Lifespan: September 1956 - October 1958, January 2000 - May 2000
Hosts: Jack Barry, Maury Povich
Announcers: Bill McCord, John Kramer
Produced by: Jack Barry and Dan Enright Productions (1956-8), Phil Gurin Entertainment (2000)
Front Game Rules (1956-8 version)
Two players competed. Each contestant is locked in a sound-proof booth, so that neither player is aware of how his/her opponent is doing. In each round, the players are given a category, and elect to answer a question worth 1 to 11 points in that category. The higher the value, the harder the question, and upper-level questions often required multiple answers. A right answer added the value of the question to the player's score; a wrong answer deducted it (but a player couldn't go under 0). The player that scored 21 points in fewer rounds won $500 for each point his/her opponent was trailing (winning 21-18 won $1500). If both players reached 21 points in the same number of rounds, the game was a tie and another game was played, with the stakes raised by $500 a point. Also, after the second round, host Barry offered both players an opportunity to stop the game. If stopped, the player in the lead won.
|After each win, the champion was given the opportunity to stop with the money s/he had earned up to that point, or continue playing against the next challenger. If a champion lost, whatever winnings the challenger earned came out of the champion's total. Otherwise, a champion continued playing as long as s/he continued winning.
Front Game Rules (2000 version)
Two players competed, again sealed in sound-proof booths. The gameplay was similar to the original format, with a category offered and the contestants choosing a question from 1-11 points. However, in the newer version, a wrong answer assigned the contestant a "Strike"; accumulating three Strikes during the game meant elimination. Also, if a player was stuck, s/he was allowed to bring on stage a "Second Chance" player who could help him/her answer the question, but at the risk of getting two strikes if the contestant answered wrong. Like before, 21 points in fewer turns won the game. If there was a tie, a sudden-death toss-up question was played.
|In the early going, players won $100,000 for winning their first game, and each of the next three wins was worth $100K more, at which point the payouts reset in the fifth game. Later on, the payouts were adjusted as such: First game, $25K; Second game, $50K; Third game, $100K; Fourth, $250K; Fifth, $500K; Sixth, $750K; Seventh, $1M; at which point it reset. If a player lost in his/her first game, s/he took home $1000 as a consolation.
End Game Rules (2000 version)
The champion was then given the opportunity to add $210,000 to his/her total by playing a bonus round entitled "Perfect 21". In this round, up to six true/false statements were given to the contestant, each one worth multiples of $10K. The player could stop at any time, but a wrong answer forfeited the bonus round earnings. Like before, a champion continued until s/he met defeat.
As everyone here probably knows, Twenty One is the poster child for the 1950s quiz show scandals. During the premiere, the contestants missed all but one of the 18 questions asked during the show, and producer Dan Enright decided it would be best to give contestants the answers beforehand to make the games more exciting. This continued for quite some time until former champion Herb Stempel blew the whistle on the affair. (Stempel was told to throw a match against Columbia University professor Charles Van Doren, who executives thought were more telegenic.) When the cover was blown, game shows took a serious hit in the reputation, and Jack Barry and Dan Enright were considered pariahs in the genre for over a decade.
|The second version of the show was created as an answer to ABC's megahit (well, it was back then) quiz show "Who Wants to be A Millionaire". (Among the obvious send-ups to WWTBAM were the "Second Chance" feature and the bag of money given to players when they left.) The game was played with the extra-high payoffs until February 2000, when Harvard law school student Rahim Oberholtzer won $1,120,000 in four games, eclipsing all of WWTBAM's winners at this point. The next week, the payoffs were shrunk, but that didn't stop Lt. David Legler from blowing the record away in just three weeks, earning $1,765,000 himself. Legler was the highest money-winner in game show history for over a year, until WWTBAM reclaimed it thanks to a progressive jackpot.
Loogaroo Looks it Over
Twenty One (1956-8 version)
Gameplay: 3 pts.
I especially like the whole concept of not knowing how your opponent is doing.
Host: 2 pts.
Jack Barry did an admirable job, although he was a little repetitive.
Presentation: 2 pts.
Nice cosmetic touches included the models that opened the booths for the players and the live orchestra (which, admittedly, was the norm back then).
Execution: 0 pts.
I'm sure you can figure out why.
Total Score: 7 pts.
Twenty One (2000 version)
Gameplay: 1 pt.
The Second Chance element stuck out like a zit, and issuing Strikes for wrong answers was also a little weird.
Host: 2 pts.
Maury started out ultra-stiff, but improved somewhat as the show went on.
Presentation: 2 pts.
They used a live orchestra to start out, which was nice, and I loved the "bag o' money" element.
Execution: 1 pt.
Switching the payouts smacked of a budget-saving manuever, although it was necessary. $100,000 for answering 3 questions? That's a little much.
Total Score: 6 pts.
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