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Series: Press Your Luck
Oh, those pesky Whammies.

"Today, these three players are after biiiiig bucks! But they'll have to avoid the Whammyyyyyy, as they play the most exciting game of their lives! From Television City in Hollywood, it's time to Press Your Luck!"
Rod Roddy's opening spiel.

"Big Bucks! No Whammies!"

Created by the late, great Bill Carruthers and featuring the late, great Rod Roddy and the late, great Peter Tomarken, Press was the second chance of Carruthers' earlier (and far lesser-known today) Second Chance. Three contestants vied for the aforementioned Big Bucks by taking spins on the infamous Big Board, which featured plenty of cash and fabulous prizes, and perhaps the most famous game show villain ever, the Whammy. Land on a Whammy, kiss your winnings goodbye; land on four of them, kiss your game goodbye.

The series ran for three years on CBS' daytime schedule from 1983-86, becoming even more popular in reruns on USA Network and GSN. The fourth episode of the 2006 Gameshow Marathon with Ricki Lake saluted Press and was dedicated to Tomarken's memory.

Spawned a revival of its own, Whammy!, in 2002. See that page for specifics.

Press featured one of the most (in)famous game show contestants ever in Michael Larson, who memorized the intricate but repetitive patterns of the Big Board before he came on the show, winning $110,237 in cash and prizes. His game took so long that it had to span two episodes (and still had to be chopped to fit the allotted time), his score display actually went on the fritz when he got into six-digit territory, and the board began to go out of its usual slide-change sync by the time he finally passed his spins. Larson's game was so notorious that CBS president Bud Grant, his vice president of programming, Harvey Shepard and his vice president of daytime programming, Michael Brockman, cited them as an embarrassment to the network and refused to re-air the Larson episodes following their initial showing; further, it was barred from airing elsewhere until GSN produced a two-hour documentary about the affair in 2003.

