"Close calls...narrow escapes...split-second decisions...and $25,000 in cash! A combination guaranteed to make you say...Whew!"Game Show
created by former Jeopardy!
contestant Jay Wolpert
, and one of his first works after leaving Mark Goodson
-Bill Todman Productions. Hosted by Tom Kennedy, the show ran on CBS
The rules...oh, boy. Stay with us here. There were two contestants — one as the Blocker, one as the Charger. The Blocker would place six Blocks on the game board, which had five Levels of five boxes each (valued from $10-$50), plus a sixth Level with only three boxes ($200, $350, $500). No more than three Blocks could be placed on any of the first five Levels, and no more than one on Level 6. After the Blocks were placed, the Charger took control of the board, with 60 seconds
to clear all six Levels by correcting "bloopers" — clues with an intentionally wrong word (e.g., "Bob Barker is the host of The Price Is Too Damn High
", with the correct answer being The Price Is Right
). A correct answer advanced to the next Level, while an incorrect answer required the Charger to select another dollar amount on the same Level; finding a Block imposed a five-second penalty. If the Charger wanted (typically if time was running short), s/he could call "Longshot!" and advance immediately to Level 6, where the Blocker would place a seventh Block using one of three "secret buttons". Following this round, the Blocker and Charger then traded places. Games were played best-of-three, and the winner advanced to the Bonus Round
Still with us? The bonus round was the Gauntlet of Villains. Here, the contestant was given 60 seconds plus
one second for every $100 won through Charging and Blocking. Tom would ask a series of rapid-fire bloopers, and each correct answer awarded $100 and one step past each Villain (a series of cartoonish characters); a wrong answer meant that "Villain" displayed the correct answer on their "Telly Belly". Getting past all ten Villains in the given time awarded $25,000.
On November 5, the format was slightly altered to use teams of one contestant and one celebrity. This venture, appropriately called Celebrity Whew!
and originally promoted to run for three weeks, ended up remaining until the show's end on May 30, 1980. Among those who participated were Trish Stewart, Jamie Farr, Gary Collins, Mary Ann Mobley, Robert Vaughn, Marcia Wallace, John Saxon, and Betty White
- Bonus Round: The Gauntlet of Villains.
- When the show became Celebrity Whew!, the format was adjusted so matches wouldn't straddle between episodes. To help this, players who won the first two rounds then played a third round against the house for additional money/Gauntlet time. The six Blocks were placed by the Villains, with a seventh added on Level 6 if the Longshot was used.
- Celebrity Edition: The show switched to two celebrity-contestant teams in November 1979, but unlike many other examples of this trope Celebrity Whew! didn't really suffer all that much — other than the aforementioned "no straddling" alteration, the only real change was that the teams split duties in Charging, Blocking, and running the Gauntlet.
- Game Show Winnings Cap: Any player who beat the Gauntlet retired immediately. Sometime between mid-June and late July 1979, following Howard Wilson's seven-episode run, a five-game limit was added.
- Sound Proof Booth: While the Blocker placed Blocks on the board, the Charger sat behind a scenic flat wearing headphones that played white noise.
- Sudden Death: Any time "Longshot!" got yelled out, which typically happened when the Charger knew s/he wasn't going to get to Level 6 before time ran out. Yelling "Longshot!" stopped the clock, with the sound effect of screeching tires and a crash, then immediately brought said Charger to Level 6.
- Once the Blocker put a "secret Block" among the three amounts (Tom reminded the Charger that there may already be a Block on Level 6), the Charger had to find a blooper and correct it to win. If the Charger couldn't at that point (by either finding a Block or not solving the blooper), the Blocker won.
- Whammy: The Block, which forced the Charger to wait five seconds before selecting another value on that Level. The Blocker, meanwhile, was awarded the amount attached to it.
This show provides examples of:
- Animated Credits Opening: Done by none other than Hanna-Barbera. A young lady dodges the Gauntlet's characters in what appears to be a Scooby-Doo-style haunted house, eventually reaching a large pot of gold. A word bubble comes out of her mouth, which turns into the show's logo before dissolving to the same logo on-set.
- Calvinball: Just look at the freaking rules, although it becomes a lot easier to understand upon watching an episode or two.
- Creative Closing Credits: The crew members' names were enclosed in comic-strip Speech Bubbles in the shape of the show's logo.
- Downer Ending: Randy Amasia, a high-profile member of the online game show community, was a contestant on August 27-28, 1979 and searched for years for his second episode. Just hours before a copy was secured, he died of throat cancer.
- Both of his episodes circulate as master copies, but his first day also circulates from its original broadcast. The person who taped it, a co-worker of Randy, then forgot to tape the second episode (with the $25,000 win); Randy stated years later that he felt it wasn't a coincidence that said co-worker quickly became a former co-worker.
- Grand Finale: The last show had a final Block configuration (composed by the Villains, as per the format) of $20 and $40 on Level 2, $30 on Levels 3-5, and $350 on Level 6 — resulting in what was either a finger with $350 as its green nail, or a penis; in either case, Kennedy seemed to notice what they were going for.
- Greek Chorus: "TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME'S UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!" by the "Villains" — and they loved letting you know it, too.
- Hurricane of Puns: They flew fast, freely, and furiously here, including one about an announcer named "I Beg Your" Pardo.
- Mercy Kill: If a contestant used up all five spots on a Level and didn't correct any bloopers, s/he automatically moved on to the next Level. Although this may seem like rewarding failure, using up all five spots (especially if three were Blocks) led to a higher chance of forcing the contestant to use the Longshot.
- Timed Mission: 60 seconds in the front game, 60 seconds plus one second for every $100 earned from Charging and Blocking in the Gauntlet.