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with Chris Wolvie
They Are The Champions, My Friends
August 10

This is Dennis Miller, literally above the fray with my good friend Amanda Byram and welcome to...

SHOW: Grand Slam
August 3, 2007 to September 8, 2007
CREATOR: Embassy Row Productions; Sony Pictures Television; GSN
HOST: Dennis Miller, Amanda Byram & Pat Kiernan as "The Questioner"
(the whole danged tournament!)

Sports have often had "dream matches". Like what if the 1960s Green Bay Packers faced the 1980s San Francisco 49ers? Or if Muhammad Ali faced Mike Tyson? For game show enthusiasts, though, the question was more like, "What if Brad Rutter from Jeopardy! faced Ogi Ogas from Millionaire?" Well, as these shows don't really work together, some other game had to be organized to put them and 14 others on even keels. Enter the UK show "Grand Slam", that took some of Britain's biggest game show money winners and put them together in a unique format. Sony and GSN then gathered 16 people who won the most money in American game show history (going all the way back to Thom McGee of "Tic-Tac-Dough" fame) who would answer the cattle call and put them in a single elimination tournament in order to line their pockets with $100,000 more. Interesting concept, killer tournament....but ended far too soon.

Sixteen of the most-successful game show contestants of all-time are seeded by winnings and put in a bracket much like a "region" in the NCAA Basketball Tournament: 1 vs. 16, 8 vs. 9 and so forth to 2 vs. 15. Winners advance, losers leave with nothing. The last contestant standing wins $100,000.

The two players (literally) go face-to-face in four rounds of questions: General Knowledge, Numbers & Logic, Words & Letters and Mixed (a combination of all three previous rounds). Each contestant is given a clock with one minute. A coin toss decides who gets the first question of the round. When The Questioner starts the round, the loser of the toss has their clock start to countdown as The Questioner asks a question. If a contestant answers the question right, their clock stops and the opponent's clock starts (like a timer in chess). If the answer is wrong or passed, the clock continues to countdown until a question is answered right. When one clock runs out of time, the round ends and whatever time left on the other clock is carried over to the final round. In each subsequent round, the first question is asked of the contestant NOT asked the first question in the LAST round.

Each contestant is given three "switches" to use during the course of the match. If the contestant does not like a question or thinks the other contestant can't get it, they can say "SWITCH"; at that point, their clock stops and their opponent's clock starts, forcing the opponent to answer the question. However, the opponent can use one of THEIR switches to "SWITCH BACK", reversing the previous switch.

In the final "Mixed" round, the contestants are each given one minute PLUS any time accumulated in the previous three rounds. They are also each given one more "switch" for the round. When one clock runs out, the other contestant wins the match and advances in the tournament.

In the final match, a fifth round is added between the second and third rounds full of Contemporary Knowledge. The rest of the match is the same. The winner of the match wins the tournament and gets $100,000.

Every show tries to be unique in its own way, and this show knocked it out of the park. Timed question answering? Done. Trying to answer more questions than opponent(s). Done. A combo of the two? Nope...that's pretty new. The "chess clock" really made this unique and something no number of Jeopardy! or Millionaire contestants has seen before. This made it the PERFECT arena for all these champions.

Speaking of, seeing the masters of game shows certainly helped put this show in a class by itself. Never before had players of all different types of game shows been brought together to test their knowledge. I grew up watching Thom McGee like most people these days grew watching Ken Jennings. And seeing how they'd do against each other was a thrill (though I *was* upset as to how easily McGee was thwarted).

While I think the minimalist set worked to a point, I still think a tournament of this magnitude could've used more finesse. Not much, mind; just a bit more flair like podiums or the like. One small stage with two big screens where the players practically had their faces touching? It was OK...but I'm sure people like Rutter were expecting more pizzazz for million-dollar winners.

And what the hell were Miller and Byram even DOING there? They weren't hosts; they were like pro-wrestling commentators, looking at stats and cracking wise about them. And apparently Sony didn't watch Monday Night Football during Miller's deplorable run, else they'd have realized that Miller's obscure references just would NOT work for a basic-cable audience just there to watch game show titans duke it out. Byram could've just given stats and thrown it to The Questioner when she was done. (Oh, yeah, and Sony never watched "Amnesia!", either.)


Honestly, I was thinking from the onset that this COULD work as a daily series. Champions could be used who stay on until beaten and they get money based on how much time they have left at the end of the match. Like winning gets you $1000 and you get $1000 more for every 10 seconds you have left on the clock or the such. It's perhaps one of the most unique game formats we've seen in gaming lately so...yeah, I think it would work even as a network show. C'mon, NBC or ABC; make "Let's Make a Deal" and "The Price Is Right" WORK for those ratings!

NEXT TIME: Party Line, The Game Show...

Chris Wolvie only knows "Grand Slam" as a Denny's entree.. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at