P.S.: Just what exactly is a Flokati Rug?note 

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Space: Many. (Square numbers start at #1 for the top-left corner and go clockwise.)
    • + One Spin: Awarded an extra turn. Round 2 had two spaces which always contained an extra spin, #4 ($3,000-$4,000-$5,000) and (from February 28, 1984 onward) #8 ($500-$750-$1,000), a fact which Larson exploited.
    • Directional Squares: Several.
      • Move One Space: Used in #1 (R1 only), #9 (R2 only), and #14 (R2 only note ). Allowed you to choose between 2/18 (#1), 8/10 (#9), and 13/15 (#14).
      • Go Back Two Spaces: Used in Square #6, took you to #4.
      • Advance Two Spaces: Used in Square #11, took you to #13.
      • Big Bucks: Used in Square #12, took you to #4.
      • Pick-A-Corner (R2 only): Debuted February 28, 1984. Allowed you to choose from 1, 10, and 15 (which included a Whammy in #1 at first), but said choices got progressively worse during Season 3, leading to its removal on July 25, 1986.
      • Across The Board (R2 only): Debuted around February 24, 1986. Used in #17, took you to 8.
    • Double Your $$ (R2 only): Debuted March 8, 1984. Acted like a prize (removed once hit, replaced by another prize), briefly reappeared on December 4, 1985, and eventually left on the next episode. note 
    • Double Your $$ + One Spin (R2 only): Same as above, but with an extra spin. Debuted April 12, 1984, and not used during the three Home Player Spins because CBS felt there would be some confusion if a contestant were to stop on that space while playing for a home viewer. The space was also not used from July 8-23, 1984, during which a trip to the 1985 Daytime Emmys in New York City (plus lunch with Peter) was offered.
    • $2,000 Or Lose-1-Whammy (R2 only): Debuted September 17, 1984 and originally seen in #16, but moved to #15 from February 5, 1985 to June 16, 1986. note 
    • Add-A-One (R1 only): Debuted September 5, 1985 and acted like a prize, placing a "1" in front of the contestant's score (and more than once, happened when someone had $0). Originally located in #5, relocated to #7 on January 8, 1986.
  • Consolation Prize: In addition to the usual cache offered to losing contestants, the show had the occassional Home Viewer Sweepstakes, where, during the second round, the player in control during a pre-designated spin could win an identical prize for a home viewer. If the contestant hit a Whammy, the home viewer won $500 "courtesy of the Whammy", while the two other contestants received a "Whammy" T-shirt as a consolation gift.
  • Extra Turn: Again, the "+ One Spin" spaces. There were only a few in the beginning, but way too many by the end.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: Five days or $25,000, whichever came first. In Fall 1984, the cash limit was increased to $50,000.
  • Golden Snitch: Games were won or lost based on the last few spins, and Round 1 could be considered a time waster since Round 2 had higher prize amounts and players tended to hit a Whammy at some point, making them lose everything they collected in R1.
    • The last round of the German version had a car prize, which if hit resulted in that player winning the game immediately.
  • Home Game: Several.
    • The first was released for the PC by GameTek in 1988. Directional spaces only let you move in one direction, and the unique "Lose One Turn" removed a spin without touching your money.
    • Many "amateur" (unofficial) versions were done for PC in the 1990s and 2000s, somewhat a combination of love, boredom, and the absence of a console/PC game that didn't require DOS. One in particular, made by Curt King, stood out for containing every single prize and Big Board layout ever used, audio tracks of many Whammies and most of Peter Tomarken's calling of spaces, all three board sounds, male and female computer opponents, a program for users to create their own layouts, great renditions of the Big Board "slides" despite being made by hand, an immensely-detailed customization menu, and was not only very user-friendly but easy on the PC (both in space required and in CPU usage).
      • A set of "third-party" modifications to King's program made the slides even more accurate, added custom prizes of $10,000 and $25,000, allowed the board to display slide colors according to each of the show's three seasons, had a Christmas motif that added decorations to the board, and even included a special Round 1 board that gave contestants a number of chances to rack up spins for Round 2.
      • One Flash version, created by a user with the handle "BigJon06", features so many extra gimmicks that players can use, which could result in astronomical scores (especially if the Whammy handicaps are minimal or non-existent). And they love posting their games on YouTube to the ranks of Memetic Mutation.
    • A DVD game was released in 2007 with Todd Newton as host and the 1980s set, but 1) the Big Board has several lights on it instead of a single spot, 2) there's no single-player mode, 3) the game has three rounds of questions and spinning, and 4) the Big Board layouts are very odd, partly since there are three rounds.
    • An electronic handheld version was made in 2008, and was also derided. Not only was the Big Board far too small, it was also divided with half the spaces above the screen and the other half below. And the game was housed in a TV set.
    • Versions were released for Wii and DS in 2009. Better than the DVD and handheld games, albeit not by much...and despite massive input from the fans, Ludia still managed to screw the game up; see the YMMV tab for more info.
    • A Facebook app was created for the game in 2012; unlike other officially-released home versions of recent years, this one seems to be fairly well received aside from its length. Here's a review.
    • Travis Schario has created a single-player Flash version of Press Your Luck.
  • Losing Horns: A two-note synth sound that highly resembled a foghorn, naturally played whenever a Whammy was hit.
  • Personnel:
  • Promotional Consideration
  • Undesirable Prize: Most prominently the Flokati Rug, the former Trope Namer.
    • Basically any Round 1 prize under $500. In Round 2, when given a choice, savvy contestants knew that cars were good, golf clubs were bad.
      • A choice of a Mediterranean Cruise easily beats out a trip to Palm Springs.
      • Double Your $$ (+ One Spin) when score is meager — like $0.
      • Add-A-One when score is $0.
  • Whammy: Trope Namer. Dozens of animations were used (some rarely), with a few also involving a female (Tammy Whammette) and/or a dog named Fang.

