The Joker's Wild
|The Joker's Wild|
|Created by||Jack Barry|
|Presented by||Jack Barry (1972–84)
Bill Cullen (1984–86)
Pat Finn (1990–91)
|Narrated by||Johnny Jacobs (1972–78)
Jay Stewart (1977–81)
Charlie O'Donnell (1981–86)
Ed MacKay (1990–91)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Location(s)||CBS Television City
Hollywood, California (1972–75, 1990–91)
Chris Craft/KCOP Studios
Hollywood, California (1977–84; 1985–86)
The Production Group Studios
Hollywood, California (1984–85)
|Running time||~25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Jack Barry Productions (1972–75, 1990–91)
Barry & Enright Productions (1977–86)
Kline & Friends, Inc. (1990–91)
|Distributor||Colbert Television Sales (1977–86)
Orbis Communications (1990–91)
|Original channel||CBS (1972–75)
Syndicated (1977–86, 1990–91)
|Original run||September 4, 1972–June 13, 1975
September 1977 - May 23, 1986
September 10, 1990 – March 8, 1991
The Joker's Wild is an American television game show that aired at different times during the 1970s through the 1990s. Contestants answered questions based on categories that were determined randomly by a mechanism resembling a slot machine. The show's title refers to the game's slot-machine mechanism also having jokers.
The show was billed as "the game where knowledge is king and lady luck is queen", and was notable for being the first successful game show produced by Jack Barry after his company's role in the quiz show scandals during the late 1950s. The success of the series led in part to the reformation of Barry & Enright Productions in the 1970s, which reunited Barry with his partner Dan Enright.
Barry's sons, Jonathan and Douglas Barry, were co-executive producers for the 1990s version, which was produced in association with Richard S. Kline and billed as a "Kline and Friends production in association with Jack Barry Productions".
- 1 Hosts
- 2 Announcers
- 3 Gameplay
- 4 Broadcast history
- 5 Versions
- 5.1 1968 Pilot
- 5.2 1969 Pilot
- 5.3 1970 Pilot: The Honeymoon Game
- 5.4 1971: KTLA
- 5.5 1972–75
- 5.6 1977–86
- 5.7 Joker! Joker!! Joker!!! (1979–81)
- 5.8 1990–91
- 6 Merchandise
- 7 Theme
- 8 Episode status
- 9 References
- 10 External links
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2011)|
Barry was not the original choice to host, due to his past involvement in the 1950s quiz show scandals. As a result, Allen Ludden hosted the first two pilots for CBS. Barry hosted the local KTLA series in 1971, but CBS was still hesitant to let him host the network run in 1972. Tom Kennedy, Wink Martindale, and Ludden were the three top choices to host, but each was already committed to other shows (Kennedy was tied to Split Second for ABC, Ludden had just started hosting a revival of Password, and Martindale was to host Gambit which was to premiere the same day as Joker on CBS). They even offered it to Dennis James, who had originally been the favorite to land the host job for the upcoming Mark Goodson–Bill Todman Productions' game show The New Price Is Right. When CBS agreed to a weekday daytime version of New Price, Vice President of Daytime Programming B. Donald "Bud" Grant wanted 15-year Truth or Consequences host Bob Barker, to host New Price instead of James. Barker originally said he would gladly host Joker, but not New Price; however, Grant said, "Barker, you will do (New) Price because those other two shows are good, solid game shows that require a traffic cop to run them, and you're not a cop. You have far more talent!" With no alternatives after Grant pushed Barker to New Price (a position he would hold for 35 years) and James was hired by Goodson to host a nighttime syndicated version of the same program, Barry was given the green light to host. Barry's contract, however, was only for sixty-five episodes (thirteen weeks).
By January 1973, with no complaints from the viewers or the network and good ratings, Barry signed a regular contract to host the program and continued in that role up to its cancellation in June 1975. Enright was brought on as executive producer of Joker during its final CBS season, and was mentioned by Barry himself on the program's final CBS episode.
