Airdate(s)

April 23, 1979- May 30, 1980

Network(s) CBS Daytime
Announcer(s) Rod Roddy
Produced By Jay Wolpert
in association with The Bud Austin Company
and Burt Sugarman Productions

 



 

"Close calls!...Narrow escapes!...Split second decisions!...And $25,000 in cash!...A combination guaranteed to make you say..."

 

 

 

The first Jay Wolpert Production saw Tom at the helm of a "breathtaking" game.

 

Two contestants, a champion and a challenger, compete. To start, Tom announces the categories for Round One and Round Two. The challenger selects whether to be the "blocker" or the "charger" in the first round, with the champion taking the opposite position.

 

At the start of the round, the charger goes into isolation while the blocker faces the game board and selects six spaces in which to hide six blocks. The blocks could be placed anywhere, with the only limitations being that only one of the blocks could be placed on Level 6, and no more than three blocks could be placed on any one of the first five levels. After the blocker finalizes the selections, the charger is taken out of isolation and begins charging.

 

The charger has 60 seconds to clear the board. To do this, they must ascend one level at a time by selecting solving underlined bloopers in statements; for example, "The original host of 'The Price is Right' was Bill Me Later." The charger could not advance to the next level on the game board until s/he had solved at least one blooper on the current level.

If a block is uncovered along the way, the charger must stop charging while they lose five seconds from their clock.

 

If the charger is still on one of the first five levels and feels s/he is running out of time, s/he can yell "Longshot!," which automatically stops the clock and takes them to Level 6. The blocker then hides a secret block by pressing one of three hidden buttons on their podium, and the charger makes a final selection. If the charger uncovers a block, the blocker wins the round. If the charger uncovers a "safe" blooper and solves it, s/he wins the round, otherwise the blocker wins.

 

For the second round, the blocker and the charger switch positions and if a third round is necessary, the champion selects whether to block or charge after hearing the category. Two out of three rounds wins the game and whatever money was credited to the winner. (As a charger, the player was credited the values of each blooper correctly solved and as a blocker, the player was credited with the values attached to blocks that the opponent uncovered.)

The winner then faced the Gauntlet of Villains for $25,000 in cash.

 

In the Gauntlet of Villains the contestant started with a base time of 60 seconds and received an extra second for every $100 won in the front game (i.e. a contestant with $730 gets 67 seconds). When the bell sounds, Tom starts reciting bloopers and the contestant has up to two seconds to solve a blooper before the Villain reveals the answer. The contestant has to stay with a villain until solving a blooper and advancing to the next villain. For every blooper solved the contestant wins $100, but if the contestant solves 10 bloopers with time to spare, s/he wins $25,000 and retires undefeated.

 

For you game show trivia completists out there, the 10 Villains who comprised the Gauntlet were: Alphonse the Gangster; Bruno the Headsman; Mister Van Louse the Landlord; Nero the Fiddler; Count Nibbleneck the vampire; Frank & his little friend Stein; Kid Rotten the Gunslinger; Jeremy Swash; Doctor Deranged the Mad Professor; and Lucretia the Witch.

 


 

A contestant, celebrity partner Betty White, and announcer Rod Roddy during a taping break on "Celebrity Whew!"
In November 1979, the show became "Celebrity Whew!" (in advertising only, on the air they still referred to it only as "Whew!") with celebrity teammates alternating with the contestants to solve the bloopers in the front game, and doing half the work in the Gauntlet, either the first five or the last five based on the civilian's decision.
The other difference in "Celebrity Whew!," and the only change I really liked, was that if a contestant won two straight rounds, they played Round Three alone for bonus money, with the six blocks randomly placed beforehand.


At least three pilots were taped for the series. The game was played identically to the aired series. The only differences were in presentation. The theme music was significantly different. The opening theme was the same melody, except with woodwinds instead of brass, giving it a more cartoony sound. The charger "charging on outta here" and the walk from center stage to the gauntlet used an incredibly dancable disco piece. The charge up the board used the guitar section from that same piece.


The set was, if you can believe it, more colorful than the series. A blue cyclorama surrounded everything; Level 6's boxes were red. One of the spiffier touches: The charger's podium had a "block clock," a series of five lights that counted down the seconds any time a block was uncovered.
Fans of "Press Your Luck" will recognize one of the pilot contestants as Maggie Brown, a metal worker who was on the pilot and the series of "Press Your Luck" and stood out for her nervous, excitable manner. She's much the same in the pilot for "Whew!" and it's easy to see why producers liked using her for pilots.

 

UNCONFIRMED SPECULATION ALERT! Of the at-least three pilots taped for this series, this is the one that supplied most of the publicity photos for the series when it went to air; however, I strongly suspect that it was not the one shown to CBS. You want your pilot to include as many elements of the game as possible; decisions, dilemma, strategy, etc. There are two problems with this pilot that make me think it wouldn't have been used for consideration. The Longshot is never called for by either player, and Maggie completes the Gauntlet of Villains without a single wrong answer, with about twenty seconds remaining on the clock. It's a very anticlimactic win.



Special Tributes

 

This is Randy Amasia, a big winner on "Whew!" and an even bigger fan of the show who passed away in 2001. He developed an incredible tribute to "Whew!" during his life and the site remains today at http://www.classicgameshows.com/whew/index.html



 

And if you don't recognize this guy, it's probably only because he's not wearing the glittering tuxedos that would eventually become his trademark. Rod Roddy had already made a name for himself as the narrator on the controversial sitcom "Soap," but he arrived on the game show scene with "Whew!" He would go on to announce for "Battlestars" in 1982, "Hit Man" and "Press Your Luck" in 1983. He will always be remembered for his work on "The Price is Right." In 1986, Rod became the man who called contestants to "come on down," a role he filled for the next 17 years.

 

As stated earlier, this was the first Jay Wolpert Production, and it certainly started a trend that every other Jay Wolpert Production followed. Very creative, a small but loyal group of fans, and limited success to show for its uniqueness. Make no mistake, this was one the very best forgotten games of all time.

 

Tom's performance here is one of those jobs where you can tell the emcee is proud to be associated with the show. He announces a number of statements in a loud, cartoonish, but not overly goofy tone that fits the show rather well. Tom was obviously well-rehearsed for each show, as he delivers each blooper perfectly, and as a result the jokes never fail. A great emcee for a great game, but then, does that surprise you?

 

Up One Level to: The Shows of Tom Kennedy

Up Two Levels to: Tom Kennedy's World

Up Three Levels to: Game Show Utopia