Series / Jackpot

Game Show franchise created by Bob Stewart and originally hosted by Geoff Edwards in which 16 contestants competed for an entire week, answering riddles for cash prizes. One contestant was randomly selected to be the Expert, while the 15 others sat on bleachers. The Expert selected one of the 15 contestants in the bleachers, and that contestant would read his or her riddle and its cash amount. If the Expert got it right, (s)he would stay in place; if not, (s)he would trade places with the selected contestant.

One card was randomly selected to be the "Jackpot!" riddle, which the Expert could answer right away or hold off to add to the Jackpot. There was also an opportunity to win a "Super Jackpot" (worth up to $50,000) if its card appeared, or if the Jackpot amount matched the last three digits of the Super Jackpot total.

Jackpot! ran from January 7, 1974 to September 26, 1975 on NBC, after which Stewart re-tooled the format into a 1977 pilot called The Riddlers (hosted by one David Letterman) which didn't sell. An equally-unsold pilot, recorded at CBS Television City in Hollywood, California for CBS themselves on June 9, 1984, and hosted by Nipsey Russell, mostly returned to the original format, but ousted the Super Jackpot and tacked on a bonus round. In 1985, the show appeared on USA Network, taped in Canada (airing there on Global) with Mike Darrow as the host and some slight changes (including referring to the Expert as the King/Queen of the Hill).

After a decent three-year run, followed by a one-year hiatus, the show moved to daily syndication with Geoff returning as host; the show ran just over a half-season, and ended when the distribution firm went bankrupt.

Not to be confused with the Norwegian movie "Arme Riddere", which is named 'Jackpot' internationally.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round: The Super Jackpot.
  • Bonus Space: Double Dollars and Bonus Prize were on all versions. Instant Target Match appeared only during the syndicated run...which, considering that run's budget problems, probably wasn't the best idea. At least one version had "Return Trip", which, if correctly answered, allowed both the questioner and answerer to return to next week's panel.
  • Home Game: One was made during the NBC run with two distinct covers, although the format is much closer to the Darrow era.
  • Mystery Box: Nobody knew what was in those envelopes/wallets.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Don Pardo announced most of the NBC version (including the final week), with Wayne Howell filling in for a time near the end. Ken Ryan (who also announced Bumper Stumpers) and John Harris announced the USA version. John Harlan and Johnny Gilbert traded off announcing duties on the syndicated version.
    • Game Show Host: Geoff Edwards, who had begun hosting The New Treasure Hunt a few months earlier. The USA/Global version had Mike Darrow at the helm; the 1989 run saw the return of Edwards.
    • Studio Audience
  • Progressive Jackpot: The entire premise; build a jackpot by answering riddles, then solve another to win it.

This show provides examples of:

  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: As blooper king Kermit Schaefer recalls in one of his books...
    Contestant: First you make a sale and you open my drawer. What am I?
    Expert: A hooker!
    Contestant: A "cash register," you louse!
  • Grand Finale: The 1975 finale wasn't all that grand, partly due to the format change and partly due to an Expert not being able to pick the Jackpot Question in the second-to-last game when the gallery was whittled down to two. A male Expert then won the final Jackpot of $500 (rather than go for the Super Jackpot of $3,800), after which Geoff did a speech telling viewers to come back the following Monday for a new game helmed by Dick Enberg (3 For The Money ran just eight weeks); Geoff then congratulated the big winners of the week (the biggest was a lady named Diana who won $4,475) before signing off. The last person heard on this version was Tom Snyder, doing a voiceover to promote the night's 90-minute episode of The Tomorrow Show with Jerry Lewis.
  • Opening Narration: "Today, 16 players are here trying to win $25,000/$50,000. Every one of them holds a different riddle, but only one of them holds the Jackpot Riddle. You never know when someone in our game will stand up and yell..." (contestant stands up, yelling) "JACKPOT!"
  • Real Song Theme Tune: The NBC version used "Jet Set", composed by former Manfred Mann member Mike Vickers and later used on This Week in Baseball. The subsequent versions used a much lighter song.
  • Spiritual Successor: One of GSN's original games, Hollywood Showdown (created by Bob Stewart's son Sande), had a fairly similar format.