In 1981, Barry hired Jim Peck to serve as a regular substitute host for when he was unavailable. Peck subbed for Barry several times between 1981 and 1984, and the original plan set forth by Barry and producer Ron Greenberg was to have Barry end the 1983-84 season as host, announce his retirement on the first episode of the next season, and hand the show over to Peck on a permanent basis. When Barry died of cardiac arrest in May 1984, Enright posthumously overruled his partner and selected Bill Cullen, who had just completed five months of hosting the cancelled Hot Potato for the company, to take over the series. Cullen hosted for the final two seasons and Peck subbed for him for one week in 1986.
Pat Finn hosted the 1990–91 version.
Johnny Jacobs, a longtime friend of host Jack Barry, was the original announcer of The Joker's Wild. Jacobs served through most of its CBS run, with Johnny Gilbert, Roy Rowan, and CBS page Marc Summers filling in for Jacobs on occasion. When the series returned to first-run syndication in 1977, Jacobs, Gilbert, and Jay Stewart alternated the primary announce position. Stewart became the exclusive announcer for The Joker's Wild (as well as for all Barry & Enright-produced game shows at the time) during the 1978–79 season; Bob Hilton and Art James were substitutes for Stewart for the 1980–81 season whenever he was unavailable. In 1981 Stewart was replaced as Barry & Enright lead announcer by Charlie O'Donnell, who announced for the remainder of the series' run. Johnny Gilbert and John Harlan filled in for O'Donnell on occasion.
The gameplay described below represents the format used from 1977 to 1986. Differences in other versions are discussed in the appropriate section.
Two contestants, one a returning champion, played. The challenger began the game by pulling a lever to set a slot machine in motion. The game's slot machine consisted of three modified slide projectors which used six-slotted metal discs similar to the wheels used in ViewMaster toys. The discs were spun by electric motors, and unused categories were removed from the board by shutting the projectors off.
The wheels on the machine each contained five different categories, which were revealed to the contestants before the game, and a Joker, which served as a "wild card" and could represent any category. After the wheels stopped, the contestant chose one of the displayed categories and was asked a question in it. If the contestant answered correctly, the dollar value of the question was added to his or her score. An incorrect response or a failure to answer within an unspecified time limit allowed the opponent a chance to answer and steal the money. Certain special categories gave contestants a chance to win extra money, by either increasing the question value or allowing them to answer more than one question on their turn. An example of the latter was the "Fast Forward" category, which enabled a contestant to continue to answer until he/she stopped or answered incorrectly.
The values of the questions were determined by the spin. Categories were worth $50, $100, or $200 if they appeared in one, two, or all three windows, respectively. In addition, spinning a "natural triple" (three of a kind with no Jokers) awarded a bonus. This was initially a single prize, but by 1983 it had been changed to the Natural Triple Jackpot, an accumulating collection that saw one prize added to it for every day it went unclaimed. Any pair or triple that did not contain a Joker had to be played for its full value if chosen.
When one or two Jokers came up during a spin, a contestant could use them to match any displayed category and create a pair or triple, increasing the value of the question. They could also substitute a Joker for a category in play but not displayed on the wheels (which was referred to as going "off the board") for $50 using one Joker or $100 using two Jokers. In addition, if a contestant spun a natural pair and a Joker, he or she could discard the pair but use the Joker to go "off the board" in that category for $50.
Spinning three Jokers allowed the contestant to choose any of the categories in play during the game. A correct answer automatically won the game, regardless of the contestant's score or whether a full round had been played or not. The winner received either $500 or the total amount he or she had accumulated to that point, whichever was greater. If unsuccessful, however, the opponent could not steal and the game continued as normal.
Using Jokers was optional, and contestants occasionally declined to use them if enough money was at stake for their opponent to win the game or take the lead (e.g., spinning a natural pair and a Joker, then playing the pair for $100 instead of turning it into a $200 triple). By playing this way, the opponent had less of an advantage if the contestant missed the question and the opponent answered it correctly.
Winning the game
Each game was played in rounds, with each player guaranteed a turn unless one spun three Jokers and answered correctly.
If the challenger reached or surpassed $500 on the first turn of the round, the champion had one last chance to spin either three Jokers or a combination that would tie or beat that score. Either player could win the game by reaching $500 with a correct answer to a question missed by the other. If a round ended with the scores tied at $500 or more, the game continued until the deadlock was broken.
