NBC (ended 2000)


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Welcome to the Twenty-One guide at 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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  • Bring Back This Show!

    I tried out online for the 2000 version of "Twenty One", having passed the exam six times but never getting a call-up by NBC to appear. I always wanted to answer the 10 and 11 point questions, as they were the most intellectually challenging. Since NBC had the gall to bring back "Fear Factor", they should relaunch this game show as well. Maury Povich could still qualify as series host, though a younger emcee would probably take his place. I always felt a feel-good tingle at the thought of being locked in an isolation booth, wearing only a t-shirt, trunks/underwear, pantyhose and sandals as well as answering difficult questions...maybe I'll get my wish yet...moreless
  • The richest game show in U.S. primetime television history. An underappreciated revival of a classic game show, starring Maury Povich as host and featuring two players in isolation booths.

    The NBC "Twenty One" revival, as hosted by Maury Povich, was an underappreciated gem that never should have been canceled, but unfortunately just couldn't muster the ratings.

    This version of "Twenty One" was based on the classic "Twenty One," which was the victim of a quiz show scandal featured in the film "Quiz Show." Maury Povich seemed like an odd choice to be tapped as host, but ultimately proved to be an adept emcee.

    In each episode, two players were locked in isolation booths so that they would have no idea how their opponent was doing. They would then select a category and then choose to go for a multiple-choice question with a point value from 1-11. Obviously, 1 point questions were ridiculously easy and 11 point questions were rather difficult. The first player to reach 21 was the champion. The first game won was worth $25,000, but returning champions could play for up to 1 million dollars, and keep going!

    "Twenty One" had truly big money and a fun format. It also had thrilling music, contestants you generally wanted to cheer for and excellent suspense. At the end of two rounds of questions, Maury would ask if either play wanted to stop the game. This often proved to be a wise decision for some players, but backfired in other cases. Generally, a contestant wanted to stop the game if he/she believed there was a good chance their point value was great than their opponents' because when the game was stopped, whoever had the most points would win.

    I wouldn't mind seeing this show revived again sometime and I'm thrilled GSN has picked up the repeat rights. This show is as compelling in repeats as it was originally.moreless
  • 2 contestants competed in seperate isolation booths in a race to score 21 points as fast as possible choosing 1-11 point questions. first to 21 wins, however wrong answers earn a strike with 3 strikes losing. players can also use a "second chance" if theymoreless

    Maury was really stiff at first. he slowly loosened up but could have used more time to settle in. The gameplay has potential but becomes repetitice after a while. Even with the changes to the payouts it still seemed to easy to win big money. Awarding strikes is a bad idea as it gives a potenital for a contestant to win without doing anything. The set was nice and the theme music awesome. Despite its flaws I still feel the show was cancelled too soon as it was generating very good ratings and if the show had lasted more than 19 episodes producers may have had time to work out the kinks.moreless

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