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Series: Concentration
Can you tell us what the puzzle says?

NBC's longest-running daytime Game Show was created in the late 1950s by Jack Barry, Dan Enright, Robert Noah and Buddy Piper, just before the quiz scandals broke. The Concentration format was simple: Two contestants took turns matching prizes on a board of 30 numbered panels, hoping to solve the underlying rebus puzzle. It ran almost 15 years, from August 25, 1958 to March 23, 1973.

Jack Barry was the original producer of Concentration, as well as Twenty One and Tic-Tac-Dough. Shortly into the run, NBC took over production of Concentration and canned Twenty-One. Hugh Downs, most notable to news fans as a Today Show anchor, hosted from 1958-69. Barry himself helmed a four-episode nighttime version, which replaced the aforementioned Twenty-One. A second nighttime edition, this time in color, aired for six months in 1961.

Concentration was the last NBC show to go from monochrome to color (November 1966). Producer Norm Blumenthal agreed to the transition only on the condition that his puzzles remain in two-tone white against a gray background, feeling that color puzzles would give away clues too readily.

By December 1968, Downs was feeling stretched due to his various NBC commitments and chose to remain on Today. Bob Clayton, then the announcer, began hosting on January 6, 1969 but was replaced by Ed McMahon from March-September. Clayton, who returned to the announcing booth during this time, became host again and remained through the end in 1973.

Five months after the show left NBC daytime, Goodson-Todman launched a five-a-week syndicated series with Jack Narz as host. Proving that Concentration still had an audience, this version ran on mostly NBC affiliates and ended in 1978. After an abysmal 1985 pilot hosted by Orson Bean, the latest version (Classic Concentration with Alex Trebek) ran on NBC from 1987-91.

The format was exported to ITV and to Australia's Seven and Nine networks. A Spanish-language version was broadcast in Colombia.

