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Series: Sale Of The Century

Today on America's BIGGEST bargain sale, we're offering a Datsun 300ZX Valued at $26,194 for only $530! Cash and Prizes worth over ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND dollars for only $750! TWO of the incredible bargains on...SALE OF THE CENTURY!

Game Show that originally ran on NBC from 1969-73, followed by weekly syndication for the 1973-74 season. The show was originally hosted by Jack Kelly, who was replaced by Joe Garagiola in 1971. Three solo contestants (from April 1973 to September 1974, two husband-wife teams) accumulated small amounts of money by answering general-knowledge questions. At certain points in the game, the player/couple in the lead could spend part of their score on ridiculously discounted prizes. Unlike most games, Sale allowed all players to take home whatever money and prizes were credited to them, regardless of the outcome.

During the show's run in the United Kingdom (1971-83), Sale was purchased by Australian producer Reg Grundy, who made some tweaks to the format and debuted a version in his native country on July 14, 1980. note  After this became a major success as well, he took it to NBC with Jim Perry as host. This era ran on NBC from 1983-89, with a concurrent syndicated version airing daily from January 1985 to June 1986. The Australian version, meanwhile, continued until 2001.

In 2005, Australia revived Sale as Temptation, which was fairly faithful to the original and ran until 2009. This version in turn spun off an American version, Temptation: The New Sale of the Century, a low-budget knockoff that was canceled after its low-rated disaster of a first season.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • All or Nothing: Subverted. In the Shopping and the Winners Board eras note , if a returning champion lost his/her last game, then all of the major prizes were lost, but s/he did keep any Instant Bargain/Gift Shop purchases, Fame Game prizes, and cash (from the host's offers, Sale Surprises, Fame Game, and/or Instant Cash/Cashbox/Cash Card/Vault) accumulated during their run.
  • Auction: Done when there was a tie for first place on an Instant Bargain. The tied players would be in a Dutch Auction with whomever buzzed in winning the prize.
  • Big Win Sirens: The stock "NBC sirens" were heard if a major prize or the Lot was won at the end of the show. A "win music" cue was also played for significant wins, and would sound again during the closing fee plugs and credits of that show.
  • Bonus Round: The 1980s version had three, all allowing for potential winnings of over $100,000.
    • The first was almost identical to the original: the champion could use their to buy one of the progressively fancier prizes available, or try for a larger prize by coming back the next day. Reaching a specific target won all the onstage prizes plus a cash jackpot. Originally, there was no cash jackpot that started at $50,000, and increased by $1,000 each time it was not won. Instead, some extra cash was thrown in, to make the entire prize package worth $95,000. Later, when the jackpot was addednote , it was designated at the second-to-last level as a stand-alone prize. Most contestants who made it that far opted to leave once they got the jackpot. Only Barbara Phillips walked away with the jackpot AND all the prizes. note 
    • This was replaced in October 1984 by the Winner's Board, a simple matching game with 20 spaces. Most of the spaces contained matching prizes, but two of the spaces held "WIN" cards which allowed the instant win of a prize revealed in the next pick. (The top two prizes, a car and $10,000, could only be won this way.) Once a champion cleared the board, they could risk these prizes to play one more time; winning that game won an extra $50,000.
      • The Aussie Winner's Board (which replaced Shopping in 1989) had only six major prizes (seven from 1993-2001), and a 12-space board. The only way to win the car was by uncovering the "WIN" card first. Unlike the American version, the major prizes were always at risk, so champions were given a choice whether or not to continue after matching a prize. Also, the Progressive Jackpot carried over from the Shopping bonus round, often resulting in large cash jackpots. (From 1993 until the final episode in 2001, an additional prize was added to the board, therefore a winning contestant had to finish with a score of $100 or more on any given night to have the chance to reveal the car on the prize board.)
    • On December 28, 1987, this was changed to the Winner's Big Money Game, a speed round with a series of word puzzles (originally 5 in 25 seconds, later 4 in 20 seconds), played for a jackpot increasing every time it was played by a champion note .
  • Bonus Space: Instant Bargain and Instant Cash could count for this, but mainly the Fame Game (some spaces added to a contestant's score, while the others contained prizes or a sizable cash award).
  • Celebrity Edition: The Aussie version had a few weeks set aside for celebrities playing the game for home viewers or for charity, depending on the format for the week.
