From the entertainment resort capital
of the world - Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada - it's the exciting
new "Prize Maximus" letter-perfect game show...
AIR DATES: June 14, 1993 to January 14, 1994
CREATOR: Rosner Television/Stephen J. Cannell Productions
HOST: Ahmad Rashad
WATCH IT AT: youtu.be/xOGWHNbzbEI
Ah, Las Vegas...home of glitz and glamour, sick amounts of gambling and
legal prostitution. It was also the home of several INTERESTING game
shows such as "Dealer's Choice", a year of the original run of "Let's
Make a Deal" and the final incarnation of "Gambit". Nowadays, it's home
to scaled down versions of more popular game shows like "The Price Is
Right"...and, of course, the annual "Game Show Marathon" Chico so loves.
But the last ORIGINAL game show to come out of Vegas originated from the
place Tony Stark gave up his Apogee Award; Caesars Palace (and, yes,
there's NO apostrophe in the name of the resort OR the show's title).
The "Circus Maximus" auditorium hosted "Caesars Challenge", something
like a mix between "Scrabble" and "Trivial Pursuit". Oh, and did you
know the husband of "Mrs. Huxtable" hosted? Yeah, I think we can see the
flaws in this one already, right?
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
contests (including a defending champion) play this game.
Each round starts with a "gladiator" pulling a level on the CC "slot
machine" which spits out a scrambled word between seven and nine letters
long (usually getting longer as the game progresses). The word and the
questions in each round follow the same category. A toss-up
multiple-choice question is asked and the one who buzzes-in with the
right answer gets money and a chance to solve the word after picking a
letter to move to its proper place. After the letter is moved, the
contestant has five seconds to guess the word before the host moves on
to the next question. Guessing the word correctly earns the player the
same amount of money as a question answered right for each letter NOT in
its rightful place. If the player places a letter in the "Lucky Slot"
and gives the correct word, they also win a rolling jackpot, starting at
$500 and increasing by that amount in each round until hit.
The first two rounds earn $100 for each right answer and each letter not
placed, the next two $200 and the remaining rounds (until time expires)
$300. If time expires in the middle of a round, the letters will be
placed in the right places one at a time randomly until someone gets it
right. A buzz-in with a wrong answer knocks a player out of the round.
The contestant with the most money is the champion, wins a prize package
dependent on the amount of money won and advances to the bonus round.
BONUS ROUND ("CAESARS CHALLENGE")
This round had two incarnations but were both played for a car (provided
by a local Vegas dealership). The first (and most memorable) version had
a large bingo ball cage above the set with 200 large plastic lettered
balls in it. The cage spins and starts dropping balls, which the
"gladiator" shouts out. The letters get inputted into a computer. This
process continues until the computer finds a "dictionary-verified
nine-letter word" out of the letters called. When that happens, a gong
sounds and a loud voice booms, "Caesar says, 'Stop!'". The letters are
then shown on the slot machine in the order they were called. The
champion gets to place one letter in its correct place and one more for
each return visit to the bonus round. Once the letters are placed, the
champ gets ten seconds to get the correct word. Doing so wins the champ
the car and retires them.
As it seems very few people won that way, a second format was created in
late November. This time, the champion had to unscramble five words -
from five to nine letters long - in thirty seconds. Starting with the
five-letter word, the champ can guess as often as they can but cannot
move to the next word until the previous one is guessed right. Each word
was unscrambled one at a time until answered. Getting all five words
right won the car and retired the champ. Otherwise, the champ could
return twice more before being forced to retire.
Even though it took place in a casino, the set was rather cozy, which
definitely helped the show. The cage for the bonus round SEEMED large
but, actually, wasn't so large in the grand scheme.
While the game itself wasn't all that exciting, the "after party" (if
you will) was pretty cool. Ahmad would go into the audience and ask
people to try to guess a five-letter scrambled word without any help.
Doing so allowed the person to reach into a bowl full of chocolate
coins, casino chips and dollar coins and take out as much as they could
fit in one hand. It was like the "Quickie Deals" on LMaD; a nice little
denouement to the show.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
As stated, the game itself was a bit of a slog. Though hardly the first
example of "answer one question to answer another" gameplay, trying to
mix these two was not as exciting as, say, answering a question to try
to build blackjack or to roll dice to knock numbers off a board. This
was an intellectual's game...and I'm sure most folks at home didn't play
it well. Hence why it didn't last. (Well,...that and the fact it began
in the summer; I'm a little shocked it lasted into the next calendar
year with THAT start.)
Ahmad was NOT that exciting a host. Oh, he tried...but even his
conversations with the "gladiator" came off as forced...and said hunk
acted like he wanted to do his impression of the security guard in
"Treasure Hunt"...as in just stay silent except for a silly catch
phrase. Ahmad went through this show acting every day like he was
thinking, "I can't believe they asked ME to do this show." And, trust
me, he did NOT improve when he hosted "Celebrity Mole".
The show basically suffered the same problem as "Trump Card": a
relatively cheap-looking set in such a grand place. Oh, it was much
BETTER set, no doubt...but it still could've looked a little more flashy
and a LOT less generic.
And...why did they keep the "bingo cage" above the car after they
switched bonus game formats? Why get our hopes up?!
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
I'd like to think that, under the circumstances, it COULD work. A better
set, a MUCH better host and a bit more casino pizzazz could've gone a
long way into making this show stick around. Not in Vegas, mind you. As
I said before, the tourists would rather go to "TPIR Live" than this
one. Of course, with casinos popping up across the country, why not a
"Mohegan Sun Challenge" or a "Commerce Challenge"? Or, hell, go REALLY
obscure and have a "Blue Wolf Challenge" in North Dakota...give the
state something to have on its southern neighbor for having Rushmore.
NEXT TIME: Famous
men giving strange women their keys...
Chris Wolvie stays three feet away from casino-based game shows. Follow
him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and
e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.