Beat the Clock

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For the Sparks song, see Beat the Clock (song).
Beat the Clock
Beat the Clock logo.jpg
Genre Game show
Presented by Bud Collyer (1950–1961)
Jack Narz (1969–1972)
Gene Wood (1972–1974)
Monty Hall (1979–1980)
Gary Kroeger (2002–2003)
Narrated by Bern Bennett (1950–1958)
Dirk Fredericks (1958–1961)
Gene Wood (1969–1972)
Nick Holenreich (1972–1974)
Jack Narz (1979–1980)
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 18
Production
Running time 22-26 minutes
Production company(s) Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions (1950–1961, 1969–1974, 1979–1980)
The Clock Company (1979–1980)
FremantleMedia (2002–2003)
Paxson Communications Corporation (2002–2003)
Paxson Entertainment (2002–2003)
Tick Tock Productions, Ltd. (2002–2003)
Distributor 20th Century Fox Television (1969–1972)
Firestone Film Syndication, Ltd. (1972–1974)
Broadcast
Original channel CBS (1950–1958, 1979–1980)
ABC (1958–1961)
Syndicated (1969–1974)
PAX (now ION) (2002–2003)
Original airing March 23, 1950 – February 16, 1958
September 16, 1957 – January 27, 1961
September 15, 1969 – September 20, 1974
September 17, 1979 – February 1, 1980
September 2, 2002 – September 4, 2003

Beat the Clock is a Goodson-Todman game show that aired on American television in several versions since 1950.

The original show, hosted by Bud Collyer, ran on CBS from 1950 to 1958 and ABC from 1958 to 1961. The show was revived in syndication as The New Beat the Clock from 1969 to 1974, with Jack Narz as host until 1972, when he was replaced by the show's announcer, Gene Wood. Another version ran on CBS from 1979 to 1980 (as The All-New Beat the Clock, and later as All-New All-Star Beat the Clock), with former Let's Make a Deal host Monty Hall as host and Narz as announcer. The most recent version aired in 2002 on PAX (now ION) with Gary Kroeger and Julielinh Parker as co-hosts. The series was also featured as the third episode of Gameshow Marathon in 2006. Ricki Lake hosted while Rich Fields announced.

In 2013, the show appeared in TV Guide's list of the 60 greatest game shows ever.[1]

1950–1961[edit]

Contestants were required to perform tasks (called "problems") within a certain time limit which was counted down on a large 60-second clock. If they succeeded, they were said to have "beaten the Clock"; otherwise, "the Clock beat them". The show had several sponsors over its run, with the most longstanding being the electronics company Sylvania.

On-air personalities[edit]

Substitute hosts on the original version included Bill Hart (1951), John Reed King (1952), stunt creator Frank Wayne (1953), Bob Kennedy (1954), Win Elliot (1955), and Sonny Fox, who became Collyer's permanent substitute from 1957 to 1960. Collyer was referred to in the introductions as "America's number one clockwatcher", and the fill-in hosts were each named "America's number two clockwatcher".

Bud Collyer as the show's host, 1958.

The show had several female on-air assistants. The original hostess was Roxanne (née Delores Evelyn Rosedale), who used only her first name as her professional name. Roxanne was replaced by Beverly Bentley in August 1955. Bentley's departure in 1956 coincided with Hazel Bishop's sponsorship and a period of having no main assistant (see production changes below). She reappeared as one of the models on the original version of The Price Is Right for its entire run.

The announcer for the show's run on CBS was Bernard ("Bern") Bennett until 1958. In October 1957, Beat the Clock ran a contest inviting viewers to submit drawings of what Bennett, who was never shown on camera, might look like. Over 20,000 viewers participated, and winner Edward Darnell, of Columbus, Indiana, was flown in to appear with Bennett on the December 2, 1957 show. When Beat the Clock moved to ABC, Dirk Fredericks became the announcer. Substitute announcers included Lee Vines, Bob Sheppard, Hal Simms, and Dick Noel.

Contestants[edit]

Contestants were chosen from the studio audience and usually were married couples; other pairs were engaged, dating, or were a familial relationship. Collyer would ask them general questions (usually including where they were from and how long they'd been married) and usually asked if they had children, their ages and genders. Sometimes the couple would bring child/ren on the show. Collyer usually would talk to the children, asking them what they wanted to be when they grew up, or, if the kids were not at the show, to have their parents wave to them on TV. The husbands on the show usually wore a business suit. Collyer would often ask the husband to take off his coat for stunts to make it less cumbersome (there were hooks on the contestants' podium) or Collyer would hold the coat).

Occasionally, if there was going to be a messy stunt, the husband would come out dressed in a plastic jumpsuit to keep his own clothes clean. Similarly, wives would sometimes play in their "street clothes", but sometimes the women would appear in a jumpsuit issued to them by the show due to the fact that their own clothing might be too cumbersome or perhaps fragile. The women's jumpsuits, unlike the men's, which were rather plain, were patterned to look like a pair of overalls with a collared blouse underneath. The women would also often be issued running shoes instead of their own high heels.

Game format[edit]

Main Game[edit]

One couple competed against the Clock to win a prize in stunts that could require one or both members of the couple. The stunt was described and the time limit was set on a giant onstage clock. The time limit was always a multiple of 5 seconds, usually at least 30 seconds. At one point Collyer said that a 55-second time limit was the maximum, but later on, stunts occasionally had 60-second limits. On the primetime edition, the first stunt was called the "$100 Clock". If the couple beat the $100 Clock, they moved on to the "$200 Clock" and the same rules applied. If they failed to beat the $100 Clock, they received a consolation prize worth less than $100. If they failed to beat the $200 Clock, they got a prize worth more than $100. On the daytime versions, couples continued playing as long as they kept beating the clock.

