The YouTube Files – Sale Of The Century USA.

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. vlcsnap-00041

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. vlcsnap-00042

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. vlcsnap-00044

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. vlcsnap-00043

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.

The YouTube Files – Now You See It USA.

Now You See It (CBS, 1974-1975, 1989)

This is another American game show that came to the UK in the 80s. There were two versions of the original, the first was in the mid-70s, and then there was a revival for a short while in 1989. Being more interested in 80s TV, I’ll review that version. The basic idea of Now You See It is to try and find the hidden words, they really are right in front of your eyes if you look close enough.

The host in charge of this version was Chuck Henry. The set design featured three different stages where the three parts of the game were played, each one higher up than the last, it looked mildly scary. Two contestants took part, and the format had changed a little since the original version. There was a grid with four rows of various letters, which unlike the in the 70s was now computer-generated. vlcsnap-00036

The clue is given, and the points on offer that start at 100, drop five at a time, stopping at 25. If the contestant thinks they know the answer, they have to buzz in (cue weird flashing light effect), and give what line the word is on as well as the actual answer. Getting it wrong means their opponent can have a go. The board changes at the halfway point, and if they are short of time, the points get doubled. The first to score 1,000 points progresses to the next round. vlcsnap-00037

They then go on to play the defending champion, and it seems that lucky mascots were encouraged, although whether these people thought that they were succeeding because they had a baseball with them is unclear. What is also rather unusual is that you can hear Chuck talking to the contestants as they go to the break. You did really well, honest! vlcsnap-00038

In round two, the board contains six words all on the same category that have to be found. They have to buzz in to give the first one, and then they have 20 seconds to find the other five. If they don’t, their opponent has five seconds to find just one remaining word. Their screens pop up and down so they can’t see the grid in advance. Whoever wins the first round gets $200. This is then played again for $300, $400, and so on. The first contestant to win $1,000 makes the final. Whoever achieves this is usually rather pleased to put it mildly. vlcsnap-00035

In the final, ten answers have to be found on a grid in 60 seconds. $100 is won for every word found, and by now, as well as having to find the correct line, they also have to circle the word using an electronic pencil. If they achieve this, they win the star prize, and as contestants can return for up to five days, they can win thousands of dollars, along with plenty of prizes. There was also a computer game version around this time. vlcsnap-00039

The YouTube Files – Lingo USA.

Lingo (1987-1988)

This is the original American version of the game show that briefly appeared on ITV in the late-80s. Lingo was the game that combined wordpower and Bingo, and was described as “television’s most challenging game”, which might be overselling it a little. There were various hosts, including Ralph Andrews (who wasn’t the creator of This Is Your Life, that was Ralph Edwards).

The format was fairly similar to what happened in the UK version. Two teams of two took part, and played with a 5×5 grid. One had odd numbers, the other had even numbers, and seven numbers are automatically filled. The had to guess the mystery five-letter words within five goes, and they were given the first letter to start them off. Get the word right, and they can choose two balls, which are announced by the co-host. vlcsnap-00029

The numbers are then placed on their card. If a jackpot ball is found, they can win a bonus, but only if they win the overall game. If they don’t, the prize rolls over to the next game. But finding a red ball means that they lose their turn, so the contestants would often say “no red ball”, in a similar style to how they would constantly squeal “no whammys!” on Press Your Luck. vlcsnap-00030

The first team to create a Lingo, whether in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal direction, win a bonus and go on to the final. In this, there is another 5×5 grid, which has 16 squares filled in. But the idea is now to not create a Lingo. Again, they had to guess words, but they were now given two letters to start off. They then have to pick out as many balls as guesses they needed to find the word, a maximum of five. vlcsnap-00031

If the number isn’t on the board, then it’s good news. Finding a gold ball is even better, as that means an automatic win. If they do succeed, they can go on to the next word for a chance to double their money, but finding a Lingo means they will lose a lot. They could play up to five times, meaning that the maximum that they could win was $64,000. vlcsnap-00032

This was much more than the £3,200 that was on offer in the British version (and even that was pushing it based on the restrictions on prize money in place at the time). There were some rather tense finishes where people pushed their luck and could barely believe what happened. Games could also straddle if they were unfinished at the end of an edition. vlcsnap-00033

Lingo originally ran in America for only about six months, and there have been several other versions of the show around the world, mostly in European countries. There was then a revival of the show in America in the 2000s, and recently there have been rumours that Lingo might be returning in the UK after over three decades soon too, which could be interesting.

