Big Bucks!!! No Whammies!!!

No one do the voodoo like MBRS do.

No one do the voodoo like MBRS do.

When did reality become TV?  Whatever happened to sitcoms?  Game shows? – Bowling For Soup, “1985”

When you turn on the TV during the late morning hours these days, you’re most likely going to see one of the expanded morning news shows as it rolls over into the talk show format of its program… assuming there isn’t breaking news going on at the time, like flashback fridayLindsey Lohan appearing in court again or a nationwide search to find Paris Hilton’s dog.  Back in my day, I remember when this time of the morning was dominated by the game show.  All morning long, you had great fare like The Price is Right, Sale of the Century, and The Whatever Dollar Amount It Happens To Be Now Pyramid.  Even Wheel of Fortune had a daytime network produced version!  Of course, the one show that was the undisputed king of all morning game shows, and is about as representative of the decade as any show can be, was that legendary tribute to hyperactivity, the Whammy infested half hour spectacle known as Press Your Luck, the topic of this week’s Flashback Friday.



Press Your Luck aired on CBS from September 1983 through September 1986.  Yes, it was only on the air for three years, but no game show has had quite the success PYL did in syndication reruns…. first on the USA Network during the late 80’s and early 90’s (Yep, I watched that afternoon game show block all the time!) and later on GSN… and because it has been omnipresent on TV for the last 30 years, it just seems like the show ran for a long time.  The show starred host Peter Tomarken, who was responsible for keeping the lid on the rambunctious bunch of contestants the show was constantly running out in front of the Big Board.  Since I’ve spent a third of my life hanging with a community full of game show fanatics, I have since learned that game shows carefully screen and test their contestants to ensure they meet the annoying levels of excitement and bubbliness that the 18-49 year old demographic require to be entertained… but at the time, I always wondered how in the hell this show seemed to find all the goofballs out there in the world….

pyramid game show

Dick Clark would have never tolerated these fools!

Each show during Press Your Luck’s halcyon days began with a montage of past contestants playing the Big Board in dramatic moments.  Then Rod Roddy (aka, the most awesome game show announcer ever) would fire up the studio audience and the viewers at home by letting us know the contestants we were about to see were playing for BIG BUCKS… but they’ll have to avoid THE WHAMMY… as they play THE MOST EXCITING GAME IN THEIR LIVES!!!

has anyone ever seen Rod Roddy and Elton John in the same place at the same time?

has anyone ever seen Rod Roddy and Elton John in the same place at the same time?

The concept of the show was simple… players earned spins by answering trivia questions that were either simple enough for a kindergartner to answer, or based on some silly survey that nobody could possibly know the answer to.  After each of the two rounds, the contestants would take their spins and play the Big Board, which featured 18 screens alternating images between cash, prizes, free spins, and of course whammies.  Hit four whammies over the course of the game, and you were out.  End with the most cash and prizes after all the spins were exhausted in the second round, and you won all your loot and got to play again the next day, if you could stand another half hour of excessive perkitudiness…

Hooly has Perkitude!

I’m good to go all week!

Of course, besides the display of people off their ADHD medication, the show was best known for its little red gremlins, the whammies.  They not only had the nerve to take all of your winnings should you land on one, but they’d further rub it in with an entertaining little spectacle while they did so.  The famous whammy animations that would fire up each time a contestant’s luck ran out were an extremely innovative and novel concept for game shows that made PYL stand out even further from its brethren.  Here’s a YouTube video with a collection of some of these clever little gags that made us laugh and contestants cry…

Press Your Luck also had the distinction of being the target of one the most infamous and extremely clever game show “cheats” ever.  Michael Larson appeared on the show back in June 1984, and rung up $110,237 in cash and prizes on a marathon run of 45 spins.  How did he keep getting free spins and avoiding the Whammy?  He did his homework…

doctor sprots

Using the quadratic equation, I can win a trip to Tahiti!

Larson taped earlier episodes of the show and studied the Big Board carefully, and he began to notice that the images and the seemingly randomly moving “marker” actually conformed to a pattern.  Armed with this knowledge, he managed to earn a spot on the show and completely fleece CBS in the process.  Larson’s show was initially shown as a two part episode because it ran for so long, and once it was found out how Larson pulled off his big win, the board’s patterns were made more complicated and his episodes were pulled from the syndication package.  I gotta admire someone who can pick up on patterns even better than I can…

blaze and sulphur

I could go on and on about the beautifully intricate pattern of the 2007 National League schedule that only I seem to have noticed, but I’d probably lose my entire audience…

Like pretty much everything else that ever existed, Press Your Luck got a revival as well.  GSN did a reboot of the show called “Whammy!” back in 2002-2003 that featured more modern technology behind the board and the animations.  I never saw a minute of the new show, so I can’t comment on its quality… but I think I can safely say it did not come close to being the phenomenon the original Press Your Luck was… because it was such an original that it’s formula could never be duplicated to achieve the same results…

Seriously, Alex???

Seriously, Alex???

The good old days of game shows…. they have come and gone, my friends…..


About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
This entry was posted in Flashbacks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Big Bucks!!! No Whammies!!!

  1. Wow… blast from the past! I watched PYL while my little ones were napping… now they’re all grown up and married. Yikes! I used to watch a show called “Shop ‘Til You Drop” too. I think it was on right after it. People ran around like crazy to trying to get as much stuff in their buggies as possible. Crazy! Hey, by the way – Thanks for the Follow! 🙂

    • No prob!

      I remember that game show you’re talking about (I think it was on Lifetime, or some other cable channel), but I remember it as Supermarket Sweep. Everyone would always run for the turkeys during the sweep because they knew they had the highest price tag!!! I may have to put that one in the reserve for a future FF post!

      • Randy West says:

        Fun read, evilsquirrel13!
        When you get around to Supermarket Sweep, give me a shout. I announced the show and narrated the sweeps the last few years it was on the air, and would enjoy reminiscing about that great show.

      • Awesome! My very first celebrity comment! 🙂

        “Sweep” was more of a fave among my sisters, but if I do end up doing a Flashback Friday on it, I will definitely remember to let you know! Thanks again for reading my post and for the comment!

  2. merbear74 says:

    You forgot The Jokers Wild!! Loved that one too..and that dating game one..Great post, as usual.

    • Ooooh, I remember that one being on in the evening! It was part of a block of shows I watched before bedtime when I was real little along with another game show called “Make Me Laugh”, which would be a great flashback show if I could recall much about it…

  3. Valerie says:

    Oh man! I LOVED Press Your Luck!! Totally forgot about it until now. 😀 And Concentration! And, of course Wheel of Fortune and The Price is Right. Pyramid was good too.
    Reality shows can’t compete… 😉

    • Yes! I hate it when reality shows get lumped in with game shows… they’re definitely two different animals! Game shows are more like sports, the drama is in the competition, while with reality shows, most of the drama comes from careful and clever editing…

  4. The Cutter says:

    In kindergarten, my friends and I would happily discuss the various antics of the Whammy from that mornings edition of PYL. I would get so mad when people avoided the Whammy

    • I’m sure the producers did too, because everyone wanted to see the Whammy celebrations. Perhaps PYL was also innovative in that it was one of the first game shows to make a big production out of its contestants misfortune (enough so that viewers would root for it), much like some of these more modern game shows do….

  5. gentlestitches says:

    What a fun post! I love the perkitude.

  6. Felix says:

    I’m watching an episode on BUZZR, the game show channel produced and programmed by FremantleMedia. And just like I did as a child (during its CBS run), I am rooting FOR the Whammy.

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