Idiot Savants (game show)

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Idiot Savants
Genre Comedy/Game Show
Created by Michael Dugan
Chris Kreski
Written by Tom Cohen
Directed by Steve Paley
Presented by Greg Fitzsimmons
Narrated by Marc Price
Paul Kozlowski
Country of origin  United States
Location(s) New York City, New York (state)
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel MTV
Original release December 9, 1996 – April 25, 1997

Idiot Savants was an American television game show on the MTV network which ran from December 9, 1996 to April 25, 1997. It was created by Michael Dugan and Chris Kreski, directed by Steve Paley, and hosted by comedian Greg Fitzsimmons.

The show's title refers to a label historically directed toward autistic people with Savant Syndrome.


Four contestants competed for five days in a standard question-and-answer game with an "educational" gimmick. Each day played like a standard game show episode with eliminations and a bonus round. However, all four contestants returned to start each new episode, and each contestant's scores from all episodes throughout the week were added together to create a grand total. The contestant who had the highest total after five days of competition won the weekly grand prize, usually a vacation or a car.

Each contestant was an expert in a specific topic, his or her "savant category", which ranged from 1980s sitcoms to physics to heavy metal bands.

Many of the questions were asked (or performed) by the "savant contestants", a group of actors who acted out comical sketches that led to the questions. Many of these actors were also writers on the show, including senior writer Tom Cohen, along with Jason Nash, Paul Kozlowski, Eric Friedman, and Shonda Farr.


The contestant's scores were set to zero at the start of each day.

Round 1[edit]

Eight categories were shown, and a contestant chose one of them. A toss-up question was asked, and the first contestant to buzz in with the right answer received 100 points and the chance to answer a bonus question worth 200 points. If that contestant answered the bonus correctly, he/she then had the right to try for the "big gamble question", the last one in the category. Answering this question correctly awarded 300 points, while a miss deducted 300 (no points were lost for wrong answers to a toss-up or bonus). Any time a contestant answered a question incorrectly or ran out of time, the other contestants could buzz in and give the correct answer to steal the points.

The round ended when either time ran out or all eight categories had been used. At this point, the lowest scorer was labeled as the day's "dunce" and made to sit in a corner of the stage, separate from the other contestants.

As soon as any of the following occurred, the category went out of play and the last contestant who gave a correct answer would choose the next one:

  • No one answered a question correctly
  • Different contestants got the toss-up and bonus questions right
  • The same contestant answered the toss-up and bonus, but declined to try the Big Gamble
  • The big gamble was asked

Initially, at the start of each Monday episode a toss-up "control question" was asked to determine who chose the first category in Round 1. More often than not, the correct answer to this question was the same as the category to which it belonged. The control question was soon replaced by a straw draw. On Tuesday through Friday episodes, the previous day's dunce chose the first category.

Round 2[edit]

The question format remained the same; however, questions were now worth double value (200, 400, +/-600 points). Also in this round, the "Brain" (an on-stage over-sized brain featuring a monitor showing a close-up Matt Price) chose the categories, and if the three contestants could not answer a question, the dunce could steal the points (after which the category would end immediately). At the end of this round, both the dunce and the lowest scorer of the other three contestants were eliminated for the day.

Round 3: Brainstorm Round[edit]

The category was retrieved by Fitzsimmons from "inside the Brain", and rapid fire questions from that category were asked for a period of 60 seconds. Contestants earned 200 points for a correct answer, and lost 200 points for an incorrect answer. The contestant in the lead after this round advanced to the Grand Savant Round.

Grand Savant Round[edit]

The winner of each day's contest played the bonus round for a mid-level prize, such as a vacation or a television set. Before appearing on the show, the contestant chose any subject that he or she knew most about, referred to as his or her "savant category". For the Grand Savant Round, the contestant was placed into a device called the "Cylinder of Shush", a clear tube somewhat reminiscent of the "Cone of Silence" from Get Smart, but covering the entire upper half of the contestant's body.

The contestant was then asked a series of rapid fire questions from his or her savant category, and had to answer ten of them correctly within the allotted time to win the bonus prize. Win or lose, 200 points were added to the contestant's weekly total for each question answered correctly.

For the first few weeks, contestants had only 45 seconds to answer the questions. Since very few contestants accomplished this feat, this time limit was soon increased to 60 seconds.

Friday Finals[edit]

On Friday, the four contestants' starting scores were set to show the total points each had accumulated during the week. Point values for the first two rounds were doubled (200/400/600, then 400/800/1200), and the low scorer at the end of each round was eliminated from the game. There was no dunce on Friday episodes, and no Brainstorm round was played.

The two remaining contestants after round two then competed for the weekly grand prize in the "Double Grand Savant" final round. The contestant in second place was placed in the Cylinder of Shush and answered questions from his or her savant category for 60 seconds, at the rate of 1,000 points per correct answer.

The other contestant was then placed in the Cylinder and given 60 seconds to try and regain the lead. The contestant in the lead after this final round was declared that week's champion and won the high-level prize. Four new contestants appeared the following Monday.

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