It's time to play "Trivial Pursuit"! And, all across America, viewers are taping their trivia questions to get in the game! You can play, star and win on...
SHOW: Trivia Pursuit: America Plays
AIR DATES: September 22, 2008 to May 22, 2009
CREATOR: Burt Wheeler, Sharon Sussman (Based on the board game created by Horn Abbot)
Wheeler/Sussman Productions; Hasbro
HOST: Christopher Knight
WATCH IT HERE: YouTube
In 1981, a board game was created by a pair of Canadians that changed parties forever. In the 90s, when the game started losing traction, the Family Channel tried to get people interested again with a game show roughly based on it. If you're a regular reader, you should know the result. Somehow, though, "Trivial Pursuit" survived through countless more versions even into the new millennium. And Hasbro - the then-and-current owners of the game - decided to give a TV show another go. THIS time, however, they decided that just having three contestants wasn't enough for this "party" game. Hence the title "Trivial Pursuit: America Plays". This time, people from across the country either read pre-made questions or, on occassion, came up with their OWN trivia and read them in front of a camera and had it sent in. If America was able to stump the in-studio players enough, THEY would win and not the champion of the game. Not only did this make good use of growing technology and was, perhaps, the ultimate win-at-home game...but it also gave a former "Brady kid" a chance to shine in the spotlight.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Three contestants play in the studio with "America's Team" giving them the questions. Two banks are used: "Studio's Bank" and "America's Bank". The winner is determined by which bank is higher at the show's end.
Each color of wedge represents a different category (the green wedge is always "Whatever", meaning there are questions about anything). A "Randominzer" picks a wedge (though, actually, they go through a pattern of all six wedges until the round ends) and a member of "America's Team" gives the question, which is worth between $250 and $500 depending on difficulty. First to buzz-in with the right answer earns the wedge (if they haven't already earned that color wedge yet) and gets first crack at the next question. If the contestant in control misses the question or runs out of time, the other two can buzz-in to steal control. When one contestant gets three wedges, they advance to Round 2 and sit out the rest of Round 1. The round ends when two contestants get three wedges; the other contestant is eliminated from the game.
If the contestant in control gets an answer right (or if the first buzz-in answer is right when no one is in control), the amount of the question goes into the Studio's Bank. If the one in control misses or runs out of time (or if no one buzzes-in), the money goes into America's Bank (even if someone buzzes-in with the right answer after a wrong answer). If more than one contestant misses a question, the money is multiplied by the number of misses and put in America's Bank.
ROUND 2 ("HOT PURSUIT")
All questions in this round have no set category and are worth $500 apiece. Also, every question is a buzz-in. Each right answer added a wedge to the contestant's six-wedge pie. Again, a first right answer adds money to the Studio's Bank; each wrong answer adds to America's Bank. The first to fill their pie wins the game, is considered the "champion" and goes on to the final round.
FINAL ROUND ("HEAD-TO-HEAD")
Now the champion faces "America's Team" by themselves. Six categories are shown and randomized (stopped by America's Team's "Captain", showing up via webcam). The first question is worth $500, the second $1000 and the other four worth $1000 more than the previous one. A right answer by the champion puts money in the Studio's Bank. A wrong answer puts the money in America's Bank.
At the end of the six categories, if the Studio's Bank is higher, the champion wins all the money in that bank. If America's Bank is higher, everyone who asked a question during the show wins a share of that bank. If one bank has a lead that's insurmountable given the remaining questions' values, the round ends with the leading bank the winner. If the champion wins before the sixth question, the host gives the champion a chance to go double-or-nothing on the next question, though the champion CAN refuse to do so.
I gotta say that Christopher Knight did a very decent job. He kept the action going at a decent clip and I'm sure he studied the rules intently to make sure things went smooth. Plus,...c'mon, he's a Brady Kid, which means he LIVES to entertain America..
The fact that it was ordinary everyday American standing in front of the cameras and giving the questions made this show rather awesome. Still not sure if they came up with their own questions (heavily vetted and checked for authenticity, I'm sure), the producers just had them read questions from a cue card or a mix of both. But having them read a question and have a chance at around $500 if the studio guys couldn't hack it...it's what set the show apart.
The set looked bigger than it really was and that worked for this show. It was intimate enough for a three-contestant game yet looked like it could fit all of America in it...which the SHOW was trying to do.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
Not much was wrong with the show, really. Perhaps the rule that every wrong answer to a single question gives "America's Bank" the money made things a bit unfair for the studio guys. And anyone who watches the show a fair bit (like I did) knew that they didn't "randomize" the categories in the first round. Other than that, nothing else to really complain about.
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
I dare say it could. In fact, given that "Let's Ask America" followed this show, I could see everyone who asks a question doing it from their own computers...and MAYBE even LIVE. Now, something like that would take a LOT of work to pull off but (and this is MUCH more than a hunch) if a network wants to take it out of syndication and, maybe, put it on primetime, I can definitely see this being a hit. C'mon, ABC, and one more show to your long list of hits!
NEXT TIME: Trivia, Admiral Akbar's way...
Chris Wolvie believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of trivial matters. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at email@example.com.