Weakest Link (U.S. game show)
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|The Weakest Link|
Anne Robinson (NBC)|
George Gray (syndication)
John Cramer (NBC)|
Lisa Friedman (syndication)
|Theme music composer||Paul Farrer|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||
|No. of episodes||
83 (10 unaired: NBC)|
|Location(s)||NBC Studios, Burbank, California|
60 minutes (NBC)|
30 minutes (syndication)
The Gurin Company
Weakest Link Productions
NBCUniversal Television Distribution
|Original release||April 16, 2001– May 20, 2003|
|Related shows||The Weakest Link|
Weakest Link is an American game show that made its debut in 2001. It was an adaptation of a British series of the same name.
The series made its debut on NBC on April 16, 2001, and aired once a week for sixty minutes as part of the network's prime time schedule. The network cancelled Weakest Link in 2002 and its final episode aired on July 14, 2002, with ten episodes left unaired. These were eventually shown on PAX and GSN years later.
While the primetime series was still being produced, NBC began developing a daily half-hour edition that would be syndicated to local stations. This version launched on January 7, 2002, and aired for a season and a half with the last new episode airing on May 20, 2003.
Hosts and announcers
As was the case with the British version, Anne Robinson served as host for the NBC Weakest Link. George Gray, whose most notable hosting experience to that point was on Extreme Gong, hosted the syndicated version.
For the entire American run, the game was conducted in the same way as the British version, with a team of players trying to reach and bank a set target within a time limit by compiling a chain of correct answers that would be broken with an incorrect answer or if a player decided to bank the money that was already in the chain. On NBC, the team was composed of eight people (six on a special half hour episode featuring contestants from the first season of Survivor aired on May 10, 2001, and five on a special celebrity edition aired during halftime of an NBA on NBC telecast) looking to win up to $1,000,000. In the syndicated series, the team size was reduced to six players and the potential top prize was significantly reduced. The first season offered a potential top prize of $75,000, and the second season saw that figure increased to $100,000.
The game started with the winner of a backstage draw before the show began. The first round was played for 2 minutes 30 seconds on the NBC series and 1 minute 45 seconds on the syndicated series, and any money that the team managed to bank over the course of the round was saved. Reaching the target and banking it immediately ended the round.
Regardless of the outcome, at the conclusion of the round the team was prompted to vote to eliminate one of their teammates that they felt underperformed in the previous round (the so-called "weakest link" in the chain). Once voting concluded, each player revealed their votes one at a time and the one with the most votes was eliminated from further play and dismissed from the stage with the host telling him/her "you are the weakest link, goodbye." In the event of a tied vote, the player who was that round's "strongest link" was revealed and called upon to break the tie, with his/her choice then being eliminated.
For each subsequent round that followed, the team was given less time to complete the chain. The NBC series reduced the time limit by ten seconds per round, while the syndicated series reduced it by fifteen. Play would begin with the strongest link from the previous round unless that player had been voted out, which would result in the next best player starting.
After six rounds of play on the NBC series and four on the syndicated series, the final two players on the team remained. For the entire run of the NBC series, a seventh round was played for 90 seconds (1:30) with the two remaining team members. Any money that they managed to bank was doubled and added to the previously banked money to determine the final prize total.
The abbreviated first season of the syndicated series also used the double stakes round, which was conducted for 45 seconds with the last two players. The change in the potential top prize for the second season resulted in this round being cut from the show. Instead, the game ended after the fourth round and the two surviving players after the last vote advanced to the final round to play for the accumulated money in their bank.
The bank's target value was the maximum amount of money that a team could accumulate in any one round, and if a team reached the target and banked it while already having money in the bank, the bank would be augmented to the target value instead of having the target value added to the bank.
|Standard episodes||Survivor special||NBA Halftime specials||Season 1||Season 2|
The final round was a head-to-head showdown between the two surviving team members. The NBC series used a best-of-five format, with the syndicated series using a best-of-three. Before the round, the strongest link from the previous round was given the choice of whether to play first or second. In the second syndicated season, the choice went to the second strongest link if the two had eliminated the strongest link in the final vote.
The host would then ask one question at a time to each player, alternating back and forth. They would then answer the question, after which the host would either say "that is the correct answer" or inform them that they were incorrect and give them the right answer. Play continued in this manner until either all five (or three) questions per side were asked or until it became impossible for one of the two finalists to win.
The winner of the final round was named the day's strongest link and won all of the money in the bank with the opponent winning nothing.
In the event of a tie, a series of sudden death questions were asked until one of the finalists could not duplicate the other's performance.
The NBC version of The Weakest Link started off well in the ratings, but quickly began to slip. The producers then decided that having celebrities play the game would boost ratings and so they planned many episodes with celebrities as contestants, along with "theme" episodes in which the contestants were playing for charity. However, these changes caused even lower ratings and accelerated the show's cancellation.
The syndicated Weakest Link performed well in its abbreviated first season and earned a renewal for a full second season in 2002. However, the ratings fell off by a considerably large margin and the series was not renewed for a third season. Among other things that were blamed, including the format change, was the premiere of a daily syndicated edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire that same year; many stations that had been airing Weakest Link picked Millionaire up for the fall, resulting in the show either being dropped by those stations or moved to a late-night timeslot on several that kept it.
In May 2001, the BBC began to show episodes of the American NBC primetime version. These were billed as 'Weakest Link USA' in programming guides, although the title sequence was not altered to reflect this fact. Break bumpers and references to commercial breaks were removed and alternative credits were used (these credits were used when GSN began reairing the series). Notably, despite the show being produced by the BBC, the famous 'BBC Blocks' were not included (as was a requirement at that time for all BBC produced or funded programming) in the title sequence. The BBC did not air the 30-minute syndicated version.
Various special episodes aired on both the NBC and syndicated versions. Occasionally the contestants on these episodes all had something in common, such as an episode featuring celebrities, members of the same family, contestants with the same occupation or Halloween and Christmas episodes in which all the contestants wore holiday-themed costumes. Other episodes invited back previously-losing contestants, either those who had lost in the final round or those who were eliminated in the first round of voting on their original episode.
Celebrity episodes were seen frequently on the NBC version. On these episodes, all participants played for charity (as is traditionally the case with all-celebrity shows), and losing celebrities still received $10,000-$25,000 for their respective charities; for this reason, the portion of John Cramer's opening spiel that went "the rest will leave with nothing" had the last two of those words omitted, while Anne's farewell to the final round loser was changed from "you leave with nothing" to "you will just go away". Some of the most notable Weakest Link specials were two World Wrestling Federation Edition episodes. The first episode, which aired in 2001, saw Triple H defeat his wife Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Lita, William Regal, The Big Show, and Trish Stratus. The second episode aired in 2002 and broadcast Kane turning back the Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von), Stone Cold Steve Austin, Terri Runnels, Debra, Jerry Lawler, and Edge.
- Weakest Link. Season 1. Episode 7. May 10, 2001. NBC.
- Weakest Link. Season 1. Episode 13–14. June 8–10, 2001. NBC.