October 4, 1976 - December 31, 1976
NBC, Daytime
John Harlan
Produced By:
Ralph Andrews

"(John Harlan announces the contestants and categories and dollar amounts to be played) on NBC's biggest money quiz, The 50 Grand Slam!"

Tom hosted this flawed but ambitious attempt to return to the good old days of big money quiz shows.

Each episode consists of several rounds played about different categories. A field of nine contestants competes in each category, and two contestants are randomly selected to play the first game. Tom asks each contestant, one of whom is seated in an isolation booth, the same four-part question. Whomever answers the most parts of the question correctly wins and has the option of continuing to the next money level, or quitting with the winnings they've accumulated so far. If the two contestants in a game tie they both advance to the next level. It took eight victories to win the $50,000 grand prize, and here are the values of each level you had to win to earn it:

Contestants continue competing in the category until someone wins the $50,000 or until the field of contestants is completely exhausted.

From its isolation booths to its payoffs to even its consolation prizes (like “The $64,000 Question,” contestants who went to the top and lost were consoled with a new car), “50 Grand Slam” was an obvious attempt to determine if modern audiences were ready to return to the good old days, only this time unrigged. The problem was the audience was completely ready, but the show was not. The format's primary flaw was that, after a given time of a certain category being played, it was going to become obvious whether or not anyone was going to win the big money, and if they weren't, and it showed, the audience was ready to change the channel.

If you could overlook that flaw, though, the show was a reasonably entertaining game. It was certainly something different in the field of game shows during 1976 (the previous year had more or less marked the temporary death of the straight quiz show). That, and the show had the right emcee.

Tom's booming voice and warm manner made him the ideal host for the show. This show couldn't have been served well by, say, Allen Ludden or even Bill Cullen, who were better suited to casual, friendly games. Tom, on the other hand, was the man for the job. After three years of hosting the “don't forget to take a breath” quiz “Split Second” and two seasons (at this time) of asking contestants how many notes they would need on “Name That Tune,” Tom was an expert in different category: “How to be suspenseful without being cold.” He was affable and good-natured during contestant interviews, but when the time came to play, Tom was truly all business.

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