Jackpot (game show)

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Jackpot '74.jpg
Created by Bob Stewart
Presented by Geoff Edwards
(1974–1975, 1989–1990)
Mike Darrow (1985–1988)
Narrated by Don Pardo (1974–1975)
Wayne Howell (1975)
Ken Ryan (1985–1988)
John Harris (1985–1988)
John Harlan (1989–1990)
Johnny Gilbert (1989–1990)
Country of origin United States (1974–1975, 1989–1990)
Canada (1985–1988)
No. of episodes 450 (1974–1975 version)
130 (1989–1990 version)
Location(s) NBC Studios
New York, New York (1974–1975)
Global Television
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Glendale, California
Original channel NBC (1974–1975)
USA Network (1985–1988)
Global (1985–1988)
Syndicated (1989–1990)
Original release January 7, 1974–September 26, 1975
September 30, 1985–December 30, 1988
September 18, 1989 – March 16, 1990

Jackpot (also referred to as Jackpot!).is a television game show produced by Bob Stewart which saw contestants attempting to solve riddles in order to win cash and prizes.

Jackpot made its debut on the NBC television network on January 7, 1974 as part of their daytime schedule and ran until September 26, 1975. The show emanated from New York City, where Stewart was based at the time, and was hosted by Geoff Edwards. In 1985, Stewart teamed up with USA Network and Global Television Network for a revival that aired in both the United States and Canada. This edition of Jackpot aired on USA and Global from September 30, 1985 until December 30, 1988 and was produced in Toronto with Mike Darow as host. After the Canadian-produced Jackpot ended, Stewart developed another series for American syndication. That series (the only one to refer to the title with the exclamation point in it) debuted on September 18, 1989 with Edwards once again hosting, coming to an end on March 16, 1990 after its syndicator went out of business.[1]

The first series was announced by Don Pardo until early 1975 when Wayne Howell replaced him, marking Pardo's last announcing gig for an NBC game show. The 1985 series saw announcing duties shared by Global announcers John Harris and Ken Ryan, the latter of whom was also the announcer on the USA/Global collaboration Bumper Stumpers. The 1989 series saw Johnny Gilbert and John Harlan split the announcing duties.

Elements of Jackpot were later used in the GSN game show Hollywood Showdown. Its producer, Sande Stewart (son of Jackpot! creator Bob Stewart), became a production partner of his father during the 1980s.


Sixteen contestants competed for an entire week, with one designated King of the Hill (Queen of the Hill for female contestants), who stood at a circular podium at stage-left. The other fifteen contestants, numbered 1 through 15, were seated in three-tiered bleachers. Each had a special wallet containing a riddle and a varying cash amount or the Jackpot Riddle. The King of the Hill selected a number and the contestant with that number asked a riddle to this player. If answered correctly, the King of the Hill continued picking numbers; if answered incorrectly, the two contestants switched places, with the contestant who stumped him/her becoming the new King Of The Hill.

The value of the riddle increased the value of the Jackpot. If the King selected the contestant holding the Jackpot Riddle (one per game) and answered it correctly, those two contestants split the Jackpot. Depending on the rules or the situation, the King could ask the Jackpot Riddle-holder to be seated and continue the game, perhaps with other bonuses, a larger Jackpot, or the Super Jackpot in mind.

If the last three digits of the Jackpot amount matched a preselected target number, the King may have a chance to win a "Super Jackpot" by correctly solving a Super Jackpot Riddle, asked by the host. Either the King or the bleacher contestant who asked the question that brought the Jackpot amount to the target number could respond; if either answered correctly, both split the Super Jackpot. Occasionally, the host would notify the King if there was a riddle which would allow the preselected target number to be matched.

Special riddles[edit]

  • Double Dollars (Syndicated) – As the name implied, a correct answer to one of these riddles doubled the amount in the Jackpot at that time.
  • Instant Target Match (Syndicated) – If this riddle was answered correctly, the last three digits in the Jackpot were augmented to match the target number and give the player that held the riddle and the King of the Hill a chance at the Super Jackpot.
  • Bonus Prize (all) – A correct answer won the King or Queen of the Hill a prize.
  • Return Trip (USA/Syndicated) – Correctly answering this riddle resulted in both players (riddler and King) being allowed to compete in an extra week of shows.

NBC (1974–1975)[edit]

The King (or Queen) of the Hill was referred to as the "Expert". Riddles on this version ranged in value from $5 to $200 in multiples of $5, and Target Numbers could go no higher than $995. After the selection of a Target Number, a Multiplier ranging from 5 to 50 was chosen at random (although 15 and 20 were twice as likely to appear) and was multiplied with the Target Number to determine the Super Jackpot (e.g., $500×30 = $15,000). If the Target Number was $995 and the Multiplier was 50, the Super Jackpot was automatically set to $50,000.

