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Series / Beat the Clock

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The PAX-era logo.
Perhaps the granddaddy of stunt-based Game Shows, this Mark Goodson-Bill Todman creation has been around in some form since 1950. The premise is simple: Here's a clock. Here's a silly stunt. Can you perform the stunt before time expires? Complete the objective, win some good stuff.

The original version, which aired on CBS (1950-58) and later ABC (1958-61), starred Bud Collyer as host. Brought back for a five-a-week syndicated revival in 1969, the show was hosted by Jack Narz, who left in 1972 due to travel expenses eating up most of his salary (taping of the show had moved from New York to Montreal in 1970 as a cost-saving measure). Gene Wood, then the show's announcer, was quickly promoted to host and kept the job until the end in 1974, making for one of his few non-announcing gigs. In 1979, Monty Hall of Let's Make a Deal fame hosted a five-month revival, again for CBS; this was one of the few times he hosted a show he didn't create, and the only time he ever worked for Goodson-Todman.

PAX (now Ion Television) brought back the show yet again in 2002, now originating from Universal Studios Florida with Gary Kroeger as host, and tacked on a Bonus Round copied from The Diamond Head Game. In 2006, the show served as the third episode of CBS' Gameshow Marathon with Ricki Lake, with the focus being on the 1950-61 versions.

In 2017, another revival was announced, this time as a kids' game show for the upcoming Universal Kids network (a new network absorbing/replacing Sprout). Paul Costabile hosts; the show debuted on February 6th, 2018. Sadly, the show only lasted one season and ended on July 8, 2019.

The format was exported to the United Kingdom in the 1960s, forming part of the popular variety series Saturday Night at the London Palladium. It was the first of many games hosted by Bruce Forsyth.

This show provides examples of:

