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with Chris Wolvie
Playing for a Piece of Family Channel's (Rather Small) Pie
May 28

It's time to test your trivia IQ as we play the most popular trivia game:...

SHOW: Trivial Pursuit

AIR DATES: June 7, 1993 to December 3, 1993
CREATOR: Bill Hillier, Wink Martindale, Peter R. Berlin, Rob Fiedler (based on the board game by Horn Abbot)
PACKAGER: Martindale-Hillier Entertainment, International Family Entertainment
HOST: Wink Martindale

In 1981, a board game was created by a pair of Canadians that change parties forever. In the 80s, you couldn't go to a party with adults and NOT have the game out and ready to play when the talk waned. I can't recall all the times an aunt or uncle or cousin had it ready when the family visited one of them. It was, of course, "Trivial Pursuit". And it seemed only a matter of time before someone tried to make it into a game show. Bit of a shame that it happened in the 90s, when the game's popularity was dropping. Still, perhaps it was trying to bring the game back into the limelight, spark a resurgence in popularity. Or perhaps they were just beating a dead horse, as it were, and wringing whatever they could out of the old game. In any case, the first mistake made was putting on the Family Channel (aka FOX Family Channel, aka ABC Family, aka Freeform). The second was making it the second half hour in a show where the first half was "interactive". Yeah, for reruns, they took that part off...but those of us who saw it from the start knew how lame the first half was. And the second half didn't exactly make up for it. Not that it was terrible, mind, just...not enough to make up for the lost half-hour beforehand.

The game starts with nine contestants sitting in front of telephone keypads. The host asks them five multiple choice questions and they must use their pads to pick the right answer. The faster they put in the right answer, the more points they earn (1000 max). After five questions, the three with the least number of points are eliminated. This is then repeated for the remaining six players, with scores reset to zero before the questions are asked. The three players with the most points at the end of that round move on to the main game. During the game, watchers at home can play a phone game version for a chance at prizes.

ROUNDS 1, 2 & 3
In Round 1, the three contestants each get a choice of categories from the original "Genus" version of the board game (Geography, Entertainment, History, Art & Literature, Science & Nature and Sports & Leisure). If they answer a question correctly, they earn half a wedge (corresponding to the color they picked) in their standard TP "pie". Only one question per category is asked per question. If they get the answer wrong, one of the other contestants can steal the half-wedge.

Rounds 2 deals with a different version of the game (such as "Baby Boomer", "TV" or even "Young Players") and also includes "Bonus Question"s. Upon finding a Bonus Question, if the contestant gets it right, they can answer another question for $100 and a half-wedge from any color they wish. Round 3 works the same as Round 2, but the categories are a mixed bag from different variations.

The categories are back to the ones from Round 1. A toss-up is asked and whoever gets it right has control. They choose the category and remains in control until they miss a question (to which one of the other players can take the half-wedge and control by buzzing in with a right answer) or they completely fill out their pie. If another contestant buzzes-in and gets a question right in a question whose wedge is already full, they just gain control. The first to fill their pie in (or whoever has the most half-wedges filled when time expires) wins the game, a prize and $500.

The champion now has to answer six questions in 45 seconds. The questions fall under the Round 1 categories and the champ must answer one of each category to light up a pie. Completion of that in 45 seconds or less gets the contestant $1000 and a trip. Otherwise, the contestant gets $100 for each wedge lit up.

Wink, bless his heart and teeth, kinda knew this was a bad idea, I'm sure. But he took it like the pro he was. Even when the jokes/trivia at the start of the show bombed, he kept smiling and kept the show moving merrily along. He never tripped, he never stumbled...he moved this dead end down the hall in the best way he could.

That being said, this wasn't too bad a show, really. I mean, it was simple in its delivery, not unlike some 80s network shows. Might've been a bit slow until the final round but you're always challenged with the questions. And you just knew they blew a fair bit of the show's budget on the nice (and authentic-looking) set, which was a nice touch.

Near the end of the show's run, they cut out the prelude. And, quite honestly, they should never have put it up in the first place. What a lame set-up for the show. What's more, they would KEEP that format when they tried to bring "Boggle" and "Jumble" to game show format (which were so forgettable, they don't even DESERVE a GGB column)! We don't care how the sausage gets made; just get us to the action, OK?

Now, look, I know Family Channel was third-tier cable at best...but when you're offering less than what MTV offered on THEIR game shows less than a decade before, that's...kind of pathetic. And, yeah, the channel started as a Christian network...but didn't evangelists make a lot of money during the 80s? They didn't leave any when they sold the channel?! Hardly worth being on when you work that hard and only get about $2000 or so.

Yeah, this is a "nice try" show at best. I mean, it's not like making "Trivial Pursuit" is a BAD idea; it was done again relatively recently. If not for Wink, this show probably would've been unwatchable; he was truly the saving grace of it. And the prolouge helped no one at all. So, no, not in this format. Now, get others to play along and it MIGHT work. Oh, wait...

'Merca gets into the trivia act...

Chris Wolvie is more into trivial surrender himself. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at