The YouTube Files – Gladiators USA.

American Gladiators (1989-1996)

This is another example of a game show that started in America, before coming to the UK, and also going on to be a big success in many other versions around the world. This was the show where athletes competed against the might of the Gladiators in various challenges, and you really did have to be rather fit to beat them. One of the main hosts was Mike Adamle, and you’ll soon see why I am rather familiar with that name (not just because the surname is almost the same as my first name).

The format of American Gladiators was fairly similar to what we got in this country. Two male and two female contestants competed against each other in usually around six games, to try and score some points, but the Gladiators will aim to stop them. They all had the usual names that made them sound all big and tough like Laser, Nitro, and Zap, there were lots of them. Some of the games were rather familiar too, with the Duel being among the most famous. The referee always had to make sure that they were keeping track of the action. vlcsnap-00024

Can the amateurs beat the professionals at their own game? Well whatever points were scored by the contestants were then taken into the final challenge which was the Eliminator, a demanding obstacle course that really will test their strength. Let’s hope that they’re fit enough. This was a knockout format, with the winner progressing to the next round, and the overall series champion winning a cash prize, usually around $10,000. along with lots of acclaim. vlcsnap-00027

One thing that is interesting about American Gladiators is that it was presented almost as if it was sport coverage more than a game show, with plenty of breathless commentary, along with analysis of how the contestants have performed, and also a rather enthusiastic crowd. There were seven series of the show, that led to a computer game, along with a soundtrack of the music used. vlcsnap-00025

The UK version launched in the early-90s, and proved to be a good hit with viewers, enhancing Saturday nights on ITV. After a while there was an international special that was held in this country, where contestants and Gladiators from across the world competed, and Adamle was also one of the hosts of this, I hope he managed to put up with John Fashanu.vlcsnap-00026

And the original US version was also shown in this country on ITV, although rather late at night. As I had got into the British version, out of curiosity I decided to set the video for an edition one night, which just happened to be the grand final (which was co-hosted by Adamle), so there was a lot at stake and it was all rather exciting. And just like in the UK in the late-2000s, there was a revival of the format in America, which would run for a couple of series.

The YouTube Files – Trivial Pursuit USA.

Trivial Pursuit (The Family Channel, 1993-1994)

I do enjoy a good game of Trivial Pursuit, like many others I’m sure. There have been two attempts to bring this board game to TV in the UK, and the American version is much closer to the second UK version hosted by Tony Slattery (which was also shown on The Family Channel, which later evolved into Challenge). This version of the show was hosted by Wink Martindale.

Now I’m fairly sure that this is the first time that we have come across Mr Martindale on this blog. It seems that he has hosted many other game shows in a career that has lasted for decades, and he was the co-executive producer of this one, which meant that we knew there was going to be a decent host in charge. This was the show that was packed with trivia and interesting facts, well I thought so. vlcsnap-00018

Three contestants took part, all hoping to win the star prize. They have a pie that is split into 12 parts. They have to light all the parts of their pie, meaning that they have to give two correct answers in every category. In the first round, the categories are the same as what you’d find in the traditional version of the board game, Entertainment, Arts & Literature, and so on. vlcsnap-00019

Contestants pick the category, but there is only one question for every category, meaning that they all get two goes each. But get it wrong, and it goes on offer on the buzzer. In round two, again there are six categories on offer, but they are now different to the board game version. Look out for the bonus question, which may contain a picture clue, get that right and they $100 and an extra slice. vlcsnap-00020

Round three once again featured different categories, along with some bonuses. The final round goes back to the traditional categories. A question is asked to gain control. Whoever gets it right chooses the category, and they keeping choosing until they get one wrong, and which point the others can buzz in. Whoever completes their pie, or has the most slices when time is up, wins $500 and advances to the final. The others take away whatever money they won and some consolation prizes. vlcsnap-00021

In the final, six questions have to be answered in 45 seconds, one on each traditional category. If they get one wrong, they go back round to the categories until they get it right. If they don’t win, they get $100 for every correct answer, but if they do, they win $1,000 and the star prize of a holiday, and of course they would always be rather pleased about that. vlcsnap-00022

There were also versions that were extended to an hour, that began with preliminary rounds, where nine contestants had to answer various multiple-choice questions against the clock, with the highest scorers being reduced to six, and then they were reduced to the three who progressed to the main game. There was also an interactive game where viewers would be encouraged to phone in to win prizes too. There was another game show with a similar format in America in 2008.

