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Powerball Frenzy: Why Pop Culture Lottery Winners Are Always Losers

By Aly Semigran, Hollywood.com Staff

Winning the lottery sounds pretty terrific, doesn't it? In an instant you can go from just getting by to having a Two and a Half Men-sized paycheck without actually having to appear on Two and a Half Men. (Now that is the definition of winning.) America has, once again, fallen under the spell of lotto fever now that the Powerball jackpot is up to nearly $500 million. With visions of worry-free Christmas shopping, a Blank Check-quality lifestyle, and telling your boss to take this job and shove it dancing in everyone's heads, it's easy to forget that winning the lottery also comes with a hefty price tag.

Never mind the fact that you'd be considered a Scrooge McDuck-like one percenter by your friends, family, and society as a whole (consider how being rich turned out for the ritzy folks in The Dark Knight Rises) but winning the lottery has a notoriously negative track record in Hollywood, too. Hitting the jackpot cursed Hurley (Jorge Garcia, pictured) on Lost, gave Bow Wow a shot at making another movie, and retroactively undid eight previously brilliant seasons of Roseanne. Brush up on your required school reading of The Lottery and then consider these cautionary Hollywood tales before you and your officemates chip in for a Powerball ticket today.

Hurley on Lost: Poor Hurley. This guy couldn't catch a break even when he was plucked (get it? Mr. Cluck's Chicken Shack!) from his miserable existence and won $114 million in the lottery for playing those fateful numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. Those very same ""cursed"" numbers would lead Hurley to the island where... you know what, let's not even bother trying to explain what happened on that island. The moral of Hurley's story is, don't play those numbers if you decide to try the Powerball.

Roseanne: In its prime, Roseanne was a groundbreaking series about what life was really like for the lower/middle class in America. They looked like us, they sounded like us, they lived in houses like ours. It broke the sitcom mold in so many ways. But when the show entered its ninth and final season the show abandoned what made it great and turned the blue collar Conner clan into millionaires after they won the lottery. It turned out to be the point of no return for the Conners and the show itself.

Windfall: Imagine living in a fictional television town where you and all the other townsfolk (one of whom includes none other than Luke Perry) win — and attempt to share — $400 million? Sounds pretty good, right? What could possibly go wrong? Oh right, NBC could cancel you after one measly season despite having a spot on the then-prime Thursday night lineup.

It Could Happen To You: Sure, the cop (Nicholas Cage) and the waitress (Bridget Fonda) eventually have their adorable, deserving happily ever after, but everything that leads up to it was something of a nightmare. Cage's Charlie Lang has to deal with his greedy, grating wife who eventually becomes his ex-wife (played by Rosie Perez) and takes him to court for splitting their lottery ticket with a total stranger (Fonda's Yvonne). Yvonne has to deal with her own pesky ex (played by Stanley Tucci), not to mention the nonstop hounding she and Charlie got from the press.

The Lottery Ticket: When Kevin Carson (Bow Wow) finds himself with a winning lottery ticket worth $370 million, he spends the next hour-and-a-half trying to escape from people trying to get their hands on his coveted prize. The ""comedy"" was no jackpot at the box office though, the 2010 flick earned a measly $24 million.

Waking Ned Devine: Imagine if Weekend At Bernie's took place in Ireland and Bernie had a winning lottery ticket before he bit the big one. The quirky comedy gets away with its pretty twisted plot line (the townspeople try to con an inspector into believing the deceased Ned is still around so they can all collect the massive lottery earnings) but it's still a pretty warped, and illegal, way to have a fortune.

Friends: Okay, it was a little annoying to watch outrageously rich people like Jennifer Aniston pretend they really need lottery money, but it was all the obvious comedy cliches in the Season 8 episode that made it such a loser. When the gang (except for a stubborn Ross) all pool together to buy lottery tickets, there's scheming (Monica buys separate tickets for her and Chandler so that they wouldn't share with the others) and shenanigans abound, like when Phoebe drops all of the tickets, including a possible winner, off the balcony. Did they learn nothing from Roseanne? Why even tempt fate?

The Office: Much like Friends and Roseanne, The Office had a lottery-themed episode when the series began to run on creative fumes. Here, the warehouse staff (except for poor Daryl, who was now working in the office and, in an even crueler twist of fate, the winning numbers were his birthday) won the lotto and quit Dunder-Mifflin. It's bad enough there's no more Michael, but no more Midge? We quit, too.

The Hunger Games: Okay, The Reaping is not exactly the same as the actual money-winning lottery, but this is a lottery no less — and it's one that could cost you your life. It's essentially Russian Roulette Bingo for kids. May the odds be ever in your favor that you don't win this one.

That $500 million doesn't sound so good after all, does it? Nope, that's a damn lie. It still sounds pretty incredible. Sorry, Hurley!

[Photo credit: ABC]

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