High Finance

CBS (ended 1956)


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High Finance

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Ever dream of owning your own miniature golf course with driving range? How 'bout a gourmet restaurant with a chef trained by the Culinary Academy of Long Island? Or, maybe your own men's fashion store would suit your fancy. Welcome to reality television ... ... of the 1950s. Yes, there was such a genre as reality TV in the age of innocence, and it came in the form of High Finance. Long before Donald Trump made his first millions and coined the phrase "You're fired!", affiable game show favorite Dennis James was helping people make their dreams come true. The premise behind High Finance was to answer questions and then "invest" a portion of the winnings on subsequent questions. Winning enough times allowed the player to obtain their dream prize (the aforementioned golf course, restaurant, etc.) and a $75,000 cash jackpot. Several levels were played each week on High Finance, with different contestants playing at the different levels. For instance, one contestant might be just starting the game at Level 1 while another might have been on for several weeks and playing for bigger prizes. But to make it easier, here's how a contestant's advance toward the $75,000 grand prize went: Each new contestant (after the requisite introduction, interview and announcement on their dream grand prize) had previously been given three newspapers to study. James asked a series of five questions based on what they read. Correct answers were worth $300, and a player had to answer at least three correctly to move onto the Investment segment. Each contestant played the Investment segment once a week. In this part of the game, the contestant played for a prize that was worth part of his/her bankroll. Before hearing a general knowledge question, the player wagered any portion of his previous winnngs on his/her ability to answer correctly. A correct answer won the wager and the prize, a wrong answer lost it (yup, similar to today's Jeopardy!). Getting enough wrong answers (i.e., "bad investments") caused the player to lose everything they had won and thus end his/her championship reign. But winning allowed a contestant to return to the next show and invest his stake in even larger prizes. A player could leave at any point with what they had won, but winning four times allowed the player to play for his/her dream prize, and a fifth trip the $75,000 jackpot (after which he/she retired). An example of what a player might play for on each level: * Level 1: $1,500 U.S. savings bonds or his/her wardrobe. * Level 2: A swimming pool or a trip to Europe. * Level 3: Two new cars (worth $7,500) * Level 4: The dream prize * Level 5: $75,000. No one ever did manage to snare their dream prize or the $75,000 cash during High Finance's six-month run, though there were plenty of players who took home winnings in the $10,000-$25,000 range. The short run of High Finance probably speaks for itself, and CBS apparently decided to invest its stakes in other programming (including other "big money" quiz shows).moreless