Series / Let's Make a Deal
"Whatever is behind this Curtain is yours. I'll buy it back from you for $400."
"I got a deal for you!"
Monty Hall, suddenly turning around to his next contestant.

Monty Hall was the producer and host ("TV's Big Dealer") of this long-running trading Game Show, which is best known for the zany costumes worn by audience members. Many of them also carried hand-lettered signs.

The show originally ran on NBC daytime and primetime from 1963-68 before Channel Hopping to ABC, where it lasted until 1976. Syndicated runs aired from 1971-77, 1980-81 (taped in Canada), and 1984-86 (as The All-New Let's Make A Deal). The show went back to NBC from 1990-91 with Bob Hilton hosting, but after miserable ratings, Hall unsuccessfully came back. The show was revived briefly in 1996 on Fox as Big Deal with Mark DeCarlo hosting. Another revival in 2003, again on NBC with Billy Bush at the helm, lasted three episodes; this version is deprecated by most of the fandom. The current incarnation, begun in late 2009, replaced Guiding Light on CBS. This version is an hour long and hosted by Wayne Brady; while nobody can take the place of TV's Big Dealer, the Brady version has been pretty well-received. Hall even returned as a guest for a week and gave his blessing.

Everyone in the Studio Audience brought something to trade for a prize. In the most basic deals, Hall chose one or two people at random and showed them a prize, with assistance from model Carol Merrill and announcer Jay Stewart. The contestant(s) then had to decide whether to take the known prize or go for a different prize, which was hidden. The hidden prize could be something good, like a new car or a room full of furniture, or it could be a Zonk. While most deals were a (sometimes elaborate) variant of this, some deals involved pricing various household goods, usually with a car on the line. Even then, Monty would stop the game before revealing whether the final choice was correct and offer the contestant a hidden prize to stop the game there.

At the end of the show, contestants who won the prizes with the highest cash value could trade away their winnings to play for the Big Deal of the Day, a prize package behind one of three numbered doors, generally worth around $9,000. The two other doors contained prize packages that, while containing less than the Big Deal, were generally worth more than what the contestants traded away. During the end credits, Hall went through the audience again, offering money for random items that the audience members might have brought.

It was played on the second episode (of seven) of Game$how Marathon, hosted by Ricki Lake, in 2006, with the focus naturally being on the 1964-76 Monty Hall versions. Notably, the show was the only one of the seven to not have been aired on Game$how Marathon's network, CBS, beforehand; this of course changed in 2009.

This show is the basis for a probability puzzle known as the "Monty Hall Problem", and the style of role-playing campaign derisively known as the "Monty Haul (sic) dungeon."

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • All or Nothing: The point of several games, although the contestant was often allowed to back out at defined points and keep what had been accumulated, lest they risk it for the whole lot. The most famous application is "Beat the Dealer," where the winner of a progressive-elimination game can elect to play the host for a large prize package by drawing a higher-ranked card than the host.
  • Bonus Round: The Big Deal, though it requires a prospective dealer giving up their previous deal to play. Two people were required to play until the current run, where it has been decreased to one person.
    • In the 1975-76 season and for two week periods in the Brady era, the Super Deal was added after the Big Deal. The risk was that whoever won the Big Deal could trade it in for one of three doors (Hall) or envelopes (Brady). One contained a large sum of cash ($20,000 originally, now $50,000) and also returned the Big Deal to that contestant.
    • The two others contained small cash prizes that changed over time: the 1970s version (in an era where the Big Deal generally hovered between $8,000-$10,000), it started out as $1,000 and $2,000 before changing to two $2,000 and finally $2,000 and an amount ranging between that and $10,000. The current version (in an era where the Big Deal generally hovers between $20,000-$40,000) uses the original consolations, clearly done to be cheap.
  • Carried by the Host: Why it's called "The Monty Hall Problem" instead of "The Let's Make a Deal Problem".