This show provides examples of:

  • April Fools' Day: It wasn't aired, but the staff played one on Peter on Episode 150, taped on April Fool's Day 1984. You can see the outtake here, courtesy of Wink Martindale.
  • Arc Number: The $470 space in Round 1 is a pretty oddball amount compared to other cash spaces. Other than that and $525 (which was right above it), the other cash spaces all had amounts that were multiples of $50.
    • Whammy! had a Shout-Out to this, with a $740 space.
    • The $1,400 space in Round 2 could also count, as the other cash spaces between $1,000 and $2,500 were multiples of $250. (Round 2 also had $500, $600, $700, $750, and $800, but except for the last one all of those also appeared in Round 1.) $1,200 was also used very early on in R2, before the first set of rearrangements.
    • Fans know Michael Larson's winnings of $110,237, as well as the main board pattern he exploited to accumulate that number: 2-12-1-9-4 (matched to their corresponding squares).
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Michael Larson's technique for breaking the board.
  • Bad Ass: Michael Larson for beating the seemingly random Big Board, which nobody else had ever done before (save, according to recollections, a player on Second Chance).
    • There were other contestants waiting in the wings who also memorized the patterns, but Larson's reign resulted in an overhaul of the board's programming, so future savvy players had much lower odds of winning like Larson did.
  • The Beatles: A quartet of Whammies with Beatle wigs playing "I wanna take it back from you!"
  • Big Word Shout: Steve Bryant's chant of "No Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammies!"
  • Big Red Button: Used both to buzz in to answer questions and to stop the board.
  • Blessed with Suck: Getting passed a stack of spins once you had built a solid lead.
  • Catch Phrase: "Big Bucks, no Whammies!"
    • "Stop at $[cash value (and a spin)]/[prize]/a Whammy!"
  • Christmas Episode: The Christmas Day 1985 show had Peter hosting in his bathrobe and pajamas, as well as Rod dressed like Santa Claus. It also featured cameo appearances by Peter's twin daughters Alexis and Candace, and it's the only post-November 1983 episode to not have an opening montage. note .
  • Cliff Hanger: Larson's appearance was split into two episodes during post-production; at the end of the first half, Peter appeared superimposed over a still frame showing the three contestants. Even more cliffhanger-like, the two parts aired on June 8 and 11, 1984, a Friday and Monday respectively.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: From September 28-October 18, 1983 (Episodes 8-22), the backdrops behind the audience were blue during Round 1 and red for Round 2, not unlike what would later be used on Jeopardy! from 1985-97.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Averted by the Whammy, and sometimes inverted by the ability to pass spins to the leading competitor.
  • Curse Cut Short: Averted with Jim Hess.
  • Downer Ending: Oh, so many examples, like any time a contestant is leading going into the very last spin, and then hits the Whammy on said last spin.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Several.
    • The May 18, 1983 pilot featured slides that were only shades of blue or green, and the first episodes used colors like off-white, which vanished after a handful of episodes. There was also a different sound for the Big Board, first heard in said pilot, replaced by a different one on November 2, 1983.
    • In these early shows, the contestants were more sedated (they weren't yelling "Big bucks, no Whammies!" yet). The first contestant to chant the now-well-known mantra of the series was future game show announcer Randy West (Episodes 9-11; September 29-October 3, 1983).
    • The first week of shows (basically, the first seven episodes) had no Whammy foghorn.
    • Also used for the first seven episodes was the CBS "ding" sound for passing a spin.
    • The board looked a bit further away from the players in the first seven episodes.
    • For the first 22 episodes, the board sound was played at a lower tone of volume. It was amped up beginning on #23 (October 19, 1983).
    • Originally, the same light pattern was cycled over and over again until the player stopped the board. By the eighth episode, there were also instances where portions of them were jarringly skipped over. All of this was completely fixed on Episode 13 (October 5, 1983).
    • Peter had a tendency to overexplain how the game was played for the first few months. By Winter 1984, however, he had the game down to a tee.
    • The '83 pilot originally had just one Whammy animation (the Whammy running with a hammer). By the time the show became a series four months later, they reanimated it, as well as added 11 more Whammies to the rotation. As the series progressed, more Whammies would be added to the rotation (typically, several at a time would be added and/or reworked on an average of four times a year).
