The Cheap Show

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The Cheap Show
Created by Chris Bearde
Presented by Dick Martin
Narrated by Charlie O'Donnell
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 23+
Running time 30 minutes
Original network Syndicated (weekly)
Original release September 1978 – September 1979

The Cheap Show was a syndicated game show parody that aired in 1978 and 1979. It was produced by Chris Bearde and hosted by Dick Martin along with his side-kick Wanda (Janelle Price).[1] The show's announcer was Charlie O'Donnell.


Two couples competed to win cheap junk prizes and save their loved ones from slapstick "torture," which consisted of the show "taking a cheap shot at" them of some sort, with the winning couple getting the chance to win real prizes at the end of the show.

Main game[edit]

There were three rounds, each consisting of one question. Two celebrities composed a panel; a seat was reserved for a third, who was always a "no-show" for some mysterious reason. For each round, a question was asked to the panel. One celebrity gave the correct answer, while the other gave a bluff.

Each couple was divided, with the female at the contestants's podium, and the male trapped inside "The Punishment Pit." The first answering contestant guessed which celebrity was telling the truth. If she was correct, that couple scored one point and a cheap "prize" (such as an old bee smoker or a burned-out hair dryer), while the other player's loved one was "punished" with a pie in his face, slime, or some other sloppy substance. If she was incorrect, her own loved one received his punishment and the opposing couple won the point and the "prize."

In the second round, the other couple was given the guess, and the same procedure was followed.

The first two rounds were worth one point apiece, and the third round was worth 20 points; this rendered the first two useless from a competitive standpoint. Whichever contestant had the most points "at the end of three rounds" advanced to the bonus round.

The Semi-Colossal Prize Sweepstakes Finale[edit]

A wheel was set up in the studio with twelve numbered spaces, each of which correlated to a numbered envelope on a "prize wall." Each space also had a hole. To determine the prize the couple would win, a large white rat, referred to on the show as "Oscar the Wonder Rodent," was placed on the wheel while it was being spun. The hole Oscar crawled into determined the prize that was won.

At this stage in the show, no cheap "booby prizes" were awarded as they were in the main game; the winning couple won standard game show fare such as appliances or trips. In addition, the couple was asked before the wheel was spun to guess the hole they thought Oscar would crawl into; if the rat crawled into that hole, the couple won the grand prize (usually a car) in addition to the prize associated with that space.


Many of the reviews were mixed. One TV reviewer, who worked at the now-defunct Philadelphia Journal, thought the show was so bad he had a viewer do a review; the layout failed to include the standard formatting, employing instead a double-spaced sheet of standard copy used at that time.

Episode status[edit]

The current status of the show is unknown, and may have been destroyed due to a common practice known as wiping. One episode, the premiere, currently exists among private collectors. Another episode (episode 4) with Rita Moreno and David Doyle, plus a seat reserved for no-show Henry Ford, is available for viewing on YouTube.

Three others, with guests Truman Capote and Jill St. John (episode 2), Anthony Newley and Bob Newhart (episode 18), and Jim Stafford with Charlie Callas (episode 23), exist at the UCLA television archives, along with the Moreno/Doyle episode.[2]

On one other memorable episode, Richard Nixon was a no-show guest, while Gary Owens and Barbi Benton were the guests that showed up.

External links[edit]