  • Confetti Drop
    • If the Super Deal is won on the Brady version, money falls from the ceiling.
    • A couple of Big Deal wins on the short-lived 1991 version were accompanied by balloons being dropped on the car.
  • Consolation Prize:
    • On the Wayne Brady version, Wayne may sometimes give a contestant who got a Zonk a small amount of money (usually $100) as consolation, although Wayne may make the contestant do something to earn it, such as dancing or singing.
    • This was also present in the Hall eras, but typically not on-air (after each show, those who got a Zonk were instead offered some cash or a nice prize; several actually kept their Zonks, which Hatos-Hall had to honor).
  • Home Game: Several, including an electronic version which Hall himself promoted. There was also a 900-number game in the late 1980s that was advertised by Monty in an infomercial that featured clips of classic deals made on the show.
  • Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened: In certain games, after a contestant decides to take a sure-thing buyout, the host will continue the game, often asking the contestant a question along the lines of what they would have done next had they continued the idea being whether the contestant made a good decision to quit.
  • Losing Horns: Type B when a Zonk is revealed, from 1976 onward (except in 1990, when a stock foghorn was usually heard instead).
  • Mystery Box: Used for hidden prizes either on stage or on a tray brought to the host and contestant by the announcer. Sometimes, the mystery prize was behind a curtain or billboard.
    • In Brady's version, it might be a card in an envelope.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Wendell Niles announced the first pilot and the first season of the original run. His role was taken over by Jay Stewart, who announced from 1964-77. His successors were Chuck Chandler (1980-81), Brian Cummings (1984-85), Dean Goss (1985-86), Dean Miuccio (1990-91), Vance DeGeneres (2003), Rich Fields (2006), and Jonathan Mangum (2009-present).
      • Deal has probably asked more of its announcers than any other game in history. Not only did Niles and his successors (minus Rich) have to read the copy, but also lug TV trays with relevant props down crowded staircases and sometimes act in skits related to the prizes. Unfortunately, it also resulted in Stewart getting chronic, intractable back pain later in life...which, when coupled with the death of his daughter Jamie in 1981, led to his suicide in 1989. Mangum, because of his improv experience, often winds up in improv games with Brady by way of giving clues to contestants.
    • Game Show Host: Co-creator Monty Hall was the first and most famous, with Dennis James and Geoff Edwards subbing for him. Following in his steps were Bob Hilton, Mark DeCarlo, Billy Bush, and Wayne Brady. And Ricki Lake.
    • Lovely Assistant: Carol Merrill on the first version, and other models on later versions.
    • Studio Audience: Where the contestants came from, dressed as they were.
  • Retired Game Show Element: The 1984-86 version featured a "Door #4" element (yes, a Door #4 was actually featured at one point) that would pop up every few days at random and pick an audience member via a number system to make a deal with Monty (see the entry for more info). This neat little mini-game was axed from the show when the 1990 revival premiered.
  • Whammy: In certain games, a Zonk symbol or depending on the game, Jonathan Mangum's face acts more like this.
  • Zonk: Trope Namer, aka the booby prizes. No, not those booby prizes
    • But even then, a contestant winning a zonk doesn't mean he necessarily has lost. On multiple occasions through the years, the "zonk" is a coverup for a legitimate prize — such as the time "garbage cans for every day of the week" had one of them containing a fur coat worth $5,000 or a junked washer and dryer, with dirty, holey blue jeans seeing the model rummage through the pockets to see if her "little boy" (usually the announcer) left something inside and he always did, often thousands of dollars in cash (or a check for said amount), tickets for a trip or the keys to a new car! Other times, what appears to be a "zonk" (often presented in a comedic skit) is actually a prize worth several thousand dollars, such as a half-scale antique pie wagon that was worth $3,300, said prize's value revealed only after the contestant was approached to go for the big deal and agreed.

