THIS HAPPENED! IS A WEEKLY COLUMN WHEREIN WE SHED LIGHT ON FORGOTTEN MOMENTS IN POP CULTURE. BECAUSE IF WE FAIL TO LEARN FROM HISTORY, WE ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT.
I was in a tiny airport on Islay, waiting for a plane to take me back to Glasgow after an afternoon of getting to know Ardbeg scotch more intimately. There was one TV, hanging in the corner above the sole snack counter. A game show was playing.
The exact premise of the show was inscrutable, but it involved, as most game shows do, answering questions for money. It had the dramatic, starship-set design that the modern game show requires, all dark corners, swooping lights, and imposing monolithic architecture.  It was a helpful reminder of one of life’s least groundbreaking, yet most important principles: that complete ignorance of a thing isn’t proof that said thing doesn’t exist.  This game, with it’s convoluted mechanics and cliché set design was apparently well-known enough to be the show of choice for an entire airport. Although, did I mention that the airport was no bigger than a Gap store?
But ignorance of a pop cultural phenomenon is not solely an international issue. The same way children are starving right here, and not just in Africa, there are shows that are still airing in North America, despite never being talked about. The plan was to write this week’s column about Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the Regis Philbin-hosted game show that burned brightly for a few years at the turn of the millennium, that spawned a whole generation of new primetime game shows along with a regrettable fashion trend still favoured by cell phone salesmen and middle managers hoping to get lucky on date night. 
But in doing my cursory research (and for these columns, the research is always cursory), I learned that Who Wants to be a Millionaire  is somehow still going strong. Or, at least it’s still going. After Regis gave up hosting duties when ABC cancelled the primetime, hour-long version of the show, a shortened Millionaire was produced solely for syndication, hosted first by The View’s Meredith Viera, then Cedric the Entertainer, then Terry Crews (who must give thanks to the television gods, along with Michael Schur and Dan Goor, every night for Brooklyn Nine-Nine), and now The Bachelor’s Chris Harrison. Somewhere in a small airport, someone is probably watching new episodes of that show, silently screaming the answer to an easy question, right now.
So, while I can’t exactly claim that Who Wants to be a Millionaire happened, as it’s still happening, there is still something noteworthy about the original Regis-helmed run of that show, that deserves to be remembered. It stands as an example of how crazily short-sighted content producers can be.
For all it’s power and influence, the entertainment industry is still like a kid in a lot of ways, forever looking for patterns and trying to draw lessons from what it sees. And while that’s true with every industry (and every person, for that matter, no matter how old they happen to be), what makes the Entertainment Industry so childish are the lessons they learn. They are simultaneously completely reasonable and wrong-headed. Anyone who has children, or remembers being a child, understands the surreal joy of kid-logic.  It’s just that Hollywood (which I’ll use here as a synecdoche  for the entire industry) hasn’t quite been able to grow out of it.
And while there are plenty of examples one could provide as proof of this assertion — like how after Mad Men became a hit, every network decided to make their own dramas set in the 60s  — Who Wants to be a Millionaire is still a special case.
When it first aired, Who Wants to be a Millionaire was basically an instant hit, earning approximately 30 million viewers per episode. Because it was cheap to produce and crazily addictive, ABC decided that they should air it every single week night. Viewers wanted it, so ABC gave it to them. Other networks followed suit, creating a boom of spotlight-heavy, dramatically scored game shows that briefly became pre-Internet memes  before being forgotten completely. Then, predictably, the market reached a saturation point. It shouldn’t have been surprising to any parent who has given their kid more than one Cinnabun in a single day (or is that not a common parental practice?): yes, you can have too much of a good thing. Only, if we’re being honest, usually the good things in those situations aren’t all that good.
Right now, Hollywood is slowly starting to learn this lesson again. Marvel movies are still doing gangbusters, but that doesn’t mean every comic book movie will be a hit. And just because nostalgia (and the existence of Chris Pratt) made last summer’s Jurassic World a blockbuster, didn’t mean people cared to see Independence Day: Resurgence.
What’s the pat moral of the story, besides the reminder that it’s great to be employed if only because it allows you to miss airings of Who Wants to be a Millionaire during the day? It’s that, I guess, it’s always best to be the innovator, to start the trend. That way, if you’re patient, you can control it. At least a little anyway. Or maybe it’s that you can’t trust demand. Or maybe…I don’t know what the moral is. If only I could phone a friend.
 It’s possible that the only reason I remember it at all was because one of the very British contestants said that, should he win whatever amount of money was up for grabs, his dream would be to visit Toronto. I thought that was quaint.
 See: systemic racism, say, or institutionalized sexism.
 And to be fair, Regis’s monochromatic look has seen a comeback lately, only with less sheen.
 Which was actually a British import, making the above discussion of the mysterious British game show I saw in Scotland all the more relevant.
 My favourite example of kid logic probably comes from the story my dad tells about first learning about sex as a child. After having the dirty deed explained by a friend, my dad was unconvinced. If babies came from sex, and sex was performed as his friend described, why then were people ever surprised when they found out they were pregnant. It’s not like you’d forget something like that. After some thinking, they came upon a solution that accounted for the contradictions: Sex must happen while people are asleep. Hence why it’s called sleeping together. Completely reasonable, and wrong.
 This word is used here to prove that, unlike Hollyweird, I’m an adult with an adult vocabulary.
 See: The Playboy Club, starring Amber Heard; Pan-Am, starring Christina Ricci; Vegas, starring Dennis Quaid.
 You ARE the weakest link. Goodbye.