    • A Day in the Limelight: On the 40 Years of Television special in 1996, Pete Smith competed and ultimately advanced to the finals. Also, during the Temptation era, Ed Philips and Livinia Nixon once played the game as part of a special "Battle of the Network Shows" week. Filling in for them as host and hostess? Tony Barber and Alyce "Sparky" Platt.
    • The original version in the 70's with Joe Garagiola, during the couples' format, featured at lest one towards the end of the daytime edition in 1973. It was a Mother's Day week edition that aired during the week of May 7, 1973, with two female celebrities helping out two female contestants win cash and prizes. Celebrities during that week were Nanette Fabray and Anita Gillette.
  • Confetti Drop: Confetti and balloons were released at the end of the show any time a contestant hit the Lot or decided to leave the show with a sizable prize during the Shopping era; used also for notably big wins at the Winner's Board or Winner's Big Money Game, and at the end of the 1989 Grand Finale.
  • Consolation Prize: Contestants were given their final score in cash on most versions, along with anything won from Fame Games, Instant Bargains, etc.
    • During the Winner's Board era of the NBC run, any contestant who played for $50,000 and lost forfeited all Winner's Board prizes. No contestant who ever went for the top prize lost, although one (future game show host Mark DeCarlo, the first player to win in this format) won the $50,000 only after an opponent answered the tiebreaker question incorrectly.
    • The Australian version famously gave all contestants the show's pin and board game:
    Pete Smith: [The runners-up] both receive the push-button $ale of the Century game from Crown and Andrews plus our champagne-colored diamond-set stickpin from Bruce and Walsh Jewelers and $ale of the Century. note 
  • Extra Turn: In the second 1980s version of the Fame Game, two of the cards were "$400/Mystery Money or Pick Again", changed to "or Try Again" when contestants chose a number with their buzzers. The syndicated version had "Trip or Pick Again". If a contestant was trailing in score and needed a Money Card to catch up, s/he'd take that extra turn.
    • The Aussie version added the "Wild Card" to the final Fame Game in 1986, with the option of taking either $1,000 ($2,000 on Temptation) or picking another celebrity.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: Averted by the 1980s version, as it had the possibility to give out jackpots in excess of $100,000.
  • Golden Snitch: Early in the 1980s run, the last Fame Game of the day was followed by only three more questions. This gave the last Fame Game the potential to put the game out of reach unless someone who trailed by less than $10 found the $25 Money Card.
    • Also, in the early days (early years in Australia) of the Fame Game, there was only one Money Card worth $25, and if it was uncovered in the first or second round it basically made subsequent Fame Games worthless, as there were only small prizes left available.
    • Subverted in later seasons; one money card was added to the board on each Fame Game—first $10, then $15, and finally $25. (also, from 1989 to 1992 in the Australian version, a fourth Fame Game round was added, with a $20 Money Card {played third, followed by the $25 Fame Game round})
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Bill Wendell announced the 1969-74 version. Jay Stewart announced from 1983 until he was fired from the show in 1988 due to his heavy drinking. He was replaced by Don Morrow for the remainder of that run.
    • In Australia, the announcer was primarily Pete Smith, who joined the show at the start of its third week and remained for the rest of the run.
    • Game Show Host: Jack Kelly from 1969-71, followed by Joe Garagiola. Jim Perry of Card Sharks fame hosted in the 1980s. Nicholas Parsons hosted all of the original British version.
      • The Australian version was originally helmed by Tony Barber (14 July 1980-19 April 1991), followed by Glenn Ridge (22 April 1991-November 2001) and Ed Phillips (Temptation).
    • Lovely Assistant: Barbara Lyon from 1969-71, then Kit Dougherty. There was also one named Madelyn Sanders, but it is not clear exactly when she was on the original show.
      • Perry's era had three: Sally Julian (January 3 to about March/April, 1983), Lee Menning (circa March/April 1983-December 28, 1984), and Summer Bartholomew (December 31, 1984-March 24, 1989); Lou Mulford and announcer Jay Stewart filled-in on occasion.
      • In Australia, the assistants were Victoria Nichols (14 July 1980-22 October 1982), Delvene Delaney (25 October 1982-November 1985), and Alyce Platt (a.k.a. "Sparky"; 28 January 1986-19 April 1991) for Tony Barber. Jo Bailey (22 April 1991-late 1993), Nicky Buckley (7 February 1994-November 1999), and Karina Brown (21 February 2000-November 2001) were the assistants for Glenn Ridge. Generally subverted, though, in that half the models showcasing the Instant Bargains were male.