This show provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody:
    • Sanford and Son: The 1975 episode "Masquerade Party" has Fred and his cronies dressing in costumes and appearing on a Deal-type show, "Wheel and Deal". The host's name is Harry Monty (John Barbour), and trading deals are very similar to the real show.
    • The Odd Couple: Felix and Oscar learn that Deal is taping a series of shows in New York and dress as a mule to get on the show. The two win, but since Oscar knows Monty (they were college roommates), Monty takes the money back, telling the audience it will be donated to an orphanage.
    • The Simpsons: In the episode "Homer Goes to College", series villain Mr. Burns, the elderly owner of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, offers Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors a Deal-type offer bribe to escape sanctions for dire violations (most notably, employing dangerously underqualified employees; viz., Homer).
    • UHF: During the game show Wheel of Fish, a contestant is offered the chance to trade their fish for the contents of a mystery box. They didn't even bother putting a Zonk in that box.
    • David Letterman begain the monologue of the February 18th 2015 episode of the Late Show with the "These people, dressed as they are..." intro.
  • Ascended Extra: In January or early February 1972, Mark Goodson just happened to be watching the show on a day that Dennis James was filling in. Guess who got tapped to host the nighttime Price, even though hardly anything of the New format had been cemented?
  • Audience Participation: The host chooses contestants from the front section of the audience known as the "Trading Floor". Apparently in Brady's case, anyone in the audience is eligible, and occasionally on his version deals are made with the entire audience participating.
  • Bee Afraid: The Honeycomb Purse and Wallet Zonk.
  • Big Red Button: Used to take the money in the "Cash or Clunkers" deal on the current version.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Who wants to make a deal?"
    • "It's a(n) (unappealing item)!"
    • "You could have won a (good item)!"
  • Crossover: Drew Carey appeared on the Brady version to make a deal with a contestant. Amusingly, Drew came out to the 1972 rendition of the Price theme, not the 2007 arrangement.
  • A Day in the Limelight: On a 1986 episode, Dean Goss hosted two deals as part of an experiment. He later confirmed that this was because Monty wanted to retire but also keep the show going, so he was testing Goss' abilities as a host. Had it been renewed, Monty would've walked out first on the season premiere to pass the torch.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: On the 2/15/13 episode, a wife was dressed as an electrical outlet, while her husband was a plug with prongs just below his waist.
  • Double Unlock: Whenever the Super Deal was offered; you had to win the Big Deal to qualify for the Super Deal, then risk your Big Deal if you wanted to go for the extra money.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The early seasons were far more sedate and none of the contestants wore flashy costumes that didn't start until a contestant brought a sign to make Hall notice her, which then snowballed into contestants wearing costumes to get his attention. Also, Wendell Niles was the announcer in the first season instead of Jay Stewart.
  • Exact Words: A "compact Cadillac"; it's been through a crusher.
  • Foreign Remake: The Latin American Trato Hecho.
  • Guest Host:
    • Dennis James and Geoff Edwards both filled in for Monty on separate occasions, the latter on both the original series and All-New.
    • Dean Goss guest-hosted a couple deals on All-New as a sort of trial run, because Monty wanted to pass the torch on to him should the show be renewed for a third season (it wasn't).
    • When Monty replaced Bob Hilton on the 1990s version, the mentions of "guest host" may sound like an excuse (he hosted right through to the finale), but they were actually true at the time Hall planned to begin doing on-air auditions before eventually picking one to do the show full-time. NBC, however, had other ideas.
  • High Definition: Inverted until 2014; somehow it was the only CBS daytime program still in standard definition.
  • His and Hers: Some of the Zonks, especially bathtubs and junked cars. And according to Monty Hall, one of ABC's attempts to increase ratings late in that run was offering his-and-hers Cadillacs. Didn't work.
  • Iconic Item: In the Monty Hall era, $1,000 bills were often used in games involving large amounts of money.
  • Just for Pun: Quite a few Zonks have been this, including:
    • Laundered money, which was giant bills hanging on a clothes line.
