Sale of the Century (US game show): Wikis

  
  

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Sale of the Century
Format Game show
Created by Al Howard
Presented by Jack Kelly (1969-1971)
Joe Garagiola (1971-1974)
Jim Perry (1983-1989)

Co-hosts:
Barbara Lyon (1969-1971)
Kit Dougherty (1971-1974)
Sally Julian (1983)
Lee Menning (1983-1984)
Summer Bartholomew (1984-1989)
Narrated by Bill Wendell (1969-1974)
Jay Stewart (1983-1988)
Don Morrow (1988-1989)
Country of origin  United States
No. of episodes 1,000 (NBC 1969-1973)
260 (SYN 1973-1974)
1,578 (NBC 1983-1989)
Production
Location(s) NBC Studios
New York, New York (1969-1974)
NBC Studios
Burbank, California (1983-1989)
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Al Howard Productions (1969-1974)
Reg Grundy Productions (1983-1989)
Distributor Screen Gems (1973-1974)
Genesis Entertainment (1985-1986)
Broadcast
Original channel NBC (1969-1973, 1983-1989)
Syndicated (1973-1974, 1985-1986)
Original run September 29, 1969 – March 24, 1989

Sale of the Century is a television game show format that made its debut in the United States on September 29, 1969 on NBC daytime (it was one of three NBC game shows to premiere on that date, the other two being the short-lived Letters to Laugh-In and Name Droppers). The series aired until July 13, 1973, after which it aired in a weekly syndicated version for one additional year. Jack Kelly hosted the series from 1969-1971, then Joe Garagiola, Sr. took over for Kelly, who returned to acting.

The rights to Sale of the Century were purchased in 1980 by Australian TV mogul Reg Grundy, who turned the show into a huge hit in Australia (see Sale of the Century (Australian game show)), and eventually succeeded selling NBC his new vision of the format in 1983. The new version aired weekday mornings (originally at 10:30/9:30 Central, later moving to 10:00/9:00 Central) from January 3, 1983 (again, one of three new NBC game shows premiering that date, along with Hit Man and Just Men!) to March 24, 1989. A concurrent syndicated version ran from January 7, 1985 to September 1986. This version was hosted by Jim Perry.

Al Howard was the executive producer of the initial 1969-1973 version and for a short time was co-executive producer of the 1980s version with Robert Noah.

A new version of the series entitled Temptation–like the recent Aussie revival–debuted in syndication on September 10, 2007, following a September 7 preview on MyNetworkTV. This series ran for one year.

Contents

Game format

The game format varied in its details over the years; however, the core format, as presented below, remained unchanged.

From 1969-1973, all contestants began with $25. General knowledge questions were posed to the contestants by the host at a value of $5 for correct answers. Should the contestant answer incorrectly, $5 is deducted from their score and a new question is asked; unlike most other quiz shows, only one answer is permitted per question. Midway through the game, the question values doubled to $10. At first, the final round consisted of 30 seconds of $15 questions. If a player's total was reduced to zero (or lower), that player was out of the game.

According to the several editions of "The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows" by David Schwartz, Steve Ryan, and Fred Wostbrock, during the show's last thirteen weeks on the NBC network and the year in U.S. syndication Sale used two married couples instead of three single competing studio contestants. Each couple was given $20 at the start of the game. Host Joe Garagiola, after conducting one round apiece of $5 and $10 questions, then asked a concluding series of five $20 questions to determine the winning couple. If either couple's score reached $0, both couples were given an additional $20.

In the 1980s version, each player was given $20 at the start of the game and all questions were worth $5. Any player whose score was reduced to zero stayed in the game.

