According to USA Today, a record number of people are looking for their quick fix through TV game shows! For those lucky enough to make it on to a show, the economy’s having a dramatic effect on the way game shows are being played. That’s the word from several producers behind popular TV game shows like “Deal Or No Deal,” “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” and “Wheel Of Fortune.” They’ve seen at least a 20% jump in the number of people auditioning for game shows this summer, and they estimate at least one-in-five applicants are either unemployed, or struggling with money. That’s a dramatic change from past years, when most would-be-contestants were younger, vacationing tourists, who happened to have some free time on their hands. Now, producers say game show applicants are more likely to be older adults who’ve been laid off from a job, or recent college grads who are struggling to find any job.

You may have already noticed this shift taking place onscreen. For example, Meredith Vieria hosts the syndicated version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” She says until last year, most contestants would tell her they were playing to win money for a dream vacation, or to buy a new house or car. Now when she asks, many contestants talk about needing money to keep their home, to pay off their debt, or to send a child to college! There’s a sense that winning money may be crucial to a contestant’s survival. That kind of thinking has also changed the way game shows are being played. For example: One recent “Millionaire” contestant admitted he’s normally very aggressive. Any other year, he might have risked answering more questions to try and win the million dollar grand prize – even if that meant losing it all if he got the question wrong. Since he’s been struggling to pay bills ever since he lost his job, he was happy to walk away with “only” $50,000. In other words: When it comes to TV game shows, producers say for today’s contestants, winning any money is better than no money.