    • A lemon car. It's shaped like a lemon.
    • Key Lime Pie. It has a bunch of keys in it.
    • Literal Slippers
    • A trip to "the big apple"; not New York, but a giant apple.
  • Just in Time: The biggest complaint about the Brady version's Big Deal (aside from only one person playing it) was that the doors were always revealed in numerical order, leading to fake suspense and things like "We hope the Big Deal is not behind Door #1." which are missing the point. Thankfully, this was partially dropped Brady always reveals the unpicked prize that wasn't the Big Deal first. Lately, the practice is to go ahead and reveal the prize the contestant picked second, whether it's the Big Deal or not.
    • That said, Monty Hall was a master of suspense, often convincing traders to back out of a potential lucrative deal in games where only one correct answer  or at times, multiple correct answers) was/were possible by demonstrating one of the possible solutions, which may or may not be the right answer, and offering them a sure thing by adding a warning such as, "That may have been the key that fits the lock. There may be other keys that fit the lock to that safe and will win you that trip, car, etc. Whataya think? A $1,000 sure thing, or go for it all?" After which, he may continue to build suspense or the contestant makes a decision, after which Monty will play the Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened card.
  • Kitchen Sink Included: The Big Deal in the current version might be behind the door that got opened plus what was behind the other two doors before it...meaning Everything On Stage was the contestant's if they chose the door with the flatscreen that said "Everything In The Big Deal."
    • This format has also been seen in earlier, Monty Hall-hosted versions as well (including one of earliest shows of the 1984 version).
  • Leave the Camera Running:
    • Following the Big Deal, Monty would make quickie deals with the audience over the end credits, and sometimes even after.
    • This was also done on the current version, but changed when the quickie deals were almost entirely cut out of each episode (including the official credits on the upload) in favor of the Fremantle logo animation and generic-credits-while-CBS-pimps-other-shows. The pacing was altered to dedicate the last five minutes to quickie deals, and Wayne signs off as soon as the credits begin.
    • Some fans have complained when the show started tweeting what items to bring to trade for money instead of just having random items such as playing cards or paper clips. How this is done ends up being an Enforced Plug for the show's Twitter page.
  • Long Runners: The original series was in production from 1963-77.
  • Luck-Based Mission: About half of the show revolves around this. The other half involves being smart enough to recognize and avoid the Schmuck Bait.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Occasionally seen as a Zonk on the Brady version. Once, a running gag featured Man Eating Plant seeds, followed by a baby plant, a teenager plant and finally, a full grown adult plant.
  • Minigame Game: Countless variations of the basic trade template are employed, but there have been other minigames too. Some were knowledge based (such as picking which grocery item was worth a certain amount or pricing grocery and other items within announced limits, guessing a product by the year it was introduced, etc.), but the majority are luck based contests (such as "Monty's Cash Register," which asked contestants to press up to a certain number of unmarked cash register keys to earn cash for a grand prize.) The luck-based games became a bit more elaborate in the Brady version.
  • Monty Hall Problem: Trope Namer, sort of.
    • The most common example is a contestant shown a grand prize (such as a car) and three keys, only one of which unlocks the door and winning the prize. After the contestant makes his/her pick, the host will show one of the non-working keys before offering a either a sure-thing buyout (cash, cars or both), an opportunity to swap his/her current key for the other, or (rarely) both. Once the trader makes a final decision, the key in his/her possession is tried (with fanfare for a win and the correct key revealed upon a loss; in either event, the non-working key is demonstrated to confirm that it was a a dud key). With this execution, the contestant is led to believe that his or her odds of winning have improved to 1-in-2 (as one of the dud keys removed and only two possibilities remain), when the actually have not — they've remained 1-in-3 all along.
    • The fact of the matter is when the "3 doors" scenario presented itself Hall rarely, if ever, offered the chance to switch, usually offering to buy back the chosen door/curtain instead, as per the caption above.
