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with Chris Wolvie
What's the Definition of a Bad Reboot?
October 26

Welcome to the game where knowledge is king and lady luck is queen! It's...

The Joker's Wild (1990)
AIR DATES: September 10, 1990 to March 8, 1991
CREATOR: Kline& Friends
HOST: Pat Finn
Format 1 and Format 2)

As game show enthusiasts, I think it's safe to say we all get a little excited when we here of an old show coming back. And it happens every time, too. When we heard that Snoop Dogg was producing a reboot of "The Joker's Wild", we were all a-twitter (and with pretty good reason, too). But, most times, the show we get is not like the show we grew up with. Sometimes it takes parts from the show and does something different to it. Other times it just borrows the title and does something COMPLETELY different. Over the next number of columns, I'll be highlighting shows that - in my opinion, anyway - ruined the original that a lot of people knew and loved. And, in "celebration" of the "return" of TJW, I'll start with the FIRST time it was brought back in the early 90s. We were expecting lots of spins and jokers...but ended up seeing "Webster's Dictionary: the Game Show".

Three contestants (including a returning champion) start the game. The object is to get to $2000 or more. The game is based on definitions: the host gives the contestants a word, phrase, person, place, thing or event and it's up to the contestants to figure out what the host is talking about.

A toss-up definition is given with the one answering right getting to spin the wheels first. The wheels have various amounts of money (ranging from $5 to $50) on them. When the wheels stop, the amounts are added up and the hosts asks the contestants definitions with each right answer adding that total amount to the player's bank. If the contestant gives an incorrect answer or if three seconds elapses without an answer, the other contestants can buzz-in to answer correctly, steal the money and spin the wheels.

The third wheel also has a "JOKER" on it. If it stops on a joker, the remaining two amounts are added and tripled and the contestant is given 15 seconds to get as many definitions right for that amount. Again, a wrong answer allows one of the other two to steal.

When one contestant hits $500, the first round ends and the contestant with the least amount of money is eliminated. The second round picks up where the first left off, only a) with more money on the wheels ($10 to $75), b) the spinner gets a choice between two categories to answer definitions about and c) an "OPPONENTS CHOICE" space on the third wheel which, obviously, gives the spinner's opponent the choice of categories. The first to reach $2000 wins the game, keeps the cash and is the champion, advancing to the bonus round.

Due to less-than-stellar ratings, the format was changed in January. Now the wheels spun more like the original TJW with just categories and JOKERs. The "definition" part stayed, though. Single categories were worth $25 apiece, pairs were $50 and triples $100. Spinning three Jokers did NOT mean a contestant won with just one answer: they were given $250 and a choice between three categories for $100 apiece. The first round ended when a contestant hit $1000 instead of $500 and the game ended when a contestant hit $2000. During the final week, the show reverted back to the first format.

The host gives up to three different definitions for a single word and the champion must figure out the word. All words in the round start with the same letter. Each correct answer within 60 seconds earns a spin in the bonus game. Once time expires, the contestant uses the spins. The wheels now have different prizes on them (including some money amounts) as well as Jokers The object is to spin three of the same prize. If a JOKER is spun and it does not make three-of-a-kind, the contestant must choose what prize it gets turned into. Any wheel not displaying a JOKER can be frozen at any time (like "Bullseye"). Getting three of the same prize within the amount of spins given wins the prize. If three Jokers are spun, the champion wins a jackpot that starts at $5000 and increases by $500 with each time it isn't hit.

The set was pretty good. The "joker" on top of the slot machine was a little freaky, I'll admit. But, all in all, nice mixture of the original and the new. And I heard there was a plaque on the side of the machine as a tribute to Jack Berry, creator and host of the original. Not sure how Jack would TAKE it but...nice touch. And computerizing the wheels helped, too. Not that the sideways projectors didn't have their place in the original but...just glad to see the update. 

And the music had that old/new mix to it, too. You could just about juxtapose the original and the new themes onto either show...and both would fit rather nicely.

And Pat Finn - who, no doubt, SEEN the original in his youth as I did - must've studied this format and did it like a champ. He didn't let the name lock-in his hosting expectations.

Oh, GOD, the gameplay! Who in Kline & Friends thought THIS was a good idea?! Three people playing a classic TJW game I can get behind, but WHY did they change things AROUND so much?!? You have to be Roget to do well in this game. This is just overcompensating for the (relatively) easy questions in the original, I'm sure. But that was the SEVENTIES, man! People were smarter in the 90s but not THAT much smarter! This was just boring AF to watch. Not even the wheel-spins were exciting. Growing up, I watch it see if there'd be a triple (natural or otherwise) or three Jokers Here, I was like, "Oh, great...$50 per definition. Oh, wow...a single JOKER. YAWN!"

Had they gone whole hog in January and went back to the original format COMPLETELY, I'd've given it a pass. But they wanted to stay unique from its predecessor no matter what. So they changed the wheels but kept the general gameplay. And they wonder why it didn't work.


Snoop did it right. The right set, the right athmosphere...but, most importantly, the right FORMAT! Oh, sure, it's not exactly "spin wheels, ask question, give answer, get money" (and, personally, I can do without all the Snoop-centric categories) but at least he brought it into the 21st century. THIS version...barely brought it into the 1990s. It was a snore-fest of a poor excuse for a remake, not even worthy of the "nice try" bin.

NEXT TIME: St. George...and John Wayne's son, too.

Chris Wolvie knows the Devil is in the nostalgia factor. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at