAB) airs on the Discovery Channel. This version of the show, hosted by stand-up comedian Ben Bailey, takes place in New York Citymarker. Anyone who hails the Cash Cab does not know that they are about to be on a game show until they hire the cab and the driver informs them of the rules. According to Variety, Discovery Channel initially ordered 40 episodes from Lion Television (Executive Producers Tom Cohen, Allison Corn and Tony Tackaberry) and taping of the initial run was completed in November 2005 before the show premiered that December. A new set of 40 episodes were taped and aired in 2006 and 2007. Another 80 episodes were taped in 2007 and aired through spring and summer. Another 40 episodes were taped and aired in 2008 and 2009.

In 2007, Discovery Channel began airing a new edition of the program, Cash Cab: After Dark, in which contestants were picked up near or after sunset and the cash value of the questions was double that of the regular version of the show.

In Fall 2010, MGM Domestic Television will release a syndicated version of Cash Cab to local stations.

Host

The driver/host of the Cash Cab is stand-up comedian Ben Bailey, a three-time Daytime Emmy Award nominee for Outstanding Game Show Host, losing the award from 2007-2009 to Bob Barker, Alex Trebek and Meredith Vieira, respectively. Cash Cab won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Game Show in 2008 and 2009.

Premise and Rules

Overview

A support van tails the Cash Cab with producers and a camera crew for the various street shots, and the staff provides logistical information and questions by way of a walkie-talkie and earpiece, which is sometimes visible when Bailey turns his head while on camera. The driver greets the fare(s), takes their destination, then pushes a button that both activates an LED light panel in the ceiling of the cab and plays a musical stinger with an iPod. After the shock and surprise has passed for the fare(s), the driver/host informs the players of the rules of the game, although this is not always shown in the program as aired. The players are also told that once the Cash Cab starts, the cab will not take detours of any kind unless directed by a police officer, stop sign, traffic light, or other legal means of diverting traffic, and offers them the chance to get out of the cab if they do not wish to play. Contestants must stay in the cab until they reach their destination in order to keep the money they have won in the game. Each wrong answer earns the contestants a strike; on the third strike, the cab driver will pull over and kick them out of the cab whatever spot that the driver pulls over to the street and they give up all their winnings. Once players have exited the Cash Cab, a camera crew from the trailing production car is already on the street waiting to tape them walking away from the cab, win or lose.

Questions

If the passenger stays in the cab, the game begins. For the first two seasons, the first four questions were worth $25 each, the next four questions were worth $50, and any question thereafter was worth $100. In Cash Cab: After Dark, and beginning with the regular episodes of Season 3, all of the money values are doubled to $50, $100, and $200, respectively. In the fourth season, some games were designated as "Double Ride" games, making the question values $100, $200 and $400 respectively.

One of the show's gimmicks involves the host giving a disappointed response initially to a contestant's correct answer, then excitedly telling them they actually got the question right. Bailey uses this schtick multiple times, to almost all his passengers. This is a similar gimmick that is used by Chris Tarrant and Regis Philbin on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

"Red Light Challenge"

If a contestant has won at least $200 (even on the After Dark version) and the cab is forced to stop at a traffic light, the driver will start a "Red Light Challenge". The driver will read a question that has multiple correct answers – usually four to seven – and the passenger will then have 30 seconds to give those answers. Giving all the correct answers is worth $250 ($500 in "Double Ride" games), regardless of how many incorrect answers they might also blurt out along the way. There is no penalty for an incorrect answer. If time runs out after 30 seconds during the Red Light Challenge, it will not be counted as a strike, and they don't lose any money for an incorrect answer but they will not receive the extra $250 ($500 in "Double Ride" games) for the challenge. Only one "Red Light Challenge" may be played per game; beginning in Season 4, there were multiple Red Light Challenges during certain games.

