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Beat the Geeks
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The Joker's Wild (1990)

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with Chris Wolvie
"Never apologize and never explain, it's a sign of weakness." (either John Wayne or B&E Prods)
November 2

In a moment, a game that intrigued a nation. In a moment, the game of strategy, knowledge and fun! In a moment...

Tic-Tac-Dough (1990)
AIR DATES: September 10, 1990 to December 7, 1990
CREATOR: Barry & Enright Productions
HOST: Patrick Wayne

Growing up, I had three favorite syndicated shows I'd try to watch every night: The Joker's Wild, Bullseye and Tic-Tac-Dough. Yeah, they were pretty much the same format and they all had the typical "70s contestants" that could've used a clue-by-four to the medulla oblongata, but I loved them nonetheless. I explained how Klein & Friends totally screwed up TJW last time. This time, I'll explain how Barry & Enright screwed up their OWN show at the same time. Not that it was ENTIRELY their fault, mind; they had to get the show back from Granada International, who bought the original version. Who knows if this was the version Granada came up with or if B&E went a little too far in trying to update it. Point is, while they stuck to the general format, the changes were a little too much to hack...even for John Wayne's son, the host.

Two contestants (including a reigning champion) play a game of tic-tac-toe by answering questions to earn squares. The champion is always "X", the challenger "O". Each square has a different category which changes after each question. The categories are in blue lettering save for "special" categories in red; those categories involve both contestants.

The categories are shuffled until the contestant in control hits a button. The contestant then chooses a category. With a blue category, the host asks a question and, if the contestant gets it right, they earn the square and money is added to the pot. The outer squares add $500 to the pot, the center square (which prompts a two-part answer and allows the contestant a few seconds to think before answering) adds $1000. A wrong answer leaves the square open. Control passes between the two contestants regardless of outcome.

Red "special" categories involve both contestants and, in most cases, can result in the square claimed by EITHER "X" or "O".

If a contestant completes tic-tac-toe by claiming three squares in a row - vertically, horizontally or diagonally - they win the game and the money in the pot and advance to the bonus game. If all squares are taken and neither one gets tic-tac-toe, the pot is reset for another game and values are doubled for it.

This was the bonus round of the original CBS version with a few differences. Behind nine squares were "X"s, "O"s, a Dragon and a "Dragon Slayer". Before the game starts, the champion must choose which symbol to play with (which, BTW, does NOT guarantee there'll be a tic-tac-toe of that symbol). The champ stops a blind shuffle with a button and then calls out numbers. The first time the champ finds a symbol they picked, the pot goes to $500. For each subsequent symbol found, the pot doubles. Choosing the opposite symbol does nothing. The object is to find three of the chosen symbols in a tic-tac-toe arrangement on the board OR to find the Dragon Slayer before finding the Dragon. Finding the Dragon ends the game and wipes out the pot. Finding the Dragon Slayer wins the game and doubles the pot. Winning the game gives the champion the money in the pot (up to $16,000) and a prize package worth about $2000.

At least, as I said, they stuck to the original format and just upped the dollar amount for the 90s. It's like Dan Enright saw what K&F were doing to their OTHER masterpiece and thought, "Nopenopenope...we'll stick to what works!" And it DID work.

The questions were as challenging to the 90s contestants as the original ones were to the 70s and early 80s ones. Either that or the questions were the same difficulty and the contestants were culled from original pool who had to wait five years between the cancellation of the 80s one and the premiere of this one. Either way, a very challenging show. 

Updating the board I can understand. It's not BAD...for the late 80s and early 90s. I just thought they could do better than a projection screen. Still, beats the pixelated screens that dominated the original (not that THAT was bad, either).

Look, I get that "pick, question, answer, score" gets repetitive after a while. Hence the "special" categories to spice things up. But, personally, I never thought much about them. Oh, when the first one, "Secret Categ'ry" came up, I was intrigued. But, near the end of Wink's run, they had up to THREE "specials" in each game! And tossing them in at the beginning of the remake just made me shiver. Oh, they sped the games up and reduced the chances of ties but...c'mon.

Couldn't they have gone with the original syndie bonus game? Y'know, the typical B&E endgame with money and a villain that takes your money? The one Thom McGee racked up over $300,000 playing? I can understand, given the rules for the "pot", that they didn't want them taking TOO much money...AND they balanced out the chances of there being no tic-tac-toe of the picked symbol with the Dragon Slayer...but that still makes the bonus game less fun to play.

Patrick Wayne is no Wink Martindale by any stretch (but, truly, who is? The man has, like, 118 teeth in his smile). He was decent and knew the game, but he didn't quite have the enthusiasm of his predecessors. No wonder this was his first and last game show hosting gig. He still had a decent movie and TV acting career crying over him.

Oh, yeah, and towards the end they had the Dragon and Dragon Slayer "rap" when they were introduced. Uh,..........yeah, no.


The game works. Hell, the syndie version was actually a remake of a FIFTIES' version! But a lot of people (like me) grew up with the syndie version and loved it. And the technology has improved greatly over three decades to make the board look awesome. Just keep it simple is all that can be asked. One "special" category per game, don't bother letting the contestants shuffle the categories, MAYBE a tiebreaker instead of endless tie games and stick to the syndie bonus game. Do that, Buzzr, and you could have a great remake on your channel to go with all the Goodson/Toddman reruns you just pilfered!

NEXT TIME: Ace is high, deuce is low, but it ain't lower than THIS damn show...

Chris Wolvie STILL thinks it's hip to be square (the poor sap). Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at