Jackpot Clock[edit]

On the primetime version, if the couple beat the $200 Clock, the wife would play the "Jackpot Clock" in which the words of a famous saying or quote were scrambled up on a magnetic board and that phrase had to be unscrambled in 20 seconds or less. If successful, then the couple won the Jackpot Prize. If not, they got a prize worth more than $200. Occasionally, when the wife of the couple did not speak English very well, the husband was allowed to perform the Jackpot Clock.

The Jackpot Clock and the Bonus Stunt would provide the templates for the traditional quiz show bonus round, which would become a TV staple, starting in 1950 with the bonus question round on You Bet Your Life.

In the show's earliest set design in available episodes, there was a round display near the contestants mirroring the Clock. This display had three rings of light like a target. The outer ring would light during the $100 Clock, the middle ring for the $200 Clock, and the center circle would light during the Jackpot Clock. This feature was removed in later set designs.

Bonus Stunt[edit]

Some time during every episode (between normal stunts), a bell would sound. The couple playing at the time would attempt the Bonus Stunt for the Bonus Prize that started at $100 in cash. If the stunt was not beaten, it would be attempted the next week with $100 added to the prize. When it was beaten, it was retired from the show and a new Bonus Stunt began the next week at $100. The bonus (as the name suggests) did not affect the regular game, and win or lose the couple continued the regular Clocks wherever they left off. Beginning in August 1954, the starting amount for each Bonus Stunt was raised to $500, still increasing $100 each week.

Bonus Stunts were harder than the usual $100 and $200 Clocks and sometimes reached $2,000 and even $3,000 on rare occasions. The first time the Bonus reached $1,000 was on February 28, 1953, when it was won for that amount. In 1956, the Bonus Stunt was replaced by the Super Bonus.

There was usually a special technique for performing the stunt that had to be figured out, but even then, the stunt was usually difficult enough to require some skill or luck once the technique was realized. Viewers would usually try to figure it out and after a few weeks on the air viewers would often get it (sometimes Collyer would remark that viewers had been writing in and he would give certain dimensions of the props used so viewers could try to figure it out at home).

Usually either contestants themselves would start appearing on the show with the technique in mind, or audience members would shout it out to try to help them. A stunt would usually take a few weeks before the audience realized the technique, and then a few more weeks before someone was able to properly employ it.

Super Bonus Stunt[edit]

In response to the big money prizes which began to appear on other networks' game shows, CBS talked Mark Goodson into increasing the stakes on Beat The Clock. Ultimately the plan was unsuccessful as the ratings never did improve much, perhaps leading to the end of the Super Bonus. Starting on February 25, 1956, after the last regular Bonus Stunt had been won, it was replaced by the "Super Bonus" which started at $10,000 and went up by $1,000 every time a couple failed to beat the Clock. Unlike with the regular Bonus Stunt and the "Big Cash Bonus Stunt" that followed it, the Super Bonus was attempted by every couple who qualified by beating the $200 Clock. Originally the stunt was played at the end of the show by each couple that qualified, and "because of the high prize value" a special timing machine made by the Longines company was used, which was touted as the most accurate portable timer available. Probably realizing that seeing the same stunt a few times in a row was a bit boring, they moved the Super Bonus right after the $200 Clock and before the Jackpot Clock on March 17, dropping the Longines timer.

The Super Bonus was won only twice in its existence. The first Super Bonus Stunt involved the husband picking up four small paper cups from a table one at a time and stacking them atop a large helium-filled balloon using only one hand. The first seven contestants had trouble even getting the second cup stacked, but the eighth contestant to try the stunt on March 25, 1956 (the show's sixth "birthday" show) kept the balloon very close to the ground and at points held it on the ground (although Collyer warned him several times not to do so) and bounced the balloon as he grabbed the next cup. He was able to stack the four cups quickly and won $18,000, and subsequently also won the Jackpot Prize (a television). The contestants who qualified later in that program were brought back the following week to try the new Super Bonus.

The second Super Bonus Stunt again involved the husband who wore a football helmet with wooden salad bowl attached face down on the forehead. The husband had to balance a wooden cylinder (about the size of a paper towel roll) on its end on the bowl. The cylinder was tied at its midpoint to a fishing line on a shortened fishing pole. It was designed by Frank Wayne who demonstrated the completing of the stunt before the studio audience prior to at least some of the tapings. This stunt proved very difficult, and most contestants who attempted it showed no indication of a technique for getting the rod to the bowl. Only one person even had the pole sitting flat for a brief instant until September 6, where both the first contestant (a holdover who had practiced at home) and the second contestant (for $62,000 and $63,000 respectively) managed to have the dowel sitting on the bowl for a few moments, but lost its balance when the string was slacked.

On September 15, 1956, Collyer announced that the next show would gain a new sponsor, and if the Super Bonus was not won Fresh and Sylvania would donate the Super Bonus Pot to charity. However, the first contestant, Gabriel J. Fontana, a holdover from the previous show of near misses who had practiced at home, won the Jackpot of $64,000 (equivalent to over $555,000 in 2010). He and his wife then won the Jackpot Prize, a washer and dryer. Each of the final three contestants employed a technique of raising the dowel very slowly so it did not swing around. Unlike the original bonus, however, the audience never seemed to catch on to a particular technique for the two Super Bonus Stunts, and advice was not usually shouted out.

Partway through the run of the second Super Bonus, a rolling desk/table with dollar value of the bonus printed on it was used to roll out the props for the stunt. This carried over to the Big Cash Bonus Stunt. It is notable that in the earliest surviving episodes from 1952 that air, the original bonus had a similar desk with the value of the bonus on it. The desk was done away with for several years until the idea was reused in 1956.