      • The Australian Temptation was also true to its predecessor with Livinia Nixon as the assistant, but about half the Gift Shop prizes were modeled by Scott McGregor.
  • Mystery Box: The "Mystery Money" option on the Fame Game board.
  • Progressive Jackpot: Seen on the American and Australian versions.
    • For the Shopping era of the 1980s NBC version (and first 10 months of the syndicated run), the top prize was a jackpot which began at $50,000 and increased by $1,000 per show until claimed. The jackpot (which could be won separately or together with the other big-ticket prizes) often topped $75,000, and the highest it ever got was $109,000.
      • From 16 August 1982 until the end of its run, the Aussie jackpot started at $50,000 and increased by $2,000 per show until claimed. The jackpot (which was a part of the Lot) often topped the six-figure mark, with the highest being $508,000.
    • Starting in March 1986 on the NBC version and continuing to the end of the run, the third Instant Bargain was replaced with Instant Cash, which allowed the contestant in the lead a 1-in-3 shot at a jackpot of $1,000 plus $1,000 for each show it was not won; the catch was that the contestant had to spend the entire amount of their lead to guess which box held the cash. If the contestant played and guessed wrongly (the two other boxes/wallets had $100 as a consolation), they were shown the correct box. It was seldom played because players who led by more than a few dollars were more interested in winning the game, resulting in the game topping $20,000 at least twice.
      • The Australian version's Instant Cash was initially known as the Cash Box, which was the same as the American version except the jackpot started at $2,000 and increased by $1,000 each day until won. This was replaced with the Cash Card in 1989 note , which started the jackpot at $5,000 and increased by $1,000 each day until won. Unlike Cash Box, the Cash Card cost a flat $15, and for the first few years the second-place player was given a chance to play by selecting one of the three remaining cards if the leader initially refused (with the jackpot taken out of play). The jackpot and second-place option were dropped in 1993, with the Cash Card now worth a flat $5,000 (sometimes $10,000).
  • Speed Round: Whoever was in the lead after 60 seconds at $5 per question won the game. (This was instituted in 1984, replacing an often anticlimactic final series of three questions at $5 per correct answer.)
    • Allegedly, it was originally a 90-second speed round, but not enough early episodes with this segment have resurfaced for this claim to be confirmed.
  • Undesirable Prize:
    • During the 1980s run, several prominent contestants were known to refuse even the most desirable Instant Bargains, particularly when a large end-game prize was at stake. One of the most well-known examples was Alice Conkwright, who during her six-day championship run refused every Instant Bargain; during the third Instant Bargain on her final show (where she was playing for a $136,275 Lot), Perry unsuccessfully swayed her to buy by offering her $2,000, usual SOP for this circumstance.
    • As mentioned above, Instant Cash. Unless the lead was very small (or in some cases, when two contestants were tied for the lead, in which case Perry would conduct a Dutch auction), the contestants invariably would decline to take the gamble.
    • Everything on the UK version, mainly because the broadcasting rules of the time placed a strict limit on prize value. The Benny Hill Show note  parodied this at least twice, one of which felt eerily like the American Temptation.
    • In Australia, the Cash Card game from 1989-92 featured a "Joker" as one of the hidden items, which was a booby prize.

This series provides examples of:

  • Catch Phrase
    • Lovely Assistant: "Normally priced at $xx, today/tonight, it's yours for only $xx on $ale of the Century.
    • Host: Going once... Going twice... No Sale!"
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: In the Reg Grundy versions since its debut in Australia in 1980, the front of the hosts' podium had different colored square-lights, flashing on a black board (green check mark, yellow question mark, and red X). They would form a shape to indicate the type of answer given. Green indicated a correct answer, yellow indicated that more information should be given on a particular answer, and red indicated that the answer was incorrect.
  • Cut Short: The last NBC episode in 1973 had the day's winning couple electing to come back the following Monday; during the credits, announcer Bill Wendell stated that this was in fact the last episode and the producers gave the couple the prize they were working for (a trip to Acapulco, according to one recollection) anyway.
  • Double Unlock: On the Aussie version from 1993-2001, the rules involving winning the car were changed. In order to win the car, a player had to do the following.
    • Win the game with $100 or...
