The Challengers (game show)

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The Challengers
The Challengers opening logo.
Genre Game show
Created by Ron Greenberg
Directed by Morris Abraham, Chris Darley[1]
Presented by Dick Clark
Judges Gary Johnson[1]
Narrated by Don Morrow
Bob Hilton (substitute)
Composer(s) Joel Hirschhorn
Al Kasha
Michael Lloyd[1]
Country of origin  United States
Location(s) Hollywood Center Studios
Hollywood, California
Running time approx. 22-24 minutes
Production company(s) Ron Greenberg Productions
Dick Clark Productions
Distributor Disney-ABC Domestic Television
Original channel Syndicated
Original release September 3, 1990 – August 30, 1991

The Challengers is an American syndicated game show from Ron Greenberg Productions, Dick Clark Productions, and Buena Vista Television. The show was hosted by Dick Clark. The show premiered on September 3, 1990 and ended on August 30, 1991. Don Morrow was the announcer, with Bob Hilton occasionally substituting.

The game included elements of Greenberg's earlier show, The Who, What, or Where Game, seen during the early 1970s and hosted by Art James. Unlike most syndicated game shows, the series continued airing new episodes well into the summer of 1991, a time when most syndicated programming was generally in reruns.


Three contestants, one a returning champion, competed.

Challengers Sprint Round[edit]

Contestants were spotted $200 to start the round, and host Clark would read a series of rapid-fire questions. Correct answers added $100 to a player's score, while incorrect answers deducted $100 and took the question out of play for the other two players. Early on, however, if a player missed, either of the other two contestants could buzz in and attempt to answer the question. Also, the players did not initially start the game with money in their bank.

At the end of 60 seconds, whoever was in the lead took control of the first round. If two players were tied, one final Sprint question was asked, with a correct answer or an incorrect answer by an opponent gaining control.

This round was briefly removed partway through the run in favor of a single toss-up question, with the contestant who answered correctly scoring $100 and control of the Round 1 board. However, after only a short time with this format, the Sprint later returned.

Round 1[edit]

The contestant leading after the Challengers Sprint picked one of six categories, each of which had three questions. The contestants were then given clues to the subjects of the three questions, valued at $150, $200, and $250 in order of increasing difficulty (later reduced to $100, $150, and $200). Correct answers added the value of the question to the contestant's score, while incorrect answers subtracted the same value.

Contestants then secretly chose the question they wanted to face using buttons on their podiums. What happened next depended on the outcome of their choices:

  • Each contestant chose a different question. The three questions were asked in increasing order of value, with each contestant answering his/her own question.
  • Two contestants chose one question; the third contestant chose a different one. The two questions were asked in increasing order of value. The solo contestant had to answer his/her own question, while the two who chose the same question use their buzzers. If the first contestant of the two who chose the same question answered incorrectly, the other could either pass or try to answer.
  • All three contestants chose the same question. All three question values were immediately doubled, and chosen question was asked as a toss-up open to all three contestants. The same toss-up rules as above applied. A contestant answering the question correctly could either end the category or attempt either of the remaining two questions unopposed. Correctly answering this second question again gave the contestant the option to stop or try the third question. An incorrect answer on either the second or third question subtracted its doubled value from the contestant's score and ended the category.

In each case, the last contestant to give a correct answer then chose a new category. Play continued until all six categories were played or time ran out.

Round 2[edit]

Six new categories were introduced and play continued as described above. Question values doubled to $300, $400, and $500 ($200, $300, and $400 after the Sprint Round was removed).

As in Round One, play continued until all six categories were played or time ran out. If any player had $0 or less at the end of this round they were eliminated from further play.

Final Challenge[edit]

One final category was presented, with three questions. The difficulty of the individual questions determined the payout odds for that question. The easiest question paid off at even odds, the harder question paid off at 2:1 and the hardest paid off at 3:1. The players were then given fifteen seconds to choose a question and decide how much of their score they wanted to wager. As before, if all three players chose different questions, each player got a chance to play their own question. However, if two or all three players chose the same question, only the player with the highest wager got to answer it. Correctly answering won the value of the wager multiplied by the odds, while an incorrect answer only deducted the value of the wager.

In the rare instance that only one player remained in the game to play the Final Challenge, that player was given the option as to whether or not they wanted to play the round. Should the player decide to play the round, the round was played in a different fashion. The player picked a question and declared their wager, and if they answered correctly they could elect to attempt any of the remaining questions. An incorrect answer at any time ended the round and the game.

Whoever was in the lead won the game and returned the next day, although all contestants kept what they had earned. Each contestant had a Citibank Visa account (later, they could choose a MasterCard) opened in their name before the show started and any money they won was deposited into that account. If the contestants wanted to, they could opt instead to take their winnings in cash and not open the account.[2]

Champions on The Challengers continued to play until they were defeated.

Ultimate Challenge[edit]

Like many game shows before it, The Challengers featured a bonus game where champions could win thousands of dollars. The round was called The Ultimate Challenge and was conducted in two different ways.