Big Cash Bonus Stunt[edit]

Starting on September 22, 1956 (the same day the show's new sponsor became Hazel Bishop) the bonus reverted to the original Bonus Stunt format (attempted once per episode by whatever couple heard the "Bonus Bell" ringing). The Jackpot started at $5,000 and increased $1,000 every week it was not won. If successful, the couple left the show with the "top prize"; otherwise, they continued on with the regular game.

Bonus Cash and Prize Stunt[edit]

Featured on the daytime version. A lucky couple had a chance to win a bundle of cash and their choice of a new car or a boat. To win, they had to successfully complete their Bonus Stunt.

Like the original Bonus Stunt, the cash value started at $100, going up each time the stunt was not successfully completed. The largest cash bonus won on the daytime edition was $20,100 during its years on ABC.

Stunts[edit]

The stunts performed on the show were mostly created by staff stunt writers Frank Wayne and Bob Howard. In the early days of the show, playwright Neil Simon was also a stunt writer. The stunts were usually aimed towards fun with difficulty being secondary. The stunts would usually be constructed out of common household props such as cardboard boxes, string, balloons, record players, dishes, cups, plates, cutlery, and balls of almost every type. As was the case with many other game shows during television's infancy, the budget was low.

The stunts performed varied widely, but there were some common themes. Most stunts in some way involved physical speed or dexterity. Contestants often had to balance something with some part of their body, or race back and forth on the stage (for example, releasing a balloon, running across the stage to do some task, and running back in time to catch the balloon before it floated too high). Often the challenge was some form of target practice, in terms of throwing, rolling, bowling, etc.

The setup for the stunt was often designed to look easy but then have a complication or gimmick revealed. For example, Collyer would say "All you have to do is stack four plates", check the Clock to see how much time they had to do it, and then add "Oh, and one more thing...you can't use your hands". Common twists included blindfolding one or both contestants, or telling them they couldn't use their hands (or feet or any body part that would be obvious to use for whatever the task was).

The other common element in the stunts was to get one of the contestants messy in some way often involving whipped cream, pancake batter, and such (usually limited to the husband of the couple). While it was not a part of every stunt, and sometimes it didn't even happen in an episode, it was common enough that when a couple brought a child on, Collyer would often ask what they thought the parents might have to do and the child would often respond "get whipped cream in their face". Many times the wife would be shown a task, be blindfolded, and then her husband would be quietly brought out and unknown to her she would be covering him with some sort of mess. When the mess was not hidden from the wife, Collyer would often jokingly tell the husband (who usually had a short haircut) that they would put a bathing cap on his head "to keep your long hair out of your eyes" before revealing what form of mess he would be involved with. Occasionally Collyer himself would get caught in the mess accidentally.

Technicality in the rules was not a major issue on the show. The goal was usually to make sure the contestants had fun. Collyer would often stop the Clock in the middle of a stunt if the contestant(s) was struggling so he could advise them on a better way to do the stunt. Often if a condition of the stunt was "don't use your hands," Collyer would ignore the first use of hands and just warn the contestant. If the time limit was nearly up on a task, he would often give them a few moments extra, or tell them if they started before the Clock ran out and succeeded in that attempt, he would count it. Sometimes if a contestant had come close enough (for example, if they had to stack cups and saucers without the pile falling over, and the contestant knocked the pile over while putting the last cup on top), he would give them the stunt if they did not have time to do it again. If there was a problem with a prop breaking or running out of a supply, such as balloons, Collyer would simply give the stunt to the couple, citing it as the show's fault. Similarly, on the messy stunts, since the goal was just to mess up the husband, the time limit was often unimportant and the Clock would be stopped when Bud felt the husband was messy enough.

Sometimes shows were themed, such as the entire episode containing circus-related stunts; an international show, with each stunt having some relation to some other country; a show in which certain props were used in each stunt; a birthday show on the show's anniversary; April Fools' Day shows where there was a trick in every stunt; and an episode at the end of each year replaying favorite stunts of that year.

In order to determine if the stunts could actually be performed, and to set appropriate time limits for them, the producers hired out-of-work actors to try them out. One of those who did this work was James Dean, who was said to be able to perform any task the producers gave him to try. He was so adept that he had to be let go, as he was too fast to set the time limits by.[citation needed] Collyer also noted on the air a number of times that he himself tested many of the stunts while they were being developed, often noting that the contestant performed the stunt with far more ease than he had. Another up-and-coming actor who would gain stature later in his career, Warren Oates, was also said to have worked on the show as a stunt tester.

Prizes[edit]

Prizes varied depending on the era of the show and the sponsor at the time. During Sylvania's tenure as sponsor (which began in March 1951), consolation prizes for losing the $100 Clock were usually a Sylvania radio which was brought out.

  • $100 Clock prizes included Michael C. Fina silverware sets, a collection of four Knapp-Monarch small kitchen appliances, or a Hoover upright, among others.
  • $200 Clock prizes included International-Harvester refrigerators, air conditioning units (usually in the summer), a Tappan range/oven, a James dishwasher, Speed Queen washers and dryers (for some reason, they were only offered separately) and small Sylvania TVs. All of these prizes, except the Sylvania radio, were shown on "art cards" and not actually brought out on the show.
  • The Jackpot Prize during Sylvania's tenure was always a Sylvania television set. Sometimes a hi-fi stereo/phonograph (with "famous surround sound") was included with the television, and it was noted that the Jackpot Prize was "worth more than $500". A notable (and often pointed out) feature of Sylvania's TVs at the time was the "halo light", which was an illuminated "frame" around the image which was supposed to have made watching the image easier on the eyes, similar to Philips' "AmbiLight" feature on television sets today.

