Blockbusters (U.S. game show)
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (January 2015)|
|Created by||Steve Ryan and Mark Goodson|
|Directed by||Ira Skutch (1980-82)
Marc Breslow (1987)
|Presented by||Bill Cullen (1980–82)
Bill Rafferty (1987)
|Narrated by||Bob Hilton (1980–82)
Rich Jeffries (1982, 1987)
|Theme music composer||Bob Cobert (1980-82)
Music Design Group (1987)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||372 (1980–82)
|Executive producer(s)||Ira Skutch (1980-82)
Robert Sherman (1987)
|Producer(s)||Robert Sherman (1980-1982)
Diane H. Janaver (1987)
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Original release||Original series:
October 27, 1980 –April 23, 1982
Revived series: January 5, 1987 –May 1, 1987
|Related shows||Blockbusters (United Kingdom)|
Blockbusters is an American game show which had two separate runs in the 1980s. Created by Steve Ryan for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions, the first series debuted on NBC on October 27, 1980 and aired until April 23, 1982. In the first series, a team of two family members competed against a solo contestant. Blockbusters was revived on NBC from January 5 to May 1, 1987, but featured only two contestants competing.
Bill Cullen hosted the 1980–82 version, with Bob Hilton as announcer. Johnny Olson and Rich Jeffries substituted for Hilton on occasion, with Jeffries taking over for the final two weeks. Bill Rafferty hosted the 1987 version, with Jeffries announcing the entire run.
Blockbusters and Las Vegas Gambit, which premiered on the same day, were added to the NBC schedule to replace The David Letterman Show. Letterman's show, which NBC had cancelled three game shows to create a space for back in June of 1980, did not draw ratings and only managed a total of eighteen weeks of episodes before NBC decided to return to a more traditional morning lineup.
Three contestants played in each game, with a solo contestant playing against a team of two related contestants that was referred to as the "family pair". The solo contestant played behind a red desk while the family pair played from a white one.
The game was played using a 5×4 field of hexagons. On each hexagon was a letter representing the first letter in the correct answer to the question in play. For example, if the letter P was chosen, a sample question might be: "What 'P' is a herbivorous North American mammal whose body is covered with thousands of bristles, called quills?", in which case the correct answer would be "Porcupine". Contestants attempted to complete a connection of hexagons to win each round: in red from top to bottom for the solo player, and in white from left to right for the family pair. The solo player was given an advantage in that a connection could be made in as few as four hexagons; the family pair needed a minimum of five to make a connection. In addition, the two members of the family pair were not allowed to discuss questions at any time.
Each game started with a letter chosen at random. When a contestant gave a correct answer, the hexagon lit up in their team's color and that team chose the next hexagon. If a contestant answered incorrectly, their opponent was given an option to respond (if the solo contestant missed, only one member of the family pair could attempt to answer the question). Questions were asked using the same letter until the hexagon was claimed.
Originally, winning the first round earned the team no money but allowed the winning team to play the bonus round for $2,500. A second win allowed a return trip to the bonus round for an additional $5,000. Later, each round earned the winning team $500, and teams advanced to the bonus round only after winning two rounds. If the family pair advanced to the bonus round, the captain decided which member would participate.
From the beginning until the change in the front game format, the longest a champion could stay on the original Blockbusters was eight matches. Following the change, each champion was permitted to stay up to ten matches. Later, the limit was doubled to 20. To coincide with this, Blockbusters began inviting its previously-retired ten-time champions back to the show.
Gold Rush/Gold Run
The left and right sides of the board were colored gold, and the object was to make a path across the 20-hexagon board from left-to-right within 60 seconds. However, each hexagon now contained one or multiple letters representing a multi-worded response (e.g., with a hexagon labeled "AC", a question might be "He played Ed Norton on The Honeymooners"; the contestant would need to respond with Art Carney to be credited with a correct answer).
A correct answer turned the hexagon gold and an incorrect answer or a pass turned the hexagon black and blocked the contestant's progress. The contestant would need to work around any blocks to make the side-to-side connection.
The bonus round was originally known as the "Gold Rush" and played after each game in the match. A contestant/family team's first attempt was worth $2,500 if successful, and an additional $5,000 for the second attempt (dubbed the "Super Gold Rush"). Contestants earned $100 per correct answer if they failed to make a connection. When the format changed to a best-two-out-of-three match with $500 awarded per game, Gold Rush was no longer played after each game and instead played at the end of the match for $5,000.
In the show's 19th week on the air, the round's name was changed to "Gold Run".
When NBC revived Blockbusters in 1987, the solo-vs.-family pair contest was changed to two individual contestants playing. The champion represented white while the challenger represented red. Also, this version used a computer-generated board.
Again, the game was best two-out-of-three, with the advantage alternating between contestants in the first two games. If a tiebreaker game was needed, the board was reduced to a 4×4 field, with neither contestant having an advantage. Each win was worth $100. Contestants stayed until they won ten matches or were defeated.
The Gold Run was played exactly as before, with the contestant having to connect the gold paths (left to right) within 60 seconds. Originally, a contestant played for $5,000 each time they won a match, but partway through the run a jackpot was added to the Gold Run that started at $5,000 and increased by that amount each time a champion failed to win the round. As before, $100 was awarded for each correct answer if a connection could not be made. Whenever a new champion was crowned, or the Gold Run jackpot was won, it was reset to $5,000.
The 1987 theme music was a stock music piece called "Run, Don't Walk" from the KPM music library, composed by British composer Richard Myhill but credited to the Music Design Group.
The Milton Bradley Company published a single home game edition in 1982. The front game play was the same as the show (with six possible board configurations to play with, although the arrangement of the hexagons was upside-down from what was used on the show). The Gold Run was also played with one of these boards, using only single-letter definitions rather than the multi-letter combinations frequently used on the television show.
Both versions of the series are intact, and have aired on Game Show Network at various times. Reruns were first aired on CBN (now ABC Family) in 1984, and was the first Goodson-Todman game show (along with Card Sharks) to be rerun on cable TV, pre-dating the launch of GSN 10 years later. GSN resumed airing the Cullen version on December 2, 2013, but it has since been dropped. The Bill Cullen version began airing on the second day of Buzzr programming on June 2, 2015.
|Country||Local Name||Host(s)||Channel||Year Aired|
|Australia||Blockbusters||Michael Pope||Seven Network||1990–93|
|France||Parcours d'enfer||Pierre Bellemare|
|Germany||Supergrips||Frank Laufenberg (1988–90)
Ingo Dubinski (1991–95)
|Israeli Educational Television||1985–94|
|Italy||Doppio Slalom||Corrado Tedeschi (1985–90)
Paolo Bonolis (1990)
|Paraguay||Blockbuster||Clari Arias and Leti Medina||Telefuturo||1999|
|Saudi Arabia||ABC Program/Competitions Letters||Ibrahim al-Qasim
Ghanem Al Saleh
|First Channel Saudi Arabia||1987-1994
|Sweden||2 mot 1||Stellan Sundahl||STV||1998–99|
|Turkey||Haydi Bastir||Mim Kemal Öke||Show TV||1992–93|
|United Kingdom||Blockbusters||Bob Holness (1983-1994)
Michael Aspel (1997)
Liza Tarbuck (2000-2001)
|Champion Blockbusters||Bob Holness||ITV||1987-1990|
|All New Blockbusters||Simon Mayo||Challenge||2012|
- Hex (board game)
- Blockbusters (UK game show), the longer-running British version based on the U.S. show