Any contestant who won five consecutive games received a new car as a bonus. Champions usually played until defeated, but from 1981 to 1984, there was a specified winnings threshold that would force a contestant to retire if it was passed. In 1983, clinical psychologist Joe Dunn became the first contestant on the syndicated series to be retired after he had won $66,200 in cash and prizes, which set a non-tournament show record. Barry gave an explanation at the beginning of the episode in which Dunn was retired, stating that because The Joker's Wild was airing in syndication and not on a network, the program normally would not be subject to any winnings limits. However, for "the past couple of years" (as Barry put it), the program had been airing on affiliates of CBS, the network that had first aired The Joker's Wild when it premiered in 1972, including at least one of the stations that the network owned (WCBS-TV). As a condition of this, Barry stated that the show had to follow the network's procedures (such as a cap on winnings for game shows) and CBS standards and practices staff was assigned to the show to ensure this. The winnings threshold, with some negotiation from Barry & Enright Productions, was eventually established at $50,000 with any overages donated to a charity of the champion's choice.
Endgame ("Face the Devil")
The wheels now contained 12 slides each, displaying various amounts of money ($25, $50, $75, $100, $150 and $200 money cards) and "the Devil". There was only one Devil slide on only one of the wheels. If the Devil did not appear on a spin, the total of the displayed amounts was added to the pot. The object was to score $1,000 or more without spinning the Devil; doing so won the money accumulated plus a prize package worth anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000. Spinning a natural triple automatically awarded the prize package, along with either $1,000 or the total in the pot plus the value of the triple, whichever was greater. (For example, a contestant who had $850 and spun a triple of $100's would receive $1,150.) If the Devil came up, the round ended and the contestant lost the accumulated money. After every "safe" spin, the contestant had the option to stop and keep the money won up to that point. Contestants who chose this option were often invited to take an unofficial spin to see if the Devil would have come up next. For the 1974–75 CBS daytime episodes, as well as the first six syndicated seasons, the same prize package was at stake for the entire show until won, but this was changed to a different prize package for each bonus round for the final three seasons.
During the last season of the CBS run, a special "Lucky $100s" feature was added to the bonus reels. If at any time the contestant were able to spin up three "Lucky $100" symbols, not only did that contestant win the $1,000 and the offered prize package, but a bonus of $5,000 cash and a trip around the world (approx. $7,500) was awarded, making the total bonus worth about $16,000. After it was claimed, the bonus went back to the regular format. It was also during this time that audience members were selected to play the bonus game, except that they only played if the main contestant chose to quit the bonus game and take the cash in the pot.
In the late 1960s, Jack Barry pitched the concept of Joker to Goodson-Todman Productions. The company was not impressed, and Barry continued tinkering with the format over the next few years.
The Joker's Wild debuted on CBS September 4, 1972, incidentally on the same Labor Day as the modern incarnation of The Price Is Right as well as Gambit. It ran until June 13, 1975 on that network, airing at 10:00 AM Eastern (9:00 Central). A total of 686 episodes were produced.
For the first two years, it faced NBC's Dinah's Place, the talk vehicle for singer/actress Dinah Shore, which gave way to the Dennis James revival of Name That Tune, which Joker easily defeated in the ratings. However, when NBC moved its panel game Celebrity Sweepstakes to 10:00/9:00 in early 1975, Joker went into steep decline, ending a nearly three-year run in the summer.
However, some big-market independent stations gave the game another chance the next year. After a syndicated rerun cycle of the last CBS season proved successful in 1976, the show returned to first-run syndication from September 1977 to May 23, 1986 (airing back-to-back with sister show Tic-Tac-Dough in some markets, especially so during the aforementioned period where CBS' O&Os added both series). Additionally, repeats of the CBS era were also seen on KTLA in Los Angeles from March 6 to September 8, 1978 in a double-run with the concurrent first-run syndicated episodes, replacing another Barry & Enright series, Hollywood Connection.
A revival ran from September 10, 1990 to March 8, 1991 (with reruns airing until September 13), also in syndication. However, due to poor time slots and an overcrowded syndication market, this version was cancelled after a single season.
