January-September 1980


Daily Syndication


Jay Stewart, Bob Hilton


Jack Barry & Dan Enright Productions



"During the next thirty minutes, intuition could win our players $NN,000 in cash, BECAUSE...

It's time to challenge everybody's knowledge, it's time to..."




"Play the Percentages" was an engaging show with a solid format, but if you happen to disagree, wait a week and they'll change it.



Two married couples compete, alternating between wife vs. wife and husband vs. husband. To start, Geoff reads a general knowledge question asked to 300 people nationwide. The two players competing for that question lock in their guess as to what percentage gave the correct answer.



Whoever is closest wins points for their team, and the points equal the correct percentage (36% gives the right answer, the closest estimate wins 36 points.) That teammate can then win the remaining points of the 100% (in this example, 64 points) by answering the question correctly themselves OR they can force the opponent to answer. If the opponent is right, they win the remaining points; if wrong, the challenging player wins those remaining points AND gets a chance to answer the question themselves for the same amount again (so in our example, the potential value of the question totals 164 points). Play continues until somebody scores 300 points, winning the game, $300, and the right to play the bonus round. If a player guesses the percentage on the nose for any question, they automatically win the game.


The bonus round is preceded by one of the cooler special effects in game show history, as the floor from the section of the stage used for the main game rises vertically to create the gameboard for the bonus round.



To start the bonus round, the couple chooses any number between 1 and100 to be their target number (displayed throughout the bonus round on the lower right circle of the gameboard). Geoff then asks another series of general knowledge questions with three choices. Of the three choices in each question, one was not given by anyone in the survey (and is worth 0 points as a result). Another was the most popular answer in the survey (often but not always the correct answer) and the other was just an answer that got some points (this one might also be the correct answer).


For each question Geoff asks, the couple makes a choice and the percentage for each of the three answers is revealed in the upper circle. If the couple's chosen answer got any points at all, the points are added to the couples' total. If the couple chooses a zero answer at any point, the bonus game ends and they lose. After every question, the couple has the option of taking $10 per point accumulated (63 points are worth $630) and quitting, with the risk being that they get nothing if they find a zero answer next. If they accumulate 100 points without a zero answer turning up, they win $2500 in cash. If an answer chosen by the couple has a percentage value matching the target number they picked, they win the jackpot, which starts at $25,000 and builds by $1,000 a day until won.


And as was the status quo with Barry & Enright Productions, winning five straight games automatically won a brand new car.



FORMAT CHANGE #1: The jackpot was moved from the bonus game to the front game. Matching a percentage exactly in the front game broke the jackpot, in addition to getting the automatic win. The target percentage was removed entirely.


Why was this rule changed? I'll tell you why, and I'm not making this up---it was changed because the display that showed the couple's target percentage during the bonus round broke down after the first week, and Barry & Enright just decided it would be easier to change the rules than fix the necessary electronics.



FORMAT CHANGE #2: In the bonus game, if the contestant guesses the answer that got some points but was not the most popular answer, they must choose the most popular answer from the two remaining beforemoving on to the next question.



FORMAT CHANGE #3: The jackpot started at $10,000 instead of $25,000.




"This is the game where people determine the difficulty of the questions! Let's...Play the Percentages!"


People as opposed to what? Lawn gnomes determining the difficulty?...Toward the end of the show's run, the series suddenly switched to a format eerily similar to the notorious "Twenty-One."


Two solo contestants play a game with three categories, one category chosen by each player and a third "Pot Luck" category. A category was randomly chosen to start each round; if it was a category chosen by one of the contestants, that player had the first crack at answering a question. Question values (chosen by the contestant) ranged from 10-90 points, representing the (rounded-off) percentage of the survey that answered the question WRONG. If "Pot Luck" was the selected category, the questions were jump-in. Two questions were played in each round. The first contestant to score 250 points wins the game and $500. If there was no winner after five rounds, a series of 50-point toss-up questions was asked until somebody attained the needed points.


TOTAL OVERHAUL FORMAT CHANGE: All questions were toss-up questions.


In the bonus game, the contestant could invite a friend or relative in the audience to come onstage to help. Geoff asked one survey question and revealed six answers, the five most given in the survey and one answer not given. The top five answers were proportionately calculated to total 100%, and if the contestant and helper could pick the five answers given in the survey without finding the 0% answer, the contestant won $1,000 in cash and a $2,500 prize package.


And before any of that happened, there was the pilot...Taped November 2, 1979, the pilot was nearly identical to the initial couples format. The only significant differences were a chorus of singers helping Jay Stewart introduce Geoff at the start ("Play the Percentages, here's Geoff to show you hoooooooowwwww..."), a set resembling a giant lava lamp, and another format for the end game. In this author's opinion, it was actually better than the end game of the aired series...


In the pilot end game, the couple was given 100 points to start. Geoff would then read them five questions posed to a survey group, and the correct answers for those questions. The couple would estimate what percentage gave the correct answer for each question.

The correct percentages were then revealed. For each percentage point the couple was away from the correct percentage, they lost one point (think Lucky Seven from "The Price is Right"). If they had any points remaining at all after three questions, they won $500. If they had any points remaining after four questions, the money doubled to $1,000. If they had any points remaining after all five questions, the money tripled to $3,000. If the couple's estimate matched the correct percentage on any question, they won the big cash jackpot.


What could have prompted Barry & Enright to overhaul the show like this baffles me because the original married couples format had plenty offer. A great play-along element for the home viewer, basing the format on gauging the intelligence of a survey group (a totally unique use of survey groups in game shows as far as I know), a good range of difficulty to keep the game interesting, and a big cash prize to keep the game tense at all times. Who could ask for anything more?


Geoff's performance here is akin to seeing Tom Kennedy's performance on "To Say the Least"...with this program, he is officially used to being a game show host. He knows what he's doing, he's entertaining and funny, develops an instant chemistry with every couple on the show, and infuses the show with humor whenever possible (for example, his running gag arguments with "Erik Von Judge," the offstage ruler of accuracy on contestants' answers. He's 100% capable of carrying a show now and it showed here.


GEOFF REMEMBERS: FIRE THAT CUE CARD GUY!...OH, WAIT... Dan Enright didn't want to pay a cue card person. So he would hold the cue cards. And I'm up there...doing my "Welcome to the show!" thing, and Dan is standing there, and somebody asks him a question, so he starts to talk to them and never changes the card. Finally, I'm saying, "Dan! Can you change the card?!"

So the next show, he's there with the cards. Every time he changed a card, he'd pass it to the guy next to him, who would pass it to the guy next to him, who would pass it to the guy next to him, so cue cards were going all around the studio. Dan was a sweet guy, I liked him a lot.

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