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with Chris Wolvie
The 80s in One Game Show Premise!
January 12
Welcome to the fastest high-stakes game on television, the all-new...

AIR DATES: September 15, 1986 to September, 1987
CREATOR: Kline & Friends
HOST: Joe Garagiola

Ah, the 1980s. Thanks to our President (who, for the record, I didn't think was that bad), everyone was thinking they could have money to burn eventually. Everyone dreamed of having a deluxe pool table, a limo and monthly trips all around the world. Sadly, for most people of the day, that was only a dream (And, according to a hit movie, it's how "Fight Club" truly began). But Kline & Friends - the ones who did "Win, Lose or Draw"...and a bunch of GGB-worthy shows as well - decided to make a game show where couples could, in fact, have a taste of the lifestyle we so wanted. "Strike It Rich" was a simple game in premise, but it was the prizes offered that set it apart from other shows. Sure, it had the usual ones you could see every other week on "The Price Is Right"...but what other show gave you the chance to win a trip to a baseball camp or a chance to get a kiss from a killer whale?

Two couples played this game, including returning champions. The couples play on a bi-level "archway", gold across the top for the challengers and silver on the bottom for the champions. The main object is to cross the archway and answer the "Final Strike It Rich Question" at the end, collecting prizes and avoiding "The Bandit" along the way.

The champs start off in control. They are shown a category and five possible answers. They are then asked if they want to have a "contract" of one, two of three questions. The host asks questions and the couple tries to guess which of the possible answers is the right one. Should they get it wrong, the right answer is revealed and the opposing couple takes control and tries to finish off the contract. Should THAT couple miss a question, control goes back to the first couple and a new category and answers are given.

When a contract is fulfilled, the couple who fulfills it gets to make their way across their arch, going the amount of spaces equal to the number of contract questions THEY answered (not the total in the contract). They do this by striking buttons under monitors which denote the "spaces". Behind each monitor is a prize...but, behind one of them (which is shuffled after each contract) is "The Bandit". Uncovering The Bandit will lose all prizes not banked and control passes to the other couple. The couple in control can bank prizes won after moving all their required spaces and keep the prizes no matter the outcome of the game, but control passes to the other couple.

The eighth and final space of the archway is the "Final Strike It Rich Question" which has no "possible answers" and whose category is unknown until the host reads it. Should a couple reach this space and answer the question correctly, they win the game and any un-banked prizes on their arch is theirs. Getting it wrong costs the couple all UN-banked prizes (akin to if The Bandit showed up on the monitor) and control passes to the other couple. The game only ends when a couple answers the Final Question and becomes champions.

The couple takes positions, one on each archway. Each pair of monitors are shuffled to have a "Dollar Sign" on one and The Bandit on the other. Before the round begins, the host asks if they want to play for $5000 in cash or a new car. Regardless of which prize they go for, the object is to uncover a certain number of Dollar Signs by hitting the button in either the "top or bottom" monitor in each pair. The chosen couple member hits the button and reveals what's underneath. To win the $5000, the couple must uncover five Dollar Signs before The Bandit shows three times. To win the car, SIX Dollar Signs must be shown before TWO Bandits are. Should the couple find the right amount of Dollar Signs, they win the prize. Otherwise, they win $100 for each Dollar Sign revealed. Either way, the couple returns as champions on the next show.

As stated, it was the prizes that made the show unique. You could win a trip to London on MANY a game show, but not too many offered a Beverly Hills shopping spree. Or a weekend's rental of a Rolls Royce. Or even a trip just for your mother-in-law (either TO you or AWAY from you)!

Strategy was central to the gameplay. As you traveled across the archway, you had to ask yourselves, "How many spaces am I willing to go and risk hitting The Bandit on any one of them?" You also had to decide if the prizes you've collected should be banked or risked. Like I said, some of the prizes are one-of-a-kind (on game shows anyway) and you wouldn't want to lose 'em.

Some may say Joe Garagiola was not the best of game show hosts...and they may be right. But he DID have experience earlier with stints on "To Tell the Truth" and the original "Sale of the Century". And, besides, he knew this show was more about fun than about trivia or prizes. And he played that up beautifully. He was laughing along with the contestants as they told stories about their lives at the start of the show and he kept that smile on until The Bandit showed (and, even then, it wasn't for too long; just long enough to sympathize with the Bandit-ed couple).

Again, I know it was the late 80s, but they could've had better graphics on the monitors. The text looked lifted from "Hot Potato" and The Bandit looked like a nine-year-old drew it. And couldn't they at least done something like that for the "question screen" instead of the "roadside construction sign" look? Last I checked, projection screens DID exist in the 80s.

While I understand that risk is involved in this game, you just KNEW that a) couples were going to automatically do one-question contracts as they neared the end and b) more-than-likely banked prizes as they neared it. This slowed the pace down a bit. Yeah, it made for a possible comeback, but couples weren't going to risk diamond watches or cooking school classes unless they REALLY had to.

The UK had TWO versions of it that did rather well. So...why NOT in the US? If TPiR can come up with more unique showcases to prevent the "exactly right" bid a decade ago, surely a producer could come up with nice unique prizes for couples. Or, hell, it doesn't even have to be couples; single players could work and could even open up the possibility of THREE arches like in the UK version! C'mon, guys! Weezer was right; Beverly Hills IS where we wanna be...or at least have prizes like them!

NEXT TIME: Mustaches, lipsticks and blanks...oh, wow...

Chris Wolvie still hasn't won the Lotto or Powerball...dammit. Follow him on Twitter
@ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at