AIRDATES

January 7, 1974-September 26, 1975

NETWORK(S)

NBC Daytime

ANNOUNCER(S)

Don Pardo, Wayne Howell

PRODUCED BY

Bob Stewart

“Today, 16 people are here trying to win $50,000. Every one of them holds a different riddle, but only one of them holds the Jackpot Riddle. You never know when someone in our game will stand up and yell…”

Geoff hosted a riddle-packed half hour with a big payoff and a big contestant pool.

 

16 contestants compete for an entire week. To start, one is randomly declared the Expert and takes his/her place at the pulpit, while the other 15 sit in numbered seats at a three-tiered panel. Each of the 15 players in the panel is randomly issued a wallet containing a value (between $5 and $200, or sometimes bonuses, and of course one “Jackpot!”) and a riddle. Before the game begins, a target number—a three-digit multiple of five between 005 and 995—is selected, and a multiplier between 5 and 50 is also chosen. The two are multiplied to determine the Super Jackpot. So if, say, 635 is the target number and 30 is the multiplier, the Super Jackpot is worth $19,050.

 

After all that business is taken care of, the game starts. The Jackpot (different from the Super Jackpot) starts at $0 and the Expert chooses, by number, one of the 15 players. The player stands up and reads their value (“I’m worth $145 and this is my riddle…”). The value is added to the Jackpot, and the player reads the riddle. If the Expert solves it, the reader sits out for the rest of the round, and the Expert continues; a wrong answer means the Expert is out for that round and the reader becomes the new Expert and takes their place at the podium.


This continues until the Jackpot Riddle is found (which the chosen player proclaims by standing up and yelling, “Jackpot!”) and solved. A player could opt to pass the Jackpot riddle if found to solve other riddles and build up the Jackpot, the risk being that they would lose their Expert status if they tripped up along the way.

If the Jackpot riddle is solved, the expert and the reader split the Jackpot. If not, the reader becomes the new Expert and 15 new riddles are distributed, and the Jackpot keeps building up until a Jackpot Riddle is solved. This process continues with the same 16 players through the entire week.

 

But wait, remember that business with the target number and the Super Jackpot? Here’s how that works out. If  at any point in the game, the last three digits in the Jackpot match the target number (so, in our example, this would be when the Jackpot stood at $635, $1635, $2635, etc.) the Expert and the reader whose value caused the match get to go for the Super Jackpot Riddle in Geoff’s possession.

The Super Jackpot Riddle was MUCH harder than the riddles in the gallery. Geoff would read the riddle twice, and each of the two contestants got a chance to solve it. If either one did, they split the Super Jackpot; if wrong, the game continued as before. The contestants could also go for the Super Jackpot if one of the 15 players in the gallery had a Super Jackpot Wildcard, which allowed the reader holding it and the Expert to go for the Super Jackpot without matching the Target Number first. The Super Jackpot Wildcard was guaranteed to appear once a week early in the run, later changed to at least once every tenth show.

 

By the way, if you’re reading this rulesheet and thinking, “But $995 x 50 doesn’t work out to $50,000!,” if and when that happened, the show simply cheated on the math a little and spotted the Super Jackpot that extra $250 to make it work a full fifty grand.

GEOFF REMEMBERS: THE FIRST CRACK AT THE BIG PAY DAY Bob Stewart was my favorite boss in the game show business. No doubt, no question...greatest game show producer around, nicest guy, and he always listened to you if you had a suggestion. He was really great. He was a little cheap...We had the $50,000 question, and it was pretty early in the show, and I asked the riddle: "I'm black & white and filled with fuzz. What am I?" And the contestant started to give an answer, and I hear these footsteps running down the iron stairs yelling, "BUZZER! BUZZER!!" It was Bob Stewart.

 

GEOFF REMEMBERS: NOT EVEN A CLIP-ON? I guess I was the first emcee ever to appear without a tie. I met a guy one time when I was over at Paramount, and he said to me, "You know something? On my college exam for one of my television classes, one of my questions was, Who was the first emcee not to wear a tie? " And that caught on for a while. That started with...Lin Bolen. I think she put four game shows on the air one season, "Jackpot", "High Rollers" with Alex Trebek, and two shows with two other guys, and she called us "her studs."