From 1972–75, the program was taped at CBS Television City. From 1977–84 & 1985-86, the taping location was moved to Chris Craft/KCOP Studios, with the exception of the 1984–85 season, which was taped at the Production Group Studios near Columbia Square in Hollywood. Taping returned to CBS Television City for the 1990–91 version.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2011)|
The first pilot for The Joker's Wild was taped December 8, 1968 and hosted by Allen Ludden (CBS was not comfortable about Barry hosting due to his involvement in the scandals). This version was very different from the eventual series, most notably the fact that categories on the wheels were each represented by a different celebrity panelist (Don Drysdale, Rosemary Clooney, Pat Paulsen, Rich Little, and Irene Ryan), each of whom asked the questions in his or her specific category.
If the contestant spun three different categories, a question for any of the categories was worth one point. If a contestant spun a pair and a single, two questions were asked worth two points each if the contestant chose the pair or one question worth one point for choosing the single category. If the contestant spun a triple, three 3-point questions were asked. Jokers represented any category the contestant chose, increasing the value of the questions if a pair or triple was formed as a result. The spinner had the option to answer any of the number of questions available depending on the spin.
Full turns were used, with the contestant reaching 13 points or more winning the game. A three-Joker spin resulted in a win if the spinner correctly answered a question from any of the five categories.
In the bonus round the game's winner spun the wheels, each of which contained different prizes of various qualities, ranging from a 5¢ piece of chewing gum to $500 cash. After the spin, the contestant could elect to keep the prizes shown, or give them all back for a second spin. This offer was then repeated after the second spin, but if a third spin was taken the contestant was forced to take whatever prizes came up in that spin.
This pilot did not feature returning champions.
A second pilot was taped a month later on January 5, 1969. There were no celebrities this time, with Ludden simply reading the questions himself. Other than that, the format was exactly the same as the first pilot.
Both pilots were produced by Barry in association with CBS, with Lee Vines announcing.
1970 Pilot: The Honeymoon Game
Round 1 featured six couples (three in each segment), with one set of spouses given a category and asked up to six questions serving as clues to its identification, and if guessed correctly, that spouse's partner then had a chance to identify the subject for one point. The spouses then traded places for the second half of the round, with the lowest-scoring couple in each segment eliminated.
In Round 2, the four remaining couples competed against each other, again in two separate segments. As with the 1968 pilot, the wheels had celebrities on them, each one representing a category (Bob Crane, Jaye P. Morgan, former California governor Edmund G. Brown, Marc Copage, and Don Drysdale). After the spin, the couple selected which category they wanted. The scoring was similar to that of the Ludden pilots but, instead of Jokers on the reels, there were "Bonus" cards. If a couple spun three bonus cards the game instantly ended without a question being asked. Ten points or more won the game. For each bonus card spun, other than the situation where the contestant would spin three of them in one spin, a point was automatically added to the couple's score.
Round 3 was the "deciding finals" with the two remaining couples playing to win the match. This round was based on the 1969 pilot, with no celebrities and McKrell asking the questions himself. The contestants spun as before, with a category in the first wheel, "Take A Chance" in the second, and a dollar amount in the third (e.g., a spin of "Sports/Take A Chance/$10" would have McKrell asking a question on Sports for $10). A correct answer added the value to the couple's score. The couple then "took a chance", as the middle window implies, and saw what was behind the slide (anything from "Add $40" to "Deduct $100"). If answered wrong, the amount on the first wheel was deducted from the score; however, couples did not go below 0.
The game was played until time ran out, and the couple with the highest score played the bonus round, which was similar to the first bonus round used in the later CBS series of The Joker's Wild, with the only difference being that the couple was given three spins instead of two (see description below). There was also a second bonus round, where the wheels displayed hearts with numbers in them (1-2-3 in order of the slots), and the couple selected one of those three windows. Behind each window was a destination for the couple to choose for their honeymoon.
The Honeymoon Game was intended to be a 90-minute game show (the genre's first), and though it did not sell, a number of Metromedia-owned stations did air the pilot as a one-off special in mid-1971. Two versions of this pilot existed: one version had all rounds; another version had the first round omitted, replaced with Jack Barry introducing the program and explaining that the first round was omitted, as he felt it did not work.
