AIRDATES October 3, 1977- April 21, 1978
NETWORK(S) NBC Daytime
ANNOUNCER(S) Kenny Williams
PRODUCED BY Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley Productions


 

Tom hosted this clever word puzzle game where the goal was to see how LITTLE help contestants could be to their partners.



Two teams consisting of two celebrities and one contestant, always all men vs. all women, compete. Two members of each team are sent into isolation and the remaining players are shown a sentence of six to ten words, and the subject the sentence is describing. The players alternate eliminating words, one at a time, until either (A) a player challenges, forcing the opposing teams to guess, or (B) only one word remains, which is an automatic challenge to whomever eliminated the previous word.


All four isolated players are then brought out, and the isolated players from the challenged team confer (without the contestant who stayed onstage) and guess the subject’s identity. A right answer wins the game for their team, a wrong answer gives the game to the opponents. Each game pays $100 and a prize package, two games wins the match and the winner plays the All-Star Game. Contestants remain on the show until they lose two matches, or win seven. Winning three matches straight nets the contestant a new car.
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In the All-Star Game, the four celebrities for the week randomly draw numbers backstage and stand behind the corresponding numbered doors. The contestant is shown a sentence and the subject, and eliminates all but three words.

The celebrity behind Door #1 walks out, reads what’s left, and guesses the subject. A correct guess pays the contestant $100.


The contestant eliminates another word, leaving two, and the celebrity behind Door #2 gives their guess. A correct answer pays an additional $200.


The contestant then eliminates another word, leaving only one, and the celebrity behind Door #3 gives their guess. A correct answer wins the jackpot, but if incorrect, the celebrity behind Door #4 gives their guess, and if they’re correct the contestant wins the jackpot. The jackpot starts at $2,000 and increases by $1,000 every time it’s not won.


A great, clever game. Although at first sight the bonus payoff seems kind of small, even for the late 1970s, the contestants are showered with prizes almost throughout the show, so even a loser could walk away from this show with a good haul. Another interesting aspect is that there are two good strategies for the front game, and they completely conflict each other: Eliminate the least important words and hope you get challenged, or eliminate the most important words and hope to challenge your opponent.

My only true complaint about the show is that the front game seemed a little shortish. How about a pot of points up for grabs, with each word eliminated adding point? Have the contestant play to a set goal instead of playing 2 out of 3 rounds, and it might have worked a little better.

Tom is also funny here, demonstrating a sarcastic side when the celebrities made unusual decisions about when to challenge and what to eliminate. In one episode the subject is “bullets” and only the word “silver” remains, leaving Tom to say, “Of course, because your partner probably won’t say…BELLS.” It was meant in fun, and obviously everyone is having fun. Tom was never deadly serious in any show he did, but this has to be the most light-hearted hosting job he did.


A full-set shot from the unaired pilot.

Tom was feeling at ease behind the podium, to say the least.
 

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