Strike It Rich (radio-TV)
|Strike It Rich|
Warren Hull with Frank G. Atkinson, president of Joseph Dixon Crucible Company.
|Presented by||Todd Russell (1947-1948)
Warren Hull (1948-1958)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||11|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Walt Framer Productions|
|Original channel||CBS (1947-1950, radio; 1951-1958, television)
NBC Radio (1950-1957)
|Original run||June 9, 1947– January 3, 1958|
Strike It Rich was a controversial game show that aired on American radio and television from June 29, 1947, to December 27, 1957 on CBS and NBC. People in need of money (such as for medical treatment or a destitute family) appeared and told their tale of woe, then tried to win money by answering four relatively easy questions. Each player would be given $30 and bet any of their bankroll on answering each question after being given the category. If the contestant didn't win any money, the emcee opened the "Heart Line", which was a phone line to viewers who wished to donate to the contestant's family.
Sponsored by Luden's Cough Drops, the radio series aired on CBS from June 29, 1947, to April 30, 1950. Todd Russell was the host from 1947 to 1948, followed by Warren Hull. On May 1, 1950, the show moved to NBC, where it aired on weekdays, sponsored by Colgate, until December 27, 1957.
The television series premiered May 7, 1951, on CBS's daytime lineup and ran until January 3, 1958. Its popularity caused CBS to air a prime time version from July 4, 1951, to January 12, 1955. The nighttime version finished #25 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1951-1952 season and #21 for 1952-1953.
Two attempts to revive the series were made in 1973 and 1978, although neither was successful. Another quiz show in 1986 used the same name but was otherwise unrelated.
While it had a simple format, the show was controversial during the 11 years it aired. While some applauded Strike It Rich for helping out some less fortunate people (as well as showcasing the sincere charity and goodwill of viewers who donated through the Heart Line), others found it a sickening spectacle that exploited the less fortunate contestants for the vicarious thrills of the viewers and the selfish gain of the sponsors.
Part of the criticism was that it promised more than it could deliver. Though the show received between 3,000 and 5,000 letters per week from needy people wishing to win what would be (to them) life-changing sums of money, only a small fraction of those could be selected. Although this was partly due to the limits of television production (the series, although ambitious in its goals, could not reasonably assist every person needing help at the same time), critics stated that the show picked mostly those thought to have the most interesting tales of woe.
Despite warning by the show's producers, a number of people hoping to be contestants exhausted their money to travel to New York, only to be rejected and end up relying on charities such as the Salvation Army to help them return home. This led to complaints from charities and local government agencies similar to those that were leveled formerly at Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour:
- The New York City commissioner of welfare called Strike It Rich "a disgusting spectacle and a national disgrace." Radio historian Gerald Nachman (in Raised on Radio; New York: Pantheon, 1998) said the welfare commissioner brought the show to court on charges of unlicensed fund-raising and actually won a conviction.
- The supervisor of the Travelers Aid Society said, "Putting human misery on display can hardly be called right."
- The general director of the Family Service Association of America said flatly, "Victims of poverty, illness, and everyday misfortune should not be made a public spectacle or seemingly to be put in the position of begging for charity."
- The New York legislature looked into the controversy, but later washed itself of it, claiming it "lacked jurisdiction."
- TV Guide called it "a despicable travesty on the very nature of charity."
CBS and NBC remained unconcerned over the controversy, stating: "We don't want to do anything that would antagonize the sponsor." Statements such as this allowed companies such as Geritol and Revlon to literally control every last aspect of what happened during the shows they sponsored; the most notable "controlled" shows were Twenty One, The $64,000 Question, and Dotto, all of which were destroyed by the quiz show scandals.
Strike It Rich ended on January 3, 1958—long before the scandals became known to the general public—and therefore never came under that sort of official scrutiny.
A board game of Strike it Rich featuring host Warren Hull on the cover was released by Lowell Toy Mfg. in 1956.
Recordings of the series were destroyed, partly owing to network standards of the era and partly owing to its controversial nature. Four episodes are held at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and a few are held by the Paley Center for Media. The J. Fred & Leslie W. MacDonald Collection of the Library of Congress has one kinescoped program from November 28, 1956.
- The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh. (2003 Edition)
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