Instant Bargain

On the original 1969-1974 version, at certain points during gameplay, all contestants would be offered the opportunity to purchase merchandise at a bargain price. The first player to buzz in after the prize was revealed purchased that prize. In doing so, a losing contestant might not advance to go shopping at the end of the show, but could leave the show with a considerable total for one day's play. The prices of all prizes offered were expressed much as one would hear in a department store (ending with "and 95 cents"), and would increase as the show progressed (e.g., $7.95, $11.95, $14.95, $21.95). All prize values were rounded up to the nearest dollar before being subtracted from the score of the player who purchased the prize. Each instant bargain was hidden behind a curtain; the announcer would mention the price, and then the curtain would open as the prize was revealed. If a contestant buzzed in before the curtain opened, it was declared "No Sale", the contestant would have the price deducted from his/her score (but not win the prize), and the other contestants could then buzz in.

Once per round on the 1980s version, the highest-scored player was offered the chance to purchase an Instant Bargain. The prizes, and the cost, increased in each round. Depending on the game situation, the host would often reduce the cost and/or offer cash in order to entice the contestant to purchase. In case of a tie for the lead, a Dutch auction was usually conducted for the prize, although sometimes the price would remain the same.

Beginning in May 1984, a "Sale Surprise" (a cash bonus of anywhere from $300 to $1,200) was occasionally added to any one of the Instant Bargains, although the bonus was not used for every show. The Sale Surprise was always revealed following the conclusion of the Instant Bargain it was attached to regardless of whether or not the player had bought the merchandise, and was always announced with clanging bells.

Open House/Audience Sale

Early in the original version, about halfway through the show, there was an "Open House" round; five prizes would be presented to the players, and each could buy as many of them as they wanted; two or three players could buy the same item. This was later replaced with an "Audience Sale" round, where three studio audience members had to guess the "sale price" of an item; the one that was closest without going over won the item. The three contestants could increase their score by correctly guessing which, if any, audience member would win.

Instant Cash

The Instant Cash replaced the third Instant Bargain in March 1986. The player in the lead, as always (auction if there was a tie), would be given the opportunity to play for a cash jackpot, which started at $1,000 and went up by that amount every day until it was won. To play, the contestant would have to give up their lead over the second-place competitor. If the contestant opted to play they selected one of three boxes. One box contained the jackpot while each of the other boxes contained $100. The pot climbed as high as $16,000 several times, and $17,000 once. On the second-to-last episode in 1989 a $16,000 Jackpot was won.

Fame Game

Starting with the '80s version, a "Who am I?" question was asked once in each of the three rounds. Here, a succession of increasingly larger clues were given to the identity of a famous person, place, or event. In this round, players could buzz-in and answer at any time, with the player shut out for the remainder of the question if they gave an incorrect answer.

If one of the players buzzed-in and answered correctly, the contestant chose from a game board with nine squares featuring the faces of celebrities, mostly performers on the network's shows. If all three contestants failed to come up with a right answer, then nobody got to pick a celebrity. Once chosen, the face selected would be spun around to reveal either a relatively small prize (typically appliances or furniture valued at around a weekly wage) or a $25 bonus money card, which added $25 to the player's score. However, by early 1984, additional spaces were added to the board, as described below.

Changes

  • One notable addition was "Mystery Money or Pick Again", which required the player to choose between a hidden cash prize (ranging form $1.75 to $1,500), or a second choice from the board. Variants on this theme, such as "(amount of money) or Pick Again" and "Trip or Pick Again" were also used. After the switch to the "random lock-in" format (see below), this was renamed "Mystery Money or Try Again".
  • Additional Money Cards were added to the board: A $10 Card was available in the first Fame Game, a $15 Card in the second, and the $25 Card was available only in the third round. On occasion, a $5 Card was also included. The phrase Money Cards was coined by host Jim Perry, carrying that phrase with him from his previous show Card Sharks.
  • Bonus cash cards ranging from $200–$1,000 were added.
  • The faces were replaced by the numbers 1-9.
  • Beginning in October 1985, the contestant no longer selected a number. Instead, random lights flashed around each number were stopped by hitting the contestant's buzzer (similar to Press Your Luck). At that point, the money cards were revealed prior to stopping the lights for an increased dramatic effect.