The YouTube Files – Win, Lose Or Draw USA.

Win, Lose Or Draw (NBC, 1987-1989)

Win, Lose Or Draw was the quick-draw game show that brightened the ITV daytime schedule for eight years in the 90s, but the original American version of the show launched in 1987. There was a version on NBC, and also a syndicated version, but this piece will concentrate on the NBC version. Firstly, did you know that the co-creator of the format was none other than Burt Reynolds, the set design was based on his own front room, and his production company co-produced the show.

The host was Vicki Lawrence, and two teams of three took part, one all-male, and one all-female. Two celebrities (well what passed for celebrities on American TV at this time, and it seems that a lot of people who were in sitcoms or daytime soaps about a decade earlier took part), along with a non-famous player. Their name badges were in the shape of an easel, in the UK it was a pencil (why do I notice these things). vlcsnap-00073

The show began with a caricature of all the celebrities taking part that day on the board, along with the host. There weren’t too many differences in the format to what we saw in the UK. The opening sequence was the same too, although the music was different. The teams simply have to guess the famous phrases that are being drawn, so hopefully they can communicate this in time. Remember to sit on the floor.vlcsnap-00017

In the first three rounds, every contestant has one go. They had a minute to draw the clue, and if their teammates got it right, they won $200. If they hadn’t got it with 30 seconds remaining, a doorbell sounded, and they could swap with a teammate, but the money went down to $100. In the UK version, only the money would go down. If they didn’t get it though, it was passed over to the other team for a chance to steal the money.vlcsnap-00014

Then there was the speed round. One of the team is nominated to play, and they have to draw as many clues as they can in 90 seconds for $100 each, and they can only pass on two. The winning team then received a bonus of $1,000, meaning that a contestant could win around $2,000 on average. And if they have any leftover time, someone is pulled out of the studio audience to play a round, for a chance to win $100 themselves and get on TV, much to their delight. vlcsnap-00015

The NBC version ran until 1989, while the syndicated version ran until 1990. There were also some special editions made on location around America. And there was a spin-off series for teenagers that ran for a few years (there was a British version of this that was shown on GMTV). At least there wasn’t a late-night spin-off in America! There was also a board game and computer game version, and along with the UK, there were also versions of Win, Lose Or Draw in various other countries including Canada and France.

The YouTube Files – Small Talk USA.

Small Talk (The Family Channel, 1996-1997)

This is the American version of the game show that ran in the UK on BBC1 in the mid-90s, and this one launched just as that one was ending in 1996. Small Talk (which mustn’t be confused with Child’s Play) was hosted by comedian Wil Shriner, someone who I must admit I’m not that familiar with. Because this version was on a commercial channel instead of the BBC, there was a shorter running time, meaning that there were some rule changes to deal with the time constraints.

Three contestants took part as always, although seven children took part instead of nine. The basic idea of trying to guess what the children’s answers would be to various questions remained though, with most of the humour coming from their sometimes unusual observations on things in life. The set design was also rather similar, with multi-coloured speech bubbles everywhere. vlcsnap-00007

In round one, the contestants have to guess what answer a child would give to a question, such as “do you like cauliflower?” for ten points. Six of the seven are asked, meaning that there are two goes each. The things they say, honestly. If the contestants can guess the response that the majority of children gave too, they score 20 points. Oh yes! This round is then played again, but the points are doubled. vlcsnap-00008

Next is the speed round, where there is one question, and the contestants are simply asked if they thought the child did or didn’t know the answer. There are 60 points for a correct answer. The highest scorer gets $500 and progresses to the final, although the other contestants do take away some consolation prizes, but they don’t include the trophy that you get in the British version, you’re more likely to get some binoculars. vlcsnap-00010

