TAPE DATE

Unknown, believed to be 1979

NETWORK(S)

Unknown, believed to be for NBC

ANNOUNCER

Johnny Jacobs

PRODUCED BY

Jack Barry & Dan Enright Productions

 

"From Hollywood, it's time to play Decisions, Decisions! (Contestants are introduced) Watch them wrestle with Decisions, Decisions!"
(Singers: "Deciiisions, Decisiiiooooooonnnnnnsssss!")

 

The personal favorite unsold pilot of the author of this site, "Decisions, Decisions" was a fun game that eventually became the "Hot Potato" bonus round.


Two celebrity-contestant teams play; for pilot #1, the celebrities were David Letterman & Joyce Bulifant. For pilot #2, they were Arte Johnson & Liz Torres. Each team plays a question in each of the two rounds, and knowing producers Jack Barry & Dan Enright, the champions were probably supposed to go first in the first round.

 

In the first round, each team is asked a question and given six answers. For example, "Which animal reproduces more frequently?" The contestant picks two answers from the six possible, and Bill restates the question. The celebrity makes a decision, and the correct answer (and only the answer, no additional information) is revealed. If correct, the team receives one point.

 

With the correct answer from the previous pair still revealed, the contestant selects one of the four remaining answers, and now the celebrity must choose the better answer of the new pair. Again, if correct, a point is awarded. Play continues until all six answers have been revealed (at which point Bill opens a big book and shows the correct order for all answers).

 

In Round Two, the trailing team goes first. This time around, the celebrity chooses the answers and the contestant makes the decision. Each correct answer this time around is worth two points. The team in the lead after Round Two wins $500 and plays the bonus round. Heaven knows what might happen in the event of a tie.

 

In the bonus round, six more answers are shown, and in this case, the question is, "Which animals have the shortest life expectancies?" (Strangely, BOTH pilots use this question for the end game.)

 

To start, Bill tells the team a fact about the worst answer (in this case, "Avoid the animal with the longest life expectancy, 100 years.") With that in mind, the contestant selects answers one at a time. Each correct answer is worth $500, and the contestant can quit any time. If the contestant gives a wrong answer, Bill reveals the next worst answer (in this case, the second-longest life expectancy) and the celebrity partner takes over and continues the bonus round. If the celebrity partner is wrong at anytime, all the money won to that point is lost and the game ends. If the team can clear the board without giving two wrong answers, the contestant keeps all the money won plus a fabulous bonus prize.

 

The Bad: The slowness of the show may have doomed it. Pilot #1 runs a whopping 28 minutes, and that's even with a truncated second round. In pilot #2, Round 1 is still in progress at the 12-minute mark or so and Bill begins none-too-subtly telling the teams to hurry up. Even with Bill's admonitions, the game still clocks in at 30 minutes commercial-free. That's just not going to work.

Second, the contestants don't have a pass/play option of any kind; each team is stuck with whatever question the writers have assigned to them, so it's kind of unfortunate to see a team being "stuck" with a hard question.

 


 

The Good: Fun game. Great set (although celebrity teammate David Letterman says it looks like Christmas at a ski lodge); good theme music (the instrumental track of Donna Summer's version of "MacArthur Park," with singers and whistling added).

It had good, thought-provoking questions, and the gimmick of having Bill use a giant book to show the information after each question played was neat, despite being a little cheesy. Personally, I think the front game untouched would be a more sensible bonus round for "Hot Potato" than the simplified version that was eventually used.

 

Also, this has nothing to do with the game itself, but it should be acknowledged that the undisputed star of the show is David Letterman's contestant partner, a wise-cracking woman named Madeline who is obviously having the time of her life and tosses out jokes throughout the show. She even lands a few zingers on Dave!

 

Most notable is that this is Bill Cullen's first collaboration with Jack Barry & Dan Enright productions (that we know of). It's a good one and its "unsold" status is game show fandom's loss. (I can see why it didn't make it to air, though. That running time would have scared any network executive, and if were B&E, I would have been looking for rule-tweaks that could change the game to a best-of-3 rounds format, or perhaps increasing point values for each question and playing to a set score)

Final decision: This pilot is slow-moving and flawed, but somehow, it's great.

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