"Is this one of your fantasies? You see a big, beautiful supermarket, and they say to you... "Go ahead, do what you've always wanted to do! Run wild! Grab everything you can get your hands on! Everything in this supermarket is yours — and it's all free!" From Hollywood, where dreams do come true, it's the return of the one and only Supermarket Sweep!"
Game Show created by Al Howard that originally began development for ABC in 1965. The game, which was broadcast from grocery stores across the country, was simple: in the first round, three players stood behind cash registers and were shown a product from the store by host Bill Malone, then had to guess how much it cost. The player closest to the actual price won that product and 10 additional seconds of sweep time (each player began with 1:30). After a certain number of products, their teammates did the shopping, running up and down the supermarket aisles grabbing food and special items to get the largest total while an announcer did play-by-play. At the end of the sweep, the team that picked up the largest cash value of groceries throughout the market was the winner and came back on the next show, although everyone got to keep their groceries.The development of Sweep wasn't easy: the first test shows had women running the aisles, which the producers felt wouldn't be thought of kindly by female viewers. Further, one player had a heart attack, resulting in executive producer Leonard Stern adding a rule stating that runners had to be 40 or under and have a note from a physician certifying they were healthy enough to participate note (this was Stern's only contribution to the show despite his credit, mainly because he was pretty much occupied with overseeing Get Smart and developing three sitcoms of his own: He & She, The Hero, and Run, Buddy, Run). Having the ladies do the pricing and the men doing the sweep improved the show, as the men were faster and more active. ABC opted to do some test showings in movie theaters, which brought the most enthusiastic reaction the network had ever seen for one of its daytime shows.Sweep debuted on ABC's daytime schedule on December 20, 1965, although some critics weren't too kind to it. Producer David Susskind, who had a reputation of being associated with "class" shows, was quick to note to TV Guide that while it saved his company and brought in some profit, he wasn't involved with the show.The series ended on July 14, 1967 after just 19 months, and by all indication vanished into obscurity over the next two decades. Eventually, though, Howard brought Sweep back in 1990 on Lifetime. Now hosted by David Ruprecht, the front game now had a considerable variety and groceries were no longer awarded (indeed, the supermarket was a soundstage) — instead, the teams played the Big Sweep for cash with the highest total playing a Bonus Sweep for another $5,000. The other major difference is that there were no returning champs, although some teams were invited back for a Sweep of Champions or Second Chance Week.The revival, which was quick to note that it was returning and not an all-new property, ran until 1995. After several years of reruns, PAX revived it from 2000-03.
Big Win Sirens: A series of sirens and a clanging bell were used if the $5,000 was won.
Bonus Round: The Bonus Sweep, utilizing Linked List Clue Methodology: Clue #1, which David read, led to the first product which contained Clue #2, which led to the second product which contained Clue #3, which led to the third product and the $5,000, which teams had to physically have their hands on before the time was up. Failure to do so earned $200 for each item.
This led to problems at least once — a team read Clue #2 wrong and went for the wrong product, which happened to be the third item (the one with the $5,000); they had to put the money back and try to find the third clue, which didn't happen.
Originally, simply grabbing the third Bonus Sweep product awarded the $5,000. The money prop, which became the item that needed to be grabbed, was added around 1992 — although its famous "fan" appearance didn't come until later.
The Linked List Clue Methodology above wasn't enforced, either — grabbing the third product awarded the money, regardless of whether the other two items were found. The regular rule, where teams in this situation had to find the other items and then double back, probably began when the money prop was introduced.
Bonus Space: By the end of the run, you couldn't round a corner without a special item, task, or quest that gave out bonus money. No bonus ever offered more than $300.
Consolation Prize: In the original series, everyone got to keep all the groceries they got in the Sweep.
Golden Snitch: The Big Sweep was all that mattered. The front game was only there to build up time for the Sweep itself, and it wasn't unheard of (though very rare) for the team with the least amount of time to win. By the end the expensive Farmer John hams, gallon bottles of vegetable oil, baby formula, turkeys, and diapers were pretty much the show's equivalent to R-S-T-L-N-E — always claimed, always a guarantee of a good Sweep total.
Mystery Box: The giant inflatable groceries (or grocery mascots; it wasn't uncommon to see the Jolly Green Giant) had an amount of money attached to them from $50-$200 in $50 increments; the top prize was increased to $250 in 1993, and special shows occasionally had a $300 bonus.
