24 hours ago, four brave souls were locked
up in our Hollywood and Highland "Cramatouriums". Deprived of
sleep, the two teams were each given a huge pile of ridiculous
information to study. Trapped in a Hollywood storefront all
night, they had to resist the urge to sleep and cram as many facts
as possible into their exhausted brains. No Sleep, no Privacy,
no Mercy. Now, we're gonna find out what they've learned;
there's ten grand on the line! It's time to......
AIR DATES: January 6, 2003 to September 19, 2003
CREATOR: Jonathan Goodson
PACKAGER: Mindless Entertainment;
Jonathan Goodson Productions ; Game Show Network Originals
HOST: Graham Elwood
WATCH IT HERE:
Let's face it; if you were in school,
you must have spent at least ONE night staying up and studying for
an exam. Even I did it once for a group project...which failed
miserably because I wasn't really a team player, I'll admit it.
Now, if the exam was on pop culture subjects and I could pick up a
five-digit check for acing it, that would be a different story
altogether (though I'd probably be like Sheldon on "Big Bang Theory"
and think my partner was weighing me down). The only downside
would be if you told me that my partner and I had to spend 24 hours
together in a storefront on Hollywood Boulevard in order to study
for the exam; the distractions would be murder to me. I didn't
have to do that, though; a hundred or so others had to for
"Cram"...or, perhaps what should have been called "Cram Presented by
Saturn". Yeah, there was a car company back then called
"Saturn"...and this game did NOT help their image too much.
The show was interesting, though.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Two teams of two contestants each are placed in a "Cramatorium", a
small room with a window facing out of the Kodak (now Dolby) Theater
on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. Inside each
"Cramatorium" is a sofa, a bed, bright lights and a LOT of study
material. This material included several magazine and tabloid
articles, a number of instruction manuals, some joke books and
"Cram's Big Dumb Book of Stupid Lists". The teams have 24
hours to study as much of the information as possible, as any of the
info could be used in the game-proper. At 3am, the teams met
for a coin toss to decide who would start the game. Once the
24 hours elapsed, they were brought via Saturn Ion to the GSN
studios nearby to play the game.
ROUND 1: THE RANT
arrival at the studios, the teams are led to giant "hamster wheels"
and are told to walk to keep the wheels moving for the duration of
the first two rounds (though it's never explained what the penalty
was for stopping the wheel). The teams start with 100 points
each and are then given a choice of magazine/tabloid articles (three
in the first season, two in the second) to talk about for 40 seconds
straight. The winners of the coin toss get first selection.
Each team member must talk about their chosen article for 20
seconds...and must talk continuously; any pauses, any "uhh"s or
"umm"s or any straying too far off topic (at the judges' discretion)
deducts 5 points from their score. Each article has eight key
words/phrases secretly picked out; if, during the rant, any word or
phrase picked is uttered by either contestant, the team gets 10
points added. The other team then either chooses one of the
other articles or take the one not picked by default.
ROUND 2: STUNT ROUND
The team in lead (or the team that lost to
coin toss if there's a tie) are the first to get off their wheel and
perform a stunt for more points. In the first season, they
have a blind choice of topics, while the topics are told to them in
the second season. The team then perform a stunt based on
their choice. Each stunt usually involves running to a board
and putting something in its proper place on the board (like cabs
with city names on the right city skyline or putting a stuffed bird
on a marker that says the bird's name). Each correctly-placed
"something" earns 20 points for the team. During the stunt,
the host asks questions from "Cram's Big Dumb Book of Stupid Lists",
alternating between the two contestants (this is done because doing
two things at once is even HARDER when sleep-deprived). Each
correct answer adds 10 points to the team total. After the
stunt, the team goes back on the hamster wheel and the other team
does THEIR stunt.
ROUND 3: CATCH-UP ROUND
The teams can
now get off the wheels without penalty. The team in the lead
get to relax on recliners with cool drinks. The other team
would have to answer questions based on joke books to catch-up.
