The YouTube Files – The Krypton Factor USA.

The Krypton Factor (ABC, 1981)

If you are a regular you will know that The Krypton Factor is one of my favourite game shows, and wondering how many variations have been made over the years, I was interested to discover that an American version was made in the early-80s. It was hosted by Dick Clark, a veteran presenter who appeared on TV for decades, and the show was described as the ultimate test of mental and physical abilities. vlcsnap-00105

Four contestants from across the country took part in five rounds (or “phases” as they were called here). Phase one was the reflex test. The contestants had to complete a challenge on an Atari computer game that was impressive technology at the time, which was a test of hand-eye co-ordination. If they were successful they scored five points. Phase two was mental agility. Two questions were asked about various words and numbers. Get the first question right and score four points. Get it wrong and they are eliminated from the round. Get the second question right and score six points for a maximum of ten. vlcsnap-00104

Phase three was physical ability. This was the assault course round and the obstacles were very tough to complete, possibly even more so than the British version. Every contestant started at the same time, there were no head starts, and the winner of this round scored 20 points, with 15 points for coming second, 10 points for coming third, and five points for coming fourth. vlcsnap-00109

Phase four was observation. Contestants had to watch a film clip, and then they would be asked two questions about what they saw and heard, with four points for getting the first question correct, and six points for the second. There would then be an identity parade where contestants would have to spot an actor who appeared in the scene from a line-up of six for a bonus of ten points. vlcsnap-00110

Phase five was general knowledge. Questions were asked on the buzzer, with two points for a correct answer, and two deducted for an incorrect answer. At the midway point in the round, this increased to four points for a correct answer, four points deducted for an incorrect answer. When time was up, the contestant with the highest score won $5,000 and was invented to return for the final at the end of the series. vlcsnap-00114

There were four heats, with the four winners going into the final, with the star prize being $50,000. Also in 1981, two of the finalists in the US version played two contestants from the UK version in an international special. It seems that this version of The Krypton Factor wasn’t a huge success though, it only ran for five editions. In 1990 there was a second attempt at an American version featuring younger contestants but again this didn’t do very well.


The YouTube Files – Who Wants To Be A Super Millionaire?

Who Wants To Be A Super Millionaire? (ABC, 2004)

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is one of the most successful game shows that there has ever been… and it all started here! There have been variations of the show all around the world, and I planned to review the American version. Whilst having a look at some editions on YouTube, I realised that they had made a special variation on the famous format.

The American version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire launched on ABC in 1999 and was originally hosted by Regis Philbin. This version actually produced a million winning contestant before the British version did. The show did become very popular, and the decision was made to take the idea to the next level. How many people would like to become a super millionaire? vlcsnap-01336

In America in 2004, there was a special series that lasted 12 editions called Who Wants To Be A Super Millionaire? which had some slight changes to the format. Again, contestants had to answer 15 questions correctly and had three lifelines available, but there was a lot more at stake. After qualifying by playing the Fastest Finger First round, if contestants went all the way they would win a remarkable $10,000,000! vlcsnap-01334

This meant that the money amounts on offer went up very quickly. The first safe point at question five was worth $5,000, and if they get the tenth question right they are guaranteed $100,000. When they get to the 11th question, there is now a change in the game. Firstly, the amounts that are now on offer are huge, and two new lifelines that were never used in the UK version come into play. vlcsnap-01343

These were The Three Wise Men, where a trio of panellists (including a former contestant) could consult one another on what they thought the answer was for 30 seconds, sort of a deluxe Phone A Friend. There was also the Double Dip, where contestants could make two guesses at what they thought the answer was, although if they used this they couldn’t walk away from the question and they then couldn’t use any of their other remaining lifelines. vlcsnap-01335

The contestant who progressed the most was Robert Essig, who got as far as the 12th question and won $1,000,000. It was a little odd to think that this wasn’t the top prize in this version, and although he didn’t play it, he saw the 13th question which was worth $2,500,000. We can only imagine what the level of difficultly was for the final question that was worth an eight-figure sum. vlcsnap-01341

There was a contestant who went even further though. In the regular version, for a while, $10,000 was added to the top prize for every time it wasn’t won, meaning that Kevin Olmstead went on to win a massive $2,180,000 for getting the final question right, the biggest game show win at the time. He was rather pleased about it. And indeed, just about everyone else watching was. Super Millionaire was definitely an interesting variation on the format, and unlike the UK, it seems that the American version is still going on TV.

The YouTube Files – Family Fortunes USA.

Family Feud (ABC, 1976-1985, CBS, 1988-1993)

This is another game show that began in America before coming to the UK, but unlike just about the all others that I have reviewed so far, this one is a very-long running and popular show. Family Feud (which was renamed Family Fortunes when it launched in the UK in 1980, because the idea of two teams competing against one another on a game show being described to British viewers as a “feud”, ugh, how ghastly!) launched in the mid-70s. I didn’t know much about the American version beyond the parody in Family Guy, and, as ever, I was intrigued to discover more on YouTube. vlcsnap-01211

The way that Family Feud is played is just about the same as the British version, it’s a simple but effective format that has endured on American TV for many decades. Two related teams of five take part and they have to find the most popular answers to a question in a survey of 100 people. Some things that I definitely noticed as different in this version is that for the first stage of the game the board isn’t computer-generated, and it’s rather strange to not hear the famous incorrect answer sound effect. It does seem that the US version can be as good value for silly answers as the UK version though! vlcsnap-01210

In the next round, the point values are doubled, can you believe it. The first team to get to 300 points makes the final called Fast Money (Big Money in the UK version). If two of the five contestants on the team can score 200 points between them they can win lots of money, ($5,000 in the earliest version, again much more than the 80s UK version could offer) and this version also had returning champions, so five-figure sums were possible to win. vlcsnap-01213

There have been several versions of Family Feud over the years with several hosts, although the basic idea remains the same, and the current version features a lot of questions that seem to be deliberately phrased to practically encourage contestants to offer rude or silly answers leading to loads of daft “you won’t believe what this contestant said!” headlines alongside endless celebrity specials. vlcsnap-01214

As I do enjoy the original version of Family Fortunes, I thought that Family Feud was an interesting variation. It was definitely good seeing the show played with more money on offer, and it’s great to know that the format is as much loved in America as it is in the UK and indeed many other countries around the world. I’ll take a look at some more American game shows soon.