    • Play Cash Card and pick the suit which had the "CAR" symbol and then win the game. (This rule was added in 1994.)
    • Then, after winning the game, they had to find the "WIN" card on the Winner's Board, then find the CAR. (If the board was cleared and the car hadn't been won, it was made the major prize on the next show, followed by the jackpot.)
  • Downer Ending: Several examples.
    • On the U.S. Syndicated edition, Michael Friedman only had $101 left to buy everything at the end of the show, but on his 9th and last game (April 1, 1985), he lost to Alice Conkwright.
    • Hell, pretty much ANY champion that plays for a big prize (whether it's the Car, the Cash Jackpot, All the Prizes on stage, or the Lot {All the Prizes on stage AND the Cash Jackpot}) and loses counts as this.
    • Champions who lose the Winner's Big Money Game at the last second, ESPECIALLY those for the car or the $50K (even though they had already won quite a bit up to that point), also count. The most prominent example being Darrell Garrison, who was going for his 7th try on the series' third-to-last episode (OAD—March 22, 1989). He would have won had he not missed a relatively easy puzzle that anybody could have answered, which was "Jiminy Cricket". He would have also played for $50,000 on his next show, and if he REALLY played his cards right, Darrell would have been the very last $100K+ winner.
    • Ed and Livinia losing on their own show at the very last second in the Battle of the Network Shows against "What's Good For You."
  • Dumb Blonde: Sally Julian. She had a squeaky voice, and would often be so inarticulate, constantly stuttering, and relying on cue cards. This led to Reg Grundy dismissing her, and replacing her with more competent co-hosts Lee Menning and, later, Summer Bartholomew.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Below is a list of examples from the American version. But anything from other versions abroad are also welcome to this section.
    • On early episodes of the original 1969-74 version, an "Open House" round was played, usually about halfway through a particular episode. Five prizes were presented to the contestants and each could buy as many of them as he or she wanted. Unlike Instant Bargains, multiple contestants could buy the same item. This was later replaced with an "Audience Sale" round in which three members of the studio audience guessed the "sale price" of an item. The one that bid closest without going over won the item. The three contestants could increase their score by correctly guessing which, if any, audience member would win.
    • At least one early episode of the weekly '73-'74 Syndicated version, according to one account, had a different endgame. Originally, each prize had a sale price, and Garagiola asked questions worth $100 each, which was added to the couple's score from the game. When the amount reached the sale price of a prize, the couple could buy the prize or keep playing for a more expensive prize. All the others had something else called "The Game of Champions". The three prizes had sale amounts ($150, $300, and $600). The winning couple chose a prize and had to answer three questions (worth $50, $100, or $200 each, depending on the prize) in order to win.
    • In the beginning, the 1980's American version with Jim Perry more or less resembled its Australian counterpart with Tony Barber, right down to the beige set, rainbow buzzers, celebrity Fame Game faces, and Shopping Round. But within a year, changes were made, greatly differentiating the two versions. The set was given a gold/orange makeover, the Celebrity faces were replaced with a conventional 1-9 numbering system, and, under pressure from NBC to have a traditional endgame and conserve budget, the Shopping Round was replaced with the Winner's Board, later replaced by the Winner's Big Money Game. In contrast, the Australian version had the original set from 1980 to 1985, and the Shopping Round from 1980 to 1988, and the Winner's Board taking it over from 1989, to the end of the run in 2001. Oddly enough, when the Aussie $ale updated its set for the first time in 1986, the American version kept its 1984 gold set all the way up to its cancellation in 1989.
  • Epic Fail:
    • Any time a contestant manages to get less than $1,000 from the Temptation "VAULT".
    • In a sense, Michael Friedman, on his last day when he was trying to play for all of the prizes plus a $70,000 cash jackpot. His opponent that day: Alice Conkwright. A fantastic player in his own right, all of Friedman's hard work over two weeks worth of shows was for naught – although he did still leave with $18,000-plus in cash and prizes. Incidentally, Friedman probably gave Conkwright one of her toughest challenges, scoring $85 to her $120.
    • By Alice Conkwright's last show during her record run in the 1985 U.S. version, Jim Perry's attempts to get her to buy an Instant Bargain. Most notably, he offered her $2,000 in bonus cash to buy a trip. She declined, and Jim cried like the Wile E. Coyote.
