Weakest Link (U.S. game show)

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The Weakest Link
Format Game show
Created by Fintan Coyle
Cathy Dunning
Presented by Anne Robinson (NBC)
George Gray (syndication)
Narrated by John Cramer (NBC)
Lisa Friedman (syndication)
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 3 (NBC)
2 (syndication)
No. of episodes 83 (10 unaired, NBC)
324 (syndication)
Production
Location(s) NBC Studios
Burbank, California
Running time 60 minutes (NBC)
30 minutes (syndication)
Broadcast
Original channel NBC (2001-2002)
Syndicated (2002-2003)
Picture format 16:9
Original run April 16, 2001 (2001-04-16) – May 20, 2003 (2003-05-20)
Chronology
Related shows The Weakest Link (UK game show)

The American version of the British television game show The Weakest Link aired in two separate formats, one on primetime network television and one in daily syndication.

The primetime Weakest Link debuted on NBC April 16, 2001 and aired until July 14, 2002. The series' final ten episodes went unaired until 2003, when PAX TV aired some of them. The remainder aired on GSN, which maintains broadcast rights to the series. While the primetime series was still in production, the daily syndicated series was being developed. That series debuted at midseason in 2002, premiering on January 7, 2002, and aired for a season and a half before ending its run on May 20, 2003. Reruns of this series would join the primetime series on both PAX and GSN but neither series is currently airing.

Hosts and announcers[edit]

Like the British version, Anne Robinson served as host for the NBC Weakest Link. George Gray, whose most notable hosting experience to that point was on Extreme Gong, hosted the syndicated version.

The show's voice-over announcers were John Cramer (NBC) and Lisa Friedman (syndicated).

Rules[edit]

For the entire American run, the game was conducted the same as the British version, with a team of players trying to reach and bank a set target within a time limit by compiling a chain of correct answers that would be broken with an incorrect answer or if a player decided to bank the money that was already in the chain. On NBC, the team was composed of eight people looking to win up to $1,000,000. In the syndicated series, the team size was reduced to six players and the potential top prize to $75,000 in the first season and $100,000 in the second. One player would be eliminated after each round until two were remaining. On the syndicated version, each round thereafter was reduced by 15 seconds (with the first round lasting for 1:45); on the NBC version, the clock was reduced by 10 seconds (with the first round lasting for 2:30). As on the British version, contestants who are eliminated in the rounds leading up to the final round are told by the host: "You are the weakest link. Goodbye!," although Gray's snarling taunts clearly were intended for a "smart aleck" gimmick.

For the NBC series and the first season of the syndicated series, the final vote occurred prior to the penultimate round, with the two players competing in one more round together for double stakes (with the round lasting for 1:30 on the NBC series and 0:45 in the first syndicated season). The double-stakes round was eliminated from the syndicated series at the start of its second season, with the final elimination occurring prior to the final round.

Unlike most versions where the game started with the player whose name is first alphabetically, a random draw backstage, similar to most multiple-player game shows, was held among players to determine order, and the player who drew the first position starts the first round. Each round thereafter begins with the strongest link from the preceding round (or if that player had been voted off, the second strongest). For the head to head round, he or she also had the option of going first or passing play to the other finalist.

Money chains[edit]

The bank's target value was the maximum amount of money that a team could accumulate in any one round, and if a team reached the target and banked it while already having money in the bank, the bank would be augmented to the target value instead of having the target value added to the bank.

Question Number NBC Syndication
Season 1 Season 2
8 $125,000
7 $75,000
6 $50,000 $12,500 $25,000
5 $25,000 $5,000
4 $10,000 $2,500
3 $5,000 $1,000
2 $2,500 $500
1 $1,000 $250

Final round[edit]

The final round was a head-to-head showdown between the two remaining contestants for the entire prize money bank. The strongest link from the final round (or, in the second syndicated season, the second-strongest if that player had been voted off) was given the option of playing first or passing control to their teammate. The contestants were then asked a series of alternating questions, with a best of five (NBC) or three (syndication) format. Whoever answered the most questions correctly won all the money while the other, like the rest of the contestants voted off, would leave with nothing.

If both players were tied after all the questions were asked, a series of sudden death tie-breaker questions would be asked, with the first player to top their opponent winning the game.

Records[edit]

The highest amount won on the prime time version was $189,500, won on the Tournament of Losers special (this is also the highest amount of money ever won on The Weakest Link worldwide). The lowest won was $22,500, on the Fear Factor Champions special. The lowest amount won on the daytime version was $1,000, while the highest was $53,000.
The highest amount won on a Celebrity Edition of the show was when LeVar Burton won a "Star Trek Stars" edition with a pot of $167,500. The lowest amount won on a Celebrity Edition of the show was when Steve "Snapper" Jones won an "NBA Halftime" edition with a pot of $27,000.

  • One contestant, Michelle Kitt, who won $107,500 on her episode later appeared on Grand Slam being seeded #14. She was eliminated in the semi finals.

Ratings[edit]

The NBC version of The Weakest Link started off well in the ratings, but quickly began to slip. The producers then decided that having celebrities play the game would boost ratings and so they planned many episodes with celebrities as contestants, along with "theme" episodes in which the contestants were playing for charity. These changes caused even lower ratings and accelerated the show's cancellation.

The syndicated Weakest Link performed well in its abbreviated first season and earned a renewal for a full second season in 2002. However, the ratings fell off by a considerably large margin and the series was not renewed for a third season. Among other things that were blamed, including the format change, was the premiere of a daily syndicated edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire that same year; many stations that had been airing Weakest Link picked Millionaire up for the fall, resulting in the show either being dropped by those stations or moved to a late-night timeslot on several that kept it.

Specials[edit]

Various special episodes aired on both the NBC and syndicated versions. Occasionally the contestants on these episodes all had something in common, such as an episode featuring celebrities, members of the same family, contestants with the same occupation or Halloween and Christmas episodes in which all the contestants wore holiday-themed costumes. Other episodes invited back previously-losing contestants, either those who had lost in the final round or those who were eliminated in the first round of voting on their original episode.

Celebrity episodes were seen frequently on the NBC version. On these episodes, all participants played for charity (as is traditionally the case with all-celebrity shows), and losing celebrities still received $10,000-$25,000 for their respective charities; for this reason, the portion of John Cramer's opening spiel that went "the rest will leave with nothing" had the last two of those words omitted, while Anne's farewell to the final round loser was changed from "you leave with nothing" to "you will just go away". Some of the most notable Weakest Link specials were two WWE Edition episodes. The first episode, which aired in 2001, saw Triple H defeat his wife Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Lita, William Regal, The Big Show, and Trish Stratus. The second episode aired in 2002 and broadcast Kane turning back the Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von), Stone Cold Steve Austin, Terri Runnels, Debra, Jerry Lawler, and Edge. Possibly realizing that the overabundance of celebrity shows was a key factor in the primetime version's cancellation, the syndicated version did not feature such episodes.

External links[edit]