    • The first week of shows had the Whammies take away the entire player's score, leaving just $0 on their scoreboards. This was changed the following week, to having them take out the whole thing. By the 8th week, some of the Whammies began taking away the players' score, digit-by-digit.
    • The board's PYL logo for the '83 pilot was done in a different, stencil-like block font, with "PRESS" and "LUCK" in yellow letters over a black background, and "YOUR" with the colors inverted. Further, the redesigned PYL logo, as seen on the series, looked a bit darker in the first six weeks.
    • The contestants sported slightly different nametags in the first 8 weeks of shows (#001-#042; weeks 1-8). They were enlarged, beginning with the November 16, 1983 episode.
    • For a brief time, from the November 9-15, 1983 episodes, Peter introduced the returning champion first, BEFORE he introduced the challengers.
    • The prize cue originally had a jazzy arrangement with a saxophone lead. Beginning on October 19, 1983 (#23), it was replaced with a synth arrangement.
    • In Round 1, Square #4 initially used $750-$1,000-$1,250. This changed on October 19, 1983 to their more recognizable appearance, with $1,000-$1,250-$1,500. It was also the last R1 value change until December 6, 1985, when $500 + One Spin in #10 became $750 + One Spin.
    • There were also very few "+ One Spin" spaces in both rounds. While R1 always had four (five in the pilot), R2 went from having seven (eight in the pilot) to nine and eventually anywhere from 12-14. The initial number of free spins in R2 resulted in episodes running way too short.
    • From December 5, 1983 to January 16, 1984 (Weeks 11-16), the R2 board only had 8 Whammies as opposed to 9 on any episode outside that span. To make things even weirder, episodes from January 17-23, 1984 (Week 17) had a Whammy in #2 in R2.
    • The series was always taped at CBS Television City in Hollywood, CA...but originally, tapings were held only at Studio 33 note . Beginning with the January 17, 1984 episode, they would alternate between Studios 33 and 43 every 1-2 months (with Larson's game taped at the former) before finally settling on the latter beginning with the February 20, 1985 episode.
  • Epic Fail: Any time a contestant hit four Whammies in a row.
    • Any time a contestant loses $10,000 or more to a Whammy. Even worse if it happened on the contestant's last spin.
  • Every Episode Ending: Typically, each episode ended with Peter saying "Until next time, this is Peter Tomarken saying so long for Press Your Luck, bye-bye!", which was later changed to "Until next time, this is Peter Tomarken saying thanks for pressing your luck, bye-bye!". Some episodes even ended with Peter reciting a poem for the audience. Originally, he'd face the camera and recite a poem that was likely written by the writers of the show, such as "The Whammy is always a cute little guy, as long as he's only showing up when someone else is spinning." This was later changed to home viewers sending in poems, and Peter even acknowledged this - a month into production, at the end of a particular episode, Peter encouraged home viewers to send in poems as he was running out of the ones the show came up with.
  • Fan Remake: Greg "Greggo" Wicker does an anime-themed version at anime conventions, although he isn't the only one.
    • The amateur/unofficial PC versions, as listed above.
  • Foregone Victory: Extremely rare, but on at least a few occasions two players either got four Whammies or ran out of spins with $0, leaving the 3rd player with spins but no competition. As a result, that contestant played against the Whammies with the ability to quit at any point...assuming they didn't end their final spin with a Whammy or Whammy-Out.
  • Four Is Death: Four Whammies and you're gone (There were three special Whammy animations anytime a contestant hit four Whammies. One was an umpire, another was the whammy on a cruise ship, and the third was a barbershop quartet. This process began with the September 17, 1984 episode).
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: For a family-friendly game show, the questions in the Q&A rounds were often sex-related. An example below:
    Peter (on December 5, 1983): What girlie magazine publisher recently announced his candidacy for president, proclaiming himself wealthy, white... and pornographic?note 
  • Halloween Episode: The October 31, 1984 show ended with Peter showing kids' drawings, and then doing a little dance wearing the mask of Frankenstein's Monster.note  The 1985 one offered nothing special, other than the use of the Halloween Whammy from the year before, and neither did the 1983 one.