For the Death Note Crack Fic, see here.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round: Many.
    • In the strictest sense, there were three: Double Play (a rebus-solving game) on the Narz version, matching prizes on the 1985 pilot, and matching cars on the Trebek version.
    • The original series occasionally used a few items:
      • The Cash Wheel had spaces containing money from $5 to $2,000. It had to be matched during normal gameplay (when it was used) and the game won by the contestant to whom it was credited.
      • The very rarely used Mink Wheel, which was exactly like the Cash Wheel except the prizes varied from a stole to a full-length coat.
      • "The Envelope and Its Unknown Contents". Whoever won this was given said envelope to read out loud, and could have prizes ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to a new car.
      • From about 1970-73, home viewers were entreated to send in postcards for prizes. The first letter of the viewer's surname would correspond to its numerical equivalent (A-1, B-2, etc.) and whatever prize was on that trilon when it spun around was what the viewer won. Gag prizes and Forfeit One Gift paid $100, Take One Gift awarded $250, and Wild Cards were worth $500.
  • Bonus Space: Several.
    • Wild Cards were the only special space used on every version. Matching one with a prize revealed those two spots, but left the unmatched one on the board (and could be matched again with another Wild Card). Beginning in 1985, the "natural" match was also removed.
      • Matching the Wild Cards netted a further bonus. On the original series, this was originally $500 but increased to a new car. The Narz version went back to $500, dropping it to $250 during the 1975-76 season. On Classic, matching two credited a player $500 (matching all three, $1,000), but required solving the rebus to win.
    • Take One Gift, which remained in all versions except the 1985 pilot and the first few weeks of the Trebek era. Classic returned them as TAKE!, which was a pair of red cards and a pair of green cards. Once a pair was matched (and it had to be the same color), the player could take an item from his/her opponent immediately or save the Take for when the opponent had a more valuable prize.
    • Free Look, used during the Narz era, which automatically revealed that square.
    • Cashpot and Five Bonus Car Seconds, used only on Classic.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: The original series allowed contestants to stay on for a maximum of 20 games, although only two people ever did so. The Narz era had two new contestants on each show, due to the "bicycling" method of syndication that remained in use until 1984. Classic originally let contestants stay for up to five matches, or until winning three cars in the process, but from 1990-91 champions were retired after winning a car.
  • Golden Snitch: You can have all the prizes on the board, but still lose. On Classic, you could have no prizes matched, solve the puzzle, and lose the car game every time and leave with nothing but the consolation prizes they give to the loser. On the original series, winning the game with no matched prizes (apart from gag prizes) still netted the contestant $100 cash.
  • Home Game: Many.
    • Milton Bradley made 24 editions, with series producer and puzzle creator Norm Blumenthal creating all the puzzles. Each edition's "Puzzle Roll" was numbered, which led to an oddity...
      • In 1960, shortly after the release of the 2nd Edition game, the company sold Puzzle Roll #3 as a refill pack. When the 3rd Edition was released, it used Puzzle Roll #4, and this discrepancy continued until Milton Bradley skipped the 13th Edition. Puzzle Roll #3 is extremely rare today.
    • Softie and GameTek made electronic versions of Classic for MS-DOS (recycling contestant sprites from Card Sharks) and the NES.
    • Pressman and Endless Games each made a Classic home game, a decade apart, with full-color rebuses. The Endless version was rereleased in 2003 with new packaging and different prizes. During the home game plugs, Trebek would often mention that it was a good tool to use for contestants to get familiar with some of the Classic symbols used such as the awl, the aisle and the ewe/mare with the lipstick. (Awl, aisle, and the omnipresent oar were all staples of puzzles on the original show.)
    • Tiger Electronics made an LCD handheld game, albeit with some misspelled rebus answers.
    • Freeze Tag published a PC game based on Classic, which stated on the box that it was licensed by NBC. Yes, the network will license the rights to a home game but won't actually let the show see the light of day.
    • During a "Treehouse of Horror" segment of The Simpsons in which board games come to life, the boxes of several games can be seen. One such game was "Consternation", styled like the Milton Bradley games' artwork.
    • In 2012, Siba Style Studios released a Concentration with Friends app for iOS, based on the Classic Concentration format.
  • Losing Horns: One loud "groan" on trombones, similar to (but not exactly like) the end of the sound on The Price Is Right, was played after a bonus loss on the Trebek version and the 1989 Now You See It.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Art James and Bob Clayton during Downs' tenure, Wayne Howell during Clayton's, and Clayton during McMahon's. Johnny Olson announced the Narz version, and Gene Wood announced from 1985 to 1991. In a sort of full-circle mode, Art James filled in for Gene Wood near the end of Classic's run.
    • Game Show Host: Hugh Downs, Jack Barry, Bob Clayton, Ed McMahon, Jack Narz, Orson Bean, Alex Trebek. Art James filled in for Downs, as did Clayton.
    • Lovely Assistant: The original series had Paola Diva as a prize model. Classic had Diana Taylor and Marjorie Goodson-Cutt (Mark Goodson's daughter).
  • Show The Folks At Home: The Narz era's Double Play rebus solutions, before the actual rebus was shown.
    • On the first few episodes of Classic, the rebus solution would be revealed to the audience superimposed over the numbered squares before the game was played.
    • Trebek would often use this exact phrase at the end of a round: "Let's show the folks at home how [the winner] solved the puzzle."
  • Think Music: On Classic, a softer version of the theme played as the numbers were removed one by one during third-puzzle tiebreaker rounds.
  • Whammy: Forfeit One Gift. After being chopped down from three pairs to one pair at the beginning of the Narz era, they were ousted altogether during the 1975-76 season in favor of Free Look.
  • Zonk: Three "gag gifts" in each game of the original series, which made the above Whammy useful on occasion. If a contestant won any of these "prizes", they were given $1 for each.

This show provides examples of:

