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with Chris Wolvie
Trivia, Made Fresh Weekly
November 3
Today is November 3. This is our champion... and these are...

AIR DATES: September 3, 1990 to August 30, 1991
CREATOR: Ron Greenberg Productions (The Big Showdown)/Dick Clark Productions
HOST: Dick Clark

It's no secret that game shows are often recorded weeks - or even months - in advance. So having topics that are actually, well, topical is not really in the cards. But when Ron Greenberg decided to revive his "Who, What or Where Game" from the late 60s and early-to-mid-70s, he decided to go a different route; by taping a week's worth of shows on the Friday BEFORE the shows aired, more current events could be used in the questions. And having Disney's Buena Vista Television distribute it and bringing Dick Clark out of semi-retirement after his stint in "Pyramid"...well, that was just a bonus coup there. Shame it was cut off after a year...though it truly WAS a year, not nine months followed by reruns!

Three contestants (one champion and two titular "Challengers") play. There are four rounds in each game.

Each contestant starts with $200. During most of the run, the 
host gives 60 seconds worth of rapid-fire buzz-in questions, worth $100 if right and COSTING $100 if wrong. At the end of the round, the one who has the most money gets to choose the first category in Round 1. This was replaced, quite briefly, by a SINGLE toss-up question for $100

Six categories are present and the "chooser" picks one of them. Sometimes, the categories are more topical, like "This Week On TV" or "Today At The Movies". Each category has three questions of increasing difficulty and value. The easiest is valued at $150 ($100 in later months), the next more difficult one at $200 ($150) and the MOST difficult at $250 ($200). The three contestants then secretly choose which question they want to answer. If all three choose different questions, they each get their quest asked of them for +/- the value (no answer equals wrong answer in this case). If two choose the same question, the two are asked a toss-up for +/- the value.

If all THREE choose the SAME question, all values of the questions get doubled. If one answers the toss-up correctly, that contestant not only gets the doubled value but gets to decide whether or not to try the OTHER questions (one at a time) themselves for +/- the doubled value. They can quit at any time but a wrong answer ends that category.

The one who answers the highest-valued question gets to choose the next one in the round (if no one answered correctly, the one who picked the last one picks again). The round continues until time runs out or all six categories have been played.

This round is played exactly like Round 1, save the values have all doubled from the previous round. Again, the round ends when time expires or all six categories have been played. At the end of the round, any contestant with $0 or a negative score are eliminated from the game.

Similar to "Final Jeopardy!", the contestants must wager some amount of their earnings, The host shows the category and the three questions. The easiest question is worth even odds for a right answer (A $500 wager earns $500 for a right answer, though they lose $500 for a wrong answer), the next hardest question offers DOUBLE the odds ($1000 for a $500 wager) and the HARDEST offers TRIPLE odds ($1500 for a $500 wager). The host says "The Challenge is yours", and the contestants have 15 seconds to lock in a wager and a choice of question. If only one contestant chooses a question, they are asked the question themselves. If more than one chooses the same question, the one who wagers the most is the ONLY one who gets to answer it.

Whoever has the most money after the Final Challenge is the champion. All three contestants got to keep the money they earned in the game via Citibank credit cards (though they had the option to take cash instead).

This round had two formats. The first had the champion having to win three games in a row to go for an incrementing jackpot. They were given a choice between two categories and the host asked increasingly difficult questions based on the category picked. After five seconds to think of an answer, they must give said answer. If they answer wrong, the round is over. If they're right, they move to the next question. Answering all three questions right nets the champion the jackpot.

After a while with few winners, the format was changed to a simple daily shot at $10,000. The champion was given the category and the question (which usually had a multi-part answer). After five seconds to think, the champions gives their answer(s). If they're right, they get the $10,000. In any case, the champion returned the next day. Around February or March of 1991, the Ultimate Challenge was removed entirely.

Of course, seeing more recent topics in a game show is a novelty in its own right. Questions about the week's TV programs or new movie releases...or even recent news stories (all verified by Newsweek magazine, as the on-air plugs note) was the true sticking point for this show. And seeing the day's date announced at the start of the show made people tune-in to see what stuff they came up with. Hell, I'm sure some (like me) were tricked into thinking the show was taped THAT MORNING for a while.

Dick Clark was...well, he was Dick Clark, the consummate TV host. The many, many years on "American Bandstand", "The $***,000 Pyramid" and "TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes" served "America's Oldest Living Teenager" very well. He was humorous when he could be, but he basically channeled Alex Trebek (which isn't a BAD thing, really). He had knowledge of the game like he had studied it for months in advance and kept the game moving at a brisk pace. Even when the rules seemed to change monthly, he rolled with it like a true professional.

It was almost obvious from the get-go that this was a "Jeopardy!" rip-off (two rounds of six categories, wagering in final round, "FINAL" in final round's name). Of course, seeing as how J! had just finished it's "Super Jeopardy!" tournament on prime-time, is it any WONDER they wanted in on it? The format was JUST different enough to keep it from out-and-out plagiarism, though. And, as stated, the more topical questions helped immensely.

For one, the music leading in and out of segments was relatively uninspiring. Seems almost like the hit a Casio keyboard "DEMO" button to get the tune and then jazzed up ever so slightly. I know they were trying NOT to be J! but...the laid-back feel of the music might've helped TOO much.

The MAJOR problem was, of course, that the rules changed almost every other week. I've said it before that consistency is NOT the hobgoblin of game shows. You think J! has been around for four decades because of Trebek? Well,...maybe, but it's ALSO stayed around because everyone knows the game, is comfortable with it and likes it. If you change one round or another every few months, you'll lose the audience...and that's exactly what happened.

Oh, and having a "Tournament of Champions" two months into your entire run is KINDA lame. Can you say "lack of confidence in your own show"? At least the show gave J! the idea for a "Teacher's Tournament"; "Challengers" had one in their run.

Well, SURE, it would. As long as the rules stayed consistent, I see no reason why a show can't be done this way. Only thing that could be better is if it was LIVE. I know that's been tried but...why not? Only one problem, though; a current-events-focused game show...would PROBABLY only be liked by CNN...and I turned OFF that "game show" with Anderson Cooper hosting some years ago so...

Seriously, your Honor, this show wasn't a mistake...

For now, Chris long! E-mail him at