$1,000,000 Chance of A Lifetime

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(ended 1987)

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$1,000,000 Chance of A Lifetime

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A big-money gimmick can only take a game show so far. After the Quiz Show Scandals of the 1950s (where big bucks meant big ratings), few producers were willing to try shows with large-sum grand prizes. Those that did usually were awful shows and had ratings to match. Some people would cite $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime as a textbook example of how big money does not necessarily mean big excitement. Two married couples, including possibly a returning champion, competed. The idea was to solve a series of word puzzles, which were actually clues to a master solution. One clue was played at a time, with each letter filling in (at the rate of one per half second); the first team to buzz in wins $25 and the right to step to a giant keyboard. Ah, the keyboard. Arranged in a 3-by-9 grid, all the letters that are in the master solution are lighted, along with an extra letter (referred to as "The Stinger"). The designated team member presses up to two letters, with their choices adding $25 to the puzzle bank for each time that letter appears in the puzzle and could guess or pass. If the player chose the Stinger, he/she lost their right to use the keyboard for the rest of that; an asterik (*) button represented punctuation and was never a Stinger. Up to five clues were presented for each puzzle. Correctly guessing the puzzle won the value of the puzzle bank. Three rounds (sometimes more) were played, with the second puzzle values worth $50, the third and all subsequent puzzles worth $100. The couple in the lead when time expired won the right to go to the bonus round. The couple is locked into an isolation booth, which is wired so they can only hear host Lange. They choose one of three possible categories (e.g., video games, hamburger toppings, Midwestern cities), and have 60 seconds to guess six one-word clues (which, like before, fill in one at a time). Each correct guess was worth $100, while getting all six on their first two appearances means they win the following take-it-or-leave-it prize: • Win 1 – $5,000. • Win 2 – $10,000. Giving back the prize allowed the couple to compete the next day. Winning on their third trip to the bonus round won the couple the $1 million grand prize. At any point should the couple fail to guess all six words within 60 seconds, their championship reign is terminated (though they kept any previous front-game winnings and the $100 per correct word consolation for that bonus round). The grand prize was paid out thusly: • Spring 1986: All cash, paid out in $40,000 annuities over a 25-year period. • 1986-1987: $900,000 cash, plus a $100,000 prize package – including two cars, 20 round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world and enough furniture and appliances to fill a house. So, big money and big ratings, right? Dead wrong in this case – though the ratings were quite high early in $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime's run. The main fault, viewers opined, was that the hybrid Wheel of Fortune and Scrabble formats never seemed to fit together, and the end product just wasn't very exciting. While viewers wanted the couples to win (about 10 couples won the grand prize), they likened $1,000,000 Million Chance of a Lifetime to watching a boring tennis match, and by the end of the 1986-1987 season, this game's chances ran out.

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