A cycle of the question segments and the special games occurred three times on each show, depending on the time used. The format of each program (after 1984) was as follows:

  • The first cycle consisted of five $5 questions then an Instant Bargain, followed by three more $5 questions and the first Fame Game (with a $10 Money Card available).
  • The second segment consisted of three $5 questions, the second Instant Bargain and five more $5 questions before going to a commercial break (with host Perry reading a fact or a statistic about the last question before going to the break).
  • In segment three, the Fame Game was played (with a $15 Money Card added), followed by three more $5 questions and an instant bargain (later Instant Cash).
  • The final segment of the game consisted of three more $5 questions, the last Fame Game (with a $25 Money Card added), followed by a 60-second Speed Round to determine the winner.

Speed round

Originally, after the final Fame Game, Perry would ask three $5 questions. The high scorer after these questions would be the day's winner. In March 1984, realizing that most games were decided before this set of questions, the producers introduced a rapid-fire question segment called the Speed Round (known in Australia as Fast Money). Perry would ask as many questions as possible within 60 seconds (originally 90), and whoever was ahead at the end of the speed round was the day's winner. All three players keep their money, regardless of the outcome.

If there was a tie for the lead after the Speed Round, another question was asked of the tied players. Answering this question awarded $5 and the win; missing the question deducted $5 and lost the game. Originally, a Fame Game question was asked as a tie-breaker, but was changed to a regular $5 question upon the implementation of the Speed Round.

Bonus game

During the original series, the winning contestant or couple would be given the opportunity to spend their cash total on at least one of several grand prizes at the "Sale of the Century". Contestants could purchase a prize with their cash winnings and retire, or elect to return the next day and try to win enough to buy a more expensive prize. Champions could buy more than one prize, but unlike the later 1980s version, they could never buy every prize at less than the total of all of the sale prices. Also, when contestants chose to come back the next day, they were asked which prizes they were considering buying; as long as the contestant kept winning, those prizes would remain while others would be replaced by more expensive ones.

The 1970s syndicated version had two different formats. Both had three possible prizes (almost always a trip, a fur coat, and a car), of which the couple could win one. Originally, each prize had a sale price, and Garagiola asked questions worth $100 each, which was added to the couple's score from the game. When the amount reached the sale price of a prize, the couple could buy the prize or keep playing for a more expensive prize. Later, this was changed to "The Game of Champions"; the three prizes had sale amounts in the areas of $150, $300, and $600, and the winning couple chose a prize and had to answer three questions (worth $50, $100, or $200 each, depending on the prize).

The 1980s version had three bonus games during its six year run:

Shopping

The first bonus game on Sale was a reworked version of the original version's shopping endgame. It aired on the NBC version from its debut until October 1984 and appeared on the daily syndicated version from January 1985 to November 1985. A series of six prizes was offered, culminating in a luxury car. As before, a contestant could buy a prize and retire, or elect to return the next day and try to win enough to buy the next most expensive prize. If a player earned enough money, they could buy all the prizes on the stage as well as a cash jackpot that started at $50,000 and increased by $1,000 each day until it was claimed (reaching $109,000 at its highest point on the NBC Sale and $90,000 at its highest point (second-highest overall) on the syndicated show).

In the first four months of the show, the cash jackpot was not used; instead, enough cash was added to make the lot worth an even $95,000 for $500. This original level was reached and won only once.

Originally, a player could buy every prize on the stage (including the cash jackpot) with $600 or more. When the speed round was added, it took $760 to win everything.

The shopping bonus game differed on the NBC and syndicated versions of Sale. For the NBC shopping endgame, the cash jackpot was used as the second to last prize level (with $650 usually needed to buy it; $510 before the addition of the speed round), with the entire lot plus the jackpot as the last. The last level was reached only once by contestant Barbara Phillips in August 1983. The syndicated series, instead of offering the jackpot as a prize, offered the entire lot of prizes to a contestant once they reached the second to last level, which took $640. $750 was required to win everything, which included the cash jackpot. The automobile was available at $540 on the NBC edition and $530 on the syndicated version.