A "tryout series" aired locally on Los Angeles' KTLA for about three months and was hosted by Jack Barry. The rules were similar to the regular 1972–86 versions with the following exceptions:
Three contestants competed in each game, with the champion spinning first to begin the game. Spinning three different categories and answering a question in any of the three categories was worth $25, while pairs were worth $50 and triples were worth $100. $250 was needed to win, and as before an equal amount of turns was given. A three-Joker spin resulted in an automatic win with a correct response to a question from any of the five categories in play.
In the event of a tie, the lowest scorer was eliminated and play continued until one was ahead after each round. The bonus round was similar to that of the Ludden pilots but had more elaborate prizes.
Highlights of this version were shown during promos of the eventual series, which began production on CBS in 1972.
For the first two weeks, triples were worth $150 and a three-joker spin resulted in an automatic win for a contestant without having to answer a question. From the premiere until around mid-1973, the champion went first.
The bonus round went through a few different permutations:
- Prize Round #1: Contestants received two spins and could take whatever prizes they spun the first time or could spin a second time, but were stuck with the prizes that were spun on the second spin. There were black circles around some of the prizes' icons, and if all three prizes in a spin were circled, the contestant also won a new car. This format was only used on the first two episodes.
- Prize Round #2: Beginning with the third aired episode, the circles were eliminated and the car became a regular prize on the wheels (other big prizes including a boat or a trip were also added to the board).
- Jokers and Devils: Beginning with the third week, the wheels contained only Jokers and Devils. The contestant was given up to three spins, and each time three Jokers came up, a different prize was won, increasing in value with each spin taken. If a Devil appeared, the contestant lost it all. Originally the winning contestant received four spins, with the last spin being worth a larger prize such as a car or trip. For a brief period, the prize was not told until after the reels had been spun. For Christmas episodes, the Jokers and Devils were replaced with Santa Claus and Ebenezer Scrooge symbols—three Santas won a prize, a Scrooge lost it all.
In 1973, to avoid confusion between the category wheels and the bonus game reels, the Jokers in the "Jokers and Devils" era were marked with the word "Joker" instead of the word "Wild".
- Face the Devil: Starting around May 1974, the "Face the Devil" round described above had been implemented.
Early in the show's run, returning champions were competing for a chance to win the "Joker's Jackpot", an accruing cash jackpot that started at $2,500. Contestants won this jackpot if they won three (originally four) consecutive games. After the "Joker's and Devils" bonus round stopped offering a fourth prize, a new automobile was added to the jackpot. However, if the champion was defeated, all of his or her cash winnings were forfeited to the Joker's Jackpot; though prizes won in the bonus round were his or hers to keep. After every game, the champion decided whether to play on for a chance to win the Jackpot or play it safe and retire from the show with his or her current winnings. The Jackpot continued to build until it reached $25,000, which was at the time CBS's maximum "winnings cap" for game show contestants.
The first contestant to win the Joker's Jackpot was Katherine "Kathy" Wechsler, who, despite the fact she didn't win any prizes in her attempts at the bonus rounds, retired with $15,400 in cash. Katherine won the $13,800 jackpot, answering a missed question by the challenger correctly for the win in a close game.
Originally, after winning the Joker's Jackpot, the champion was retired undefeated, but later the rules were changed to allow champions to continue playing until either being defeated or reaching the maximum CBS winnings limit.
Upon implementation of the "Face the Devil" bonus round, the "Joker's Jackpot" was abandoned. Contestants kept whatever they earned while still retiring after winning $25,000. Any contestant who won five games also won a new automobile.
There were a few alterations to the syndicated show over the years. One was the addition of a "Natural Triple Jackpot" beginning in the fall of 1983. This was an accruing prize package offered to a contestant who had spun a triple of any category, without Jokers.
Prior to the Jackpot's introduction, a bonus prize, usually around $500 in value, was given to any contestant who spun a natural triple, and these prizes were kept regardless of the game's outcome.
Tournament of Champions
From 1977 through 1980, an annual tournament of champions was held. The first tournament was won by Frank Dillon, a contestant on the CBS network series who won over $25,000 in his initial run, and the top prize was $50,000 in cash and prizes. Dillon returned for the second annual tournament and won that as well, taking an additional $100,000 prize. In the 1979 tournament, Dillon advanced to the finals where he faced Eileen Jason, who had previously won over $55,000 in cash and prizes in her reign as champion. Jason defeated Dillon to end his two year reign as tournament champion, winning the $250,000 prize.
