Deal or No Deal, for many years, has been one of Endemol’s more popular shows. The banker-host-contestant-briefcase premise is simple yet alters the lives of people around the world financially. Other than the huge prizes, from its origins in the Netherlands to equally successful franchises in the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and even Vietnam, the show highlights genuine excitement through and through. And with iconic – not to mention comical – hosts such as Linda de Mol, Noel Edmonds, and Howie Mandel, the consolation of losing the jackpot isn’t so bad after all.
With its basic principles, high stakes, and entertainment value, Deal or No Deal is an undeniable global phenomenon. It’s also evident by its adaptation onto various gaming platforms like Agame, iWin, and Gala Casino’s version of the game. But behind all these obvious physical and digital charms, there are real life stories worth noting; contestants who saw the fulfillment of their dreams and their lives change for the better. One such tale is a diehard comic book fan from Michigan and Deal or No Deal participant, Josh Akuna.
In 2008, Josh Akuna joined the United States’ version of Deal or No Deal. It was safe to say he didn’t have the blistering start he hoped for, opening the million-dollar briefcase in his first attempt. When things looked bleak in the opening moments of the episode, Akuna found his groove – and lady luck – knocking off lower dollar cases in the process. As the banker’s deals kept growing, the audience slowly got to know more about Josh’s motivation in joining the game show. He shared with host Howie Mandel about the hardships of working multiple jobs just to save enough money for a dream house and wedding.
Like many of his comic book idols, Josh Akuna has glaring weaknesses and can easily be tempted by them. Since they were in the process of planning their wedding, his fiancé urged him to instantly take the banker’s offer once it got above $150,000. With another twist of fate, Akuna had to deal with his antagonist’s (the banker’s) mental warfare, playing with his fear of squirrels and clowns. Psychologically beaten down but not out, Josh found his second wind to finish what he started and come home to his future wife with nothing less than $150,000. As an added incentive, the famous Deal or No Deal models returned on stage wearing Storm costumes. Come to think of it, the banker wasn’t so bad after all.
With only five briefcases left, ranging from $300 to $750,000, the banker presented our main protagonist Josh Akuna with $250,000. Differing his fiancé’s plan, he declined the offer, only to open the $400,000 case the next round. Once again, like in the opening round, he slowly saw his world crumble around him. The banker then offered Josh $189,000 for his troubles – a far cry from the previous $400,000 yet decent enough to cover their planned $150,000. To help straighten his thoughts, Howie Mandel added a rare proposal to the equation. Since he knew Akuna is a huge comic book fan, Mandel promised the contestant that he’d be drawn into what was then an upcoming Uncanny X-Men #500. In the end, Josh Akuna made the sensible choice and accepted the banker’s and the host’s special offer.
Other than presenting a life-altering opportunity, game shows such as Deal or No Deal tell inspiring stories to the millions of people who catch airings night in and night out. For Josh Akuna, though it’s disappointing to turn his back on a $400,000 offer, he still has something that can neither be taken away nor spent: the lifelong dream of having his likeness immortalized in a landmark Marvel comic book.