Twenty-One

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NBC (ended 2000)

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Twenty-One

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Welcome to the Twenty-One guide at TV.com. Twenty-One was NBC's attempt to cash in on the success of popular primetime big money game shows, such as ABC's Who Wants to be a Millionaire and FOX's Greed. A revival of a 1950's game show which had a major scandal, later documented in the film Quiz Show, Twenty-One's format was similar to that of the original program, but featured huge cash payouts, some of the largest ever awarded in game show history. The basic format for Twenty-One was that two contestants faced off against each-other: a challenger and a returning champion. The challenger played for $100,000 ($25,000 in later episodes), while the returning champion played for larger amounts, based on how many games they had already won. The object of the game was to reach 21 points and to do so, the contestants had to choose from questions ranging in point value from 1-11. Before each question, they were told the general category, so they had an opportunity to make an educated guess as to whether they should choose to go for a higher point value, or play it safe with a lower-value question. The catch was that these decisions were, except in special cases, made entirely independent of their opponent's decisions, as each player was sent to a soundproof booth where they could hear nothing that was happening with their opponent. Sounds of audience applause and music were channeled into the contestants headphones, so they could not pick up on the audience reaction to the other answers. The questions generally were more difficult as the point values increased. The questions were multiple-choice, but those with values from 1-6 had only three answer choices. Questions with a point-value from 7-9 were not only more difficult, but also had four answer choices. A ten-point question also had four answer choices, but with the special caveat that one of the answers was always D. None of the Above. Finally, an 11-point question was by far the toughest. There were a total of five answers, with two of them being correct. If a contestant got a question correct, the point value would be added to their total, however, if they answered the question incorrectly, they received a strike. Like in baseball, three strikes resulted in an automatic loss of the game. In answering the questions, the players were not entirely on their own. Each player was allowed a "Second Chance," a close friend or family member that was kept backstage in the studio. The player was allowed to bring out this Second Chance one time per game to help them with a question. The Second Chance was a helpful asset to many players, but was also a double-edged sword. If a player brought out their Second Chance and got the question wrong, they would receive two strikes. If did not have any to start with, they would be in a bad position later on. If they already had one or two strikes, it would mean they were out of the game. At the end of the second round, both players' booths would be open and they would each be given an opportunity to stop the game. Stopping the game meant that whoever was in the lead would automatically end the game. This proved to be a good decision for many players, as it kept them from having to continue on and possibly play a sudden-death tiebreaker with their opponent. However, like the Second Chance, it was a double-edged sword because if a player chose to stop the game and they were not in the lead, they would lose the game and their opponent would be the winner. If both players reached 21 without striking out or the game ending at the end of the second-round, a sudden-death tiebreaker was played. One question would be asked and the first player to buzz in with the correct answer would be the new champion. At the end of every game, whoever was the current champion would play a special bonus round called "Perfect 21." In this round, the questioning format was switched to true / false. There was a possible total of six questions, with values from $10,000 to $60,000. All of these questions in a particular round were from the same category. A champion could choose to stop at any time, however, if they chose to continue and answered a question incorrectly, they would lose everything they had already won in the bonus round. The first four shows were on Sunday and Wednesday nights at 9.00, then it was picked up for a season. Garth Ancier, who was running NBC prime-time programming at that time, hated game shows, publicly stating that he hoped the revival would be short-lived. Twenty-One was moved all over the NBC schedule, despite getting good ratings for its first eleven airings, especially on Wednesday nights. Then several episodes were pre-empted with little notice, and the show reappeared on Monday nights an hour earlier, at 8.00, opposite strong sitcoms from CBS and Fox. ABC occasionally dropped Millionaire into the same slot. In mid-February 2000, Maury Povich appeared on The Larry King Show, and said that if the show were to be renewed, he would demand that it be moved to New York, logistically so that he could be near his daytime talk show. The writing was on the wall. Shortly after, the cancellation was announced. Nineteen hours had been taped, but only fifteen were shown on NBC. A deal was then announced with PAX network broadcasting all episodes in order, beginning Saturday, April 8, at 9.00pm. All have been rerun on GSN in recent years. For continuity purposes, this guide lists the original NBC scheduled broadcasts.moreless
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