From Paramount Studios in Hollywood,
it's television's most exciting new game...
AIR DATES: September 12, 1988 to June 9, 1989
CREATOR: Bob Fraser
HOST: Peter Tomarken
WATCH IT AT: youtu.be/4OFCwilkNKk
Peter Tomarken was a 40-something with the look and charisma of a
20-something. As stated last time, he always enjoyed hosting no matter
what the game was. But...you get the feeling that the three years on
"Press Your Luck" MIGHT have spoiled him a little. He had this huge hit
that was canceled out of the blue. And, though grateful for the
opportunity, what was he going to do now? He worked the pilot of
"Wordplay" (a column for another time) before Tom Kennedy beat him out
of the job. He hosted "Bargain Hunters" in 1987, but I think even HE
knew it was doomed to fail. Though he WOULD resurface in 2000 for Fox
Family Channel's "Paranoia", many feel his real "last hurrah" was with
the syndicated "Wipeout". And, in my opinion, he picked a pretty good
game to go out on for a dozen years. The show was unique, it was great
to play from home and, even though it was syndicated, it DID have the
backing of Paramount Television.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Three contestants played each day ("returning champions" started a few
weeks into the run). At the start of the round, sixteen "facts" were
placed on a board and a category was given. Eleven of the sixteen facts
matched the category, but the other five didn't and were referred to as
"wipeouts". The contestants' task was to find the correct facts and earn
money - $25 for the first right answer picked in the round, $50 for the
second, $75 for the third and so on until the last answer earns $275.
However, should a contestant pick a "wipeout", all the money is lost and
they lose control. Control starts with the contestant at the left-most
podium and passes to the middle, the right-most and back to the leftmost
A contestant, after getting a right answer, CAN pass control along if
they desire. Once either all eleven right answers or all five "wipeouts"
have been uncovered, the round ends and the two contestants with the
highest money totals advance to the Challenge Round. In case of a tie,
the tied contestants compete in a sudden death round: twelve facts are
shown with eight right and four "wipeouts" and the tied contestants go
back and forth until one of them picks a "wipeout". The one that does is
eliminated from the game.
Behind one of the eleven right answers is a "Hot Spot". The contestant
who picks the "Hot Spot" earns a prize (denoted by a disc the host
places on their podium). Finding a "wipeout" forfeits the "Hot Spot" and
it is placed behind one of the remaining correct answers. The contestant
can only keep the "Hot Spot" prize if they advance to the Challenge
Much like "Name That Tune"'s "Bid-A-Note", the contestants now face each
other in a "bidding war". This time, twelve "facts" are shown; eight
correct and four "wipeouts". After the category is given and starting
with the one who won more money in the First Round, the contestants go
back and forth on how many correct answers they can get without "wiping
out". The bidding ends when one contestant bids the maximum of eight or
is challenged by their opponent. The "challenged" contestant must
fulfill their contract and get the number of correct answers they bid to
win the board. If the "challenged" picks a "wipeout", the "challenger"
can steal the board by picking only ONE of the remaining correct
answers. Failure to do so gives the "challenged" a second chance to
finish the contract. If all four "wipeouts" are found, the board goes to
the "challenged" contestant.
The second board has the bidding started by the contestant who placed
second in the First Round. And the third (if necessary) by the winner of
a coin toss. The first contestant to win two boards wins the round, is
crowned champion, wins a prize (usually a trip) and advances to the
Twelve facts are shown to the champion on a board. Six are right, six
are wrong. After the category is given and the host says, "Go", the
champ has 60 seconds to find the six correct facts. They do this by
running up to the board and touching the frames around the answers,
lighting them up (electronics making lighting up more than six answers
impossible). They then run back and hit a buzzer. The number of right
answers lit-up are shown and the contestant then goes back to the board,
turning OFF any answer(s) they think is wrong and turning ON any
answer(s) they think are right. This process continues until a) 60
seconds elapses, to which the champion only goes home (or comes back
during the "returning champion" days) with what they won before, or b)
they hit the buzzer with all six right answers lit, to which they win a
car (and retire).
This was a GREAT "play-at-home" game. Looking at the board along
with the contestants and trying to figure out what are the right answers
and what are the "wipeouts" was a lot of fun, even if you weren't a
genius. And, I have to admit, having the close-ups of each chosen answer
during the First Round did a lot to up the "wow" factor.
As always, Peter was great. Smiling yet quite professional, he seemed to
be having as much fun as the contestants were. That charisma will be
While almost EVERY new game show calls itself "most exciting", this one
was not that far off from being true. Each round had excitement, and
each round had a slightly different KID of excitement. And not just the
excitement of when a "wipeout" will appear. The excitement of "should
they pick another right answer or pass?", of "You can bid higher! I know
I know more!" and of "Huff puff...no, not THAT one! Touch the OTHER one
and you'll win!" It's a kind of "new 'Price is Right' pricing game"
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
Just like with "Hot Potato", the computer graphics left a great deal
to be desired. And this was LATE-80s and I'm CERTAIN graphics had
improved during in the years. Hell, I'm sure that I could've come up
with better graphics on my C-64 than what was on the board of this game.
Not only that, but it seemed the entire SET looked cheap. I understand
it doesn't take much to run this game show but, while the gameplay was
exciting, the set was doing nothing to help. Including (and I know this
is nitpicking but it bugged me to no end) the florescent lighting used
all around. Did they not know that turning those kind of lights off
means it takes a second to turn them back on fully? C'mon, Paramount, I
thought you had bucks!
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
As much as I would like for someone to redo this show with a more
modern set, and while there were versions that appeared around the world
with various degrees of success (most lasted a year while the UK version
went for EIGHT years), I don't see it happening in the States in this
day and age. And that's a shame because, as stated, it was a quite
exciting show, like a throwback to the good old days of game shows.
NEXT TIME: It's a game show! It's an interjection! It's a game show AND
Chris Wolvie would rather be on THIS version than ABC's mockery of
Japanese shows! Follow him on Twitter
@ChrisWolvie and e-mail
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.