In 1980, The Joker's Wild became the first television program to advertise that it was giving away a $1,000,000 prize. It was the total purse for a special 16-contestant tournament of champions. The eventual winner received $500,000 ($250,000, paid $25,000 annually for 10 years, plus $250,000 to the charity of his or her choice), and the runner-up received $200,000 ($100,000, paid $10,000 annually for 10 years, plus $100,000 to the charity of his or her choice). The remainder of the money was divided among the other participants in the tournament, depending on how they performed, with once again half of their winnings going to charity. Those eliminated in the preliminaries received $15,000 (with $7,500 going to charity), the quarter-final losers pocketed $25,000 (with $12,500 going to charity), and the two losing semifinalists collected $40,000 (with $20,000 going to charity). Rob Griffin won the grand prize winning three games to none, half of which went to the March of Dimes. Cassandra Dooley won $200,000 for second place, half of which went to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Other tournaments of champions ($50,000 in 1977, $100,000 in 1978, and $250,000 in 1979) were held prior to this, but no tournaments were held after the $1,000,000 tournament due to winnings cap limitations.
Different rules applied to Tournament of Champions play. Contestants played for points instead of dollars, with 500 points the target number to win. In the championship game, winning two games out of three was needed to claim the top prize (three out of five games for both the $250,000 and $1,000,000 tournaments). No special categories other than visual categories were used. In the event a natural triple was spun, a $500 bonus was awarded to that contestant (later, it was a $500 donation to the contestant's favorite charity). Contestants drew numbers to determine who spun the wheels first. In the $1,000,000 tournament, contestants also drew numbers to determine who played first in each individual game. If the contestant at the challenger's lectern spun three jokers and answered a question correctly, that contestant's score was increased to 500 points. The contestant at the champion's lectern was given one final turn to tie the game or win the game if trailing by less than 200 points. The contestant who was ahead after each completed round once the target score of 500 points was reached was declared the winner, but as in non-tournament episodes, both contestants received an equal number of turns. Also, no bonus game was played throughout the tournament; after one game was completed, another game began.
Other special weeks over the years included "College Week", "Couples Week", "Teen Week", and "Children's Week".
An audience game was played beginning with the 1981–82 season. Three members of the studio audience were selected to win money and a chance to spin against the Devil. Each audience member had one spin to get as much money as possible. The wheels contained money amounts ($10, $20, $30, $40, $50 and $100), with $300 the highest amount possible in one spin. All three audience members kept whatever totals they spun; the high scorer went on to play Face the Devil for a bonus prize and cash, using the same rules and dollar amounts as the onstage contestants. Ties were broken with an additional spin, and the tied members kept the money they scored on this spin in addition to their previous winnings.
When Bill Cullen began hosting in fall 1984, two audience members were chosen along with a home viewer who played using their touch-tone telephone by using their "star" key to "spin" the wheels (which then later changed it to press any digit between 1 and 9). The game was played onstage instead of in the audience, since a childhood attack of polio had left Cullen unable to move great distances quickly as Barry and Peck were able to.
When the audience game was first introduced, it was played at least once every week (usually on the Friday episode). Each audience member was allowed a maximum of two spins, and could either stop after the first or decline that score in hopes of improving it on the second. These rules were later changed to those described above and began appearing daily half-way through the 1981–82 season.
Joker! Joker!! Joker!!! (1979–81)
Joker! Joker!! Joker!!! was a special once-weekly version of The Joker's Wild in which children competed with appropriately-themed subject matter. Prior to its debut, beginning in 1973 The Joker's Wild featured children playing every year around Easter.
The format was essentially the same, with some slight alterations. In the main game the children played for points instead of money, with 500 points needed to win. The winning contestant received a $500 education bond, while the loser received a $100 bond. The special categories "Mystery" and "Fast Forward" were not used in this version, but "Multiple Choice" was. As before, full rounds were played, and the contestant who reached 500 points or more after each completed round won; if the score was tied at 500 or more, additional rounds were played to break the tie. A three-Joker spin still was worth an automatic win with one correct answer from any of the five categories in play. More Jokers were also added to the wheels, which Barry himself pointed out during one episode.