  • Home Participation Sweepstakes: The series normally held such event on an average of once every 9 months (May 14-June 11, 1984; January 21-February 15, 1985; and October 21-November 22, 1985), as a gimmick to entice more viewers to watch the show. Normally, the way it worked was that for the next 20 episodes, three viewer-submitted postcards would be placed with each of the three contestants, and during the 2nd round, one of the spins would be the coveted Home Player Spin. If the contestant playing that spin drew that card, that was who he or she would be playing for. Up to $5,000 in cash alone could be won in cash alone for that one lucky viewer. But if the contestant stopped at a Whammy, the viewer would get $500 instead. Those who didn't get their cards drawn got a Whammy T-Shirt.
    • In the fall of 1985, Carruthers Company, feeling the shows' demise was imminent, decided to have the last Sweepstakes go out with a bang, and instead of just 20 episodes, they had it go on for 5 more. At the end of the last episode, a special all-cash board was created, and all 75 cards were placed in a fishbowl with the PYL logo, and randomly drawn by the day's winner. Whatever amount the winner stopped at would then be multiplied by the total number of spins earned in round 2 (i.e. $5,000 X 20 = $100,000). In this case, the winner stopped at $2,000, which was multiplied by 18, resulting in a $36,000 win for the lucky home viewer, and a balloon and streamer celebration in the studio.
  • Horse Racing: Or Whammy Racing if you will. On July 30, 1985, just before the start of the first Question Round, a contestant named Bobby showed off his talents of being a horse-racing announcer. As he was showed off his talents, a plethora of Whammy animations began showing up on-screen. This made it to the flashback intros, the only time something from the Question Rounds did just that.
    Bobby: They turn for home, they race for the wire! That's Mr. Dower and the outside with Sharp and Skipper looking for room to run! They're at the three-corner mile, that's Sharp and Skipper, and they're pulling it out by two! That's Sharp and Skipper out by two, but here comes Gold on the far out side! That's Gold now to take the lead! That's Gold and Sharp and Skipper! That's Sharp and Skipper at front!
  • Infinite 1-Ups: The basis for Michael Larson's strategy. Back when he played, the board had two spots that were always free of Whammies and provided [Money] + One Spin. By always hitting the buzzer when the light was on those squares, he could lock himself in a potentially infinite loop. Granted, he couldn't do it forever because what he was doing was very complex and stressful, but he managed to do it for nearly an hour.
  • Kiss of Death: Cathy Singer in the infamous "spin battle" with her female opponent.
  • Large Ham: Many contestants. Even Peter himself could be one, on more than one occasion.
  • Limited Animation: The Whammy animations, which were kind of low-budget. Then again, that's their charm.
  • Loophole Abuse: Larson exploiting the patterns set into the board at the time. CBS admitted that he wasn't actually breaking any rules and therefore said they had to give it to him.
  • Missing the Good Stuff: Atlanta GA was the highest ranked television market whose CBS affiliate did not clear the show. In a strange quirk, a UHF independent in that city was supposed to start airing a same-day delay of The $25,000 Pyramid on September 22, 1986 (PYL's final week) at 4 PM but forgot to record that day's episode. Hung up with what to air, they picked up the CBS feed and aired that day's PYL.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Supposed to be one from the beginning, but Larson proved that it can be won with skill.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The original set of light patterns were retired and replaced with new ones on June 20, 1984, shortly after Larson's appearance. As a precaution, they were changed again on July 31. On September 17, the final change was made, increasing the number of light patterns to 32, which was probably too much for anybody to memorize and exploit.
  • 1-Up: $2,000 or Lose-A-Whammy could play as one.
    • The + One Spin spaces can also count since they're the only things that can keep a trailing player alive long enough to rack up money and catch up to the leader.
  • Opening Narration:
    • May 18, 1983 (Pilot): "These three players have been especially selected today to play television's richest game. Jack Campion is a lawyer who always plays to win, Maggie Brown says she never even thinks about losing, and Matt Dorf tells us he thinks the guy who says 'Winning isn't everything' is crazy. But only one of them can play and win today, as they play television's most exciting and challenging new game — Press Your Luck! And now, here's your host, the star of Press Your Luck, Peter Tomarken!"
    • September 19-October 4, 1983: "These three contestants are about to play the most exciting game of their lives, which only one of them can win." [each contestant is introduced one by one, with Rod making a comment about each of them] "From Television City in Hollywood, it's time to Press Your Luck! And now, here's your host, the star of Press Your Luck, Peter Tomarken!"