  • Episode Code Number: There were two different kinds on both 1980's Daytime and Syndicated editions with Jim Perry. On the daytime show, a conventional numbering system was used. On the syndicated show, each episode was labeled with an "S" for "Syndication" at the start of the number.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Instant Bargain and Instant Cash.
  • Lucky Charms Title: Everywhere except the United Kingdom, the title was spelled with a dollar sign, making it $ale of the Century.
    • The original 1969-73 logo not only used the dollar sign but also a cent sign, making it $ale of the ¢entury.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: During the original US run, Sale had a rule in which any contestant falling to zero or below at any time was immediately eliminated from the game; the remaining contestants continued to play until the standard end of the game. Very rarely did two contestants get eliminated in this fashion – most likely, never all three, as the game would simply have progressed to the bonus round early.
  • Opening Narration: On the American versions...
    • 1969-74: "Today on the Sale of the Century, the total retail value of our prizes is more than $XX,XXX. These three players/two couples will have an opportunity to buy these prizes. (Players names, hometown, and occupation), (and welcome back our returning champion(s)) (champion(s)) who told us (s)he/they would like to buy (prizes)) And now here is the star of the Sale of the Century, Jack Kelly/Joe Garagiola!"
    • The announcer introduced the returning champion and their winnings, a constant throughout the run. During the Shopping era, the announcer always advised the audience to stay tuned, as the contestant was playing for a big-ticket item ("Stay tuned as (name) plays for a cash jackpot worth $83,000!").
    • During the Shopping era, the announcer would say "Today/Tonight, on America's biggest bargain sale, we're offering (name of luxury car and retail value) for (amount), a cash jackpot of (amount) for (amount). Two of the incredible bargains on Sale of the Century!"
      • For the syndicated Shopping episodes, the opening narration was a combination of this and the daytime Winner's Board intro. When the daytime show had the Shopping format with cash jackpot, only its current amount was mentioned, set to a shot of big bills being poured into a wide glass canister.
    • During the Winners Board and Winners Big Money Game eras, the second part was changed to having the announcer name (usually) four prizes available, followed by the car (and its value) and the $50,000 cash jackpot. "In total, over $100,000 on ... Sale of the Century!"
    • From the British version, "From Norwich... It's the Quiz of the Week..."
    • The Australian opening was virtually identical to the 1980s American one: "Tonight, on Australia's biggest bargain sale, we're offering (name of luxury car and retail value) for (amount), (secondary prize and retail value) for (amount). Two of the incredible bargains on Sale of the Century!"
      • When the Cash Jackpot debuted on 16 August 1982, the second prize was replaced with "cash to the total of (amount) for (amount)." Soon afterwards, the car's "sale price" was valued at $515, with the Cash Jackpot replaced by "all the prizes plus a cash jackpot of (amount) for $700."
      • When the Winner's Board came to Australia in 1989, the opening changed to the the announcer naming two of the major prizes available, followed by the car (and its value), and the cash jackpot of (amount). "All on the World's Richest Quiz...Sale of the Century!"
      • When the New Century came around, the intro was changed to "Tonight, on the World's Richest Quiz, we're offering..." and the ending to "All on Australia's Premier Quiz...Sale of the (New) Century!"
  • Rearrange the Song: The 1980s American theme was composed in 1982 by Ray Ellis and his son Marc, mostly based on Jack Grimsley's original 1980 recording for the Australian version. Both Ray & Marc have composed music for other American Reg Grundy games as well, including Scrabble. To go with the debut of the Winner's Big Money Game, Ray & Marc composed an updated version of the main theme along with a brand-new music package.
    • The original Jack Grimsley arrangement was itself updated three times during the Australian run: 1986, 1989, and 2000.
    • The main theme on the 1980's version was titled "Mercedes". Symbolic, because many of the cars that were given away on the show were, in fact, a Mercedes-Benz. A Mercedes-Benz was even the very first car offered on both Australian and American Reg Grundy versions.
  • Recursive Import: United States to Australia, and back again.
  • Shout-Out: The dollar amounts on the Fame Game board during the 1980s were called "Money Cards" by Perry.
  • Spiritual Successor: Temptation in Australia.
  • Trope 2000: Subverted by the Australian version. In 2000, it briefly renamed itself Sale of the New Century.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Used in mixture with common knowledge and the like in pretty much every version.
  • Viewers Are Morons: Subverted pretty much everywhere, regardless of country.

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alternative title(s): Sale Of The Century
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