The sets, as was the style at the time, were freestanding pieces of furniture that sat on legs on the floor with a speaker mounted below the screen. Various models were given away over the years—sometimes the same model several times in one episode, sometimes a different model each time the Jackpot was won in an episode. Roxanne (later Beverly) would pose with the TV which was revealed from behind a curtain in a small faux living room. The earliest win of a TV in the episodes whose records still air was a Jefferson 20" cabinet. Shortly after, on September 6, 1952, the new 1953 21" Montclair cabinet (model 177M) was unveiled. In December 1952 the 1953 21" Huntington and the 21" Kensington corner cabinet debuted on the show, though the Montclair remained the most common prize. On April 4, 1953 a different 21" Kensington cabinet with "French provincial stylings" debuted.

Some of the other models over the years included the 24" Penhurst console, the 21" Windermere console (with French provincial stylings), and later the "Cabinet of Light" (as the line was called) models, the 21" Belvedere, and the 24" Kimberly (c. 1956).

There were also various gifts given to the contestants just for appearing on the show. There was a Sylvania Beat the Clock home game produced which was given to contestants starting in the mid-50s. When it was novel, Collyer would open the box and explain that it would be fun for not just children but adults at parties, and he would point out the working Clock and the instructions for stunts and all the props. Later in the run it would be brought out, shown and whisked away just as quickly. The boxes were reworked a few times, and there was a new edition released later in the run. Both versions were manufactured by Lowell Toy Mfg. Co. of New York, who produced a number of television-based home games at the time.

When children were brought on the show, there were special gifts. Starting on September 6, 1952, Girls brought on the show were given a Roxanne doll that was produced at the time. On October 11, 1952, the Buck Rogers Space Ranger Kit was debuted for the male children. In the mid-50s, each child was given a camera kit (the brand of the camera varied often but it always included a supply of Sylvania "Blue Dot for sure shot" flashbulbs).

If contestants were involved in a messy stunt, Roxanne (later Beverly) would come out and take a picture of the husband/couple. Initially it wasn't made clear how the couple would get the photo (perhaps mailed to them), but later in the run, the camera would be given to the couple in addition to any their children might already have been given. Collyer would explain that when they developed the film, the first photo would be that of the husband/couple.

From 1956 and for the rest of the show's run on CBS, the Jackpot Prizes usually consisted of a Magnavox Color TV, Fedders air conditioners (usually awarded as a pair), Westinghouse washer & dryer pairs, and refrigerators, Hardwick ranges and Easy "Combomatic" combination washer-dryers.

Production history[edit]

1950[edit]

Beat the Clock began airing Thursday nights on CBS on March 23, 1950, running with no commercials. Even the show's introduction was austere; no theme song, just a shot of the Clock ticking off the seconds as announcer Bern Bennett would say "It's time for America's favorite party game, "BEAT THE CLOCK..." and then introduce Bud Collyer.

Initially the show ran for 45 minutes, then expanded to an hour (it is unclear if this was still on Thursday) before moving to Saturdays. The show did not have a sponsor until the Saturday night shows, and this is believed to have happened in September 1950 (Collyer mentions on October 4, 1952 that they've just celebrated two years of sponsorship).

Those prior episodes are believed to not be in the available library of episodes (hence some of the reason for the unclarity). The show was telecast from the Maxine Elliott Theater (Studio 51).

1950–1956[edit]

The show moved to a more standard half hour on Saturday nights at 7:30 pm Eastern beginning in 1950 or 1951. In March 1951, the show became sponsored by the Sylvania company. Notable on the show were their flashbulbs, radios and television sets. The show was CBS' lead-in to Saturday night programming. One program on their schedule in 1952 was Jackie Gleason's variety show on which he once performed a Honeymooners sketch on the Beat the Clock set with himself and Art Carney as contestants (this sketch, titled "Teamwork: Beat the Clock", was considered one of the "lost" Honeymooners episodes but has since been available on home video).

The first year or two of this period are also presumed unavailable. There were very few production changes during this period the show. The first theme song from this period was Lights of Broadway. This later changed to the more familiar Hickory Dickory Dock (lyrics quoted above). The theme from the original unsponsored show is unknown.

1955–1956 changes[edit]

In late 1955 and early 1956, there were a few production changes which were soon followed by gameplay changes. The first notable change was the departure of assistant Roxanne in August 1956.

Sylvania began a contest in 1955 where viewers could get a mail-in entry form from a local Sylvania dealer. The entries were placed in a big rotating drum onstage, and one of the contestant couples/families would draw the top three winners for the week, with additional winners being drawn after the show. Shortly before the contest began, the Jackpot Board, which had been behind the contestants' podium, was moved to the first curtain to the left of the podium from the viewer's perspective, and the drum was placed behind the curtain which had previously contained the Jackpot Board.

The show's opening also changed during this time, adding an opening teaser. Collyer would stand with the first couple on the show and explain the stunt they would have to perform. However, he would leave out that crucial detail that would make it difficult. The detail was not usually something easy to guess like blindfolding or whipped cream, but was usually something that would surprise everyone such as changing a factor of the stunt to make it more difficult (for example, Collyer would demonstrate throwing a baseball into a barrel but then replace the baseballs with basketballs that would barely fit into the barrel, or moving the contestant much further away from the barrel, etc.).

There were a few side effects of this change. The Clock's buzzer would sound, telling Collyer time had run out. Originally this buzzer often came while Collyer was explaining a stunt or during the performance of a stunt. The same stunt would start again the next week (in a form of suspense, perhaps, to bring the audience back). Collyer would often suggest that they practice the stunt at home (sometimes jokingly, if the stunt involved props that would be very unlikely to be found in the home). Collyer would then ask the contestants if they could come back, which they usually could.

After the opening teaser was added, contestants who had only the Jackpot Clock left and said they could come back were suddenly absent the next week, with Collyer explaining that after the show it seemed inconvenient to come back for just the Jackpot Clock, and that the couple had played the Jackpot Clock after the show went off the air. This generally avoided the next week starting with a Jackpot Clock (which would not work with the teaser).

