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with Chris Wolvie
Big Bucks and (Literally) No Whammies
November 18
Today, these contestants will be risking everything they've won every time they play...

AIR DATES: March 7, 1977 to July 15, 1977
CREATOR: Bill Carruthers & Jan McCormack
HOST: Jim Peck

Everyone who was alive in the mid-1980s remembers "Press Your Luck", right? Hell, even those who watched USA Network in the 80s and 90s or saw the GSN special about Michael Larson have at least heard of it. And GSN tried to bring it back in the early 2000s. It was the game of "big bucks and no Whammies". Where fortunes are won and lost with every "spin". But NOT too many people realize that, before CBS made a buttload on this lead-in to "The Price Is Right", Bill Carruthers (creator of PYL) gave a VERY similar idea to ABC. This version, called "Second Chance", had non-animated "Devils" instead of screeching red Whammies, a very static board with a wickedly fast-moving light window and a front-end game that...well, let's just say we're glad they revamped it for PYL.

hree contests played the game (there we no returning champions). The game is divided into two rounds, each with two different parts; one to earn "spins" and one to USE them.

In the first part of each round, the host asks a question. Each contestant has ten seconds to write an answer down on some cardboard and show it to the host (though no contest knew what the others wrote down). After the answers are shown, the host then gives a multiple choice where one is the correct answer and - having said that at least one of the contestants have the right or wrong answer - gives them a "second chance" to write down the right answer out of the three given. If a contestant gets it tight the first time, they get three spins; if they get it right on the "second chance" they get one spin.

After three questions, the contestants use the spins earned on the "Big Board": eighteen squares arranged in a rectangle with various amounts of money, several "prize" spaces (covered and not revealed unless hit) and three "Devil"s. The contestant with the least number of spins goes first. A "spin" consisted of a lighted frame which zipped around the squares and ended with a contestant smacked a buzzer (yelling "STOP" was optional). Whatever the frame landed on was added to the contestants score. Landing on a "Devil" would reset the contestant's score to zero. Hitting four "Devils" over the course of the game would eliminate the contestant from the game. Because of this, the contestant could, after at least one spin, pass their remaining spins to the contest with the most money. Passed spins MUST be played and could not be re-passed. If a "Devil" is hit on a passed spin, the remaining passed spins became "earned" spins which COULD be re-passed.

The top amount on the board started at $2500 in Round 1 and $5000 in Round 2. Later, an "extra spin" was added to both. Later still, the Round 1 top amount dropped to $1000 and the Round 2 top amount was randomly changed between $1000 and $5000 (in increments of $1000) and the extra spin. Prize were generally three-digit prices in Round 1 and four-digit in Round 2.

Only the contestant who earned the most in cash and prizes without hitting four "Devil"s won the game and took home the winnings.

C'mon, if you've seen PYL, you know what worked for it. It's the same that worked for its predecessor. It could definitely have been called "the most exciting games of their lives" back in the 70s as you never knew where the frame would show up on the board once the button was hit. Would it be cash? A mystery prize? Or would the "Devil" do what its twin did on "The Joker's Wild"? Believe it or not, there WAS a pattern to how the frame flashed on the board...though I doubt even Larson could've figured it out.

It's a little thing...but I did like how the "Big Board" opened up like a sideways clamshell when it was time to use the spins. Made the big board look, well, BIGGER than it was. Almost wished the PYL board did that...but that probably would've been impractical.

The first half of each round...was boring. There's no other way to put it. Oh, it STARTS fine...but the "second chance" that the show is named slowed down the game even more. It was just too much of a downshift from the second half to sustain interest.

Any other gripes I have with SC come from how different it is from PYL, the show that would succeed it (and succeed rather well). The board was static, the frame jumping could give someone a seizure if they tried to follow it, not having the prizes visible was a little off-putting least the Whammies DID things when they took the money. The "Devil"s just...synth-farted while they sat there on the board. Maybe PYL spoiled me...but I'm glad Carruthers made the changes he did before re-pitching the idea to CBS.

Not in THIS format. As I said, the PYL "upgrade" was far superior to the original: more action-packed, more random, more exciting...and more funny with the Whammy animations. And a re-boot of PYL proved quasi-successful on GSN, something I doubt SC could achieve. "Second Chance" was, essentially, the "pilot" series for a far better show. Let's thank the guys for the sneak preview and leave it to the archives.

NEXT TIME: If computers played "Pictionary"...

Chris Wolvie knows the Devil is in the details. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at