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with Chris Wolvie
Caesar Says, "Ahmad, Stop Trying to Host!"
December 8
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

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?

hree 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.

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.

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" 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?!

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