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with Chris Wolvie
Grabbing Trivia By the... Elbow
December 1
From the spectacular Trump Castle in world-famous Atlantic City, it's time to play television's nonstop game of knowledge...

AIR DATES: September 10, 1990 to September 6, 1991
CREATOR: Telepictures, Createl, Ltd., and Fiedler-Berlin Productions
HOST: Jimmy Cefalo

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.

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.

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 consolation.

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 ahead?

Plus, the overall game was simple enough for the casual viewers yet complex enough to keep interest for a while.

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.'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.

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