After the change Collyer would often rush contestants to perform the Jackpot quickly if they had just barely enough time in order to not have the Jackpot Clock at the beginning of the next episode. Additionally, when a contestant ended the show in the middle of a stunt or after the stunt was explained, it was not repeated the next week. The teaser started with a brand new stunt. Collyer began telling contestants "You'll start next week with this stunt or another, we're not sure which yet" (which he said every time it happened for months), but rarely was the same stunt held over after the change (until late in the Fresh sponsorship when they started sometimes holding stunts over to the next week again).

Around the time the Super Bonus Stunt moved from the end of the show to after the $200 Clock, the opening teaser was changed from the preview of a stunt to a preview of the Super Bonus Stunt, telling the audience what the prize was up to that week. The effects of the teaser change (the Jackpot never starting a show, couples who were in the middle of a stunt getting a new one the next week) continued, however.

These changes seemed aimed at streamlining the show and making each show run faster and less informally. After the changes, children began not being brought out with the couple (kids gradually started reappearing after several months in the middle of 1956 with less frequency than they originally had been), even when the couple said the children were backstage or in the audience. The stunts started getting a little harder and Collyer was a bit less helpful. Stunts tended to be more often aimed towards skill and difficulty than the slapstick and embarrassment that had been at the forefront in the past. Before this, it was commonplace for every couple to win the Jackpot in an episode.

1956[edit]

In late Spring 1956, just weeks after Collyer's announcement of a new Sylvania contest (see the 1955 contest above), Beat the Clock got a new sponsor — Fresh Deodorants. Along with this came a number of production changes. First, the show's Hickory Dickory Dock theme song was replaced by a jazzy electric guitar piece (with no lyrics) to the tune of the song Bicycle Built For Two, over footage of a field of daisies (daisies apparently being a theme of the new sponsor, "Fresh as a daisy"). After a few episodes, a lyric was added that was an alteration of the lyric of the original song (the lyric was "Daisy, Daisy, tell me your secret do." and it could possibly have been a slogan of the company at the time). The walls (previously in a type of bubble/marble pattern) and podium were changed to have daisies decorating them, and the famous Clock was redressed into a Fresh motif. The contestants even wore small daisy lapel pins. More jazzy guitar music was added to the opening teaser of the Super Bonus, and while the contestants attempted the bonus (in a sort of Flight of the Bumblebee pace of panic). Collyer also took every opportunity to toss "Fresh" or "daisy" into his dialogue during the show.

There were two other changes of note to the actual implementation of the show. First, the Jackpot Clock (the magnetic word puzzle) moved back to its original location behind the contestants' podium. Second were the prizes. The gift given to contestants still included the home game (now "courtesy of Fresh" with Fresh graphics on the box, though seemingly still including a photo of Roxanne) but the camera kits with Sylvania flashbulbs were replaced by a gift box of Fresh products (and of course, photos of messy stunts were no longer taken). The Jackpot Prize was no longer a TV set, but various rotating prizes.

On the first episode of Fresh's sponsorship, Jackpot Prizes included a Westinghouse Deluxe Laundromat washer and matching dryer, and a pair of York snorkel air conditioners. Betty or Eileen posed with the prizes instead of Beverly. The last Sylvania prize ever awarded on the show was a Windermere console with a hi-fi.

On September 22, 1956 the Hazel Bishop cosmetics company became the show's new sponsor and were the final sponsor of the show on CBS. This coincided with the above-mentioned new Big Cash Bonus which was likely a response to the failure of the Super Bonus to improve ratings. In perhaps another response, the show also moved to a new time, 7:00–7:30 pm Eastern time. This made it the first program ever to open a Saturday night lineup at 7:00. However, some affiliates had other programming commitments and the show lost about 20 stations.

A new theme song was introduced called Subway Polka, and the opening teaser introduced months earlier was eliminated. The set was redressed very similar to the way it had originally appeared, and even the Clock itself went back to its original appearance (except for the Hazel Bishop logo instead of Sylvania's on the face). Another change that coincided with the new sponsor and timeslot was that Beverly Bentley was no longer with the show. She had been reassigned to appear with June Ferguson as the models on The Price Is Right. Contestants were introduced by the announcer, and prizes and gifts were presented by the other assistants. The gifts included a giftbox of Hazel Bishop cosmetics and a yet again rebranded home game.

In January 1957, the home game was replaced with a new home version of the magnetic Jackpot Board. The prizes remained, for the most part, the same or similar prizes as under Fresh's sponsorship. A few weeks into the new Big Cash Bonus, the stage lighting was dimmed (or at least some camera effect was used) to darken the studio and highlight the contestants and the lights on the Clock.

1957[edit]

The ratings continued to decline and on February 8, 1957 the show moved to Fridays at 7:30 pm Eastern. Corresponding with this change was a redesign of the show's set (it is suggested that this might be the point where the show moved to the Ritz Theater in New York City, but other sources date that as 1958 and likely refer to the point where the show moved to ABC).

Unlike previous set changes, this was not simply a redress of the walls and surfaces. The contestants were now introduced by opening a curtain to the area behind the newly redesigned podium. The Jackpot Board was moved to the wall to the left (viewers' left) of the podium/curtain. The curtained wall (with the show's title above it) between the Clock and the podium was removed to reveal a wall further back. There was a small semi-circular curtained area to the (viewers') left of the Jackpot Board which rotated more into view when needed and contained the Jackpot Prizes.

A few weeks later, the show's title was put on the back wall again, and a curtain (that was sometimes left open) was re-added to the center stage area.

