Card Sharks (NBC, 1978-1981)
This is another game show that launched in America before it came to the UK as Play Your Cards Right in 1980, but unlike most of the others that I’ve reviewed recently, this one was fairly successful in its original format, running for almost 2,000 editions over a decade. Card Sharks was hosted by Jim Perry alongside his female co-hosts. Although the basic idea of the gameplay was the same, there were a few notable differences from the UK version.
The main difference was that two single players competed against one another (as was the case in the first series of Play Your Cards Right, before it was changed to the more familiar two teams of two, usually married couples). The contestants were given a question that 100 people in a particular profession had been surveyed on. One contestant gives a number that they think was the amount of people who gave a particular response.
The other contestant then says if they thought the figure was higher or lower. The actual number is then revealed, and whoever was closest gains control of the game (with a bonus on offer for anyone who got the exact number). This was the familiar situation of there being five playing cards (and being able to change the opening card), and having to guess if the next card would have a higher or lower value (and at this point I noticed that this version was much lighter on catchphrases than the UK, with Bruce Forsyth’s famous “you get nothing for a pair” or “didn’t they do well” and so on not being used here).
Winning a game earned a $100 bonus, and the first contestant to win two games went into the final called Money Cards. Again, this was just about the same as the UK version, with the contestant making a bet on whether the next card was higher or lower. However, in this version, money was at stake (contestants in the UK didn’t play for money in this round until the 90s revival), and somewhat unsurprisingly, if they managed to get to the top level they could win a large amount of money and get rather overexcited.
Another thing that was different was that contestants would then stay on to play another opponent, and they could play up to seven games before retiring undefeated (every show in the UK version was self-contained, with no returning winners), and games also straddled into the next edition if they were uncompleted. After Card Sharks ended on NBC in 1981, it was revived by CBS and ran from 1986-1989 (with a few format changes), and there was one more revival in the 2000s. As ever, it was great seeing how a game show that I was very fond of watching in the 90s started out.