Peter Tomarken previously hosted the 13-week NBC game Hit Man, which has been barred from airing since its 130 educational films were only licensed for one showing apiece.
The Whammy was created and animated by Savage Steve Holland and Bill Kopp, both of whom later created Eek! The Cat. Holland's resume as a director includes Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer, plus dozens of television shows including The New Adventures of Beans Baxter, V.I.P., Lizzie McGuire, and Big Time Rush. The voice was provided by Press franchise creator Bill Carruthers, with other staff members occasionally contributing.
Among the show's contestants were a few famous names:
Randy West (September 29-30 and October 3, 1983), the first player to win a car and the second to retire undefeated (coincidentally, he was also the final champion on Hit Man). Later became a well-respected Game Show announcer.
Ralph Strangis (May 28-29, 1985), later became play-by-play announcer for the Dallas Stars.
Sam Schmidt (January 2-4, 1985), later became an Indy driver and founded the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation.
Jennie Jones (January 28-30, 1985), changed her name to "Jenny" and helmed a long-running talk show.
Myke Horton (February 6, 1985), later became known as "Gemini".
Steve Bryant (July 12 and 15-16, 1985), member of the Houston Oilers who became famous for not only his Big Word Shout "No Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammies!", but for playing against the house on his second day.
Rod Roddy had previously announced on Soap and Hit Man.
Irony as She Is Cast: Despite prominently taking part in all three Christmas editions of the show (1983, 1984, and 1985), host Peter Tomarken was actually Jewish of Russian descent.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The Michael Larson episodes were heavily traded around for years until GSN aired them in 2003. Further, the network's first run of the series only consisted of a stretch from February 21, 1984, to November 15, 1985 (Day 20 of the third and final Home Player Sweepstakes, which ran for 25 episodes)...although some 1983 clips got in due to the opening montage.
These 450 episodes first aired on GSN from September 1, 2001 to April 10, 2005. Episode #539 (October 17, 1985) aired on December 26, 2006, having previously been skipped over early in 2005 due to a Johnny Carson Tribute.
Only two episodes in this rerun package were skipped over due to tape glitches: May 31, 1984 (Day 14 of the first Home Player Sweepstakes) and October 4, 1985 (a clip, namely a contestant named Mike after presumably hitting $5,000 + One Spin twice in a row, made it to flashback intros much later in the run).
The series as a whole became this when GSN stopped airing it in 2009. On October 15, 2012, the network picked up the series for repeats once again, now beginning at the premiere (September 19, 1983). To say the fandom rejoiced would be an understatement, especially since the second and third shows weren't among collectors, #6 had been pre-empted on the East Coast, the first two weeks hadn't been seen since their initial broadcast, and some episodes taped from USA weren't in the best quality. Inexplicably, the lease only covered the first ten weeks, but that expanded (and the fandom rejoiced again) on April 1, 2013 with another 57 new-to-GSN episodes from 1983-84, skipping only #051 and #066, although it seems the latter isn't their doing - the episode (slated to air December 21, 1983) seems to have been thrown out due to unknown technical problems that were not the fault of the players and replace it (using the same players) with #067.
On September 29, 2014, GSN started showing the remaining 1985-early 1986 episodes, starting with episode #561 (November 18, 1985; Day 21 of 25 of the third and final Home Player Game).
In 2005, VH-1 showed master-quality clips of the June 16, 1986 episode in a segment on I Love the 80's 3D for 1983.
The Larson episodes were kept out of syndication for many years as an Old Shame.
Among the episodes GSN aired was the actual first taping from Back-to-School Week (#500; August 1985) that wasn't seen during the show's original run nor the repeats on USA. The episode itself is notable for being one of the few times a contestant played against the house. These were taped prior to the tapings of the 8/22 and 8/23 episodes, and made its GSN debut on September 4, 2004.
#066 counts yet doesn't (see above for reason), hence GSN skipping it and #051.
No Budget: A likely reason for the many changes during Season 3, which proceeded to break Pick-A-Corner to the point of being ousted entirely on July 25, 1986.
$2,000 and $2,500 spaces gave way to more $1,000 and $500 spaces. With an excess of $500 and $750 spaces with and without extra spins, R2 bore a strong resemblance to R1.
Pick-A-Corner didn't suffer so much from the budget, but rather the ill-considered rearrangement of dollar values in the other three corners. It's amazing how many times PAC got hit and players witnessed the head-slappingly no-brainer choices between three cash values. Move One Space also suffered, at one point giving a choice of $1,500 or $500. Perhaps the producers were just experimenting with the template since the R2 board of 1985 went a long life without any radical changes, and was actually showing its age as many slides started fading from the hours under the heat of being projected by lamps. If anything, the R1 template could've used an overhaul. PAC worked best when the choices were basically some combination of moderate cash, lesser cash + One Spin, and a moderate prize. PAC was supposed to allow you to choose from the best of the board, not boring things like $1,400-$500-$1,400.
PAC also suffered from limited randomization. When $2,000 or Lose-A-Whammy was in #16, a Whammy was in #1, and #10 consisted of three prizes...it was perfect. By Spring 1986, it almost always seemed to result in a bunch of anticlimactic choices.
Screwed by the Network: CBS moved it from 10:30 AM to 4:00 PM in January 1986 so they could debut a revival of Card Sharks. Although the change was promoted in-show at the end of December 1985, certain comments from here onward appear to prove that the show's staff knew their days were numbered.
(June 17, 1986: the N of a "SPINS" placard falls off after that player buzzes in; after Peter picks up the fallen N and returns to his spot...)
Peter: Have we been renewed? [beat] This would never happen to Bob Barker.
Short-Lived Big Impact: The show only lasted for three seasons, not a particularly impressive run for a Game Show. But it's long been a cultural icon of The Eighties, and a near-constant ficture on the rerun circuit (first on USA Network, then on GSN), so even people who weren't around to see it in first-run are still familiar with the show in general.
Vindicated by Reruns: The aforementioned reruns on USA Network and GSN are probably what helped the show stay in the limelight a lot longer than other shows of its ilk.
As early as January 1985, series creator Bill Carruthers planned a nighttime version of the show for syndication to be distributed by Golden West Television. As a result, Tomarken — who was supposed to become Entertainment This Week cohost with Leeza Gibbons (replacing Robb Weller) — had to put those plans on hold. The syndie Press didn't fly, so Weller kept his job.
In early 1986, as the show's network fate was becoming clear, Carruthers tried the route again — albeit this time, the show would be moving directly from CBS into daily syndication with 130 new episodes for the 1986-87 season, now distributed by Republic Pictures. Still didn't work. In early 1987, Republic Pictures repackaged 130 episodes (February 25-August 23, 1985) to a handful of stations for Syndicated reruns. These became the first episodes to air on USA Network from September 14, 1987 to March 11, 1988.