    • Sometimes comes up in the 2009 revival. A game called "Three of a Kind" involves the contestants selecting a three of a kind for a selection of six, with two matching sets of three. When revealing the cards, two of the three selected cards are revealed, which always match. At this point, the host offers a sure-thing prize. If the contestant declines, the host then reveals one (or possibly) two of the non-selected, non-matching cards, offering an increased "sure thing" buyout before revealing the final cards and determining if the contestant had won. As with other Monty Hall Problem games, the offers are made regardless of whether the contestant found a matching set of three cards, and if properly executed the contestant is led to believe that improved (or worsened) odds resulted as the host reveals the non-matching cards.
  • Mythology Gag: Certain CBS promos have, in the past, referred to the current version as The All-New Let's Make a Deal.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome:
    • A contestant in the 70's version was given a large box of candy at the beginning of the show and refused every offer to trade it to other contestants for unknowns. At the last possible moment (before the playing of the Big Deal) she relinquished it for a curtain (at which point the entire audience knew what was coming). Inside the candy? $5,000, one of the largest hidden cash payouts the show ever offered. (She got Zonked, obviously.)
      • Another contestant likewise turned down a $5,000 savings bond in the 1980's version, with similar results.
    • Another woman was given a box of candy and this time held onto it throughout the entire deal. This time it was worth only $800, but after she kept it and turned down a car behind one curtain, the amount was revealed to her. Behind the other two curtains? Both cars, meaning that she was the first contestant to turn down three cars in the same deal in the history of the show.
    • One contestant playing The Great Escape game managed to get the correct key to open the protective box containing the car key at the last possible moment, which would have gotten her a car. However, the producers ruled that because the contestant didn't get the key into the padlock fully when the timer ran out, the victory didn't count, which robbed the contestant of a new car. Brady stated how much the situation sucked and gave the contestant $100 for her efforts, but it won't ever fix what went wrong. This has since led to an Obvious Rule Patch where Wayne Brady now says, before the game begins, that the padlock must be unlocked before time runs out in order for the car to be won.
  • Obvious Beta: The May 25, 1963 pilot. No costumes, a Zonk in the Big Deal, and a really sexist sales pitch preceding the show.
    Monty Hall (sitting by himself in the middle of the contestant area as the camera zooms in from a wide shot): This is television's only trading floor, where every day the individuals who control the finances of America the women, of course come to make deals. And what's more exciting to a woman than trading or swapping or looking for a bargain? It's suspense every second as men and women bring in their old white elephants and try to deal me out of big cash or big gifts. Well, do you have a leaky umbrella you'd like to get rid of? You know, I may pay you $500 for it. Or if you're a clever trader and know when to stop, you could drive home in a brand-new automobile. On this trading floor we'll buy, sell, or trade everything and anything from Aardvarks to Zithers. There are millions of deals to be made, and we'll make them every day on Let's Make A Deal. Watch, we'll show you how it works!
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The Car Pong game on the Brady version was extremely difficult to win at because only one space was marked for the car and the rest of the board were dead spaces. The game was slightly altered later on by having the dead spaces changed into money spaces so if a contestant got a ball in those areas, they could at least win something.
  • Onion Tears: Played with in All-New with the "World's Largest Crying Towel" Zonk, which frequently featured the announcer or a model sitting at it cutting a bucket of onions.
  • Opening Narration: "These people, dressed as they are, come from all over the United States to make deals. Here in the marketplace of America, Let's! Make! A Deal!"
  • Piggy Bank:
    • In the 1984-86 run, the Big Deal had "Monty's Piggy Bank" as well as "Monty's Cookie Jar" and the "LMAD Claim Check". If any of these three was behind the doors, the prize was cash ranging from a few hundred (if shown first), $2,000-$4,000 (if shown second), and in a few rare instances was the Big Deal (if it was below $10,000).
    • The Spiritual Successor in Wayne's version was the "LMAD Vault", which was the Big Deal at least twice. Here's one instance.