The Joker cards contained a more juvenile-looking animated "joker" performing a handstand (with the word Joker written below the design), and the children played the Face the Devil round under the same rules as the adults on The Joker's Wild, except that members of their family joined them onstage for assistance. During the CBS era, the Jokers & Devils round was in play; however, prizes already won were not at risk when going for future prizes. Additionally, children were allowed to confer with their parents/relatives when choosing categories, but were required to answer questions themselves.
Game play was changed dramatically when the series returned to syndication in 1990. In particular, the regular questions were replaced with terms that the contestants had to define. This version lasted only one season and was hosted by Pat Finn. A memorial plaque was placed on the slot machine as a tribute to Jack Barry.
In the first round, three contestants (one a returning champion) competed to be the first to reach $500. The game began with a toss-up definition, and whoever buzzed in first with the correct answer gained control of the machine. The wheels contained various dollar amounts (generally $5–$50 in each window), with a Joker in the third window tripling the value of the first two if it came up (and giving that contestant 15 seconds to come up with as many correct answers as possible).
After spinning, the contestant was given a series of rapid-fire definitions and had to figure out what those definitions referred to. Each correct answer earned the current value of the wheels. If a definition was missed, the other two contestants buzzed in and attempt to steal control of the board.
After this, the wheels were spun again, either by the contestant with the last correct answer or the controller of the last question if no one had answered correctly. When one contestant reached the $500 target number, the round ended and that contestant and the second place contestant advanced to the second round. The lowest scorer was eliminated and left with parting gifts.
The two remaining contestants advanced to the second round, which was played much like the first but with higher dollar amounts on the wheels (generally $10–$75 in each window). The contestants built on their scores from the first round and were able to choose from two categories after each spin. Additionally, an "Opponent's Choice" card appeared in the third window; this allowed the other contestant to choose the category from which the spinner answered definitions.
Contestants were not guaranteed the same number of spins as their opponent as on the original version of the show. The first contestant to reach $2,000 or more won the game and kept the money, while the loser left with parting gifts.
On January 7, 1991, the front game format was reworked to incorporate elements of the original Joker's Wild game. Although still played with the "definition" format, the categories and multiple Jokers returned to the wheels with spins worth $25 per correct answer for a single category, $50 for a double, or $100 for a triple. In this format, the contestant in control continued answering questions until he or she answered incorrectly or took too long to answer, at which point an opponent attempted to steal the money and control by supplying the correct answer.
Spinning three Jokers won the contestant an automatic $250 bonus (theirs to keep regardless of the game's outcome) to add to their score, and the right to pick one of three categories for $100 a question.
However, unlike with the classic version where contestants went "off the board" and chose any of the categories in the round, Jokers only represented categories on the wheels and the value of the question had to be taken for $50 with one Joker and $100 with either a pair and a Joker or two Jokers and a category. Additionally, no bonus was awarded for spinning a Natural Triple.
The winning score for Round 1 was increased to $1,000 at this point. In addition, the pace of the game was changed to allow games to "straddle" between shows if there was not enough time to play the bonus game in that particular show.
In both formats, at the end of round 1, if one contestant reaches their target score and if the other two contestants were tied for second place, one contestant was given general knowledge definitions and would set the number of definitions to answer. The contestant with the most correct answers won the right to move on to the second round.
The champion was given up to three definitions to different words, all starting with the same letter. Each correct answer given within a 60-second time limit earned one spin of the wheels. The wheels this time contained prizes, cash amounts ranging from $500 to $2,000, and Jokers. The object was to get three of a kind of any prize. After each earned spin, the contestant had the option of freezing windows containing a prize they wanted to win. For future turns, only the unfrozen windows continued to spin.
Jokers could be used to match any prize showing; spinning three Jokers won a "Joker Jackpot" that started at $5,000 and increased by $500 each time until won. However, this could only be done in one spin, as Jokers could not be frozen and had to be converted into other prizes on the board when they came up. The highest "Joker Jackpot" ever won was $36,000 on February 4, 1991 in the "Category" format.
1990s audience game
Like the previous version, the revival also had audience members spin the wheels for money – however, this was only done when games ended sooner than expected, being used to fill remaining time and avoid straddling. Each audience member was given three spins to get three of the same bonus prize or cash amount on the wheels; if successful, $100 was awarded, otherwise the contestant received a Joker T-shirt as a consolation prize.