The modification of the shopping format for the syndicated Sale resulted in more lot wins, as contestants would not have felt tempted to simply purchase the cash jackpot instead of the entire lot (seeing as how they would have to buy the entire lot to win the jackpot).

If a new champion had not accumulated a score high enough to purchase the first level prize on their first day, the price of the prize was reduced to what their winning score was.

The Winner's Board

The shopping format was discontinued in October 1984 on NBC and in November 1985 in syndication. Instead, the contestant faced a 20-space board. The contestant called off numbers and won the first prize matched. Ten prizes were available, with the largest prizes being $10,000 cash and a car. Two "Win" cards were always on the board, and if they were selected at any time the player won whatever prize they revealed with their next pick. Eight of the prizes had matching pairs, with the car and $10,000 requiring a "Win" card to match. In the event the $10,000 and the car were the only two prizes left on the board, only two numbers would be displayed, and the champion won whatever prize was behind the number chosen.

Once the board was cleared, the champion could either leave with all the prizes earned off the board, or risk them and play one final game. A loss cost the player all the prizes won from the board, totaling over $60,000, while a win netted him or her an extra $50,000. Other prizes won during the main game from instant bargains, cash bonuses and fame game prizes were not at risk during the process. In the event a champion was defeated prior to clearing the board, they kept all prizes earned up to that point.

Despite the extreme odds, amazingly no player who accepted the challenge to play for the $50,000 bonus lost their final game.

Mark DeCarlo was a contestant during this period and was the first contestant to play for (and win) the $50,000, doing so in April 1985. His grand total was $115,257.

Winner's Big Money Game

The format for the final round changed once again in late December 1987. The winner of the day would receive a bonus prize worth roughly $3,000 (in the first half of 1988 in this format, champions picked one of six prizes in a blind draw), and then would play this final round. To begin the bonus game, Jim Perry would present three envelopes (red, yellow and blue) and the winner would select the envelope of their choice. Perry then would read a series of 6-word puzzles, with each word revealed one word at a time, approximately one per second. Correctly solving four puzzles in 20 seconds (originally five puzzles in 25 seconds) won the bonus round. One incorrect guess was allowed; two misses ended the game and the player won nothing. Passing and returning to any puzzle was allowed. The clock began when the first word of each puzzle was revealed, and the player stopped the clock by hitting a red plunger in front of them to give an answer. A new champion played for $5,000 on their first day, and the prize increased by $1,000 for each of the next five trips to the round, regardless of whether the game was won the previous day or not.

A contestant was able to win up to eight games during this format, with the seventh Winner's Big Money Game played for an automobile and the eighth played for $50,000. However, a player had to win the automobile in order to have a chance to play for $50,000; otherwise they would retire undefeated. Unlike in the Winners' Board format of Sale, a loss in the $50,000 game did not result in forfeiting anything. The $50,000 prize was played for twice and won once.

Staff & broadcast history

In the United States, the original version was hosted by Jack Kelly (who earlier appeared on the series Maverick with James Garner) until 1971, when he was replaced by Joe Garagiola. Bill Wendell announced. The original version was created and produced by Al Howard.

1969-1973

Sale premiered on September 29, 1969 on NBC's daytime schedule at 11:00 AM (10:00 Central), replacing the three-year-old Personality, which was hosted by Larry Blyden.

Garagiola, who at the time was a regular on NBC's Today Show and had recently hosted a game show of his own, Joe Garagiola's Memory Game, took over for Kelly on August 23, 1971.

Sale ran at that time slot for the entirety of its initial three-and-a-half years on the network, and was generally a ratings success against situation comedy reruns on CBS and non-network programming on ABC stations. However, in Fall 1972 CBS scored a ratings winner with Gambit at that time slot, and the producers of Sale attempted a last-ditch effort at saving the show's audience by changing the three-contestant configuration to that of two married couples, which also was the contestant configuration used by Gambit. It was not enough, and NBC canceled Sale on July 13, 1973 in favor of The Wizard of Odds, which fared no better, even when CBS relocated Gambit and put Odds against Now You See It, and was pulled after one year.

