Series: Winning Streak

Game Show hosted by Bill Cullen and produced by Bob Stewart which ran on NBC from 1974-75. Two contestants picked letters from a 44 board with a category on top, and each question's answer started with the chosen letter. The first to buzz-in and answer correctly was given the letter to take (and place in one of the seven positions on the front of each podium) or pass it, with an incorrect answer awarding that letter to the opponent. The first contestant to spell a word which fit the category moved on to the Money Board.

At the Money Board, the winner picked a number from 1-6 to set the base dollar amount (from $100-$200 in $10 increments), then picked one of the remaining numbers (7-18) to reveal a letter. Giving a valid word containing the revealed letter won that base amount, after which the contestant picked another letter to try for double the base amount by giving a word with the two revealed letters. This continued (with the amount "doubling and redoubling") until the contestant either bailed out with the money accumulated or failed to give an acceptable word, thus "busting".

After the Money Board, that player stood on the sidelines while another main game and Money Board were played. If either player busted during the Money Board, the other became champion, but if both walked away with money they played the Final Showdown another Money Board for the total of their pots, with the contestants alternating picking letters until one of them failed to make a word. (If both contestants busted on the Money Board, they competed in the next main game.)

(deepbreath)

By December 26, things got simplified a bit the main game goal was changed to contestants winning points behind the chosen letters to pass a certain threshold, then (apparently) facing the previous champion in a similar game to build words with the letters selected during the main game. The bonus game, now the Sudden-Death Showdown, was a cross between the Money Board and Final Showdown; the only difference was that the dollar amounts (now going up to $500) were simply added for each new word instead of doubling and redoubling.

Got all that?

Winning Streak replaced Three On A Match (which had the same personnel and creator) on July 1, 1974 at the behest of Lin Bolen, swapping timeslots with Jeopardy and facing CBS' popular Gambit. The Peacock dropped both on January 3, 1975, with Streak's timeslot given to some new show by Merv Griffin.

But the original format was rather dangerous, with major problems had some particularly smart/gutsy contestants been on. While the claim was that players could win over $100,000, the theoretical top prize in each game on a network that didn't have a Game Show Winnings Cap was actually a whopping $819,200.

And you thought offering insanely huge amounts of money that are deliberately hard to win was a recent idea...

Not related to the long-running Irish game show of the same name, which has been running since 21 September 1990 and is funded by the Irish National Lottery with a top prize that can actually be won.

Game Show Tropes in use:


This show provides examples of:

  • Calvinball: ...But it makes a bit more sense upon viewing them in action.
  • Foreshadowing: Winning Streak, for all its failure, actually had a few innovations that got recycled into other games.
    • The Money Board had 18 spaces arranged in a square, with the contestant's face superimposed in the middle over the show's logo. Sound familiar?
    • Part of the original maingame (picking letters from a board, with the question's correct answer beginning with that letter) got recycled into Bill's later Blockbusters (1980-82).
    • The theoretical top prize of $819,200 is completely outlandish for the 1970s (really, nobody noticed that?!), but actually fits quite well as a big-ticket (albeit unorthodox) prize in the post-Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? landscape.
    • The logo seen in the center of the Money Board during the December 26 clip looks remarkably like that of Russian Roulette (2002-03).
  • Nintendo Hard: The quickest way to win $100,000 was to find the $200 card and give a word containing ten letters you had picked. Still easier than $409,600 for all 12 letters, though.
  • Opening Narration: At least two.
    • August 9: "You can double your money with every word, and you may win over $100,000 or you may go broke. The decision is yours...this is Winning Streak, starring Bill Cullen!"
    • December 26: "The stakes get higher and higher with every single letter, but only one player will win it all on...Winning Streak! With your host, Bill Cullen!"
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: Even though the main game was won by way of spelling, the show apparently didn't expect a contestant to screw it up...but it happened during the taping of the premiere. Bob Stewart's solution was to rewind the game to when she screwed up and continue from there.
  • Totally Radical: Bolen wanted all NBC emcees to be young and/or hip-looking, so the 56-year-old Cullen had shoulder-length hair, butterfly collars, and leisure suits. Amusingly, this was kicked out by December 26.