|Created by||Merrill Heatter|
|Presented by||Alfonso Ribeiro|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||300|
|Location(s)||Hollywood Center Studios
|Running time||22–26 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Merrill Heatter Productions
Scott Sternberg Productions
|Original network||Game Show Network|
|Original release||July 21, 2008– July 1, 2011|
Catch 21 is an American game show broadcast by Game Show Network (GSN). Created by Merrill Heatter (who also produced the show's predecessor Gambit), the series followed three contestants as they play a card game centered on blackjack and trivia. The show is based on a popular online game from GSN's website and aired for four seasons from 2008–11. It was hosted by Alfonso Ribeiro, with actress Mikki Padilla serving as the card dealer.
The show received positive critical reception as a whole; the series itself was hailed as "a fun game with a solid concept" while Ribeiro was praised as "hands-down, one of the best game show hosts out there." Additionally, the series was acquired by Bounce TV in 2013, with the network hopeful it could "add fuel" to the channel's growing momentum.
Three contestants are each given a card to start a blackjack hand from a standard 52-card deck shuffled prior to taping. Ribeiro reads multiple-choice questions and the first contestant to answer correctly earns 100 points. The contestant who answered correctly can freeze their hand, preventing them from receiving additional cards or reveal the next card from the top of the deck. After revealing the card, the contestant can either accept it for themselves or pass it to one of their opponents who has not yet frozen. If keeping a card, the contestant in control is given another chance to freeze. However, once a contestant has frozen, the remaining contestants must freeze at a score higher than that contestant; ties are not permitted. A contestant is eliminated from the round if their hand exceeds 21. The process is repeated with additional questions and cards until two contestants have frozen or bust. A contestant whose score reaches 21 exactly instantly wins the round and, beginning in season two, a bonus prize which is given to the contestant regardless of the outcome of the game. If two contestants bust, the remaining contestant automatically wins the round. If only one contestant has not yet frozen or busted, no additional questions are asked; the remaining contestant simply continues drawing cards until either beating the highest frozen hand or busting. The winner of this round receives 500 points and a power chip to use in the bonus round, assuming that contestant gets that far. After two rounds, the contestant with the lowest score is eliminated. The two remaining contestants play one more round involving the same toss-up question format, but point scores are not kept. The contestant who wins the round receives $1,000 and two additional power chips (originally one), then moves on to the bonus round.
The winner now controls three separate hands, each staked with one card. A new deck of 52 cards that has been shuffled and cut is used. Cards are drawn for the contestant, one at a time and the contestant then chooses a hand in which to place each card. The contestant can use a power chip to dispose of an unwanted card. The contestant can end the round at any time if they fear the next card will cause them to bust on any of the three hands. However, using a power chip forces the contestant to place the next card in a hand or use another chip if one is available; the contestant can only end the round after scoring a 21 in a hand. Getting 21 in one hand wins $1,000; in two hands wins $5,000; and if 21 is scored on all three hands, the contestant wins the grand prize of $25,000. If the contestant busts on any hand, they will lose all money earned in the bonus round, but retain the $1,000 (and bonus prize, if applicable) from the main game won earlier. On some episodes in season two, the top prize was increased to $50,000 with the other payouts remaining the same.
The television version of the game was based on a popular online version from GSN's website. In this version, the online player has five minutes to make as many hands of 21 as they can using four columns. The player can play a card in any of their columns as long as the subsequent total is 21 or less; if the card cannot be played in any column, it must be discarded. Playing exactly five cards in a column earns the player a bonus, while the jacks of spades and clubs allow any column to be cleared no matter what.
The series featured executive producers Scott Sternberg and Merrill Heatter, and premiered on July 21, 2008. On February 18, 2009, GSN renewed the series for a 65-episode second season, which featured the addition of an extra power chip in the bonus round in order to increase contestant's chances of winning the top prize. A third season, which was announced on September 16, 2009, debuted on October 12, with some episodes featuring celebrities with a common bond (such as three The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cast members or three former child stars) playing for charity. The show's fourth and final season debuted on August 16, 2010.
Critical reception for Catch 21 was generally positive. Carrie Grosvenor of About Entertainment argued that the series was "a fun game with a solid concept...It's definitely worth checking out." Hollywood Junket also praised Ribeiro, calling him "hands-down, one of the best game show hosts out there...the fun, brother/sister type chemistry between himself and [Padilla] is rare and benefits the show greatly." Additionally, Bounce TV expressed excitement when announcing their acquisition of the series in 2013, citing the series' popularity among GSN viewers and consistent ratings growth during its original run. The network's chief operating officer Jonathan Katz commented, "We are very confident that the broadcast premieres of The American Bible Challenge and Catch 21 will add fuel to Bounce TV’s skyrocketing growth."
- "Catch 21 Fact Sheet". GSN Corporate. Archived from the original on July 24, 2016. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
- Grosvenor, Carrie. "Catch 21 Explained". About.com. About Entertainment. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
- Catch 21. Season 2. Episode 1. April 6, 2009. Game Show Network.
- "GSN's Hit Series Catch 21 Hosted by Alfonso Ribeiro to Return for Second Season Premiering April 6, Airing Weekdays at 6:30PM/5:30PM C" (Press release). GSN Corporate. February 18, 2009. Archived from the original on November 26, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
- "Catch-21!: Some Riveting Games For Season Two!". Hollywood Junket. Archived from the original on April 19, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
- "Play Catch 21 – GSN Games". GSN.com. Game Show Network, LLC. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
- Stelter, Brian (July 7, 2008). "Blackjack Makes a Move From the Web to Television". The New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
- "GSN Announces the Return of Hit Series The Newlywed Game and Catch 21, Premiering October 12" (Press release). GSN Corporate. September 16, 2009. Archived from the original on August 17, 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
- "Baggage and Catch 21 Both Return on August 16" (Press release). GSN Corporate. July 26, 2010. Archived from the original on August 17, 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
- "Bounce TV Acquires Broadcast Network Rights to The American Bible Challenge and Catch 21" (Press release). Bounce TV. June 24, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2016.