The final is played in a similar style to what is actually the penultimate round in the UK, presumably this is also for time constraints. Again, all of the children are asked a question, and the contestant now chooses them at random by pressing a button. Their aim is to get three correct matches before they give two incorrect ones. If they can do this, they win a bonus $1,000, meaning that the most that could be won was $1,500. vlcsnap-00012

I’m not sure how often the children appeared on the show, whether it was rather regularly and they rotated, or they got one go each like the contestants. This version of Small Talk definitely had as many laughs as you would get in the UK, but it only ran for about three months on The Family Channel before leaving the screen for good.

The YouTube Files – The Weakest Link USA.

The Weakest Link (NBC, 2001-2002)

When The Weakest Link launched in the UK in the summer of 2000, it very quickly became a success. Beginning rather quietly on BBC2, by the end of the year there were celebrity specials on BBC1. This was mostly down to the hosting of Anne Robinson, whose rather cold style surprised viewers, along with the gameplay element of openly declaring what contestant you didn’t think was doing well and deserved to be eliminated.

Less than a year after the launch, The Weakest Link came to America on NBC, and again Robinson would be the host, just what would viewers make of her style. The rules were just about the same, but eight contestants took part instead of nine, and $125,000 could be banked in every round (with the money doubled in the final round), meaning the top prize was a million dollars, much more than the £10,000 on offer in the British daytime version, but only if the team helped each other out. This was followed by the shoot-out at the end for all the money. vlcsnap-00002

The British contestants quietly dealt with Robinson’s comments most of the time, and after being told that they were the weakest, they often tried to take it on the chin. The average American was far less reserved about the situation though, definitely making their feelings known, and there was much more at stake, so they better make the right decision, and hope that their opponents will be taking the dreaded “walk of shame”. There were also celebrity specials, and they could definitely hold their own against anything that Robinson said. vlcsnap-00005

Just like in the UK, Robinson became a big hit for her rather uncompromising and emotionless style, and many people wondered if she was a robot whose batteries were on the blink. It was a big deal. And by now in the UK you could buy a tape featuring the best exits, or even play the game yourself at home on the PlayStation. But if fads come and go quickly in this country, then that counts for double in America, which is the toughest TV market in the world. vlcsnap-00004

Robinson’s run as host came to an end in 2002, the final editions were unaired by NBC, and around this time Family Guy even did a joke about Robinson’s famous catchphrases being rather dated cultural references. Despite this, there was also a syndicated version (not hosted by Robinson) that ran until 2003 but with less money on offer, although the British version continued for about another decade. vlcsnap-00006

The American version was also briefly shown in the UK in 2001 on BBC2, a rare occurrence of a non-British game show being shown in this country. There was also a documentary about Robinson’s experience hosting the new version. But very recently there was a revival of the show in America on NBC with a new host, meaning that someone must clearly think there’s still some potential in the format.

The YouTube Files – The Elvira Show.

The Elvira Show (CBS, 1993)

I wanted to do something a little different for a piece on Halloween, and I discovered something on YouTube that definitely fits the bill. In America in 1981, Movie Macabre launched. This was a show that was hosted by Elvira, the self-styled “Mistress Of The Dark”, a spooky alter-ego who was created and played by actress Cassandra Peterson.

Now Elvira had a rather striking look, with big black hair, and a dress that didn’t leave much to the imagination. In Movie Macabre, Elvira introduced and commented on rather bad horror and science-fiction B-movies, some of them having since become unintentionally amusing. The show originally ran for five years and gained a cult following despite being shown rather late at night, as proven by the smudgy clips taken from now rather mouldy VHS tapes that are available online. vlcsnap-00516

By the mid-80s, Elvira had become a famous character, and was appearing on various TV shows, along with adverts and music videos, and in 1988 there was a successful comedy film. Elvira also became known in the UK, hosting the 1989 BBC2 series Heavy Metal Heaven. There was also a huge amount of merchandise, including comics, computer games, and even pinball machines. vlcsnap-00527

