Cash Cab, the Discovery Channel series where everyday people just trying to get a cab ride in New York are amazed to suddenly find themselves on a game show full of bright lights, fun sound effects, and cash prizes, is all about the element of surprise. Fans of the show may know the feeling: you’re in NYC, you hail a cab, and part of you thinks Am I about to be on Cash Cab? Probably not — turns out the show is less spontaneous than it seems.
Some of the participants are actually recruited beforehand. Many former contestants have revealed that they were pre-screened by producers. One former participant, Rebecca D., explained on Yelp that she was approached in Union Square and told she was being interviewed for a reality show called Show Me New York, where New Yorkers would talk about the city.
“I wasn’t sure why that show required a trivia quiz in the interview (maybe they didn’t want anyone stupid on-air?),” she reflects, “but I aced it”
After exchanging emails with the producers, they sent a cab to pick her up to film a non-existent segment for the non-existent show. You know what happens next.
Other contestants also reported similar stories — producers approached them with a fake premise for a travel-based reality show, quizzed them on general knowledge, and set them up to get in the cab (via Mental Floss). In all these cases, the element of surprise is real — they truly didn’t know that they were stepping into a game show when they got in the car. However, they’re not some random strangers that the car just happened to pick up.
This is not to say that every Cash Cab participant is pre-screened. One former participant wrote in a Reddit AMA, “I couldn’t tell it was the Cash Cab, but there was a 10 minute period after he hit the lights where they stopped, a PA came and talked to me, told me the rules, I signed a waiver, and continued.”
Another former participant blogged about the experience, “My friend Kristian…and I found ourselves stepping into quite a surprise today…It’s a gameshow in a taxi cab!”
So no, Cash Cab isn’t always as spontaneous as it may seem. But hey, there’s still some chance that the taxi you’re stepping into could in fact be a game show waiting to happen.
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