  • Arc Number: Often, whenever contestants picked #22, Alex stated that it's his lucky number (his birthday is July 22).
  • BANG Flag Gun: One appeared during the 1990 Tournament of Champions. A clown is shooting one through his head in a puzzle for "Bangor, Maine" (Bang + Oar + a lion's Mane).
  • Book Ends: Art James' first and last TV roles both involved announcing this show (he was a substitute for Gene Wood on Classic).
    • The first rebus of the original series, "It Happened One Night", used a bowling pin for a clue (part of the second syllable for "happened"). The final rebus 15 years later, "You've Been More Than Kind", used a bowling pin as a clue for "been".
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase: Late in Classic's run, contestants would say "I'd like to solve the puzzle."
  • Catch Phrase: Several, mainly instated by Hugh Downs.
    • "Look at these two parts—what does the puzzle say?"
    • "...is right!!" (upon a contestant correctly solving the puzzle)
    • "Not a match. The board goes back." (sometimes used by David Letterman if a joke falls flat)
    • "Swell." (upon the matched squares showing no clues)
    • "Stay with us. We'll be back in a moment." (mid-show break)
    • "So long, and thanks for playing Concentration!" (each show's sign-off)
    • Trebek would almost always pronounce abbreviated prizes as they were written on the board (for example, "Word P'cessor" as "Word Possesser") For "Dish Washer", he would almost always joke "His name is Carlos."
  • Catch Symbol: How many people would know what an awl is without Concentration?
  • Cats Are Mean: One common rebus symbol on Classic was the face of a very angry cat saying "Hisssssssssssss..."
  • Christmas Special: During the original series, the annual Christmas game had two celebrities dressed as Santa Claus playing for CARE, the show's designated charity (who had also sent 30 native-costumed children from the countries it serviced). The game involved matching money amounts, typically ones like $66.66 and $99.99. Among the celebs who participated were Mimi Hines, her husband Phil Ford, Phyllis Diller, Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon, and Art Fleming. Only Hines and Ford ever brought anything for the kids, giving them candy and small gifts. According to producer Norm Blumenthal, Hines and Diller were the only female Santas.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The Red and Green TAKE! cards. Yes, they both had to be the same color, or it was not a valid match.
  • Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: Some published sources claim that in order to select the numbers on the board, contestants had to answer a question first.
  • Epic Fail: Quite a few from Classic.
    • July 22, 1987: this car game, where Sten not only failed to make a match but called out three numbers at one point, called out a number that wasn't on the board (16), missed an obvious match, and kept calling numbers he had already uncovered. Granted, he had the minimum 35 seconds, but still...
    • July 24, 1987: The ending of this car game.
    • August 25, 1987: this contestant failed to win the car despite having 70 seconds. She didn't even make her first match until about 50 seconds in.
    Alex: Next time out, 75 seconds. That's longer than my first marriage lasted.
    • Anytime in the original NBC series (and early on during Classic) when a challenger didn't get even one chance to play because of a quick match-and-solve by the opponent.
  • Excited Prize Cards: "Wild Card!" on the first two runs, "Free Look!" in the Narz era, and both "WILD!" and "TAKE!" on Classic.
  • Expy: At least three.
    • The Rebus Game (ABC, 1965) had contestants drawing out clues to a phrase or person's name.
    • Fractured Phrases (NBC, 1965) had phrases and names broken down phonetically into separate words much like Mad Gab; for example, "Eat Spinner Lotto Phone" would translate into "It's Been a Lot of Fun").
    • Catch Phrase (syndicated in the US, 1985; many years in the UK) revealed a short phrase in the form of a two- or three-clue animated rebus, similar to the recurring Wacky Wordies in Games magazine.
  • Extra Turn: Matching a pair of prizes or Take cards (or matching either with a "Wild" card) allowed the contestant to take another turn. He/she kept his turn even if they chose to offer a solution that was incorrect.
  • Girls with Moustaches: Marjorie Goodson-Cutt once wore a fake mustache.
  • Grand Finale: The original series ended, after 3,770 episodes, with this episode (end of Game 1 missing). Gag prizes included "Donald's Duck" and "Peter's Rabbit" in Game 1 and "A Wascally Wabbit" in Game 2.
    • Time ran out late in Game 2 ("YUV; {Bowling Pin}; M + {Oar}; TH + {Hen}; K + {Eye} + ND"), resulting in Clayton walking between the players, revealing the solution, and asking for a ruling on how they would finish this game. Producer Norm Blumenthal then spoke, stating that the "Birthday Present" prize ($1,400 cash) would be split between the final two players.
    • The final segment consisted of Clayton thanking the viewers for their loyalty, after which the credits rolled over a rendition of "Auld Lang Syne".
  • Halloween Special: The original series had an annual Halloween episode, where Downs (later Clayton) and the contestants played in costume. This tradition continued on the Trebek version, but only for the contestants.
  • Jerk Ass / Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Ben; see below.
  • Leitmotif: On the original show, a quick five-second ditty was played as the prize slide doors (which opened to introduce a new player) closed.