By the 90s, someone thought that it would be a good idea to put the Elvira character into a sitcom, so in 1993 a pilot episode was made for CBS, which is on YouTube. Elvira couldn’t do it all on her own though, so the idea was expanded, with additional characters added, including some shock long-lost relatives. Would this character work in this different format? vlcsnap-00523

The Elvira Show was set in Kansas, and along with Elvira, who works as a fortune teller doing psychic readings, the other main cast members are her long-lost aunt Minerva who is a witch, her long-lost niece Paige who is a girl scout, and Renfield the talking cat, who made “catty” remarks, ha-ha. The guest cast included Chip, who Elvira is very pleased to make the acquaintance of. He could fall under her spell, but does he have a secret? The squealing studio audience couldn’t wait to find out. vlcsnap-00525

Although this was enjoyable, there clearly weren’t 200 episodes in the idea as the show didn’t go any further than an unaired pilot. Looking back, many people think that the show was a cross between Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Married… With Children, with an unusual mix of witchcraft and boobie jokes. Maybe the idea was too spooky for a cheesy domestic sitcom with too much hugging. After this, Elvira made many more guest appearances in TV shows, along with more series of Movie Macabre.

The YouTube Files – A morning with Channel 4.

A Morning With Channel 4 (Channel 4, 1995)

The Big Breakfast was a great way to start the day for many years on Channel 4. I thought that I would see if there were any full editions on YouTube, and if so, as well as enjoying the show, review some of the adverts that were shown to get an idea of what was around at the time. The edition I have chosen was shown on 20 October 1995 (25 years ago now would you believe). Chris Evans has long-gone by this point, the hosts are Keith Chegwin and Gary Roslin (who left shortly after this at the start of 1996). Here are some of the highlights. vlcsnap-01072

A lot of adverts appear several times. One is for the Clueless film which was a success at the time, and I reviewed the TV sitcom spin-off recently. It also features a very early example of a website address. Half-term is approaching, so expect plenty of toy adverts. These include lots of adverts for a board game version of Pog. Now that game really was the big thing at the time. It was very popular, and I remember having plenty of Pogs myself. The advert is rather odd though. vlcsnap-01074

There are also some music adverts, including one for the “Smash Hits 3″ compilation. The magazine was still around, and this album featured some of the biggest hits of ’95! Take That! Backstreet Boys! Smokie! All the groups the youngsters love! There’s also an exclusive from PJ And Duncan. Now don’t laugh, but I always looked forward to seeing their new videos on The Chart Show at this point, it was so exciting. vlcsnap-01075

Then there is another odd advert for Pog, which informs us “This is an advertisement for Pog™”. I’m not really sure why, it doesn’t say “this is a television programme” all the way through The Big Breakfast, where by this point they’re anticipating the first episode of new soap Hollyoaks on Monday. There’s also an advert hoping we’ll buy the Star Wars films on VHS. vlcsnap-01081

Also featuring is Shredded Wheat with Sharron Davies, who was one of the hosts of the ill-fated relaunch (one of the many ill-fated relaunches as it turned out) of The Big Breakfast in 1996, although we didn’t know that yet. Then there’s another Pog advert?! We’ve had about six of them already and it’s still only 7:38! The show is probably already overrunning by about 20 minutes by this point as it always did. vlcsnap-01083

There really are too many toy adverts, featuring Super Sticker Factory, Playskool, and creepy dolls among them. Time to enter The World Of The Strange, with chewy fruity bar thing Fruitang, featuring Trevor And Simon of Live & Kicking fame. I don’t remember that bar lasting long though. And there’s also a chance to groove to “The Ultimate Soul Collection Volume 2”. vlcsnap-01088

Into the second hour now, which features Salon Selectives, which is notable because it is soundtracked by “Breakout” from Swing Out Sister! It’s always great to hear this, which would’ve been almost a decade old by this point. You can also buy the cartoon version of The Mask on VHS, and don’t forget Milky Way Magic Stars, The Fox And The Hound (“the best children’s video of 1994”), Cheerios, and ending off with a rather trippy advert (computer-generated green dolphins floating around and the like) for Schizan, whatever that was. vlcsnap-01092

I suppose the main thing to take away from all this is I want a Pog.