NBC has finally put a price tag on the proverbial 15 minutes of fame. And at $10 a second, that quarter-hour works out to a cool $9,000.
That may sound like a lot of money to some, but on Tuesday, Terry Dutcher had her eye on much more than just 15 minutes' worth of fame -- and fortune -- as she prepared to compete that evening on "Million Second Quiz," a new game show airing on NBC.
Contestants on "Million Second Quiz" earn cash based on how long they can stay in the "Money Chair" -- $10 for every second they sit there. And they remain in the chair by going one-on-one against challengers in a multiple-choice quiz, with the winner either keeping or taking over the chair. As long as a contestant continues to beat all comers, he or she stays in the chair, and the money meter continues to run.
The game, which began Monday on an outdoor set in the heart of Manhattan, continues nonstop for 12 days and nights, through Sept. 19. One hour of the competition is aired each night, live, on prime-time television. Viewers can compete at home, via computer or mobile device, for a chance to be chosen as a contestant.
During Monday night's prime-time airing, Terry Dutcher, of Syracuse, was selected live on air as one of these "line jumpers" -- a contestant picked to compete the next night in prime time against the current occupant of the "Money Chair." If victorious Tuesday evening, Dutcher would have taken over the Money Chair and begun earning $10 per second for as long as she could hold off challengers.
On Tuesday night, however, things didn't quite work out as the Dutcher family had hoped. The Syracuse woman challenged for the Money Chair during the prime-time airing, but lost a close, back-and-forth contest for the right to sit in it.
"She was a little disappointed, and told me she was sorry she didn't win," said husband Jeff Dutcher, who watched the show from their home in Syracuse and talked to his wife by telephone shortly after the program. "I told her, 'We might not be millionaires, but as long as I've got you, I feel rich.' "
Jeff Dutcher said his wife was "absolutely just exhausted" following the show.
"She was up, like, 37 hours without sleeping going into the show," he said. "That's what all the players are doing. You keep playing and playing, and just don't sleep."
In a telephone interview with the Standard-Examiner on Tuesday, just hours before her 15 minutes of fame, a tired Terry Dutcher said she had been trying to catch a quick nap. She had taken a red-eye flight to New York City late Monday night, then was interviewed on NBC's "Today" show early Tuesday morning.
"As a matter of fact, I just had put my head down for a little nap when they came and told me they needed me to do an interview with your newspaper," she said.
No need to apologize for the interruption, Dutcher said; she knows it's just part of the whole experience.
"It's all adrenaline right now anyway," she said.
Dutcher is a major in the Air Force Reserve and director of business operations for the 309th Commodities Maintenance Group at Hill Air Force Base. She is the mother of Cpl. Michael A. Pursel, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on May 6, 2007, in Iraq.
Before being selected Monday night, Dutcher had been competing from home -- via iPad, laptop and smartphone -- ever since the million-second clock began ticking Sunday morning. She had amassed some 70,000 points, getting about 64 percent of the questions correct. All with husband Jeff Dutcher nearby, kibitzing.
"He'll stand over my shoulder whispering the answer to me," Terry Dutcher said.
Dutcher said she and Jeff enjoy watching these sorts of game shows together.
"The Dutchers are competitive by nature," she says.
Indeed, one of the first things her husband told her after she was selected to go to New York was, "It should have been me."
Dutcher wasn't worried her husband wouldn't be in New York City on Tuesday night to whisper the answers.
"I usually knew the answer before he said it," she explained.
Once Terry Dutcher had done the obligatory pre-show newspaper interview, would she be off to catch that much-needed nap?
"Not really," she said. "I know a lot of the questions on the show involve current events, so I need to spend some time catching up on the news today."
Contact reporter Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/mark.saal.