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with Chris Wolvie
WIPEOUT (1988)
Last Gasp for the Whammy Master
December 29
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

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. 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.

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 Round.

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 Bonus Round.

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 sorely missed.

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, not THAT one! Touch the OTHER one and you'll win!" It's a kind of "new 'Price is Right' pricing game" excitement, really.

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!

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 an interjection...

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