  • Lighter and Softer: Many fans of the genre have pointed out that Alex seemed a lot more laid-back and casual than he did on most of his other hosting gigs.
  • Long Runner: The original version ran for 14 years and seven months.
  • Loophole Abuse: Classic's fifth-to-last first-run episode (August 26, 1991). Ben, the challenger, acted like a colossal jerk throughout but but managed to get to the car game. This would not normally make him stand out as much, had he not decided, with one match left to be made and ample time (about 7 seconds) to do so, that he wanted to win more prizes. He then lost the next match, in a brilliant example of Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Milestone Celebration: The original series did at least five anniversary shows.
    • 1963 (5th): A match between Mitch Miller and Merv Griffin, with five 5-year-old children present.
    • 1968 (10th): A match between Downs and Clayton, with series producer/puzzle creator Norm Blumenthal taking the reins.
    • 1969 (11th): During Ed McMahon's brief tenure as host, he played the game against Johnny Carson while Clayton hosted.
    • 1971 (13th): A "behind-the-scenes" look at the show where, once Clayton got behind the board, he was greeted by Downs.
    • 1972 (14th): For that day (August 25) and the ensuing week, 14-year-olds played the game.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: On the original show, if a board was cleared (apart from any remaining squares that couldn't be matched) and neither contestant could solve the puzzle, the game ended in a draw. A new game was started and each contestant retained up to three prizes from the draw game.
    • Similarly, if a game was interrupted because the show was about to end, the puzzle was shown in its entirety, the answer disclosed, and the contestants returned on the next show with up to three prizes from that draw game.
    • Blumenthal said that early shows went through some three games because the puzzles were too easy. He started making the puzzles more challenging to make the show hold better interest.
    • Classic eliminated boxes 26–30, and varied from players going home after only one game, to playing best-of-three matches with the third puzzle being a tiebreaker, to players being allowed two strikes (red X's on a box on their podiums).
  • One-Book Author: Paola Diva had no film or TV credits other than Concentration. Likewise Marjorie Goodson-Cutt.
  • Our Puzzles Are Different: Traditional rebus puzzles use both plus and minus as linking symbols. All versions of Concentration used plus only.
    • Oddly, the puzzles in the Second Edition home game had no plus signs at all!
    • The board game based on the original British run (see below) had no rebuses.
  • Precious Puppies: Marjorie's chihuahua Pokey would often show up on display with her owner during prize descriptions, much to the amusement/annoyance of Trebek.
  • Pretty in Mink: A 1960s episode offered a chinchilla coat as a prize.
    • Some rebuses on Classic included a woman in a fur coat or stole to represent the syllable "fur". In at least one rebus, Steve Ryan attached a "fake" tag to the coat.
  • Rearrange the Song: The 1985-91 theme tune was a rearrangement of the ticket-plug cue used on Body Language.
    • From 1969-73, the mid-show camera pan of the audience had Milton Kaye playing the standard "Puppet on a String". When Bob Clayton described the Chevrolet Nova awarded to the player calling two Wild Cards on the same turn, "See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet" was played.
  • She's Got Legs: Daytime prize model Paola Diva, as seen here.
  • Shout-Out: One Classic puzzle. First line: an awl + a dozen eggs; second line: a tree + a caricature of Gregory Peck.
    • In one of the early 1970s home games: first line, a sheep saying "baa" + B; second line, K + a lei + a weight marked "2000 lb".
  • Title Drop: One 1987 puzzle that went all the way to the board being cleared before a contestant solved it. K + lass + Hic! Con + cent + tray + shin.
  • Took A Level In Jerk Ass: A number of Classic contestants, after one of them took a prize using a TAKE! Card or had a prize taken, would snipe at each other. What hath Jerry Springer wrought?
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Several.
    • The original Australian version helmed by Philip Brady ran from 1959-67 on the Nine Network, with a concurrent primetime run airing until 1961. Lionel Williams helmed a version in the 1970s on the Seven Network, followed by a brief 1997 run with Mike Hammond.
    • A UK version produced by Granada aired on ITV from 16 June 1959 to 7 June 1960. Originally hosted by Barry McQueen, he was replaced by Chris Howland in 1960 and David Gell toward the end of the run. Blumenthal saw it, along with his staff:
    Blumenthal: My entire staff watched together and agreed it was extremely slow moving and sort of boring. Aside from the fact that the puzzle solutions were expressions and names of bands or singers and expressions unheard of to all of us, it didn't work for us. After a while, we figured out why. There were no commercial breaks!
    • A revival using Classic's graphics package aired from 4 September 1988 to 1990, with hosts Nick Jackson (1988) and Bob Carolgees (1990). The bonus round was the same, but used eight trips instead of cars and a win awarded the non-matching trip.
    • Concéntrese aired in Colombia during the 1970s-80s.

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alternative title(s): Concentration
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