Two parts Concentration plus one part Sale of the Century and one part true/false quiz equals Three on a Match, a fondly remembered game.

August 2, 1971-June 28, 1974
NBC, Daytime
Don Pardo
Produced By:
Bob Stewart Productions

ORIGINAL FORMAT: August 2, 1971-April 20, 1973

"(Contestants), if your first three picks match, you win that prize plus a new car, on Three on a Match!"

Bill opened each episode of the series by knocking on the wall behind his podium for good luck, and it must have worked--"Three on a Match" would earn Bill his first Emmy nomination.

Three contestants compete. Three categories are announced (the third is usually, but not always, a potpourri category like "The Mixed Quiz" or "General Info"), and the contestants secretly bid on how many questions, one to four, they want to answer. Top bidder wins the auction, unless there's a tie, in which case the contestants cancel each other out and low bid wins. If all three tie, the bids are erased and they bid again.

The winning bidder selects a category and tries to fill their bid by answering as many true/false questions as needed to win an amount of money calculated as ($10 x total number bid by all three players). If they fail, the next high bidder tries to fill their own bid for the same amount. If there's a tie for next high bid, another auction is held between the remaining players. High bid wins, and if the players tie, the round is simply thrown out.

Three new categories are introduced after every auction. Also, at least one category in each set of three hid either a bonus of "double pot" (where the total number bid is multiplied by $20 instead of $10) or "One/Two/Three Free Box(es)," which can't be saved. The contestant must go to the prizeboard immediately to use this bonus.

Once a contestant has at least $90, they have the option to go to the prizeboard. The prizeboard consists of 12 spaces divided into $20, $30, and $40 columns, and the four boxes in each column are represented by a color. The prizeboard hides four prizes with a common theme (luxury items, furniture, etc.) The contestant calls out spaces by the value & color ("$30 on the Red, Bill!") To win a prize, and the game, the contestant must purchase three boxes hiding the same prize, with one box per prize in each money column (in other words, a prize won't be three $20 boxes or two $40s and a $30. It's behind one $20, one $30, and one $40.) Occasionally to make things interesting, a "No Match" space was placed somewhere on the board.

Contestants keep picking boxes until they've spent all their money, or the money they have left can't buy anything that will win a prize, at which point the game simply continues. If they match a prize, the contestant wins that prize, keeps what money s/he still has, and meets two new opponents. And as the opening indicates, if the first three picks match, the contestant also gets a new car.

REVISED FORMAT: April 23, 1973-June 28, 1974

"(Contestants), if your first three picks match, you win the game instantly and at least $5,000 in cash and prizes! It's Three on a Match!"

Shortly after Bob Stewart launched "The $10,000 Pyramid," bringing big money payoffs into daytime television, he would revamp this series to include more cash, more prizes, and big winners.

The game was played largely the same, with contestants bidding for the right to answer true/false questions for a chance at a few dollars and free boxes.

The difference was that now the game board hid pictures with a common bond (movie stars, animals, etc.). When a contestant made a match, they made a note of it with the flip cards on the podiums, the dollar amounts were erased and the contestants started over again.

The first contestant to get three matches wins a $5,000 prize package and the right to meet two new opponents. If a contestant makes a match on their first three picks, they automatically win the game and the $5,000 prize package. If a contestant makes seven consecutive matches, s/he wins a $5,000 cash bonus and a new car. In an unheard-of rule for network games in the '70s, there was no winnings limit, and contestants could continue until defeated. We know of at least one contestant who won about $35,000 under this format.

Also included in the new format was "The Big Match," a bonus game played by all three contestants played once per show. Two halves of a $1,000 bill are hidden in two boxes on the board, the other ten boxes are blank. The contestants go down the line selecting the boxes until either the contestants have uncovered a total of nine blanks (ending the game) or until one of them finds half of the bill. That contestant then has one final pick to locate the other half of the bill for a cash jackpot that starts at $1,000 and increases by $1,000 each week (every fifth day) until won.

Bob Stewart also infused the show with added bonuses during the second half of the run. Home viewers were invited to send in postcard entries for theme-writing contests, with the three funniest entries winning prizes. Special weeks were done where a special symbol appeared on the board for every game whether it fit the category or not, and every contestant who matched the symbols was entered into a special drawing for a grand prize at the end of the week.

An enjoyable game. Certainly one of the faster-paced games Bill hosted, but he doesn't seem to struggle through it. The concept was a clever one, and unlike most format changes, the second format seems just as good as the first.

This is arguably the first game show Bill hosted with a "TV  Institution" reputation, and even after 25 years he shows himself to be the master emcee here maintaining a perfect and constant flow and pace to the game. With "Three on a Match," Bill earned the title "Mister Game Show."

Hands down, my favorite photo of Bill.

Environmentally-minded NBC recycled this photo for his next series, which is why you see it ID'ed as "Winning Streak" when it pops up on Ebay now and then.

Even money says Bill is asking a contestant if they want to go to the board right now or wait for a few minutes.

This is probably one of the most famous photos of Bill. It's one of five photos featured on the cover of Wink Martindale's autobiography, Winking at Life; it was used as a publicity shot for Bill's work on the NBC radio show "Monitor"; it was on the wall behind Ken Ober's podium on "MTV's Remote Control"; and during the series' second format, the "Famous Monsters" board got good mileage out of this photo by adding horns & a red cape to make a devil out of Bill.

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