March 20, 1972 - June 27, 1975
ABC Daytime
Jack Clark
Produced By:
Stefan Hatos-Monty Hall Productions

"Today, one of these three players will be our champion and will be trying for a bonus of $X,X00 plus a chance to win one of these new Pontiacs, on..."

Tom reigned as emcee of this breathtaking quiz that took "Jeopardy!" to a new level.

Three contestants compete. Tom asks a three-part question. The contestants ring in, their lockout devices determining the order in which they’ll answer. The first contestant chooses which part of the question s/he wants to answer and gives a response. The second contestant then chooses from the two remaining (or all three if the first contestant was wrong), and the third contestant may have one, two, or all three choices.

Round One paid $5 if all three contestants answered correctly, $10 each if two contestants answer correctly, and $25 if only one contestant answers correctly, and the first contestant to achieve a "Singleton" wins a bonus prize. Round Two payoffs are $10, $25, and $50.

In addition to the many questions in which Tom implored contestants to "look at the board," the game drills contestants with a variety of visual questions (involving in some instances, paintings that have been manipulated, graphics for fill-in-the-blank questions, and even announcer Jack Clark as Ramar of the Jungle on one occasion). Each game also had one "Memory Buster," in which Tom reads a list to the contestants and the contestants have to give the answers that fit a category that he announces afterward.

The third and final round of the game iss the Countdown Round, in which each contestant iss assigned a number of answers needed to win the game. The contestant in first place has to give three correct answers to win, the contestant in second place needs four correct answers, and the contestant in third place needs five correct answers (in a tie, the tied players need the lower number of questions). Tom then went to asking questions, only now a contestant could answer more than just one part, and could keep going in a particular question as long as their answers were right. (Hence the first-place contestant could win on the first question.)

Whoever hits zero first wins the game and the right to try for a new car, and all players keep their accumulated winnings.

The winner chooses one of five keys and then chooses one of five cars on display. S/he then hops into the car and turns the key. If the car doesn't start, the winner comes back for the next show. If the car does start, the winner gets the car and a cash jackpot that starts at $200 and grows by $200 a day until won (later in the series, $1,000 plus $500 a day until won). If a contestant wins five games in a row, they automatically win the jackpot and whichever of the five cars they want.

Very few shows make it on the air without at least one pilot - and Split Second was no different. Click the slate above to learn more about Split Second's 1971 pilot!

An absolutely superb and flawless quiz show. It was a hit for three years before being canceled along with “Password” and “Blankety Blanks.” This was unfortunate as “Split Second” was being canceled solely on the merit of how the two series preceding it were doing in the ratings. That, and while game shows thrived in 1975,  it was somehow determined that straightforward quiz shows were passe. “Jeopardy!,” “The Joker’s Wild,” and “The Big Showdown” were also canceled that year.
The series was revived in 1986 featuring series co-creator Monty Hall as emcee but low clearances & low payoffs doomed the series.

An anecdote about how good this show was. When I first watched an episode, I knew what the game’s outcome would be because of the episode summary I had read. After the Countdown Round, I realized I had still held my breath anyway. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a good quiz show.

ABC was a veritable "house of hits" for game show fans when Tom and "Split Second" arrived in early 1972. The daytime line-up already included such institutions as "The Newlywed Game" with Bob Eubanks, "The Dating Game" with Jim Lange, "Password" with Allen Ludden, and "Let's Make a Deal" with Monty Hall. As it turned out, the new show fit right into such an established group, and "Split Second" thrived for more than three years.

Tom made emceeing an art here. From the opening question and his instruction to “look…at…the board” to the closing sigh of relief after the Countdown Round, Tom successfully juxtaposed speed and suspense with a calm, relaxed demeanor, which is exactly what the show needed. A lesser emcee either would have gone for suspense and made the show seem cold and sterile, and an emcee focusing on being friendly and methodical would have damaged the show’s excitement factor. Tom did it juuuusssssttt right.

Of course, I'm just a game show fan with a website, so maybe I'm not the best judge there...but another game show emcee might be! On the final episode of Split Second in 1975, Tom's boss, Monty Hall, paid him tribute during the final moments of the show.

"I just wanted to jump out here because this is the final Split Second show, and on behalf of my partner, Stef Hatos, and all of the gang back at the office, we wanted you to know how proud we were of the job that the entire Split Second gang did for the entire three years and a bit...and the wonderful job that you did too. You brought a lot of class to our organization and you did it just beautifully. Thank you so much for the wonderful job that you did."

Tom takes more than a Split Second to explain how he feels about "Split Second." (1.64 MB)


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