The Announcer: For the ABC version, Wally King (1965-66) and Richard Hayes (1966-67) with Johnny Olson and Gene Wood doing frequent subs. Johnny Gilbert did the Lifetime version and the first five months of the PAX version, with Randy West taking over in September 2000 for the remainder of the run.
Game Show Host: Bill Malone on the original, David Ruprecht on the revival.
Studio Audience: In the Lifetime era and early in the PAX era, teams were chosen from the audience if they had a certain product. "Who's got the Ritz crackers? Okay, you're on!"
One could argue that the contestants were seeded into the audience before the episode began. Later on during the PAX run, the contestants ran out of the market with their items to their stands to start the show.
Subverted; as per announcer Randy West, the cheeses were real, and staff got to take some home at the end of each season.
Awesome yet Practical: The announcer would frequently claim pharmaceutical items such as hair products and contact lens solution were this. Unlike the standard meats and cheeses (which could fill up a cart and require a switch for an empty one), the pharmaceuticals were expensive and small, taking up very little space in a cart.
Big Red Button: Used to activate the clue monitors in later episodes; the monitors were touchscreens when they debuted.
Cap: In the Big Sweep, you were limited to five of any one item.
"It's the Super Bonus!" (when the $250 inflatable was found)
"Remember, the next time you're at the checkout stand and you hear the beep (beep-beep!), think of all the fun you could have on Supermarket Sweep!" note (Originally said by just Ruprecht, the contestants began joining in by 1993.)
Downer Ending: One Bonus Sweep had the team grab the $5,000 and start celebrating, not realizing that the sirens weren't blaring. Ruprecht, who was not smiling, had to not only calm them down but explain that the team grabbed the money about a half-second too late.
One "Team 3", going into the Big Sweep with the 1:30 base they were given at the start of the game, finished with no bonuses and a dismal $374...to which everybody still applauded.
Another "Team 3", also having the 1:30 base in the Big Sweep, decided to go the "try for a bunch of bonuses" route...and got none, finishing with about $5.
Failed a Spot Check: It happened on several occasions that a team in the Bonus Sweep would walk right past the next clue they needed to get. At least one team did this multiple times with the same clue.
Follow the Plotted Line: Everyone inevitably ran for the meats first, since they were the most expensive if you grabbed the big cuts. Other popular items were toiletries, sweets (usually they were bonuses), cheeses, and any small things that were pricey.
One person went an unconventional (but actually pretty clever) route and used the medicine aisle.
Incredibly Lame Pun: In some early Lifetime episodes, Ruprecht would make a joke involving a grocery product (e.g., "Aren't we all glad to be here?"), then toss said product off-camera to groans from the audience.
Long Runner: The Lifetime/PAX version ran for a total of eight years, which is pretty good for a cable game. Throw in the reruns, and it's nearly 15 years.
The use of cents in Big Sweep totals was discarded after the first Lifetime season (unless two teams totaled within a dollar of each other), although the familiar "running total in corner" display was not adopted until around 1993.
Scenery Porn: The Ruprecht-era supermarket, especially toward the end of the run. As you may expect from a real supermarket, there were several people involved in "restocking" the shelves for each taping.
Schmuck Bait: The pound-of-coffee/dollar's-worth-of-candy bonuses, originally worth $100 each, were definitely worth stopping for until rising grocery prices reduced them into this trope. Somewhat remedied for the last two seasons (2001-03), where they each doubled to $200.
Signing Off Catch Phrase: "The next time you're at the checkout counter and you hear the beep (beep-beep), think of all the fun you can have on Supermarket Sweep!"
Spin-Off: The original series was replaced (with the same announcer, host, and production company) on July 17, 1967 by The Honeymoon Race. Three men, driven by their wives in bumper cars, competed in a series of five stunts to win prizes — in other words, a precursor to Shop 'Til You Drop. The show ended on December 1, although only the fifth episode is known to exist.
Transatlantic Equivalent: Two UK runs from 1993-2001 and 2007, both hosted by Dale Winton, plus an Australian version produced by Reg Grundy (and as per Grundy tradition, using a similar set [at first]) and airing on the Nine Network from 1992-1994, hosted by former Australian Price is Right host Ian Turpie, as well as a Canadian version hosted by Tino Monte, airing on Global from 1992-1995.