The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime

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For the unrelated Australian game show, see The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime (Australian game show).
The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime
$1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime.jpg
Genre Game show
Directed by Jerome Shaw
Joe Carolei
Presented by Jim Lange
Narrated by Marc Summers (1986)
Johnny Gilbert (1986–1987)
Country of origin  United States
No. of seasons 2
Executive producer(s) Bob Synes
Scott A. Stone
Jay Feldman
Producer(s) Joel Stein
Location(s) Hollywood Center Studios
Hollywood, California
Running time approx. 22–26 minutes
Production company(s) XPTLA Company
Distributor Lorimar-Telepictures
Original channel Syndicated (daily)
Original release January 6, 1986 – September 11, 1987
Related shows All Clued Up (UK version)

The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime is an American game show which offered a $1 million (annuitized) grand prize to winning contestants. The show aired in syndication from January 6, 1986 until September 11, 1987. The show was hosted by Jim Lange, and he was joined by Karen Thomas as co-host during the second season. Marc Summers was the show's announcer for its first few weeks and Johnny Gilbert announced the remainder of the series. The show was produced by XPTLA, Inc. and distributed by Lorimar-Telepictures.


Two couples competed each day, one of which was usually a returning champion. The two couples tried to win money by solving hangman-style word puzzles.

In order to fill-in the blank spaces in the puzzle, a series of toss-up clues was played in which blanks representing a word were shown to the contestants, with letters filled-in one-at-a-time. The clues were usually one word in length, but certain clues called for two or even three words to be used. The contestant who buzzed-in with a correct answer won money. If a contestant gave an incorrect guess, the opposing contestant was shown all but one of the remaining letters and was given a chance to guess.

After correctly identifying a toss-up clue, the player selected two letters on an oversized keyboard. Only the letters that were contained within the puzzle would be lit on the keyboard, as well as a star, which represented any numbers or punctuation marks in-play. The toss-up winner chose two of the letters, one at a time. For each instance they appeared in the puzzle, money corresponding with the amount of the toss-up clue was added to a pot. However, one additional letter that was not in the puzzle was also lit, referred to as "The Stinger". Picking this letter resulted in a loss of control, and a new toss-up word was played. Otherwise, the contestant in control was given a chance to solve the puzzle. Play continued until the puzzle was solved, and the couple that did so won the pot.

In the first round, toss-up clues and revealed letters were worth $25. This doubled to $50 for the second round and doubled again to $100 for the third and subsequent rounds. If time ran short while a puzzle was being played, each of the remaining letters were placed one-at-a-time until one of the contestants buzzed-in with a correct answer (the value of each revealed letter would continue to be added to the pot until that happened). Whichever couple was in the lead after the final puzzle won the game and whatever cash they had earned, while the other couple left with a copy of the show's home game, various parting gifts, and whatever previous front-game winnings they had earned if they had been returning champions.

If there was a tie after the final puzzle, a final toss-up clue was played. If the first contestant to buzz-in answered correctly, the couple won the game. An incorrect answer resulted in an automatic loss and the opposing couple played the bonus round.

Bonus round[edit]

This couple is halfway to $1,000,000 with 20 seconds left.

After choosing one of three possible categories, the couple entered an isolation booth wired so they could only hear Lange. The couple had 60 seconds to guess words or phrases pertaining to that category. For each word, a letter was randomly filled in once every 1.5 seconds. Once the couple guessed correctly, the next word/phrase was immediately put into play and the clock did not stop until they gave six correct answers or the 60 seconds ran out.

If the couple successfully completed the bonus round in their first attempt, they were offered $5,000 and a choice to retire as undefeated champions or to return the next day and face another couple on the following show. If the couple chose to return and then completed the bonus round a second time, the offer increased to $10,000. In addition, if a winning couple failed to complete a bonus round on either the first or second attempt, they were immediately retired with only their main game winnings.

If the couple advanced to the bonus round for a third day, they played for the $1,000,000 top prize. In the abbreviated first season, the grand prize was all cash and paid as an annuity, with the couple receiving $40,000 a year for 25 years. For the second season, the value of the annuity was reduced to $900,000. To make up for the difference, the couple received approximately $100,000 in merchandise as a secondary reward, which included a pair of Mazda automobiles and several pairs of airline tickets which enabled the couple to fly round-trip on Delta Air Lines to anywhere in the continental United States that they desired at any time.

During its two-season run, a total of nine couples won the grand prize.[1]


A single board game based on the show was released by Cardinal in 1986.

International Versions[edit]

Country Local Name Host Channel Year Aired
 Colombia El Programa del Millón Fernando González Pacheco Cadena Dos 1986–90
 United Kingdom All Clued Up David Hamilton ITV 1988–91


  1. ^ David Schwartz, Steve Ryan & Fred Wostbrock, The Encyclopedia of TV Game $hows, Checkmark Books, 1999, pp. 161

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