Final week change
During the final first-run week of this version (Mar. 4–8, 1991), the format reverted to the original "dollar amounts" version, presumably to keep the game from straddling on the Friday show.
In late 2006, Harry Friedman announced plans to revive the show for the 2007 season. Sony Pictures planned to pair it with a new show called Combination Lock. However, they were never finalized.
Board game manufacturer Milton Bradley produced three editions of The Joker's Wild home game from 1973–75, as well as a version of Joker! Joker! Joker! in 1979. The first edition of the game included the "Jokers and Devils" bonus round.
Plans for an Atari 2600 and Mattel Intellivision version of The Joker's Wild were announced by The Great Game Company in 1983, but due to the video game crash of 1983, it was never released for either console.
In 1994, Philips produced two editions for its CD-i platform based on The Joker's Wild, licensed by Sony Pictures Television, by now which owned the franchise. These games featured "real" hosts and were based more or less on the first syndicated series, while the sets on both games resembled the 1990 version. Wink Martindale "hosted" the first edition, while Marc Summers could be found on a special "Junior" edition of the game. The late Charlie O'Donnell served as the announcer for both games. Martindale was among the first candidates to host the original series when CBS was still not entirely sold on Jack Barry as host, due to his involvement in the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. However, Martindale already chose to host Gambit, another of the three game shows that premiered on the same day in 1972 on CBS (New Price also debuted that day). O'Donnell was an announcer on the series in question also. The theme music in these games was a remix of the 1977–86 theme.
In 2003, a mobile game based on The Joker's Wild was released by Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment.
The theme used from 1968–69 and 1971–74 was "The Savers", a 1967 track by electronic music artists Perrey and Kingsley. During the third and fourth weeks of the CBS run, because Barry had failed to secure clearance rights to "The Savers", a sound-alike theme was used while the clearance issues were resolved. "The Savers" was also used as the main theme of the first syndicated season.
A new theme composed by Alan Thicke entitled "Joker's Jive" was introduced in October 1974, and was used for the 1974–75 season and for the closing of the first syndicated season. In 1978, the show introduced a new theme (retaining some thematic elements of "The Savers") composed by Hal Hidey, which remained until the end of the run in 1986. For the 1980 Million Dollar Tournament, the theme from B&E's earlier game show, Break the Bank was used.
Joe Manolakakis, for Hancock & Joe Productions, composed a new theme and music package for the 1990–91 version.
The status of the KTLA series is unknown; brief footage is known to survive through 1972 CBS promos.
For many years, only the third season of the CBS run was known to exist. In 2000, a search of New York's WCBS-TV found both the first two seasons (restoring the 686-episode run) and the entire series of Spin-Off (which replaced Joker in 1975). A clip from a January 1974 "celebrity week" was used during the network's anniversary special CBS At 75. This version of the show is currently held by Sony Pictures Television & CBS Television Distribution.
The 1977–1986 syndicated episodes exist, and were rerun (with the exceptions of the 1980–81, 1981–82, 1983–84, and 1984–85 seasons) on GSN, as were the first few months of the CBS era. This version is currently held by Sony Pictures Television.
The 1990s version is held by NBCUniversal via its acquisition of the library of Orbis Communications, which distributed this version. The U.S. TV rights are currently licensed to NBCUniversal Television Distribution.
USA Network reran episodes of the Cullen era from April 1985 to April 1987. The network also aired the 1990 revival from December 30, 1991 to September 11, 1992 and March 29, 1993 to June 24, 1994.
- "The Right Stuff://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20041710,00.html".
- "'Jokers Wild' producer: Security prevents cheating". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 8 November 1983. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
- "Shows–CBS Television City". Retrieved 25 July 2011.
- "The Honeymoon Game" Retrieved 21 July 2007.
- The Joker's Wild Mobile Game Site (via Internet Archives)
- "IGT - The Joker's Wild Slots". Retrieved 30 May 2010.
- The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows, 2nd Edition (Schwartz/Ryan/Wostbrock, 1995)
- The Intelligencer - December 30, 1991
- The Intelligencer - September 11, 1992
- TV Guide - March 27-April 2, 1993
- The Intelligencer - June 24, 1994
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