Artistically, the set had a diamond motif. The contestants were once again given the home game instead of the magnetic board. Other gifts were also given to children, such as a radio kit for young boys or a doll for girls. A few weeks into the new night, recorded playful music underscored the contestants as they attempted their stunts (reminiscent of how music played during the Super Bonus in the Fresh era of the show. One of the musical pieces was "Sabre Dance").

On June 21, 1957 the show aired unsponsored. Hazel Bishop began sponsoring only every other week. The show did not change much except for the obvious stoppage of any mention of Hazel Bishop. The Clock was rebranded with the title of the show and the podium was bare. The contestants still received the home game (a new edition that had been introduced several months earlier), but obviously not the Hazel Bishop gifts. Other recent gifts that were still given included a crystal radio kit for boys brought on the show, and a "Beat The Clock, Rags to Riches" doll (whose clothes changed her into a princess) for girls.

1957–1961: Daytime[edit]

On September 16, 1957 CBS began airing the show at 2:00 pm daily in addition to the Friday night show, which made Beat the Clock only the second nighttime game show to add a daytime version. The nighttime show continued to lose viewers, and shortly afterward moved to Sunday nights at 6:00 pm, without a sponsor. In February 1958, the nighttime show ended after eight years.

There was one change in the format on the daytime version. Contestants continued to play as long as they kept beating the Clock. After two wins, they would receive a prize package, sometimes consisting of an entire room of furniture, major appliances, a nursery for expectant or newlywed mothers, or children's items such as clothes, toys and games, or bicycles. This change increased opportunities for the contestants to try to win the Bonus Stunt more than once. The Bonus Stunt would revert to the nighttime version's original initial payoff of $100, increasing by that amount each time it was not won. Daytime contestants also had the chance to win a car, or on later episodes, their choice of a car or boat.

Another new wrinkle was "Ladies' Day". Usually once a week, only women would appear as contestants. Sometimes, when entire families appeared on the show, there would be a stunt that would at least engage, if not totally include, the children of the family.

The daytime show did not meet CBS' expectations, and was replaced by The Jimmy Dean Show in September 1958. It was picked up by ABC, which was in the process of developing a daytime lineup; CBS permitted the move with the agreement that ABC would not also do a nighttime version. Following a month-long hiatus, ABC began airing the show on October 13, 1958, at 3:00 pm. It ran until January 27, 1961, with a timeslot change to 12:30 pm.

Episode status[edit]

Like many other shows of its day, the show was recorded using kinescope. There are even some mentions of this on the show, such as an incident when a contestant challenged a loss on the second Super Bonus Stunt, and the kinescope was used to confirm the result.

Like most kinescope recordings that have been put into current use, the films have been transferred to video tape (and in some cases, the videos into digital form). Some kinescopes or video tapes are lost or in too poor quality to broadcast so there are sometimes gaps in the available catalog of episodes. There is one "public domain" episode not part of GSN's catalog that dates to October 1951, possibly making it the oldest surviving episode in existence.

It is not publicly known whether the daytime episodes (both CBS and ABC) are lost or damaged, but they are rarely seen. However, circulating amongst collectors is a daytime episode from September 23, 1960 with a Bonus Stunt win of $20,100 plus the choice of a car or a boat, which set a record for daytime TV winnings in the post-scandal era; also notable is that the Bonus Stunt had not been won for 51 weeks, and the couple who won it, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Hunt of Tolleson, Arizona, did so on their third attempt.

GSN had previously aired 1952–1958 episodes of the nighttime version, but they have not been seen on the channel since 2006.

1969–1974[edit]

On September 15, 1969, Beat the Clock returned to television in five-day-a-week syndication. This series continued to air until September 20, 1974. For the first season (1969–1970), the show was taped at The Little Theatre on Broadway in New York City. After that, taping moved to Montreal, Quebec as a cost-saving measure. This was the only time Goodson-Todman taped a series in Canada that was not for a Canadian-specific audience. The show was broadcast by CTV in Canada.

Jack Narz hosted the first three seasons of the series before leaving and his announcer, Gene Wood, replaced him for the remainder of the run.

The music for this version of Clock was played live on the organ by the renowned keyboardist and arranger Dick Hyman.

Jack Narz (1969–1972)[edit]

In early episodes, couples, now aided by a weekly celebrity guest, played for points simply by completing stunts. The first couple to reach 100 points won a prize package. This was subsequently changed to the couples receiving a prize every time they won, which was later replaced by the winning couple facing a "cash board" with "BEAT THE CLOCK" spelled out on three levels, each letter concealing a money amount: either $25 (4), $50 (5), $100 (2), or $200. The couple would agree on a letter, select it, and the winnings would be revealed.

In addition, if a couple completed a stunt in less than half the time, the remaining time would be used for awarding a cash bonus. Anywhere from $10 to $50 would be awarded for each time the stunt could be completed in the time remaining.

At some point during the show, the celebrity would perform a "Solo Stunt" (which seemed to have supplanted the Bonus Stunt on the original show). The couples could win $50 if they guessed correctly whether the star could beat the Clock or vice versa. Towards the end of Narz's tenure as host, stunts would be replaced in the second half of the show with the celebrity playing a game of intuition with the couples, who would play for a cash prize that was divided among them.

During this time, the show was syndicated through 20th Century Fox Television. One unusual aspect of these shows was that Narz's suit jackets had a "Beat The Clock" logo sewn onto their pockets, somewhat similar to the scrambled "Concentration" logo found on emcee Hugh Down's blazer at the same time.

Gene Wood (1972–1974)[edit]

Jack Narz left the show in 1972. At the time, he made no announcement and gave no reason for his departure. In a 2007 Internet radio interview, Narz finally explained that the show's budget did not include his personal travel expenses; Narz had to pay for his travel, and the cost of airline fare between his Los Angeles home and Montreal became prohibitive. His travel costs were essentially equal to his earnings, and even a successful appeal to Mark Goodson for more money was not enough.