    • October 5-November 4, 1983: "These three contestants are about to play the most exciting game of their lives. [each contestant is introduced one by one, with Rod making a comment about each of them. For the 2nd player, if player 1 was a returning champion, Rod would say that he or she hopes to better that figure today, but the 3rd player has other plans for both of them.] "From Television City in Hollywood, it's time to Press Your Luck! And now, here's your host, the star of Press Your Luck, Peter Tomarken!"
    • November 7, 1983-end of run in 1986 (following a montage of clips from previous episodes): "Today, these three players are after hiiiiigh stakes (later "biiiiiiiig bucks"note ), but they'll have to avoid the Whammy as they play the most exciting game of their lives! From Television City in Hollywood, it's time to Press Your Luck! And now, here's your host, the star of Press Your Luck, Peter Tomarken!" note 
  • Precious Puppies: The Whammy's dog, Fang. Lampshaded on the episode with the aformentioned spin battle; a question was asked "We all know the Whammy doesn't have many friends, but one friend he does have is his dog. What's the pooch's name?". None of the contestants rang in, so Peter provided the choices of Fido, Fang, and Spot (all three guessed Fang).
    Whammy (while pulled across the score display by his dog): Hold it, Fang, hold it! Don't forget the moneyyyyyyyyyy!!!
  • Precision F-Strike: The most serious example is the one with Jim Hess; when he got a third Whammy, he swore under his breath, but the audience could clearly tell he was saying "Oh, shit!" Upon Whammying out, he yelled, "JEEZ! FUCKING SHIT!"
    • A later episode had one contestant, Billy, swear often at the board, but instead of resorting to the Seven Dirty Words like Hess did, he simply went for the catchy-sounding "Whammy, be damned!". It backfired on him, as he Whammied out rather quickly.
  • Rearrange the Song: The Facebook app uses a new recording of the theme song in certain parts.
  • Shout-Out: The "Big Tongue Whammy" slide may be a Call Back to Sammy the Whammy, mascot of 1960s game Beat the Odds, who had a very similar expression; making this more likely is the fact that Carruthers tried to revive Odds in 1975 for ABC, albeit with Sammy replaced by a lightning bolt.
    • Many of the Whammy animations used on the show were shoutouts to the world of entertainment. A good example was the rarely used Astronaut Whammy, which showed the rocket ship "PYL83" taking off without him, and the Whammy saying "I thought I had The Right Stuff?"
    • Other notable examples were the whammy dressing up as The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Culture Club frontman Boy George. The whammy's girlfriend, Tammy, was a shout to country music legend Tammy Wynette.
  • Title Drop: Peter would sometimes ask contestants "Are you ready to press your luck?"
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: At least four, none of which were really that successful.
    • An Australian version hosted by Ian Turpie aired from 1987-88 and, per Reg Grundy's tradition, the set and format were very faithful to the original - it even used the same Whammy animations! The Big Board was scaled down ("Stop at $30!") and had some rather unusual Bonus Spaces (Lose-1-Whammy or $200 + One Spin?!).
    • A British version helmed by Paul Coia ran on HTV West from 1991-92. While the format was faithful, the budget was minimal — the Big Board used points, and the big winner received £200. The show was quickly kicked from primetime to Saturday afternoons, then Sunday afternoons.
    • A German version, Glück am Drücker (more clips here), aired for a time in 1992. This iteration used a kinda-similar set (the Big Board used a five-by-five layout instead of six-by-five), animated vultures instead of Whammies (complete with unique animations), and a "light box" which moved at a speed more like that on Second Chance.
      • An updated version, Drück dein Glück, ran from 1999-2000. This version used Hanz the Money Shark and an atmosphere closer to Whammy!
    • And as with many other game shows, Sabado Gigante had their own version at one point.
  • Vocal Evolution: The Whammy was primarily voiced by Press creator Bill Carruthers. Originally, he had more of a high-pitched and harmonized voice. But near the very end of the run, for some of the very last Whammies used on the show (such as the Circus Car, the Judge, and the Doctor ones), the voice began sounding a lot more gruff and harmonized.
  • You Look Familiar: On occasion, they would invite back contestants, because of problems with a question and/or some other kind of technicality (usually with the Big Board).

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alternative title(s): Press Your Luck
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