What do Lost, Friends and Family Guy have in common? If you said they were all TV smash hits, you’d be right. However, there’s an even more interesting link between the three shows: lotteries. Owing to the global popularity of lotteries, TV directors, writers and producers have all conspired to add them into their creations.
Of course, we all know that a small investment can lead to a multi-million-dollar prize, but the number of players that play is just as impressive. In the UK, figures from Camelot show that 32 million people play the weekly Lotto. In the US, Gallup data from 2016 revealed that close to 50% of the population (160 million) play one of the major draws (Mega Millions, Powerball etc).
Put simply, lotteries are big deal, which is why they’ve made for great TV fodder in recent years. With this in mind, we’ve picked out five times lotteries were either the stars of the show or made a significant cameo.
Perhaps the most interesting lottery appearance in terms of the impact it had on viewers came courtesy of Lost. Aired in 2011, the Lost lottery episode saw Hugo “Hurley” Reyes win $114 million on the Mega Millions. Although the win didn’t really improve Reyes’ life, his numbers did give an estimated 26,000 viewers something to smile about. After watching the show, fans of Lost used the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 and each won $150 during the proceeding Mega Millions draw.
Peter Griffin might have a knack for smartass remarks, but it also seems he knows how to pick lottery numbers. With the lottery jackpot hitting record levels, Griffin decided to spend his family’s entire net worth on tickets. Despite teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, things go well for Griffin as he wins the jackpot. Unfortunately, a series of ridiculous investments meant his time as a millionaire was short-lived.
Another show that took the lottery theme and made it entertaining was Friends. According to the Lottoland rundown of top TV lottery moments, the time Phoebe tore apart a winning ticket is one we can’t forget. After using her “psychic” skills predict the numbers in a forthcoming draw, the gang soon start to dream about their winnings. However, as is often the case, arguments breakout until Phoebe steps in and resolves the issues by destroying the ticket!
From a cameo to a starring role, Windfall was an NBC show that explored what it would be like to win $400 million. Premiering in 2006, the drama profiled a group of lottery players in a small US town who managed to win the big one. Although the show only ran for a single season in the US, it was later picked up by stations in the UK and the Middle East.
After seeing the success of Windfall outside of the US, producers at the BBC took the concept and reworked it for a British audience. The end result was a show called The Syndicate that ran for three seasons between 2012 and 2015. Part drama, part comedy, the show featured a number of high-profile actors, including Timothy Spall. Each series followed a different winning syndicate and, as you’d expect, competing interests and ideas lead to a series of comical and controversial showdowns.
When it comes to TV tropes, lotteries might not be the first thing you think of. However, when you consider that big wins often change people’s lives immeasurably, there’s clearly a lot of scopes to develop interesting storylines. The five shows we’ve listed above are certainly examples of this and, if we were betting men and women, we’d wager money that they won’t be the last time we see lotteries on TV.