  • Animated Credits Opening:
    • Used for most of Sylvania's sponsorship (1950-56), beginning on December 20, 1952: a mouse would dance on the titles to an arrangement of "Hickory, Dickory, Dock". Originally followed by the logo-Clock's hand wiping around to show Sylvania's various products, starting around 1954 the animated portion was lengthened to have the logo-Clock part like a curtain, after which the mouse put together the names of Sylvania products much like the Jackpot Clock the wives played.
    • A different animation, this time of an alarm clock that would literally be beaten by a hammer-wielding man, was used for the 1979-80 series.
  • The Announcer: Bern Bennett (1950-58), Dirk Fredericks (1958-61), Gene Wood (1969-72), Nick Holenreich (1972-74), Jack Narz (1979-80) and John Cramer (2018). Kroeger's version didn't have an announcer.
  • Ascended Extra: During the final Narz season, Gene Wood was the guest celebrity for a week with the announcing duties handled by Nick Holenreich. In September 1972, Wood took the hosting reins and Holenreich became permanent announcer.
  • Bonus Round:
    • The Jackpot Clocknote  and (Super) Bonus Stuntnote  during the original era are the Ur-Example. There was also the Solo Stuntnote  and the Playoff Stuntnote  during the Narz/Wood era, the Bonus Shufflenote  in the Hall era, the Swirling Whirlwind of Cash and Prizesnote  on Kroeger's version and the Bonus Bonanzanote  on the Costabile version.
    • During the Narz/Wood era, completing a stunt relatively quickly allowed the team/player to earn some bonus money (usually $5, $10, or $20) every time they could complete the task again within the remaining time.
    • The Money Board, also during the Narz/Wood era, used the show's title to hide cash prizes of $25, $50, $100 and $200. After completing a stunt, the team/player chose a letter and won the amount behind it. The day's money distribution was shown after all stunts had been completed.
  • Bonus Space: Midway into the Kroeger version, some "Golden Dollars" were added into the Swirling Whirlwind; if the winning couple managed to get one, the cash they had gathered was doubled (and if they got two, only one was counted).
  • Catchphrase:
  • Celebrity Edition: Celebs appeared occasionally during the original 1950-61 era, while the Narz/Wood era incorporated the celebrity guest into its regular format. The Hall version switched to all-celebs on November 5, 1979 and never looked back.
  • Color-Coded Characters: For the 1979-80 version, one couple wore red, the other green; for the 2002-03 run, one couple was red, another was blue, and a third was gold.
  • Companion Cube: The titular Clock, given how often the host had to refer to it. Gene Wood's "Talk to me, Clock" is especially notable, as is the 1979-80 opening and the Hall-era incident listed at Funny Moments.
  • Creative Closing Credits: Starting off the credits for the Wood era would be the words "BOSS LIST", followed by the word 'Boss' inserted into each title - i.e. Music Composition Boss, Writing Boss, Technical Boss, Stunt Creation Boss, Boss Lady, etc. Frank Wayne (the show's executive producer) was the Super Boss, with Gene Wood having the title of Boss.
  • Game Show Appearance: In a "lost episode" of The Honeymooners in 1953, Ralph and Norton appeared on a Collyer episode to do a stunt involving cups, saucers, and "a lemon machine".
  • Game Show Host: Bud Collyer (1950-61), Jack Narz (1969-72), Gene Wood (1972-74), Monty Hall (1979-80), Gary Kroeger (2002-03) and Paul Costabile (2018). Yes, you read that right — both Narz and Wood were host and announcer at one point.
  • Game Show Physical Challenge: A game show that had contestants attempt some wacky stunt, and accomplish a goal within two minutes or less. The challenges weren't especially athletic, as women participated in the games, since couples were usually the contestants. One such stunt had the husband ride a child's tricycle around a loop, while the wife tries to drop rubber balls from a stepladder into a clear tube attached to the husband's helmet.
  • Golden Snitch:
    • In the Hall version, the teams played the Bonus Shuffle (shuffleboard) to determine who'd attempt the Bonus Stunt. The team with more money got three pucks, while their opponents got two. The team whose puck touched the highest money amount without falling off the board won that amount, became the champions, and played a final stunt for 10 times that amount.
    • In the PAX version, there were two:
      • The first was an elimination stunt after each team played a timed stunt. The team that had the highest score got an advantage, the team with the lowest score, a disadvantage. Last team to finish was out of the game.
      • The second followed on to the first. The two teams got to see the final stunt, then played Bid-a-Time to determine who would play the stunt (first bid was determined by a trivia question, and couldn't exceed two minutes); low bid played. If they finished the stunt within the time, they won; if not, their opponents did.
    • The 2018 version has three regular rounds: Round 1 is worth $100, and round 2 is worth $150, with each team playing one stunt in each round (a la Shop 'Til You Drop); round 3 has the teams competing in a stunt against each other, with the winners getting $300 and the right to play the bonus game. Essentially, it's like Body Language, where the first two rounds don't really matter.
  • Home Game: The original series had a few, as did the Narz/Wood era. Collyer would often start a new couple off by handing them a copy of the game, assuring them that they will have as much fun with it as their kids will.
  • Lovely Assistant:
    • Roxanne (Dolores Rosedale) was the most famous hostess during the original era.
    • Beverly Bentley succeeded her from 1955 to 1956, then Gail Sheldon for syndication (1969-1974). The Monty Hall version featured three: Cindee Appleton, Autumn Hargis and Lisa Parkes. Tina Willie for the 2002 pilot, then Julielinh Parker for the PAX version.
  • Moving the Goalposts: In the Bud Collyer version, after describing a seemingly simple stunt then seeing what the time limit was, Collyer would often add an additional complication before letting them start, such as disallowing use of hands, or removing the netting from the net they would be using. When he did that, though, he stopped at that one iteration.
    • In at least one stunt, the contestants were told they would have to step over seemingly unpassable knee-high obstacles to get to the goal items. Once they had their blindfolds on, Collyer removed the obstacles so the contestants would try to navigate around things that were no longer there.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Highlighting the stunts in the Narz/Wood versions; it also provided the theme and other music cues, and was performed live in-studio by organist Dick Hyman.
  • Opening Narration:
    • 1950-61:
      Bern Bennett: And now here's America's number-one clock watcher, Bud Collyer!
    • 1969-72:
      Gene Wood: Yes, it's Beat the Clock! Come on and join the action in the race against time! With guest star [name]!
    • 1972-74:
      Nick Holenreich: Time now for the all-new Beat the Clock! Fun action stunts and a race against time! With guest star [name]!
    • 1979-80:
      Jack Narz: (Four varying phrases, all ending in "___ it", using two pairs of verbs that rhymed, such as "Throw it, tow it, swing it, fling it.") That's the way, every day, you can play Beat the Clock!
  • Pilot: Three for the Hall version; not much was different aside from Pilot #1 having a flaw in the Bonus Shuffle- namely, it only determined how much a couple would go for in the Bonus Stunt, meaning a couple could win the game with no money- which was fixed for Pilot #2. The Kroeger version had two, both of which had some significant differences. The first one had a time-building element for the Swirling Whirlwind (which only offered cash) similar to the stunt-era setup of Break the Bank (1985), and the Solo Stunt was a part of it. The second pilot was an hour-long, only intended for test audiences, and featured an elimination-style format with 8 teams getting cut down to 3.
  • Product Placement: During Sylvania's sponsorship their appliances were given as prizes, and Roxanne would take a picture of the husband of the team (usually after a stunt involving whipped cream or other messy substances) with the camera that would be given to the couple. Collyer would always point out that she was using a "Sylvania Blue Dot for sure shot" flash cube.
  • Progressive Jackpot: The reward for completing a (Super) Bonus Stunt in the Collyer era.
    • Originally, it started at $100 and grew by $100 per week until won. In 1954, this was changed to start at $500.
    • In 1956, the Super Bonus Stunt started at $10,000 and went up $1,000 per try until won. It reached $64,000 before being hit, and was won on the last show before a sponsor change. (It was announced at the top of said episode that if the Super Bonus wasn't won that night, the money would be donated to recognized charities.)
    • For the ABC era, or at least in 1960, the Bonus Stunt grew by $100 per day until won. It was finally hit in September 1960 for $20,100.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Twelve years after its cancellation, the game show channel Buzzr used the Kroeger version's theme song on one of its ad bumpers.
  • Stage Money: The bonus round of the PAX version had the contestants in the "Swirling Whirlwind" collecting flying cash (and prizes).
  • Taxman Takes the Winnings: The 1969-74 version ceased production because the Canadian government requested that the show turn over 50% of the money they received from sponsors offering their items as consolation prizes.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: The original had a vocal theme, which even went so far as to mention the sponsors by name.
  • Timed Mission: Kinda the whole point of the thing, isn't it?
    • And then the PAX version completely missed the point of it by running two stunts with no Clock: the opening stunt is a straight race to see who can finish first for 10 points, and an elimination stunt, also with no Clock. (The eliminator comes after each team has a timed stunt of 30 or 40 seconds, depending on whether they can answer a two-part question.) The team with the most points after the timed stunts is put at an advantage, the team with the fewest at a disadvantage. The first two to finish move on to the final stunt.
    • Hall's version also had stunts where the teams directly competed against each other, but they did use the Clock as a failsafe—if neither team finished the stunt when time ran out, the team that had made the most progress won.
    • The Narz/Wood era didn't use the Clock for the audience games and other little diversions, but that was more of an attempt to bring variety to the show.