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Retro : The Games People Played


Old game shows never die. They continue to tantalize our taste and greed daily, thanks to syndication and cable. Two cable networks--USA and the Family Channel--currently air old game shows as part of their weekday lineups.

Two years ago, USA introduced its game show parade, which consists of "Sale of the Century," "The Joker's Wild," "The New Tic Tac Dough," "Press Your Luck," "Scrabble," "The $25,000 Pyramid" and "The $100,000 Pyramid."

"Sale of the Century" premiered in 1969 on NBC with Jack Kelly of "Maverick" as host. The merchandise giveaway show featured contestants winning the right to buy prizes at a low price by answering simple questions. Joe Garagiola succeeded Kelly in 1971; the series continued until 1973. "Sale" reappeared in 1983 on NBC with Jim Perry as the host and continued until 1989.

Jack Barry was host of "The Joker's Wild," when it premiered on CBS in 1973. Two contestants took turns spinning devices that resembled slot machines for a chance to answer questions. The show aired for three seasons and was in syndication from 1976 to 1986. When Barry died in 1984, Bill Cullen took over. Pat Finn, host of Lifetime's "Shop 'til You Drop," emceed the short-lived 1990 revival.

Peter Tomarken was the host of "Press Your Luck," which aired 1983-86 on CBS. Three players competed for money and prizes by answering questions correctly.

Chuck Woolery was the emcee of "Scrabble," NBC's 1984-90 version of the popular word game that featured two contestants attempting to identify words from clues read by Woolery.

"The $25,000 Pyramid" and "The 100,000 Pyramid" featured two teams, each with a celebrity and a contestant, who competed in a two-part word game. The series aired on CBS from 1973-74; on ABC from 1974-80; in syndication from 1974-79 and 1981; on CBS from 1982-88; and 1985-89 and 1991 in syndication. The first syndicated version was emceed by Bill Cullen, the 1991 version by John Davidson. Dick Clark was the host of all other versions.

"The New Tic Tac Dough" premiered both on CBS and in syndication in July 1978, with Wink Martindale as host. A tic-tac-toe game board was divided into nine categories. One of the two players selected a category and a question was read. Whoever answered the question correctly won the square. The series continued in syndication until 1986. Patrick Wayne was the host of a new 1990 syndicated version.

The Family Channel premiered its game-show lineup in June. The block includes the new show "Trivial Pursuit," emceed by Martindale, as well as favorites "The Cross-Wits," "$100,000 Name That Tune" and "Let's Make a Deal."

Ralph Edwards was the executive producer of "The Cross-Wits," which aired in syndication from 1976-80 and 1986-87. Two teams, each consisting of two celebrities and a contestant, scored points by filling in words on a crossword puzzle. Jack Clark was the host of the first version; David Sparks took over in the '80s.

The musical identification game show "Name That Tune" actually began on NBC in 1953. In 1974, new versions appeared on both NBC and in syndication. Both had the "Bid-a-Note" round in which the contestants challenged each other to identify a song in as few notes as possible, and the "Golden Medley," in which the winner tried to identify seven songs in 30 seconds. In 1976, the syndicated version, hosted by Tom Kennedy, was retitled "The $100,000 Name That Tune" and aired through 1980.

"Let's Make a Deal" remains one of the most loved, best known and goofiest of all game shows. Each day, 31 audience members dressed in the most embarrassing garb of their own making to be selected to sit in a trading area in hopes of making a big deal with TV's big dealer, Monty Hall. The lure of a bird in the hand vs. the possibility of two or three in the bush tested contestants' gambling mettle.

As the game went on, they could go for a sure thing or whatever was behind one of three curtains or doors, one of which hid a lame to useless prize. At the conclusion, the players with the most in prizes were given a chance to go for the Big Deal. "Let's Make a Deal" aired on NBC from 1963-68 and ABC from 1968-76. The syndicated version aired from 1971-76, 1980 and 1984-85. In 1990, NBC introduced a new version with Bob Hilton, which was history within six months.

"Sale of the Century" airs at 1:30 p.m.; "The Joker's Wild" at 2 p.m.; "The New Tic Tac Dough at 2:30 p.m.; "Press Your Luck" at 3 p.m.; "Scrabble" at 3:30 p.m.; "The $25,000 Pyramid" at 4 p.m. and "The $100,000 Pyramid" at 4:30 p.m. weekdays, all on USA.

"The Cross-Wits" airs at 11:30 a.m.; "Trivial Pursuit" at 12:30 p.m.; "The $100,000 Name That Tune" at 1 p.m. and "Let's Make a Deal" at 1:30 p.m. weekdays on the Family Channel.

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