From the spectacular Trump Castle in
world-famous Atlantic City, it's time to play television's nonstop game
SHOW: TRUMP CARD
AIR DATES: September 10, 1990 to September 6, 1991
CREATOR: Telepictures, Createl, Ltd., and Fiedler-Berlin Productions
HOST: Jimmy Cefalo
WATCH IT AT: youtu.be/AmOxJqjffxU
Long before he got less than half the voters in America to turn him
in the Commander-in-Chief (-to-be as of writing this column), long
before he spoke about building walls and alienating different races and
genders, long before he was "Fox & Friends"' go-to guy for political
rhetoric, Donald Trump was a... respectable... businessman? Well, folks
DID respect him, despite his many foibles so...yeah, I guess that's
TECHNICALLY right. In any case, Trump tried many things to expand his
brand. Steaks, an airline, a so-called university. So, yeah, in the
waning years of network game shows, why NOT try a quiz show? But, as we
learned throughout the 2015-16 campaign, having "Trump" on it does NOT
automatically denote quality. And, much like his wife's RNC speech, the
game was all-but-copied from a BETTER (or, at least, more popular) show
from the UK. If only Scott Baio had hosted it instead of an ex-football
player, the simile would be complete! The only true plus is that Trump
had nothing to do with the show aside from the name and the location.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Three contests are each tasked with filling up a fifteen-squared "card"
of their own within three rounds of play. The cards are numbered but the
numbers are not important.
The object is to light up the four corners of their "card" by answering
four questions right. Four categories, each with four questions, are
presented to the contestants. A contestant (drawn at random before the
show) picks a category and the host asks a toss-up question. If a
contestant buzzes-in with a correct answer, they cover one of the
corners and get to choose the next category. A wrong answers locks them
out of the next question (denoted by the numbers on their card
disappearing until the next question is answered). The round ends when a
contestant covers all four corners of their card. That contestant wins
$750 which is theirs whether they win the game or not.
Similar to Round 1, save the object is to light up the five squares down
the middle row of the card. Also, each contestant is given a titular
"Trump Card". After answering a question right, a contestant has the
option to use said card on another contestant. That contestant gets a
large "T" on their card and cannot light-up a space until they answer a
question right and removed the "T". It essentially means they must
answer SIX questions right instead of FIVE to win the round. The round
ends when the middle row of a contestant's card is full, netting the
contestant $1500, again to take home regardless of outcome.
ROUND 3 ("FLASH ROUND")
This round is played in a "speed round" format; the questions are now
general knowledge and they are given in rapid-fire format...with brief
pauses in case someone wants to use their "Trump Card" to slow someone
down. The object for each contestant is to finish filling their card.
Given the progress made during the first two rounds, that could take as
little as six or as many as fifteen right answers. The one who does this
first wins the game and $3000 and goes to the bonus round. If time
expires for the game, the contestant who has the most squares lit
WITHOUT being "Trumped" (aka served a "Trump Card" and unable to give a
right answer) wins.
The champion faces a five-by-five grid of squares numbered 1 through 25.
The object is to light five squares in a row either vertically,
horizontally or diagonally, within 45 seconds. Before the round begins,
the champion draws a card from a deck with all 25 numbers on it. The
card drawn will be lit up automatically. If the champion didn't bother
using his "Trump Card" in Round 2 or 3, they get to draw and EXTRA card
from the deck. Then the round begins. The champion calls out a number
and the host asks a general knowledge question. If the champion gets it
right, the number is lit. If they get it wrong or passes, the number is
blacked-out and cannot be used to make five-in-a-row. If the champion
gets five-in-a-row before time runs out, they win $10,000 to add to
their previous winnings.
The 21 top winners competed in a Tournament of Champions at the series'
last two weeks. Only the third round netted further cash; otherwise, the
game was played exactly the same, even the bonus round. The best player
got a bye into the finals while the other six played two semifinal
rounds. The finals netted the ultimate champion $10,000 and a shot at
one more bonus game for $100,000. The two runners-up got $2500 as a
Despite it being a "70s Jeopardy!"-like game show, the ability to
block your opponents did bring a level of strategy to the game. Should
you hang on to it to get the better chance at the $10,000 at the end? Or
should you keep the guy who won both of the previous rounds from surging
Plus, the overall game was simple enough for the casual viewers yet
complex enough to keep interest for a while.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
I don't HAVE to go the easy route and say that having "Trump" being
said once every two minutes was only for fanning the man's ego. I don't
HAVE to, but I definitely CHOOSE to. Even back THEN, I knew Trump's ego
had no bounds. And, if he wasn't told how awesome he was for renting out
a convention hall for a year for this show, he'd have never agreed to
this. And, if his name wasn't on the title, he would've said, "No, thank
you" before the pitch even started.
Jimmy Cefalo tried. Heaven KNOWS he tried. And he did have SOME
television experience as a football color commentator. But...it's like
the tuxedo he was stuffed into made him even more uncomfortable than he
was following a script. And, trust me, there WAS a script; check the
Wikipedia page on this show. He was just out of his element and,
unfortunately, it showed on camera.
The set...I mean, you'd think that, with Trump's name on it, they could
afford a set WORTHY of it. Or,...maybe Trump was such a cheapskate that
they couldn't AFFORD a better looking set outside of twenty-five
monitors with an eggcrate display on top and simple "J!"-esque displays
for the contestants.
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
Under a different name, I think it might work. Everyone was so
enamored by just the NAME "Trump" that they thought it would be a
grandiose contest. When they found out it wasn't, it was like folks
finding out the XFL wasn't pro-wrestling on grass; they left in droves.
With a simpler title - like "(Host's) Full House", which was the UK show
was called - it MIGHT last a year or two on GSN.
NEXT TIME: From one casino to another...
Chris Wolvie grabs life by the little toe...which explains his feeble
grasp of it. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at