1973-1974

Nevertheless, Howard contacted Screen Gems to continue the game in syndication for another season from September 10, 1973 until September 13, 1974. This version, with Garagiola hosting again, continued the married-couple configuration of the final NBC weeks.

After production of this version ended, the show went dormant for several years until Howard sold the worldwide rights for Sale to Australian TV producer Reg Grundy. In 1980, building upon the success of his earlier Temptation, Grundy brought the show to prime time in his country, where it became the nation's top-rated show. Eventually its success would prompt him to bring it back in the United States. Production of this new version began in late 1982.

1983-1989

Jim Perry, the 80s host of Sale of the Century.

The 1980s version was hosted by Jim Perry (who commuted between Los Angeles and Toronto as he was also hosting two Canadian-produced game shows, Definition and Headline Hunters).

For the first two months of the NBC series, Perry's co-host was actress Sally Julian. Due to dissatisfaction with her performance, Grundy quickly replaced her with Lee Menning. Menning left for family reasons in 1984 and was replaced by Summer Bartholomew; she remained with the show until its end. Jay Stewart announced until his retirement in 1988, when he was replaced by Don Morrow. Stewart also co-hosted with Perry on several occasions when Menning was not available due to her maternity leave in 1984.

Sale was placed in the 10:30/9:30 AM slot by NBC upon its debut, in the slot opposite CBS' the Bill Cullen-hosted Child's Play, which was already suffering from ratings trouble since its debut against the hit Wheel of Fortune. Child's Play continued to lose the ratings battle with its new rival Sale and left the air on September 16, 1983. The following Monday (September 19), Sale received its first serious ratings challenge as Press Your Luck, a loud, colorful, and rambunctious show debuted opposite it on CBS. This began a spirited battle over the 10:30 AM slot's ratings lead for the next 16 months, with Press Your Luck taking a lead thanks in large part to a contestant winning over $100,000 in one game. However, as fall 1985 began, Sale reclaimed the lead while Press Your Luck began to slide in the ratings.

Thanks to its solid performance on NBC, Genesis Entertainment syndicated the show to local stations beginning on January 7, 1985 as a daily five-a-week strip, seen mainly in the Prime Time Access time slots. The show did well enough in its half-season run to be renewed for the 1985-1986 season but the ratings suffered due to a glut of new syndicated games taking over most of the Prime Time Access slots the show had in its first season (for example, the first season of the syndicated Sale aired nightly on WOR in New York; the second season aired following Jeopardy! weekday afternoons on WABC). The syndicated Sale went off the air in September 1986.

Meanwhile, the network version of Sale received a new opponent in the ratings race at 10:30 when CBS dumped Press Your Luck from its morning lineup in January 1986 in favor of a revival of Jim Perry's first hit game show, Card Sharks. The new series did little to put a dent in the ratings of Sale, which continued to win the time slot.

On January 2, 1987, NBC moved Sale to 10:00 AM. The move put the series in direct competition with CBS' long-running hit, The $25,000 Pyramid. Although Sale went up against a dying $25,000 Pyramid and the 13-week flop Blackout in the eighteen months that followed, by 1988 the series began to fall victim to a lack of clearances. The problem, which was not strictly confined to NBC affiliates, stemmed from the local stations' desire to air potentially more lucrative programming, such as syndicated talk shows.

To make matters worse, CBS launched a revival of Family Feud on July 4, 1988. The popularity of the Ray Combs-hosted Feud further eroded the ratings for Sale, and NBC decided to cancel the series. The 1,578th and final episode of Sale of the Century aired on March 24, 1989, with Perry closing the broadcast alongside his wife June and son Sean (with the entire production crew in the background) by saying "I thank you, I bless you; Goodbye, my friends." The show's timeslot was inherited by its sister show Scrabble, while its place on the NBC daytime schedule was given to a short-lived soap opera, Generations.