"Today, 16 contestants will try to find the one player who holds a secret question worth up to $10,000! That's the player who will stand up and yell..."

In the summer of 1975, NBC's head of daytime programming, Lin Bolen, demanded that "Jackpot!" change its format. How did that work out for them?

GEOFF REMEMBERS: WHAT EFFECT DID LIN BOLEN HAVE ON THE SHOW, EXACTLY? She did a lot of damage! She killed it! Just killed it! She killed "Jackpot"! "Jackpot", as a show, was doing great. It was fun and we had great ratings. Then "The Young and Restless" came on and beat us in the ratings. Well, fine, it's a soap opera, come on. Lin said, "Okay," and got a focus group, and the focus group said, "We don't like riddles." So she changed it and that was the end of the show. If I had said anything, I would have been fired, so I didn't. And Bob Stewart had been told to do it this new way or go off the air.

...We worked the first couple of shows (under the new format) and then we went outside and sat on a fire escape. I remember talking to him about it up there and saying, "We're finished." The whole fun of the show disappeared.

16 contestants still competed for the entire week. This time around, the target number & multiplier were abandoned, and the Super Jackpot was worth a random amount between $2,000-$10,000.

The 16 contestants now asked "Hollywood Squares"-style true-false, yes-no, and multiple choice questions instead of riddles.

When the Jackpot question was found, the Expert had to make a decision: either answer the question immediately for the Jackpot, or answer every question remaining in the gallery first and come back to the Jackpot Question, which would then be for the Super Jackpot. The risk for the Expert was that if they made a mistake, not only did they lose their Expert status, but the Jackpot value would go back to $0 and a new Super Jackpot value would be determined. Seriously.
 


But up until all of that gun-to-the-head tinkering, this was a terrific show. It had a look unlike anything in the game show world at that point…Emcee in leisure suits as an unheard-of number of players solved riddles and boasting a very real chance at cash prizes exceeding $20,000 every day…no game show was doing that in 1974. And buried in all that uniqueness was the fact that this truthfully did have substance backing up the style. An involving, play-along-at-home element and simple game that simply didn’t get old, and all of it moved as fast as possible.

 

Geoff takes a “party host” approach to this show, teasing and interacting with the contestants in a very informal way (the one surviving episode, which was a Friday episode, sees him practically treating the players like family). After the dud that was “Hollywood’s Talking,” “Jackpot!” firmly established Geoff’s potential in the game show biz and did a great job of demonstrating abilities that would keep him in the genre for 20 years. You never know when I’ll stand up and yell, “Man, this is a good show!”

COULD YOU SOLVE THESE SUPER JACKPOT RIDDLES?
(Highlight the blank space with your mouse to see the answers)

$12,000: I'm Henry's radical daughter. Who am I?
 
JANE FONDA

$18,000: On my beat, I'm in a bar. What am I?
 
A MUSICAL NOTE

$23,000: On my show, I play both a "he" and a "she." Who am I? (HINT: Remember, it's 1974.)
 
FLIP WILSON

$38,750: I'm a Carpenter and he's a Shepard, but we're both in the same line of work. What are we?
 
ASTRONAUTS

$50,000: My first name is present tense; my last name is past tense. What am I?
 SEE-SAW

$50,000: I'm black & white and filled with fuzz. What am I?
 A POLICE CAR


Geoff cracking up during the pilot.
Geoff has a laugh near the Expert's podium. NBC also used this one for "Shoot for the Stars."
An NBC headshot from early in the series.
If I can find a shirt like Geoff's during my lifetime, I'll be a very happy man. NBC also dusted this photo off for publicity on "Shoot for the Stars."

Up One Level to: The Shows of Geoff Edwards

Up Two Levels to: Geoff Edwards' World

Up Three Levels to: Game Show Utopia