One would be in a sidecar while the other would be on a stationary
bike, a rowing machine or on a stool in front of anemometer or a row
of lemon juice "shots". When the host starts the clock (45
seconds in the first season, 40 in the second), the one not in the
sidecar must operate the machine or blow on the anemometer until it
gets to a certain "threshold" or drink a shot of lemon juice.
Only THEN can the host ask the question and the one in the sidecar
answer. Each correct answer gives the team 30 points. If
the question is answered wrong or passed, the "threshold" goes up
or the drinker must down MORE shots before a question is asked.
If the team meets or surpasses the leading team's score in the time
allotted, then the former-leading team has to do the same stunt.
Whichever team leads after this round are the champions, get to
take home $1000 and go to the bonus round. The losing team gets $500
as a consolation prize.
BONUS GAME: $10,000 QUIZ
The champions are led to a pair of beds where they are tucked in by
Cram's "resident sleep therapist", Mrs. Pickwick. During the
commercial, calming music is played in the studio and Mrs. Pickwick
drones unusual facts that the team did not study during the cram
session. She often throws in something like, "You are getting
very sleepy" in an attempt to make sleep more difficult to stave
off. After a few more facts after the commercial break, the
team is awaken (rather loudly) and must answer questions about the
facts. The trick is that they can only answer questions when
all four of their feet are off the ground. To facilitate this,
they are given a small stump, a skinny see-saw, a pair of surfboards
on springs or a moving log. The host can only ask questions
when no foot touches the floor; any time that happens, the host
stops asking and starts over when the team has all four feet off the
floor. Each right answer moves the team up one level of a
five-level ladder; each wrong answer moves them down a level.
A 60-second clock starts as soon as the team is awakened. If
the team gets to the fifth level before time expires, their winnings
are augmented to $10,000. Otherwise, they leave with $1000
plus $100 times the level they are on when time expires.
Graham Elwood was a good choice for host of this show. He
was as much an "every man" as the contestants were but still had the
game flow down pat. Not bad for someone whose first gig was
"Strip Poker" (a GGB for another time). And Icelandic model
Berglind Icey was a decent (though relatively quiet) hostess.
To think SHE would go on to be a "Hunter" on "Cha$e" (ANOTHER GBB
for another time, I'm sure).
The set looked very much like a
basement warehouse, which served its purpose well. The stunts
had to have a fair amount of room to do them in and having the
$10,000 Quiz pretty much in the dead center of the room helped
emphasize the importance. Seemed almost TOO big, really but,
considering I don't know how many episodes they had to do in a day's
taping, I guess it works.
The many and varied amount of study
materials kept the game interesting. And the materials weren't
the type of stuff you read in college. Having all that stuff
to remember and not knowing what stuff would be on the
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
Look, staying up all night was hard enough for me in my college
days, mostly because I was also working part-time to pay off the
tuition. You get 20- or 30-somethings to try to stay
up...WHILE anyone walking past a windows can distract them...you're
making it hard as ever to win that $10,000. I mean, I get
that's the point...but you make the whole show look like a
ridiculous dare on a person's stamina. I'm sure coffee and
maybe Red Bulls were available but...sheesh, this game is harder to
win ten grand in than a number of "Price is Right" games I could
Saturn must have put a WHOLE lotta money into this
show. While semi-successful for a basic cable show, I'm sure
they wanted it to last longer than eight-an-a-half months. And
sales of the cars dropped steadily over the next few years until
they were finally done in in 2010. Note to future companies
wanting to make a fortune: don't sponsor cable shows that aren't
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
While a similar show called "Awake: The Million Dollar Game"
lasted a season on Netflix, the idea of staying up to study to win a
game show I don't think would fly today. Especially in these
days when you can try out for a game show at any time and anywhere
online. And, these days, NOBODY wants to spend 24 hours in a
storefront window in their PJs with onlookers walking by all the
time! Don't get me wrong, I thought the show was pretty
cool...but I don't see it being brought back.
NEXT TIME: Do you know your enemy...or your ally for that
Chris Wolvie had some insomnia before but he didn't lose any
sleep over it. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie
and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.