We're here to play the game that's the star of every party...
AIR DATES: January 18, 1993 to June 11, 1993
CREATOR/PACKAGER: Reg Grundy Productions (based on Parker Brothers game)
HOST: Dick Clark
WATCH IT HERE: YouTube
As many are aware, the most successful US game show based on a board game was "Scrabble". For nearly six years, the "crossword game you've played all your life but never quite like this" hopped around NBC's daytime schedule and did rather well, whether going against "Price is Right" or airing just after it. A revival of the game was started in 1993...but Reg Grundy had something ELSE in mind as well. Along with "Scrabble", he came up with a DIFFERENT board-game-based show: "Scattergories". It was a bit on the complex side but the concept remained the same: come up with words that fit a specific category and starting with a specific letter of the alphabet...and then hope five celebs didn't say the same thing. The problem was, as Achmed the Dead Terrorist would put it, "location, location, location". By the 90s, network affiliates gave up the 12n-1pm hour to local news or syndie stuff. As such, not all NBC affiliates saw either this show OR the revival of "Scrabble". So they both started and ended on the same days. It wasn't TOO bad a show though, as I said, it WAS a bit complex a structure.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Two teams of four - one team of males and one team of females (including returning champions) - play to accumulate points and win the game and $500. Five celebrities also play, though their responses are pre-recorded.
In the first week, there was a toss-up to see which team went first. After that first week, the challengers always went first in the first round.
The team in control is given a category and a letter. The team then has 15 seconds to come up with up to six words that a) fit the category and b) start with the letter. One player could not give two answers in a row and no word could be used as PART of an answer more than twice. After six words are given or time expires, the other team could challenge any word given; a five-member "jury" would vote whether the word was acceptable or not, majority rules. The team gets one point for each acceptable word AND a bonus point for each challenged word that was deemed acceptable by the jury.
After that, the team - one by one - would pick a celebrity who would, in their pre-recorded responce, give a word that fits the category and starts with the letter. If they match any of the words the team gave, the team loses a point. If they don't match, the team GAINS a point.
The other team then gets the same category but a different letter and the process repeats. Round 2 is played the same way except the points are doubled.
The team with more points at the end of Round 2 wins the game, become champions and win $500 divided evenly between them. In case of a tie, a toss-up category and letter was given and the first to buzz-in with an acceptable answer wins.
The champions now had one more category to go through. Each celebrity was given a different starting letter. The team had 25 seconds to come up with two words for each celebrity, following the same rules as the main game. After ten words were given or time expires, the jury eliminates any unacceptable words. Any celebrity who did not have two acceptable words attached to them were eliminated from the game. One by one, each celebrity gave their answer. If they give an answer that didn't match those given by the team, the team "captures" the celeb. Each "captured" celeb nets the team $100. If they "capture" THREE celebs, they win the jackpot which started at $4000 and went up $1000 for every time it wasn't hit.
One advantage "Scattergories" has over "Scrabble" is that it followed the basic rules of the actual game. Not that the TV version of "Scrabble" was bad but, then again, "Scrabble" isn't exactly the most riveting of board game so the changes are understandable. But "Scattregories", being a party game, NEEDED to stick to the general rules. And the jury (usually made of past contestants) kept someone from answering "Farm Animals starting with 'R'" with "Rhinoceres".
Finally, a show with celebrities who realize that celebs sometimes don't have the time to come into the studio to play with the common folk. One COULD say that makes them seem snobbish...but I'm sure recording responses took a lot less time than going to the studio, changing outfits every hour, coming up with anecdotes and collecting their three-digit checks.
Dick Clark...'nuff said. OK, maybe not, but doing a word association game after having done "Pyramid" for, like, EVER must've felt very familiar and very comforting for Mr. Clark. A good end to his daytime hosting duties.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
Despite what I said, the show may have been TOO rigid with the board game rules. It took some time to understand the rules and, for those at home, that wasn't that good a thing. People usually want to understand the rules and point structure out of the gate and only those who see it the first time and say, "Huh,...interesting...I'll see where this goes" would stick around.
Ultimately, though, the show was killed by affiliates. I was fortunate enough to be in one of the cities that actually aired this show and, while I thought it was fine, I didn't stick around to see its demise.
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
We-e-e-e-ell...I mean "Scattergories" isn't that popular a board game nowadays. Honestly, I'd see "Scrabble" coming back again like it always did during the alt.tv.game-shows heyday. It's not a BAD game and is actually kinda fiun. Maybe as a kids' show or something? I dunno...just doesn't seem likely.
NEXT TIME: What's the word, Mr. Kennedy?
"Words that describe Chris Wolvie starting with 'W'...GO!" Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.