The Discovery Channel’s show, Cash Cab, is my latest addiction.  Since we don’t have a DVR here, I wasn’t able to watch it while I was working, but now that I’m unemployed I can watch at least one episode every week day (it’s on for 2 hours Monday through Friday).   The show originated in London, and the concept has since been exported to the US, Canada (in both French and English), Japan, Australia, and more than a dozen other countries around the world.

The US version has won 2 daytime Emmys and is hosted by Ben Bailey, a professional comedian who has valid New York City hack license.  He wears an earpiece through which the questions and other information are fed while he’s driving.  Here is the transcript of an NPR interview with Bailey from July of this year.  The contestants are supposed to be completely random, but I have read that some people have been pre-vetted for an unknown game show and, when they get into the cab to get to the show, that’s when they’re told they’re in the Cash Cab.

The questions aren’t softballs either.  Some are painfully easy, but others are really difficult.  In the early days, the questions were worth $25, $50 and $100.  Now they’re $50, $100 and $200, and the degree of difficulty increases with the increase in dollar value.  If a contestant has more than $200 and the cab is stuck at a red light, there is a “Red Light Challenge,” which is worth $250.  They are allowed 2 “shout-outs” — one where they can call a friend to help and another where they ask someone on the street.  At the end of the ride, contestants get a chance to double their money or lose it all with a video challenge.  The video challenge is the hardest question of all, and a lot of contestants take the money and run rather than risk losing it all.  If they lose it all, they get a free cab ride, which could be worth quite a bit on its own!  If they miss 3 questions along the way, Ben drops them off wherever they happen to be and they have to find another way to get to their destination.  When I lived in New York, I primarily walked or took public transportation and so would only rarely be in a position to find the Cash Cab.  But I can’t help thinking it would have been fun!

I recommend visiting the Cash Cab page at that I posted earlier.  There are videos and podcasts that give an idea of what the show is about.