Format #1[edit]

When the Ultimate Challenge was introduced, it was a game played for an accumulating cash jackpot beginning at $50,000.

The difference between other bonus games and the Ultimate Challenge was that any champion on The Challengers had to qualify for the round as opposed to playing it after every victory. If a champion managed to win three consecutive matches, he/she qualified for the Ultimate Challenge and the round was played at the start of the next program. A choice of two categories was available, and each one had a series of three questions in it. Each of the questions focused on a different subject within the category and were grouped in order of difficulty.

After the champion chose a category, Clark would inform him/her of the subjects of the questions and would ask them one at a time. After he finished, the champion was given five seconds to think about an answer and prompted for one once the time was up. Giving an incorrect answer at any point ended the round, while answering correctly allowed the champion to continue. If he/she correctly answered all three questions, the champion won the Ultimate Challenge and the jackpot.

Initially, the idea was for the value of the Ultimate Challenge to increase by $5,000 each time it was not completed successfully. It was first played on the pilot episode, which was the only time a contestant did not need to win three games to play it, and contestant Doak Fairey failed to successfully complete it. Thus, when the show made its official debut, the pot stood at $55,000. It remained there for the first two weeks of episodes, as Fairey was defeated before he could reach a necessary third win and a series of short-lived champions followed him.

Therefore, beginning with the week of September 17, 1990, the producers decided to change the Ultimate Challenge rules. The jackpot would start accumulating by $1,000 each show until someone played for and won it, and once the original pot was claimed each subsequent Ultimate Challenge jackpot would begin at $25,000 instead of $50,000. Contestant Larry Kaplan, who became the champion on September 19, became the first three-day champion at the end of that week and when the show returned on September 24, he played for and won the Ultimate Challenge jackpot of $60,000.

For each day that the round was played, the first round was abbreviated with only enough time available for three categories.

Format #2[edit]

At midseason, the Ultimate Challenge was reworked and became a daily bonus round played for an additional $10,000 in cash.

This time, the champion did not have a choice of categories to start the round. Instead, a predetermined category was played and the champion was asked one question in that category. The question could, and often did, feature multiple answers and the champion had to answer all parts of the question correctly in order to win the money.

The Ultimate Challenge was eventually done away with, with the round scrapped sometime in either February or March 1991.[3]


Tournament of Champions[edit]

For the first two months that The Challengers was on the air, contestants were not only competing to win money but were also trying to earn spots in the show's Tournament of Champions. The tournament was conducted the week of November 12, 1990.

The field for the tournament was set at nine, with the highest money winners over the first two months invited to compete. One of the spots was given to Stanley Newman, who had been the show's champion for two days at the time the tournament began; his total winnings in his two victories were enough to make him the final qualifier.

The tournament structure was similar to the one employed by Jeopardy! during tournaments. The nine players faced off on the first three days of the tournament, with the three winners playing a two-day cumulative score final. All three players kept whatever they earned in the two games, with the tournament winner earning an additional $25,000.

Newman won the tournament and over $40,000. When regular play resumed on November 19, Newman recorded his third consecutive victory and played for a $31,000 Ultimate Challenge the next day. By winning that, he became the all-time winningest contestant in the series and also topped $100,000 in winnings. By the time he was defeated, Newman had won $112,480 in cash. He was the only champion to reach six figures.

Teachers Tournament[edit]

Nine teachers competed, using the same format as the Tournament of Champions; $10,000 was awarded to the winner.

Invitational Tournament[edit]

The Challengers invited nine more champions back for a second tournament of champions, which was held the week of March 18, 1991. The Challengers Invitational Tournament was conducted the same way that the Tournament of Champions was, with a two-day cumulative score final determining the champion and a cash bonus of $10,000 awarded to the winner on top of what they had earned in the two day final. Lorin Burt won the Tournament by recording a total of $34,600 in the final, and with the $10,000 bonus added to that and the $46,075 he won in his reign as champion, he finished with over $90,000 in cash.


Many questions were related to current events, an aspect that the producers saw as a selling point.[4] Episodes were taped shortly before their airdate, which was prominently displayed in the opening and on a screen behind Clark; generally, a week of episodes were taped on the Friday of the previous week, which allowed such categories as "This Week On TV" and "Today At The Movies" to be used frequently.

Most of the current event questions and answers were taken from, or verified by, Newsweek; this was announced on-air at the midpoint of each episode.


  1. ^ a b c Schwartz, David; Ryan, Steve; Wostbrock, Fred (1999). The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows (3 ed.). Facts on File, Inc. p. 40. ISBN 0-8160-3846-5. 
  2. ^ "The Challengers" episode aired September 17, 1990
  3. ^ Two episodes from around that time. One, from February 13, 1991, has the champion playing the round. An episode from April 1, 1991, does not.
  4. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (1990-10-23). "New Game Shows Trying to Play It Smart". Sun Sentinel. p. 4.E. 

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