"Shout-Outs"

The passenger is allowed two "Shout-Outs" during the course of the trip, and each type can be used only once. The first type is the "Mobile Shout-Out", in which the contestant is allotted a phone call to a friend by means of a cell phone - either the driver's or one belonging to a contestant. The fare is allowed 30 seconds to consult with their friend and give an answer. This game element is similar to the "phone a friend" lifeline on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. The contestant may also elect to use a "Street Shout-Out", causing the cab to pull over so that he or she can ask anyone on the street without any official time limit. In the "Double Ride" portion, a second "Street Shout-Out" is played.

"Video Bonus"

Should the passenger reach the destination without striking out, the driver offers the passenger a choice: the option of keeping the prize money that they have won during the game and leave the cab, or they can stick around and try to risk it all by answering a single, more difficult, "Video Bonus" question for double or nothing. The cab driver will play a video clip for the contestant and then ask one single question based on the video clip. This is, essentially, a test of the risk aversion of the passenger.

"Double Ride"

This rarely occurring part of the show happens when randomly selected passengers, beginning in Season 4, are able to win double the amount of money of a normal game. The first four questions are worth $100, second four $200, and the rest are worth $400; with "Red Light Challenge" questions being worth $500.

Record Payouts

Three games are usually shown per episode. The first record for the most money won on the US show was $3,000 in an episode that aired June 13, 2007, under the original payout scheme. The trio of passengers correctly answered the "Red Light Challenge" and only missed a $50 question, earning $1,500 and doubling their winnings with the "Video Bonus" question. The second record for the most money won on the U.S. show was $3,700 on an episode of Cash Cab: After Dark aired in December 2007, with a group of Williams College graduates who were heading to a bar for drinks. The trio traveled a total of 45 blocks, correctly answering every question and the "Red Light Challenge" along the way to win $1,850 before doubling their winnings on the "Video Bonus" question. The third highest winners appeared on the show on April 17, 2008, and won $3,200, missing only one question. On a show aired March 25, 2008, with the new money ladder for season three, contestants Sean Devney and Steve Irolla, two New York City tour guides, won $4,100 after answering the "Video Bonus" question correctly. They reached their final destination with two strikes (both on $200 questions).

The current record for the highest dollar winnings is $6,200 by a contestant named Sam on an episode that aired May 18, 2009.

Special editions

One episode of the program was a special celebrity edition, which featured actor Vince Vaughn, Jed Ortmeyer and actress Hillary Swank. All played for a charity of their choice, and Discovery Channel matched the contestants' winnings.

Another episode was a special in which the passengers were asked questions relating to the film Frost/Nixon. In this episode, the host of Cash Cab Canada, Adam Growe was driving the cab, instead of the usual host, Ben Bailey.

On April 21, 2009, Discovery aired a charity episode of Cash Cab for its 250th episode featuring two rides by members of the crew of the show Deadliest Catch. Time Bandit co-captains Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand went against Sig Hansen (captain of the Northwestern) and his two brothers. All cash values were doubled from the Season 3 payout, the passengers received a second "Street Shout-Out", and all money earned was donated to the charities of choice by the passengers.

Production

The American Cash Cab is equipped with ten cameras: one on the host, three on the passengers, one pointing forward from the back window of the cab, and three (front, left, and right) in the advertising shell on the roof of the cab. The rear of the cab behind the seats contains ten recording decks with a tower containing a countdown timer.

Some contestants are randomly picked as they walk down the sidewalk while others are selected in advance. Even still, those picked in advance are surprised that the cab that is supposed to take them to the show turns out to be the show itself Cash Cab.

Near the end of the game at the player's destination Ben Bailey appears to present the cash won. In reality, this cash is a prop and used for on-air purposes only. The winnings must be taxed and are sent via check.

The vehicle itself is a Toyota Sienna minivan with the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission call sign "1G12" in the first two seasons and during the After Dark shows. Currently the call sign is "7N78".

Notes

  1. Mediaweek: "Cash Cab Heads to Off-Net Syndication", October 26, 2009.


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