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with Chris Wolvie
Go Directly to... Obscurity
June 22
Yes, the world's most popular board game is now the TV game...

AIR DATES: June 16, 1990 to September 1, 1990
CREATOR: Merv Griffin
HOST: Mike Reilly
WATCH IT HERE: YouTube (1 of 3)


With the success of "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy", one would THINK Merv Griffin was a genius at game shows. But those were, actually, the only two he had come up with before the late 1980s. And AFTER that, he came up with "Click!", "Ruckus", "Headline Chasers" and, in the end, "Merv Griffin's Crosswords". Yeah, barely heard of ANY of them, right? But the FIRST he came up with after J! and WoF was a verson of the perennial board game "Monopoly". It wasn't until the THIRD attempt that ABC finally said, "FINE, we'll broadcast it in the summer...IF you get something to lead up to it!" That's where the "Super Jeopardy!" tournament came into play. But, though that was an awesome lead-up to it, the game itself left a GREAT deal to be desired.

Three contestants played, one each behind red, gold and green podiums. The one with the most money at the end keeps the cash and goes to the bonus round.

Starting with Mediterranean Avenue and going around the board counter-clockwise to Boardwalk, each "property" is highlighted and a crossword clue-style question is asked. All the answers to questions asked on the same side of the board start with the same letter. The contestants buzz-in and, if they are right, they "earn" the property and its cost. Questions that were answered wrong deducted the amount from the player's score. If NO one gets it right, another question is asked for the property, but the cost is cut in half.

Once all properties of a "monopoly" are claimed, the total for all the properties goes to the one who gained them all. If no one contestant gained them all, a "playoff" is played between the players until one player has all the properties. For example: if Illinois and Indiana Avenues are taken by the red player and Kentucky Avenue by the green player, the playoff goes until a) the green player answers two straight right or b) the red player answers one. Whoever does that gains the monopoly and, in this case, $680.

During the commercial break after Round 1, the contestants use their money to puchase housing on their monopolies. Houses cost $50 each and Hotels $250 each. Afterwards, the contestants play - for about five minutes - a simplified game of Monopoly together: a red border on the board represents the "token" and the hostess rolls the dice, which moves the token that many spaces around the board. What happens at each space depends on the space:
PROPERTY: The owner of the property gets a question asked to them alone for the value of the property with housing: Hotels were the actual rent price with Hotels from the game, 4 Houses was 80% of that, 3 Houses 60%, etc. If the owner gets it wrong, they are not penalized, but one of the other contestants can buzz-in and try to steal the rent (though they risk LOSING money if they're wrong).
COMMUNITY CHEST: Like the cards in the board game, this usually does something to contestants' money totals.
CHANCE: Also like the cards, this usually advances the token to a different space
GO: Each player collects $200 for passing this space, $400 for landing ON it.
FREE PARKING: A toss-up is asked and the winner gets $500 plus any taxes or fines paid.
GO TO JAIL: The token is moved to the Jail and each player has $250 in fines deducted to make bail. This happens by landing on the GO TO JAIL space, getting a card that says so or if the hostess rolls three doubles in a row.
ELECTRIC COMPANY or WATER WORKS: A toss-up is asked and the winner gets $100 times the dice roll that got them there.
LUXURY TAX: $75 is deducted from each player as a tax.
INCOME TAX: 10% of each contestant's money is deducted as a tax.
RAILROADS: A toss-up question is asked. The winner gets to choose an opposing player's monopoly to try to perform a "hostile takeover" upon. The token is advanced to the first property of that monopoly (with $200 going to each player should they pass GO) and the player is given two or three questions that they must answer correctly. If, at any time, the player answers wrong, they pay the monopoly's owner the rent amount of the property they are on. Answering all questions right means they win the monopoly.

A signal is sounded when one minute remains. When the round is over, all the real estate is sold back for the same amounts at which they were bought. The player with the most money wins.

During the commercial break, the champion places for "GO TO JAIL" spaces on the board: one on the second side past GO, one on the third and two on the fourth. The object is to roll dice a maximum of five times and go one time around the board without hitting a GO TO JAIL space. Rolling doubles earns the champion an extra roll, but three doubles in a row ends the game. Each space traversed earns the champion $100 and they can stop at any time...because, if they "GO TO JAIL", they lose everything in the round. If the champion passes GO within five rolls, they win $25,000. If they land EXACTLY on GO, they win $50,000.

At least the board looked authentic, as if lifted directly from Parker Brothers' pride-and-joy. And I guess an old-fashioned game NEEDED an old-fashioned layout; computers don't improve EVERYTHING, after all.

Truth be told, I thought the first round was MUCH better than the second. At least the contestants controlled their fate when earning monopolies rather than having to surrender to blind chance in the second round. The only downside I had with was that the green monopoly was worth more than dark blue one. I know it was authentic,...but they coulda bumped Park Place to $500 and Boardwalk to $750 or something.

While "crossword-clue" questions weren't exactly brand new, it was used infrequently enough to make the main part of the show charming and original.

And it was pretty cool that they introduced "house rules" for the game. It never says that taxes go to a pot to go to whoever gets FREE PARKING but that's how my brothers and I played. And I guess it's used so often that Merv decided to include it in THIS version.

The second round...oy! Look, I know Monopoly is a complex game in and of itself...but did they have to make the second round JUST as complex? And, even WITHOUT the complexity, I would've gone with a more authetic approach to buying and selling housing: $50/House on the first side, $100/House on the second and so on. After the first round, the players have MORE than enough to stuff Hotels EVERYWHERE; what's the strategy in THAT?!

Mike Reilly was a former J! contestant taped to host. And it sure LOOKED like he was thrown to the wolves with his fast talking and uninspired speech. Oh, he tried...but he was no Peter Tomarken (who shot the pilot ep).

And, while the board was authentic, there was NO reason to have a studio THAT BIG! Look at it on the opening shot; it's looks twice as huge as the J! set is. And most of it was empty space!


Errr, no. These days, board games are something parents drag out once-a-month or so to get their kids away from the iPads and PS4s. And the kids do it begrudgingly. CBS went the right way tapping "Candy Crush" as a game show. No board game translated into a game show would ever fly outside of Discovery Family (and even THEIR "Family Fun Night" didn't fly long). You shoulda stayed with J! and WoF, Merv; it was all downhill from here (and, yes, I'll be higlighting a few of the other Merv shows mentioned at later times). Again, one for the "nice try' bin.

NEXT TIME: The NEWER show based on an Atlantic City-based game...

Chris Wolvie would REALLY like to see a game show based on RISK, though. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at