Sale Of The Century (NBC, 1969-1973, 1983-1989)
I have already done three pieces taking a look back at the UK versions of Sale Of The Century, which were the original on ITV, along with the revivals on Sky One and Challenge. And I’m sure that you’ve all been waiting for a fourth piece, so I thought that I would review the original American version too. Although this was another one that launched in the late-60s, I’ll look at the format that had been established by the mid-80s.
The host by this point was Jim Perry, who we have previously come across when he was host of Card Sharks (the American version of Play Your Cards Right), accompanied by far too many co-hosts. Three contestants including a defending champion took part, and their aim was to answer the questions and bag those bargains. Jim had a multicoloured display on the front of his desk that went green for correct answers, and red for incorrect ones.
The contestants all begin with $20, and whatever round it is, they get $5 for every correct answer, with $5 deducted for an incorrect one. And there are also the Instant Bargains. An item is shown to the contestant with the highest score. If they like what they see, they buzz in, and the price is deducted from their score. If they are unsure, the host will occasionally take the price down even further, to as little as $5 sometimes, making it almost impossible to turn down.
There was also The Fame Game that was played three times in a show. A question about a famous person or thing is read. Buzz in and get it right, and they can choose from one of nine squares on the board. Some concealed money values which increased in every round, up to $25, so if that was found it could make all the difference.
The game ends with the 60 seconds speed round, which is the final chance to make some money. The contestant with the highest score progresses to the Winners Board. This features 20 squares, and behind them are various prizes. If the contestant finds a match, they win the prize. If they found a square that said “WIN”, they instantly won what was behind the next square they chose.
Winners could come back until they had won everything that was on offer on the board, and this included a car, lots of money, and many other fancy things, meaning that they could win over $100,000 in cash and prizes, not bad at all. Once again it’s fairly clear that the prizes on offer were much more valuable than in the UK version, and this format continued successfully into the late-80s.