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with Chris Wolvie
You Don't Have to Know It All To Win It All!
December 22
One-half hour from now, you'll know enough about two subjects to win $10,000 in cash if you were a contestant on...

AIR DATES: January 4, 1983 to April 1, 1983
CREATOR: Jay Wolpert
HOST: Peter Tomarken

It's obvious that, on MOST game shows, you have to have SOME knowledge of this and that to do well. Hell, even "Wheel of Fortune" involves knowledge of not-so-known phrases and being able to handle weird categories (like that ridiculous "crossword" category they intro'ed this season). But "Hit Man" was an exception: you could go into this game absolutely cold but, with good retention skills, you could STILL win thousands of dollars. You just watch a funny story, remember everything said during it and be fastest on the buzzer. It was that simple. Such a unique show could only be the brainchild of perennial short-lived-game-show creator Jay Wolpert. And it was also where host Peter Tomarken and announcer Rod Roddy cut their teeth before they both moved on to "Press Your Luck" later that year.

Four contestants - a returning champion (or designated champion) and three challengers - play. The first round has the challengers playing against each other to see which two would go on to face the champion in the second round, the winner of THAT round advancing to the bonus round.

The three challengers are shown a three-minute slideshow "story" narrated by the host. The contestants (including the champion, who watches it backstage) must pay attention to the story as all the questions asked are based on said story. The challengers then start a "race" to get their "hit man" to a finish line behind them. The host asks toss-up questions based on the story. Buzzing-in with a right answer moves a challenger's "hit man" up one space. A wrong answer locks the challenger out of the next question. The first to get their "hit man" to the finish line wins $300. The second one wins $200. These two advance to Round 2 and face the champion.

A second "story" is shown. Then the challengers and champion are given "hit men"; seven for the champion, four for the winner of Round 1 and three for second-place in Round 1. The Round 1 winner decides if they or the other challenger goes first. The toss-up questions are between the champion and the challenger who has control. A right answer knocks out one of the opposing player's "hit men" while a wrong answer knocks out one of their own. If a challenger loses a "hit man", control passes to the other challenger. Otherwise, the challenger stays in control. This continues until all of both challengers' "hit men" are eliminated or all of the champion's "hit men" are. In the case of the former, the champion retains their title. In the case of the latter, the challenger who eliminates the champion's last "hit man" is the new champion.

The champion plays to fill columns with "money men". They have their back turned to the board as it is filled with columns with varied numbers of levels (one with only one level, two with two, three and four levels each and one with five levels). The champ calls out one of the eight columns by number and the round begins. All the questions are based on BOTH sotries told during the show. The host asks a question and the champ tries to answer it. If right, a "money man" fills a level. When a column is full of "money men", a bell rings and a crown is placed above it, signifying that the champ can choose a different column. If the champ gets a question wrong or passes, the column goes dark and the champ must call out a different one. The champ has 60 seconds to fill three columns, netting them $10,000. If only two columns are filled after 60 seconds, the champ gets $2000. Only one column gets the champ $1000.

Like most Wolpert shows, the set was flashy but not TOO busy. Leave it to Jay to create a set that seemed both large and cozy at the same time. It almost looked like they were playing inside a video game...which, given the time period, was sure to bring in SOME of the youth.

Like in all his hosting duties, Tomarken was having a blast. He didn't seem to mind that the jokes he was asked to make during the "stories" were softball at best. And it's like that grin of his was plastered on his face. Yeah, it seemed a BIT creepy sometimes but...hey, at least he was having fun.

And the cool thing about "Hit Man" was that you LEARNED something. Yeah, you may not REMEMBER what you learned but, for that "one-half hour", you picked up something that MIGHT just help you if you were ever picked on "Jeopardy!"

The funniest part of the entire show's run was in the closing moments of the last show. Normally, you hear on where to write to become a contestant on a game show. Well, Rod Roddy flat out said, "If you would like to be a contestant on 'Hit Man',...FORGET IT!" How many shows ended with a whimper of not even telling the few fans they have that there'll BE no more shows? You gotta love that funny honesty!

The thing that made it interesting - the "stories" - was also the thing that weighed it down. People wanted to see relatively smart people fight...not watch an educational film and watch them take a quiz afterwards. I didn't mind so much,...but it's obvious a lot of people did.

You'd think that being a follower of "$ale of the Century" would be a boost, especially when against "The Price is Right". But you'd be wrong. The 11:30 slot didn't bode well for this show. As such, "SotC" was the only one of the three NBC shows that premiered in January '83 (along with this one and "Just Men!") to actually last.

Eh,...maybe. With the short attention span of people nowadays, however, the "story" part probably wouldn't fly. Maybe extend each round (more "spaces" in the Round 1 "race", more "hit men" to eliminate in Round 2) and just ask general knowledge questions. Hell, that's how my siblings and I used to play. Even then,...I dunno. Would be fun to see them TRY, I'll tell ya.

NEXT TIME: Peter post-Whammy...

Chris Wolvie is Jay Wolpert's #1 fan. Well,...closer to #17,913, but he DOES like his shows! Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at