Lottery TV Shows

When it comes to drama, excitement, and incredible stories the lottery is an excellent source of material. Pick up the newspaper and you’ll find stories on lottery winners, lottery tickets lost and found, deserving winners, undeserving winners, betrayal, altruism, charity, and more. Nearly everything about the lottery is inherently dramatic, or can certainly be a starting point for an incredible story. Given the lottery’s dramatic potential it is no wonder that there have been numerous lottery TV shows through the years, as well as episodes of TV shows devoted to the lottery.

If I Had a Million

While not a TV show, 1932’s If I Had a Million was an anthology film that directly inspired a number of TV shows. If I Had a Million depicts the lives of eight lucky beneficiaries of a dying tycoon’s wealth randomly selected from a telephone book. Each vignette in this eight-part film explores what happens to each of the lucky recipients. The stories range from comedic to sad, happy to poetically fitting. If I Had a Million sets the tone in terms of subject matter for a number of television shows to follow, all of which examine what happens to people when their lives are dramatically changed in an instance of, seemingly, good fortune.

lottery tv shows

The Millionaire

The Millionaire was a hit TV show from 1955 until 1960, in the golden era of TV, and had a plot directly inspired by the movie If I Had a Million. The show’s premise was that a wealthy businessman, John Beresford Tipton, Jr., with a fascination with human behavior and the human condition sent his assistant, Michael Anthony, to deliver a $1 million check to a chosen beneficiary and report on the outcomes. Each episode was told as a recollection from Anthony’s point of view; starting with Anthony receiving instructions and a check from Tipton for that episode’s recipient. After the first commercial break Anthony would deliver the money to the recipient and the rest of the episode would be devoted to the effect that the money had on that person. The beneficiaries came from a variety of backgrounds, occupations, and circumstances but were not to know who the money was from. As with If I Had a Million, receiving a huge amount of money did not always have a positive effect on the life of the recipient.


The TV show Lottery! came and went in 1983, lasting only one season on the ABC network. Like If I Had a Million and The Millionaire before it, Lottery! was about the effects of sudden wealth on a person’s life. Lottery! revolved around two characters, Patrick Sean Flaherty, an agent for the Intersweep Lottery, and Eric Rush, an Internal Revenue Service agent looking over Flaherty’s shoulder to ensure that taxes were paid. This unlikely pair went around the United States informing ticket holders that they’d won the Intersweep Lottery. The agents would usually get caught up in the winner’s story afterward and remain in the episode. Lottery! was lighter in tone than its predecessors.


Windfall aired on NBC from 8 June – 31 August 2006, a scant two and a half months. The premise of Windfall was that twenty residents of a small city played the lottery and won $19 million each, changing the trajectory of their lives and their town forever. While Windfall was clearly not a ratings success, it did advance lottery themed show storylines beyond, ‘what happens when a person becomes fantastically wealthy in an instant’. Instead of watching a single character grappling with lottery riches in a vacuum, Windfall introduced more complex, human story lines and characters that were more recognizable to your average, non-lottery winning viewer.

The Syndicate

The Syndicate premiered in 2012 on BBC One and has had three seasons since then. The show focuses on a different, small lottery syndicate every season. Quick refresher; a syndicate is when players pool their money to buy more lines of an entry to a lottery, therefore increasing their odds of winning. The first season tells the story of five hard-up employees of a corner store in Leeds, England who have created a lottery syndicate amongst themselves. Like Windfall, The Syndicate uses the lottery as a way to tie people’s fates together. Midway through the first season it’s revealed that the syndicate has won the lottery and the newfound wealth of the syndicate’s players becomes another exciting plot element.

Friends – ‘The One with the Lottery’

Long running and popular American TV show Friends saw Joey, Monica, Ross, Chandler, Rachel, and Phoebe navigate just about every scenario imaginable. It’s no surprise, then, that the lottery featured into at least one episode in the series’ history. In ‘The One with the Lottery’ the friends pool their money and form a syndicate to play for a $300 million jackpot, which was huge for the 3 April 2003 air date of this episode. Joey and Monica purchase the group’s tickets and later it’s revealed that Monica bought a few extra for herself. Phoebe takes all of the tickets and runs outside to the balcony, threatening to drop and scatter the tickets on the streets below unless everyone vows that friends are more important than money. After some cajoling, everyone agrees that friends are indeed more important than money. As Phoebe heads back inside a pigeon scares her and she accidently drops the tickets, half of which are blown away, including one that would have won the group $10,000.

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Write Your Own Script

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.”
-Mark Twain

Over the years the lottery has provided plenty of dramatic material for television and movies. And rightfully so, since so much real life drama, intrigue, and excitement comes when lottery drums spin out the numbers. An interesting side note is that the big Spanish raffle draws produce some of the most amazing lottery commercials each year! However, life is so much more interesting and incredible than fiction. Don’t settle for watching TV shows about lottery winners, win it for yourself and live it! Play the world’s largest and most exciting lotteries right here, right now!