Announcer Gene Wood hosted the show for the next two seasons. Wood had also been hosting a similar stunt game titled Anything You Can Do, a battle of the sexes competition which was also recorded in Canada. CFCF-TV Montreal staff announcer Nick Holenreich became the show's announcer; he had previously announced for a week during Narz's final season in which Wood was the celebrity guest. At this time, the show also changed syndicators to Firestone Syndication Services, which syndicated another Goodson-Todman show, To Tell the Truth, which had originally been hosted by Bud Collyer.

The show was now called The New Beat the Clock (although the logo still read simply "Beat the Clock"), and the set was refreshed with a new color scheme and a redesigned Clock. Like his predecessor, Wood also wore suit jackets with the show's logo sewn on the pockets.

The only changes in the format were that couples were introduced separately and played two stunts, win or lose (a win still getting a trip to the Cash Board), and both couples competed simultaneously in a final stunt, with the winning couple receiving a prize. Celebrity guests were retained in the new format, once again aiding the contestants, and performing the Solo Stunt as well as "co-judge" with Wood in the final stunt of the day. Another throwback to the Collyer era (when the show was seen in the daytime) was the revival of "Ladies' Day", where women only (not counting the celebrity for that week) would play the game.

Despite continued popularity on local stations in both daytime and prime time access timeslots, Goodson-Todman decided to discontinue production of Clock in 1974 when CTV asked the company for half of the proceeds from advertisers awarding their wares as contestant consolation prizes. Wood returned to voice-over work, and went on to a 20-year career announcing Los Angeles-based shows for Goodson-Todman and occasionally other packagers. However, he never hosted another show.

Episode status[edit]

Some, if not all, of this series is intact and has aired on GSN in the past. Two episodes from the Jack Narz era were aired in late 2005 to pay tribute to Bob Denver and Louis Nye, both of whom had recently died. An episode featuring Tom Kennedy (Narz's brother) aired on June 11, 2007.

In January 2007, a Gene Wood episode aired which featured William Shatner. Another episode aired on October 22, 2007 featuring Dick Clark. At least three episodes were also aired featuring Richard Dawson.

1979–1980[edit]

In 1979, CBS elected to bring the series back as The All-New Beat the Clock for its daytime schedule. Production moved to CBS Television City, taping in Studio 31 and marking the only time a Beat the Clock series originated from Los Angeles.[2] The series premiered on September 17, 1979 at 10:00 AM preceding Whew!. Former Let's Make a Deal host Monty Hall, who had not hosted a game show his company did not produce since he was host of Heatter-Quigley's Video Village, was the emcee for the series while former host of the 1970s syndicated series, Jack Narz, served as his announcer and a series producer.

There were two theme songs used (both composed by Score Productions). The second one was performed live in the studio by a small band led by Arthur B. Rubinstein.

Two couples, one usually a returning champion, competed against each other and the Clock. The champion couple (or champion-designate if the previous episode had ended with a retiring champion couple) wore red sweaters while the opposing couple wore green.

Rounds 1 and 2[edit]

In rounds one and two, the couples competed against each other in a stunt worth $500 for the winner. One stunt usually featured the women of the couples, while the other featured the men, though the other partner sometimes had to help as well. The clock was run as a fail safe by which if neither couple completed the stunt within the time limit, the couple nearest would win. The winner of each round's competitive stunt went on the play a solo stunt together for an additional $500.

Bonus Shuffle[edit]

After the first two rounds, both couples played the "Bonus Shuffle", a round of shuffleboard on a special table which had stripes at the far end denoting $300–$1,000 in $100 increments, increasing towards the end of the table. The couple which was leading after two rounds received three pucks and shot first and their opponents received two pucks. If the couples were tied going into this round, each couple had two pucks, and the challengers went first. (The first time there was a tie, a coin toss determined which team shot first; also, when two new couples appeared, they tossed a coin before the show to see which would be the red team, which had the advantage in case of a tie.) The couples alternated shooting pucks. The women shot first, followed by the men, and the leading team's third shot could be taken by either team member.

The table had no walls around it, and any pucks which were thrown or knocked off the side or end of the table, as well as any which did not reach the first money stripe, did not count and were removed. In addition, each of the money stripes (except for the $1,000 stripe at the very end of the table) had just enough blank space in between them for a puck to land in and therefore not score; if this happened, however, the pucks would remain on the board and not be taken out of play.

The team whose puck that was furthest along the board at the end of play, and which was touching a money stripe won that amount, became champions, and got to play the bonus stunt for ten times the amount. Both teams kept whatever money they had earned in the first two rounds, meaning that a team could win all of the stunts and still lose the game because of a low amount in the Bonus Shuffle.

If neither team had a puck touching a money amount at the end of the game, or if the pucks were equidistant from the end of the board, the teams would play a playoff. The team with the advantage from the earlier rounds chose whether to throw first or second. Each team threw one puck, and the furthest puck touching a money amount was the winner like in the regular game. (The first time there was a playoff, the first puck was moved aside and its position marked; after that, the second team had to take the first team's puck on the table into account when throwing.)

Bonus Stunt[edit]

The champion couple played one final stunt for ten times their Bonus Shuffle score, making the top prize $10,000. Each stunt was played up to a maximum of five times and was retired after either a couple completed it successfully or it was not completed the five times it was played. Theoretically, the most money a team could win in a single day was $13,000 (sweep all the stunts, score $1,000 in the Bonus Shuffle, and successfully complete the Bonus Stunt). Teams stayed on until they won $25,000 or more, or were defeated.