The Super Jackpot could be played for in one of three ways. Initially, if the Expert solved a Jackpot Riddle and last three digits of the Jackpot matched the Target Number, the players (whoever asked the Jackpot Riddle and whoever answered it) split the Super Jackpot. Later, the Expert had to answer a second riddle asked by Edwards after solving a Jackpot Riddle when the last three digits of the Jackpot matched the Target Number in order to share the Super Jackpot with the other player. The Super Jackpot could also be won if the Expert chose the player that had the Super Jackpot Wildcard and correctly answered the Super Jackpot Riddle, again asked by Edwards.

Originally, the player who answered the most riddles in the week won a car. This was later changed to awarding a car to anyone who answered all fifteen riddles in a single game. After a week-long experiment in February 1974 (when it was called "The Valentine Riddle"), most games had a "Double Bonus" riddle which, if answered correctly, won the two players involved a trip, usually to somewhere in Mexico or the Caribbean.

Beginning on June 30, 1975, the format was altered for the last 13 weeks of the run:

  • The Target Number and Multiplier were dropped. Instead, the Super Jackpot was established at random to a value between $2,000 and $10,000.
  • Riddles were replaced with straight yes-no, true-false, or multiple-choice general knowledge questions.
  • When the Jackpot Question was found, the Expert could either try to answer it or go for the Super Jackpot by answering all remaining questions in the game, including the Jackpot Question. If the player missed any of the remaining questions, the Jackpot was reset to $0 and a new Super Jackpot was established.
  • In the event that the Jackpot Question was the last one found, the Super Jackpot was discarded.

Canadian/USA Network (1985–1988)[edit]

The riddles and Target Number returned, but there was no multiplier; the Super Jackpot was set at random, ranging from $4,000 to $9,950. There was no separate Super Jackpot Riddle in this series. Instead, if a riddle was worth enough to cause a target match, it won both players the Super Jackpot if answered correctly. For each game, the Jackpot started at $100, and riddles were valued anywhere from $50 to $300. Also, if the Jackpot Riddle was not found until the last player, an extra $1,000 was added to the Jackpot. Once the Jackpot Riddle was found and attempted, the King of the Hill and the person with the Jackpot Riddle traded places regardless if the riddle was answered correctly or incorrectly.

Starting in season two, any player who answered all fifteen riddles without a miss won a new car. Also added was a "$10,000 Riddler Contest" in which the player who answered the most riddles correctly over a period of ten weeks won a bonus of $10,000, with tied players splitting the money. For the final six weeks of the second season, the player answering the most riddles in a single week won a vacation package and $1,000 in cash.

The final season featured "The $50,000 Riddle". These riddles were considerably harder than the ones usually asked, and all players who correctly answered them split $50,000.

Syndicated (1989–1990)[edit]

In this version, the value of the riddle was only added to the Jackpot if the riddle was answered correctly. Also, if the King (or Queen) of the Hill answered all fifteen riddles without a miss, $1,000 was added to the Jackpot. Super Jackpots ranged on this version from $10,000 to $25,000, and riddles ranged from $50 to $200.

International Version[edit]

A Welsh version of the show entitled as Jacpot originally hosted by Kevin Davies ran on S4C from 1993 until 1999. then it was revived in 2012 with Rhodri Ogwen Williams as host.

Other information[edit]

Home version[edit]

Milton Bradley made only one edition in 1974, but with two different covers – one with just the logo, and one with a drawing of a female contestant. Other than the cosmetic difference, the game is the same in both boxes; the gameplay more closely resembles the 1980s Darrow format .[citation needed]


Jackpot! used several different themes during its runs; the Edwards-hosted versions used the instrumental theme music "Jet Set", composed by former Manfred Mann member Mike Vickers. The piece was later used as the opening theme for This Week in Baseball.

The Russell pilot used "Spring Rain" by Bebu Silvetti. Like many themes Stewart used on his shows, "Spring Rain" was first used in an earlier Stewart production – the one-season syndicated series The Love Experts.

The USA and syndicated runs used the Shoot for the Stars theme composed by Bob Cobert. This theme was also used on a 1982 Stewart unsold pilot, Twisters.

Episode status[edit]

  • NBC: All but two episodes were destroyed, according to host Geoff Edwards. A $38,750 Super Jackpot is won on one of them (aired January 3, 1975). This episode can be currently viewed in full on YouTube.
  • 1984 pilot: This episode exists and circulates among collectors.
  • USA/syndicated: Both runs are intact and have been seen on GSN.


Preceded by
12:00 PM (EST), NBC
1/7/74 – 7/4/75
Succeeded by
The Magnificent Marble Machine
Preceded by
Blank Check
12:30 PM (EST), NBC
7/7 – 9/26/75
Succeeded by
Three for the Money