During Sale's head-to-head competition against Pyramid, the battle became more of a friendly family rivalry, as Jim's daughter Erin Perry worked on Pyramid as its associate producer and the two would follow which game won its time slot for the week.

Returning Champions

On the original series, a champion retired undefeated after buying at least one prize at the Sale of the Century. Until the Winner's Board format on both '80s editions, a champion could remain on the show until they were defeated, had amassed enough to buy every prize on stage, or decided to leave on their own at a certain prize level (more than a few contestants stopped before getting to the last level, with several stopping after their first day). A defeat meant the contestant left with whatever they had won in the front game up until that point. Since NBC had no winnings limit for its game shows (unlike CBS and ABC), a player only retired as champion when they were defeated, reached the highest level of prizes or elected to stop at one of the lower levels.

When the Winner's Board was introduced, players could stay on for a maximum of 11 days, depending on whether they decided to play the $50,000 game. Once again, a defeat meant the player left with whatever they had won to that point except, as noted above, if the loss was in the $50,000 game.

With the introduction of the Winner's Big Money Game, champions could stay a maximum of eight days, depending on whether or not they won the car in their seventh attempt in the bonus round.

Special weeks

Over the years, Sale had several special weeks, including Teen Week, College Week, and others, as well as a few Tournaments of Champions.

Beginning in 1988, during these special weeks where three new contestants competed each day, Instant Cash was worth $2,000, all Winner's Big Money Games were worth $5,000, and on the week-ending program, all five winners of the week would play a special round for the right to win a new automobile. Standing at the Fame Game board, each player had one turn to stop on a number, hitting a plunger to stop the lights from flashing. The player with the highest number won the car. In the event of a tie, the tied players again stopped the random lights on a number until a winner was determined.

Slot Machine

As with many American game shows of past and present, a slot machine based on and named for the show has been manufactured for use in American casinos. The machine is based on the 1983-1989 version but, due to the unavailability of Jim Perry, Joe Garagiola's voice and face was used instead.

Episode status

1969-1974

The original 1969-1973 series is believed to have been wiped by NBC as per network practices of the era. Only nine episodes are known to exist, held by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

The 1973-1974 syndicated version may have also been wiped, however this is uncertain. Surviving episodes would be held by Sony Pictures Television.

1983-1989

The 1985-1986 syndicated version is intact, and was reran on the USA Network from September 14, 1992 to July 29, 1994. The last two and a half seasons of the NBC version were reran during this time, as well.

Although NBC had mostly ceased wiping by 1981, it is unclear how many episodes are available from 1983-1986, although a vast majority are believed to exist (including the premiere). The tapes were converted from analog to digibeta (the format required for broadcast on cable networks), but have not been seen since.[citation needed]

FremantleMedia currently owns the Reg Grundy library (Sale, Scrabble, Time Machine, Bruce Forsyth's Hot Streak, Scattergories, and Small Talk), including the company's various foreign adaptations; many of these were seen on the VH1 series Game Show Moments Gone Bananas.

Studio origination

The initial 1970s version of Sale of the Century was produced in Studio 8H at the NBC Rockefeller Studios in New York City. The 1980s version was taped at Studio 25, also known as the Art Fleming Studio, of NBC Studios in Burbank. The show later moved to Studio 3, the same studio that was used to tape The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

References

Preceded by
Personality
11:00 a.m. EST, NBC
9/29/69 – 7/13/73
Succeeded by
The Wizard of Odds
Preceded by
Wheel of Fortune
10:30 a.m. EST, NBC
1/3/83 – 1/2/87
Succeeded by
Blockbusters
Preceded by
Family Ties
10:00 a.m. EST, NBC
1/5/87 – 3/24/89
Succeeded by
Scrabble







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