The Challengers (game show)
The Challengers opening logo.
|Created by||Ron Greenberg|
|Directed by||Morris Abraham, Chris Darley|
|Presented by||Dick Clark|
|Narrated by||Don Morrow
Bob Hilton (substitute)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Location(s)||Hollywood Center Studios
|Running time||approx. 22-24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Ron Greenberg Productions
Dick Clark Productions
|Distributor||Buena Vista Television|
|Original release||September 3, 1990 – August 30, 1991|
The Challengers is an American game show that aired in syndication from September 3, 1990 until August 30, 1991. The show remained in production for its entire run on the air, differing from most syndicated game shows which usually wrapped in the early summer.
The series was created by Ron Greenberg and was based largely on his 1969 production, The Who, What, or Where Game. Dick Clark presided over the show with Don Morrow announcing. The Challengers was a joint production of Ron Greenberg Productions and Dick Clark Productions, with Buena Vista Television (now Disney–ABC Domestic Television) as distributor.
Three contestants, one a returning champion, competed.
Challengers Sprint Round
The players were each spotted $200 to start the round, and Clark asked a series of toss-up questions for which players had to buzz in. 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.
In early episodes, the rules were slightly different; players were not given any money at the outset, and if one player missed a question, either opponent could buzz in to answer it.
The round ended after 60 seconds, and the player in the lead gained initial control for 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. If someone buzzed in and did not answer correctly, he/she lost $100 and a new toss-up was given to the other two contestants. These rules did not last long and by February 1991 the Challengers Sprint had been reinstated.
Six categories, each containing three questions, were displayed on a video wall. The contestant in the lead after the Challengers Sprint (or the one who answered the single toss-up correctly when the Sprint was not in use) chose one to begin the round. 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.
Each contestant secretly chose one of the three questions using buttons on their podiums, and their choices affected the gameplay as follows:
- 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 used 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 the chosen question was asked as a toss-up open to all three contestants. The same toss-up rules as above applied. A contestant who answered 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 category was eliminated from play and the last contestant to give a correct answer chose the next one. Play continued until all six categories were played or time ran out.
Six new categories were introduced and play continued as described above, with all question values doubled ($300/$400/$500, later $200/$300/$400).
As in Round One, play continued until all six categories were played or time ran out. Any players who finished the round with a zero or negative score were eliminated from the game.
One final category was presented. This time, each of the three questions in it had a different level of difficulty. The contestants were given fifteen seconds to choose a question, for which they would each wager a portion of their score totals. In the event that more than one contestant selected the same category, the one who made the highest wager was the only one allowed to attempt it.
Corresponding with the level of difficulty of each question were the betting odds attached to them. The easiest question was given "even" odds, meaning answering it correctly added the value of the wager to the contestant's bank. The question of intermediate difficulty was given "double" odds, with a correct answer paying 2:1 (bet $500, win $1,000). The most difficult of the three question was given "triple" odds and answering it correctly paid 3:1 (bet $1,000, win $3,000). If any of the contestants answered their respective questions incorrectly, only the value of the wager was deducted from their score.
In the event that only one player was left to play the Final Challenge, he/she could either play the round or skip it entirely. If the player decided to play the round, he/she chose one of the three questions and wagered a portion of his/her score. A correct answer paid off the wager at the appropriate odds, and the player could then stop or continue with a different questions. Play continued in this fashion until the player either chose to stop, answered all three questions, or gave an incorrect answer to any question.
The player in the lead after this round won the game and returned as champion 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. Contestants could also choose to receive their winnings in cash rather than open the account.
Champions remained on the show until they were defeated.
The Challengers featured a bonus round in which champions could win thousands of dollars. This round, the Ultimate Challenge, was played in two different formats during the show's run.
When the Ultimate Challenge was introduced, it was a game played for an accumulating cash jackpot.
The champion had to qualify for the round by winning three consecutive matches, and would them play the round at the start of the next program. A choice of two categories was available, each containing three questions. The questions each focused on a different subject within the category and were arranged in order of increasing 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. Following each question, the champion was given five seconds to think before responding. Giving an incorrect answer at any point ended the round, while correctly answering all three questions won the jackpot.
Initially, the jackpot began at $50,000 and was to increase by $5,000 every time a champion played for it and did not win. The champion on the pilot episode, Doak Fairey, was allowed to play the Ultimate Challenge; this was the only instance of a champion not needing three victories to qualify. Fairey failed to win, resulting in the jackpot increasing to $55,000 for the show's official debut. He was defeated before he could win a third game and re-qualify, and no champion won three games during the first two weeks of episodes. Beginning with the week of September 17, 1990, the rules were modified to increase the jackpot by $1,000 per day it went unclaimed and to reset it to $25,000 after it was won. Larry Caplan became the first Ultimate Challenge winner on September 24, collecting a $60,000 jackpot. The last player to play for and win the Ultimate Challenge under its original format rules was Stan Newman, who won a $31,000 jackpot on November 20, 1990.
When an Ultimate Challenge was played, the first round of that episode was shortened to end after three of its six categories had been played.
Beginning on November 21, 1990, the Ultimate Challenge was played as 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.
Tournament of Champions
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, and its structure was similar to the one employed by Jeopardy! during its own tournaments. 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.
After the match played on the November 9 episode, the field was set. Eight of the spots were filled by former champions. On the November 9 edition of the program, reigning champion Stan Newman won his second match and his total to that point made him one of the nine highest winners. In an unusual move, as many game shows that conduct tournaments like this do not feature sitting champione (including Jeopardy!), Newman interrupted his reign as champion to compete in the tournament.
The final concluded on November 16, 1990 with Newman emerging victorious. He won over $40,000, including the $25,000 bonus for his triumph, which along with the aforementioned $31,000 Ultimate Challenge victory helped Newman set an all-time Challengers record of $112,480 in winnings over six matches (two tournament wins plus four wins in regular play).
Nine teachers competed, using the same format as the Tournament of Champions; $10,000 was awarded to the winner.
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. 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.
The series was also unique in its payout structure: contestants received their winnings on a Citibank MasterCard or Visa credit card, although Dick referenced in some episodes that contestants had the option of converting the balance to cash.
- 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.
- "The Challengers" episode aired September 17, 1990
- 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.
- Schwarzbaum, Lisa (1990-10-23). "New Game Shows Trying to Play It Smart". Sun Sentinel. p. 4.E.