These six celebrities are the (New)...
AIR DATES: October 26, 1981 to April 23, 1982 (original); April 4, 1983
to July 1, 1983 ("NEW")
CREATOR: Merrill Heatter
HOST: Alex Trebek
WATCH IT AT: youtu.be/0GjPFOdzrMs (original); youtu.be/zk5tjUWSZe8 ("NEW")
All good things must end. And, for Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley, that
happened in 1981 when Quigley retired, ending the production company the
two created. But Heatter had a few more aces up his sleeve (and I ain't
talking "Catch 21"). He basically took H&Q's most popular show,
"Hollywood Squares", and changed the shape,...literally. Instead of
having nine celebrities in squares, he put SIX into TRIANGLES.
Everything else, he pretty much left the same; contestants still need to
get three "triangles" to win, though not necessarily "in a row" and the
celebs' answers (after they make a joke about it) needed to be "agreed"
or "disagreed". But, instead of calling it "Celebrity Triangles" or the
like, Heatter decided to try to cash-in on the sci-fi and video game
crazes and call it "Battlestars". When NBC asked to bring it back to
replace "Just Men", it was called "The NEW Battlestars". And, despite
the familiar gameplay, upon re-living the show on YouTube, I think it
would've been better if the Cylons had got to Heatter first.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Two players (including a returning champion) compete against each other.
The main object of the game is to "capture" three "Battlestars". The
board is six connected triangles (each containing a celebrity "Battlestar")
with numbers 1 through 10 on the corners of the triangles.
The champion starts with control. A light randomly flashes between the
ten corners and the contestant in control stops it by hitting a button.
The corner it stops on decides which Battlestar gets asked the question.
If the corner touches more than one Battlestar, the contestant picks
which one gets asked. The host then asks a question of the Battlestar
who gives an answer. The contestant decides if they agree or disagree
with the answer the Battlestar gives. If they choose right, they
maintain control, the corner is blacked-out and removed from play and
the contestant gets to CHOOSE the next numbered corner. If a right
answer leads to all three corners of a Battlestar being blacked-out, the
contestant "captures" that Battlestar and the celebrity is removed from
further play. More than one Battlestar can be captured at the same time.
The capturing is denoted by the Battlestar's background turning red or
blue, depending on which contestant captured it. (IMPORTANT: a corner is
actually blacked-out whether the contestant is right or wrong...EXCEPT
in the case where it would lead to a capture; a contestant must EARN a
capture.) If the contestant is wrong, they lose control to the other
contestant and the random light starts up again.
When a contestant answers a question right that captures their third
Battlestar, that contestant wins the game and is the champion. It is
possible for the contestant to capture all six Battlestars; that person
received a bonus prize or, later in the original run, $1000 cash.
Two different versions were used:
"BATTLESTARS 2": In the original version, the face of a famous person is
hidden behind 16 numbered squares (in a 2-4-4-4-2 format). The champion
picks three cards with codes on them. The host scans the codes in and
the three squares they represent are removed. The champion then chooses
one more square to remove. The champion then has one chance to identify
the celebrity to win $5000. If they don't, they can draw three more
cards, one at a time, and enlist help from the Battlestars themselves.
Getting it right on the first extra card wins $3000, $2000 on the second
and $1000 on the third. If they STILL don't get it, they PICK a square
and guess for $500...and, if that fails, the champ gets a defaulted
"THE MAIN EVENT": In the "NEW Battlestars", the champion chooses from
the Battlestars they captured in the main game. The Battlestar is given
a question with three possible answers (which, unlike the main game,
were actually SPOKEN aloud). The Battlestar gives an answer they think
is correct. The champion must then agree or disagree with the answer
given. If they agree and is right, the champion "won" that Battlestar
and $500. If they DISAGREE and is right, the contestant must then give
the CORRECT answer to "win" the Battlestar. The round ends when a) the
champion is incorrect, to which they only keep the money earned, or b)
they "win" three Battlestars, which nets them the "Battlestar Bonanza"
of $5000 in cash and at least $5000 in prizes, which are added to each
day until hit.
A champion remains champion until they lose or they get twenty straight
wins, which leads to retirement after their final bonus round. If a
challenger doesn't get a chance to play in a game, they stay on for the
next game (just like "Bullseye" and "Break the Bank").
What worked for "Hollywood Squares" worked for "Battlestars". And why
wouldn't it? You have comedy, you have uncertainly, and you had the same
way to win: get three stars. They way you GET the star is a little
different but...it still worked.
Personally, I didn't think the music and set worked...but, I have to
admit, it does have the right aestetic for the early 80s. And, as
stated, they were trying for a sci-fi/vid-game style for things...and
damned if the music didn't harken to sci-fi shows of the time. Much like
"Go", the music was made to hype people up for the show...and,
begrudgingly, I'll admit it work.
The first bonus round sucked...but at least they made up for it in the
"NEW" version. And kudos for not making it just "agree or disagree and
win" for that; getting the actual ANSWER right was good, especially for
the "Bonanza" they were playing for.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
When making an HS clone, it's best to keep it simple. And making it so
you have to get all three corners of a Battlestar to capture it...that
only stays simple if someone keeps getting answers right. Once someone
gets a question wrong, the "randomizing" of which corner is played next
makes things more difficult. And that must've been TOO difficult for
early-80s audiences; no WONDER it was cancelled TWICE.
Which begs the question of why it was even brought BACK? If it failed
the first time, bringing it back with a different bonus game and not
much else changed is NOT going to help matters. Want proof? The original
run lasted 26 weeks. The "NEW" version (which wasn't really all that
"new")? 13 WEEKS! Was NBC really THAT desperate?!
Maybe I'm just used to Alex Trebek being rather laid-back during his
long run at "Jeopardy!" but...well, is it me or is he just WAY too loud
in this game? I mean, don't get me wrong; he seemed close to the same in
"Double Dare" (a GGB for another time) but...I don't remember him being
this excitable. Not on "Double Dare", not on "High Rollers", not on
"Classic Concentration". It's like he was a rookie who was
over-enunciating everything, trying to make everything more exciting
than it really was...like he KNEW this was a bad concept.
One more thing: I know the original HS never showed the gap between the
Squares and the contestants...but they almost made it look like they
were in two different STUDIOS in this game.
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
Nope, nope, nope. As was proven here and in my next column, Heatter just
CAN'T make a clone of HS. He had other interesting concepts, but
remaking such a popular show with a slightly different board...not one
NEXT TIME: From
nine...to six...down to four.
Chris Wolvie always says, "By your command" to Chico. Follow him on Twitter
@ChrisWolvie and e-mail
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.