    • The Facebook version has a game called "Piggy Bank" where you have a ring of piggy banks you must smash to meet a cash target. Some also have Zonks, but you're allowed three life preservers to keep playing; a fourth Zonk ends the game and leaves you without cash. There is a "Double" in a piggy bank that can double the cash in the next bank, or could give you two Zonks for the finding of one. (If you're low or out of life preservers, or running out of time, you can "cash out" and take the money you're won up to that point.)
  • Porn Stache: Both Brian Cummings and Dean Goss sported these.
  • Product Displacement: They seemed to make a big deal on the Brady version about covering up brand names, sports logos, and the like on contestants' costumes...but averted it with some of the "damaged goods" Zonks (a smashed Mitsubishi TV, a pile of defaced Eveready batteries, and a wrecked Pontiac Trans Sport minivan with the badging intact come to mind). Exactly what are they trying to say?
    • Well, Mitsubishi has long since stopped making consumer TVs, Eveready is now Energizer (they still sell batteries under the Eveready name), and Pontiac went down in the GM bankruptcy on 2009 (they had stopped making minivans a couple of years before). So it's justified.
  • Product Placement: During the Monty Hall era, prizes were sometimes hidden behind what were basically billboards (or literal giant boxes) for a sponsor's product.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: The 1980-81 version used several songs by MFSB, the group best known for the Soul Train theme.
  • Rearrange the Song: The theme of the 1980-81 version started out with a re-recording of the original theme tune before going into a whole new melody, as did the 1984-86 theme. The theme to every revival since (including the current one) seem to take after the '84 theme.
  • Ruleof Three: Some deals would have three items offered (either behind a curtain or in a Mystery Box), one at a time. Often the last would be a Zonk.
    • Sometimes they might have "visible clues" in the form of signs (a Monty deal had three signs in front of three curtains, Wayne's variations had three mini-screens as the signs or Twitter tweets) with the "last clue" meaning you'd have to risk everything blind on it with no hint whatsoever (Monty's last sign said "Big Risk," Wayne's last sign had "?????" and the "last Tweet" was instead musician Cat Gray holding up a sign that said "I don't Tweet").
  • Running Gag: In the Brady version, one of the games that pops up occasionally is a lotto-like scratch off game where the contestant can win something if he or she matches a pair of symbols; two cars gets a car, two Wayne Bradys gets a few thousand dollars, two Tiffanys gets a slightly lesser cash prize, and matching two Jonathans gets the lowest cash prize in an odd amount, like $79.95, to which Jonathan always acts offended that he is considered a low tier prize.
  • Schmuck Bait: Chock full of it, especially in the Wayne Brady version.
    • Italian lira were always good for this in the original, as Monty would frequently offer the cash equivalent of several hundred thousand lira in a recurring foreign currency deal, which would inevitably amount to two or three hundred bucks.
  • Shout-Out: When looking at a pixelated image during a deal, Brady asks if it's Doom or Quake.
  • That Came Out Wrong: After seeing a female contestant dressed as a baby and holding a baby bottle, Monty offered her $100 if she would "show another nipple". He meant the rubber kind.
  • Timed Mission: A game called "The Great Escape" gave the contestant 15 seconds to find the key that unlocks a Plexiglas box containing the keys to a car; unlocking the box won the car. The contestant was also given $1,500 cash, and could buy extra time (at $100 a second) before the game began. There were 20 keys on the board, which was a few yards away from the box, and the contestant could try only one key at a time, but was allowed to make as many trips to the board as time allowed.
    • The show later converted the "Car Pong" game (which had been limited to a fixed number of attempts at, well, beer pong for a car) to a timed game.
  • Viva Las Vegas: The final season of the original run (197677) was taped at the Las Vegas Hilton, and most of Brady's first season (200910) was taped at the Tropicana.
  • Younger and Hipper: The reason why Big Deal and the 2003 version failed.

Alternative Title(s): Lets Make A Deal