Three of these boxes will break the
bank! Is this one of them? Or is it this one? Or this one? We'll find
out in a moment in this game of hide and seek as these nine celebrities
all join us all in playing...
BREAK THE BANK
AIR DATES: April 12, 1976 to July 23, 1976 (daytime);
September 18, 1976 to September 11, 1977 (primetime)
CREATOR: Barry & Enright Productions
HOST: Tom Kennedy (daytime); Jack Barry (primetime)
WATCH IT AT: youtu.be/6AcugE80EZU
Over the next few columns, I'll be highlighting what I call "Hollywood
Square clones"; shows where contestants played against each other on a
large board by "agree"ing or "disagree"ing with celebrities' answers to
questions. The one I start off with, though, is a LITTLE more unique.
Instead of ONE celebrity giving an answer, TWO answer...and the
contestant has to decide which ONE is right. As Barry & Enright's first
show produced together since the "Twenty-One" scandal, one might THINK
it was a bust because it only lasted 14 weeks. But it was actually quite
popular and was only cancelled because ABC wanted more soap operas in
the afternoon. Still, it was picked up for syndication for a weekly
primetime game show which ran for a year...AND it produced a home game,
something NONE of the game shows I've done so far can say!
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Two players (always one male and one female, usually with a returning
champion) compete. They face a 5-by-4-"box" board which has the
following spaces hidden in them:
BLANK: Five boxes (none that touch any of the others) have black spaces,
which cause the contestant in control to lose control to the opponent
MONEY CARDS: Three sets of three different dollar amounts ($100, $200
and $300 on daytime, $100, $300 and $500 on primetime). Each card of a
set touch each other vertically or horizontally.
MONEY BAGS: Five spaces hold Money Bags. Claiming three of these will
"break the bank" and win the game.
WILD CARD: The remaining box has the "Wild Card", a "W" on a rainbow
background. This can count towards any Money Card set or Money Bag.
The champion starts with control. they pick a number and reveal what's
in that box. If it's a Money Card or the Wild Card, a question is asked
of the celebrities who are connected to the box via column and row. Each
celebrity gives an answer to the question and the contestant must choose
which celebrity is giving the right answer. If correct, the contestant
claims the box (marked with a mustache if it's the male, a set of lips
if it's the female) and retains control. Otherwise, the box would
(originally) return to it neutral place or (later on, to speed things
up) be claimed by the opponent (UNLESS it would give said opponent three
of the same; a contestant must EARN a win). Either way, the contestant
gives up control to the oppoent.
If a Money Bag is revealed, the contestant can choose to either claim
the bag and give control to the opponent...or re-hide the bag and
The game ends when a contestant a) claims the three Money Cards of the
same set (or two of a set plus the Wild Card), to which they win the
total amounts on the cards, or b) claims three of the five Money Bags
(or two Money Bags plus the Wild Card), in which they win the game and
"break the bank". The "bank" in the daytime edition started at $5000 and
increased by a set amount for each game until won. On the primetime
edition, the "bank" was a prize package (always including a car) worth
at least $10,000. In both cases (and both versions), a prize was also
given to the game winner.
In the daytime version, a contestant who won the game would face a new
opponent in the next game (unless the opponent of the last game didn't
get control, whereas that contestant remains). In the primetime edition,
both new contestants (one a "champ-elect who goes first) play as many
games as time allows, with the "champion" designated by a) who wins the
most games or b) who "breaks the bank" first.
This round only took place at the end of the primetime version. Each of
the nine celebrities has a card on their podium. Eight have amounts from
$200 to $1000 (except $900) while one has "BUST" on it. The champion
choose a celeb who reveals the card. The object is to collect $2000 or
more without picking the "BUST" card. Doing so earned the champion an
augmented amount of $5000 in cash. The contestant can quit at any time
and take the money earned but, if they choose the "BUST" card, all money
gained in the round is lost.
In the daytime version, the champion stays until they lose or earn
$25,000 or more, to which they must retire, a new contestant takes their
place and a "champ-elect" is chosen to start the next game..
For all intents and purposes, this was the FIRST "HS Clone" I was
exposed to...and the fact that they zig-zagged with the way it was
played certainly helped it become popular. Having two celebs answer
instead of one, never knowing which one is right and which is BSing
it...that's captivating to say the least.
The set was big like HS but having the nine celebs relatively close to
each other helped make it look more intimate. The fact that we actually
SEE where the host and contestants are in relation to the board (unlike
the original HS) helps even more.
I said before that Tom Kennedy doesn't do comedy that well. Fortunately,
in THIS case, he didn't HAVE to; that's what the celebs were for. It
allowed him to do what he does best. Plus his knowledge of the game and
how it's played made him look like he hosted this game for years. Of
course, Jack Barry knew how to play the game; he MADE it, after all.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
Those RULES. I mean, I understand that Barry used a diagram to explain
things to the primetime audience (who, for some reason, he thought
wouldn't get it like the daytime folks did) and that helped but, unless
you were a full-time watcher of the show, you'll go into this cold
thinking, "What?!" As Avril Lavigne once put it, why'd you have to go
and make things so complicated, Barry?
And while I applaud its uniqueness as compared to HS, having two celebs
answer the question DOES slows things down a bit. Now, it's usually up
to the "column" celeb to come up with the witicism...but you can't tell
me the "row" celeb can't come up with one themsleves. This makes games
twice as long as they should be. The only thing that redeems this is
that the hosts keeps things moving at a brisk pace when they can.
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
I...really don't know. I mean, it WAS popular even in the 70s and even
though it wasn't the "one spins, gets asked question, other spins, gets
asked question, repeat until conditions are met" formula that made B&E
productions popular. But, THESE days? Can the people of today even keep
UP with these rules? Would they even be able to stay INTERESTED enough?!
I *loved* this game! I even got the HOME game when I was in elementary
school! I want to see it return! But would anyone ELSE?! No flippin'
NEXT TIME: Hollywood...Triangles?
Chris Wolvie couldn't break a PIGGY bank without guidance Follow him on Twitter
@ChrisWolvie and e-mail
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.