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Beat the Geeks
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The Joker's Wild (1990)
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with Chris Wolvie
Three (Seasons) Was Not a Magic Number
March 1

This is the show where opinions rule! I'm Kevin Pereira and welcome to...

AIR DATES: September 17, 2012 to March 27, 2015
CREATOR: Jim Paratore
PACKAGER: Canter/Karask Industries, paraMedia, Apploff Entertainment, E. W. Scripps Company & Telepictures
HOST: Kevin Pereira (Seasons 1-2), Bill Bellamy
Season 1 on YouTube; Season 3 on YouTube

I end my run of "ruined" game shows with a unique entry not just to this sub-genre but to GGB itself. See, I try to make sure the shows featured here were only around for one season...MAYBE two at best. But this is probably the only game show I present that lasted THREE seasons. The reason I include this show is that, while the third season barely changed the format of the first two seasons, it was ruined by a) the change in host and b) the change in the format of the questions. The original host was a little-known G4 host who had a wholesome look and hardly offended anyone and the questions reflected that well. The NEW host was a former MTV VJ who coined the phrase "booty call"...and the questions THAT year reflected it. I watched the first two seasons of this show (yes, including the ep our own Chico won a grand playing)...but one listen to the vulgar questions in the third season turned me off completely...and, apparently, it turned off so many others the same way that they turned it off completely after that.

Four players from around the country log in to the show via Skype to play from their homes. They are given cards to write down their answers. The one with the most money at the end of the show goes to the bonus round

The game is played in three rounds, each with a certain number of questions. Four are asked in the first round (though it was only three in Season 1), three in Round 2 and two in Round 3. Each question gets harder and is worth more money than the previous.

In Round 1, the contestants are given two possible answers and are asked to write down what a plurality of Americans polled on this question chose. They write down their answers and hold up their card with the answer hidden to lock in their answer. After they all reveal their answers, the right answer is given and all who chose that answer gets money into their bank. At the end of the round, the person with the least amount of money is eliminated.

Round 2 is played the same way, except with THREE possible answers per question. Again, the person with the lowest score is eliminated. In Round 3, the two questions have FOUR possible answers and are worth the most money. The one with the higher amount in their bank is the winner and advances to the bonus round.

If at the end of any round there is a tie for last place, a tiebreaker called "Dash For Cash" is played. Another question is asked of the tied players and, when the host says, "GO", they must search their house for an item that matches what they believe is the right answer. The first (or first ONES in case of a three- or four-way tie) to come back with the right item moves on. One person is eliminated after this round.

The winning contestant now has to write down how much of their bank they are willing to wager on one last four-possible-answer question. After the wager is revealed, the four answers are shown as is the final question. The contestant writes down their answer and reveals it. If they are right, they win the money wagered. If wrong, they lose it. They can also decide to go "All-In", risking everything they've earned. If they get it right, their bank is multiplied by five. If they are wrong, they lose it all (though, in Season 1, a guarantee of $1000 was given in this case).

In Season 1, the questions for Round 1 were worth $100, $200 & $300, Round 2 was $400, $500 & $1500, Round 3 was $2000 & $5000. That makes a maximum of $10,000 which could be quintupled to $50,000 in the bonus game. Season 2 went $100, $200, $300 & $400 for Round 1, $500, $1000 & $1500 for Round 2 and $2000 & $4000 for Round 3. Again, a maximum of $10,000 which could become $50,000. In Season 3, the amounts dropped. It was $100, $150, $200 & $300 for Round 1, $500, $750 & $1000 for Round 2 and $1500 & $2500 for Round 3. The maximum was now $7000 with the chance of making it $35,000.

Kevin Pereira was perfect for this show. He was young-ish and young-looking to grab the kids. He was wholesome enough that parents wouldn't be disturbed by what he says. And he kept the game going at a fair clip so that no one got antsy. A show called "Let's Ask America" deserved an all-American-looking host...and they got it right the first time.

The set was minimalist...but considering all you need for this game is a large monitor, an audience and MAYBE a podium, it worked. The Season 1 set seemed a bit more on-the-nose with the theme; bit of a shame they changed it. Still, both worked well.

Paranoia proved that people COULD play from home via the internet for these game shows. But this show did it right; ordinary people in their ordinary houses given an extraordinary chance at thousands of dollars. People could be playing in their jumpsuits, pajamas or even their swimsuit (provided it's tasteful) and it was all good.

When Kevin left the show, they brought in Bill Bellamy. And while that in and of itself wasn't too bad a call, the producers also decided to change the format of the questions into something a little more...risque, you might say. These days, those questions would be considered "mild" on Family Feud, but it was a bit of a shake-up for those who had just gone through two years of relatively "nice" or "benign" questions. Whether it was Bellamy himself who suggested the questions or if the producers wanted to pair a more "urban" host with questions to match, it is what killed this little show that could. I'd dare say it would still be on the air today if the questions either stayed more benign or if the more racy questions were slowly integrated in like they were on Family Feud. Bill wasn't too bad a host; it was just the questions he gave that turned people off.

Of course it would. As I said, had they kept the questions how they were and only snuck in the more-adult questions little by little, it would still be around today. Even the Philippines had a version that lasted three seasons...and when was the last time you heard of a SYNDICATED show getting a version elsewhere in the world?! This show was simple and awesome...until someone wanted it to go from TV-PG to TV-14. Then America didn't want to ask any more.

NEXT TIME: The American dream: being debt-free (WINK!)

Chris Wolvie would like to ask America what it's been THINKING lately...but is not sure he WANTS to know. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at