The All-New All-Star Beat The Clock[edit]

Midway into its short-lived run, the show switched to an all-celebrity format. Changes made included:

  • Celebrity pairs played for designated rooting sections of the audience which split the winnings. (Also, someone in "the winning rooting section" won a set of prizes, which were the "consolation prizes" in the non-celebrity part of the run.)
  • Both rooting sections could be seen on-camera (the cameras were placed high in the ceiling).
  • Stunts in the first two rounds were only worth $250 for the rooting sections.
  • If the winning team completed the bonus stunt, $1,000 went to their rooting section while the remaining money went to their favorite charity (thus, the most money a celebrity team could win for their rooting section in a single day was $3,000 and a possible $9,000 to their charity).
  • Both star teams remained on the show for a week. The pairings stayed the same on four of the five days, with the teams changing colors (the red team on Monday and Thursday was the green team on Tuesday and Friday); on Wednesdays, the teams switched, although still one man and one woman per team.
  • In case of a tie going into the Bonus Shuffle, a coin toss determined who went first. (On one show, the coin was tossed on the air.)
  • In the last two weeks of the run, after each head-to-head stunt, both teams got to perform the next stunt, with the losing team from the previous stunt going first; if both teams performed this stunt in the time limit, whoever did it faster got the $250.
  • The theme song was now an upbeat version of the first one used in its run (it was previously used going into and out of the commercials of the earlier episodes), and was performed live in the studio.

Episode status[edit]

This series exists in its entirety. The Christmas episode with Ronnie Schell, Joyce Bulifant, Johnny Brown, and Patti Deutsch has been aired on GSN in the past during Christmas-themed marathons. The series aired on GSN between September 10, 2007 and September 2008 in a late Saturday and Sunday night slot but was pulled from the schedule after beginning the final week. On November 12, 2008 it returned to the GSN lineup weeknights at 2:00 am, replacing Trivia Trap. It last aired January 3, 2009.

2002–2003[edit]

This version, the show's most recent appearance other than the Gameshow Marathon special, aired daily from September 2, 2002 to September 4, 2003 on PAX TV (the first week of shows was called a "preview week"). Taped in Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios Florida, three couples competed in this version with no returning champions. The couples were distinguished by color—red, blue, and gold.

Round 1[edit]

To start the game, all three couples faced off in a stunt. The first couple to complete the stunt got 10 points and the advantage of having to play a solo stunt first, as well as the ability to assign the stunts to the other teams- prior to gameplay the couple was shown 3 items on a tray that represented the stunts themselves, picked one for themselves to play, and divided the other two among the remaining players.

Before the playing of each stunt, a two-part trivia question was asked to each couple. Answering it correctly gave the team 10 extra seconds to complete the stunt and both parts had to be answered correctly, one by each player, in order to get those 10 seconds. 10 points were given for completing the stunt with one additional point for each second remaining on the clock (for example, if a couple completed a stunt with three seconds remaining, they scored 13 points for the round).

Round 2[edit]

The second round consisted of two parts. The first part was another face-off stunt, i.e. trying to throw a ring around a pole the other player is wearing on their head. In a stunt like this, the first place couple's ring tosser would be closest to their partner, the second place couple would be slightly further back, and the third place couple would be the furthest back (the first place couple was always given an advantage, with the second having less of one and the third the least). Play continued until two of the couples completed the stunt, with those two teams continuing on.

The two remaining couples were then shown the stunt they would have to attempt. After the stunt was described, another trivia question was asked. In this case, the female half of the couple was given the option to answer it, have her partner answer it, or pass it to the other team to make them answer. If the couple answered correctly they would be given control, but if they did not the opponents did. The two couples then bid down from a base time of two minutes to see who could complete the stunt in the fastest amount of time, and bidding continued until one team challenged the other to "Beat the Clock". The stunt was then played, and if the challenged couple completed it they won the game and advanced to the bonus game. If they were not successful, the challenging couple won the game.

Bonus Round ("The Swirling Whirlwind of Cash and Prizes")[edit]

The winning couple played the "Swirling Whirlwind of Cash and Prizes", which took place inside a machine similar to a vertical wind tunnel. $25,000 in cash was inside the machine, as well as several "prize vouchers"- colored slips of paper with the names of prizes written on them. Several more vouchers would be tossed into the machine by Gary Kroeger prior to the start of the round.

Once inside the machine, both players tried to grab as much money and prize vouchers as they could within a 60-second time limit. There were three standing rules- both players could grab items but they had to be placed in a bag worn around the male partner's waist, they were not allowed to bend over and pick up anything off the floor (although they could kick items off the floor into the air), and once the time limit was up they had to put their hands up and stop. Later in the run, several gold certificates were added to the machine and if the couple picked one up, the cash they had grabbed would be doubled. (If the couple somehow picked up more than one, only one was counted.)

The "swirling whirlwind" was previously used in the bonus round of The Diamond Head Game, a show hosted by Bob Eubanks in 1975.

Australian Version[edit]

Nine Network aired their version of Beat The Clock called Free for All for a brief time in 1973 hosted by Ugly Dave Gray.

British version[edit]

Although Beat the Clock was never a programme in its own right in the United Kingdom, it was hugely popular there as a part of ATV's Sunday Night at the London Palladium on the ITV network from 1955 to 1967, and is still very well remembered.

It was hosted by the Palladium show's comperes, successively Tommy Trinder, Bruce Forsyth (later the host of many other games including The Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right, You Bet!, and Bruce's Price Is Right), Don Erroll, Norman Vaughan, and Jimmy Tarbuck.

The series was occasionally revived afterwards, notably in a BBC variety show hosted by Mike Smith in 1987.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fretts, Bruce (June 17, 2013). "Eyes on the Prize", TV Guide, pp. 14 and 15.
  2. ^ "Shows–CBS Television City". Retrieved July 25, 2011. 

External links[edit]