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Series / Deal or No Deal

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The American Deal or No Deal logo.
The British Deal or No Deal logo.

"We've had game shows based on card games. We've had game shows based on pub quizzes. But never have we had a game show based on the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. Until now... In other words, my suitcase contains the financial equivalent of Schrödinger's Cat: a sum that exists in a theoretical superposition, being both substantial and meager until I open and observe it, thereby assigning it a quantifiable value in the physical universe."

A popular Game Show; a game starts with a certain number of numbered Mystery Boxes (usually a briefcase or cardboard box/paper package, manned by either potential contestants or identically-dressed models) containing various amounts of money. A contestant sets aside the box they think the top prize is in, and then begins to open the remaining boxes to reveal their contents. At various intervals, the Banker makes offers to buy the box from the contestant instead of continuing, with values based on the probability that it could contain the top prize or an otherwise high amount (more or less the arithmetic mean of the amounts still on the board by the end of the game, less than that early on); usually, an offer will be higher in the later portions of the game if there are still large prizes and/or the top prize left in play. The game ends when a deal is made, or the contestant sticks it out to the end — where they can either keep the box they chose earlier, or switch it for the last remaining one.


The game originated as the Bonus Round of the Netherlands' Postcode Lottery's game show Miljoenenjacht ("Hunt for Millions", where the winner of a multi-stage elimination quiz plays the game). While Miljoenenjacht as a whole was sold to several countries, the briefcase game was later sold internationally as a standalone format, known in English-language markets as Deal or No Deal. Daily versions of the format began to premiere in European countries such as Italy, and Australia, in 2003. They had a lighter, more casual atmosphere than the original Miljoenenjacht; the boxes were manned by a persistent contestant pool, with the episode's contestant determined by either a random selection, or a preliminary quiz round. Sometimes, each box was designated to represent a contestant from a specific region of the country. A British version (hosted by Noel Edmonds, a former DJ and Saturday Night presenter whose career had been on the skids) debuted on October 31, 2005 and ended in December 2016; it was such a hit that a Saturday primetime show was added. The UK version has 22 boxes, each manned by a possible future contestant (they're sequestered together when they're not filming to encourage rapport during the game), with the top prize being £250,000.


On December 19, 2005, NBC premiered a U.S. primetime version hosted by Howie Mandel, with 26 briefcases containing values ranging from 1¢ to $1,000,000, and a glitzy atmosphere. It was an instant hit, eventually leading to promotional tactics such as airing it multiple times per-week, in-game gimmicks (such as increased top prizes and literally trying to force a win by adding more million-dollar cases to the board), and also became prone to padding the game with excessive personal stories, celebrity guests, and other unnecessary content. The primetime version aired its final episode on May 18, 2009. A half-hour syndicated version debuted in September 2008 and essentially cut out all the fluff while adding various elements of the European versions, with a top prize of $500,000. Gimmicks were still used, however, and the 22 contestants (and their replacements) only stayed on for one week. Ratings fell sharply during the second year, and the show wrapped production around midseason. The series was put out of its misery again, this time for good, on May 28, 2010; repeats continued to air through September 10 in syndication, and September 28 on MyNetworkTV.

In 2018, NBC's sister financial news channel CNBC (whose primetime lineup features business and finance-themed reality and documentary programs, and had also aired reruns at the show's peak) announced that it would revive Deal on December 5 (with NBC itself airing a Christmas Episode as a preview on December 3), with Howie Mandel returning as host. While otherwise identical to the original series (but with refreshed aesthetics), a major gameplay change is the new female Banker—who provides the opportunity for the player to counter one of her offers with one of their own. If the Banker accepts, the contestant is able to walk away with said offer.

This show provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Economics: The banker tends to offer better deals for higher-risk investments, the opposite of a real-life economist. For example, if there are two cases left worth $30,000 and $50,000, he might offer $37,000, while if the two cases are worth $1 and $1,000,000, he might offer $500,000, or even $550,000. Justified for making the choice more suspenseful from the player/audience's point of view.
  • Big Bad: The Banker is presented as the main antagonist and obstacle of the show. He provides the majority of the stress on contestants by trying to buy their cases for as little money as possible, while still making tempting offers. Howie even refers to him as "the bad guy" on a few occasions.
  • Bonus Round: Occasionally at the end of a game, Howie would offer the contest two giant cases (each took 6 models to open), one containing the word 'Double' and the other 'Nothing', giving the contestant the chance to double or lose all their winnings. The British version has the equivalent with "Box 23", which can contain "double", "+ £10,000", "same", "half", or "nothing", offered to the contestant at the end of the game.
  • Canada, Eh?: The five Deal Or No Deal Canada specials done for Global (who also aired the U.S. version), which were taped in Toronto (at the CBC's headquarters; the backdrop was of Toronto too), hosted by a Canadian (Howie Mandel) with Canadian models, bragged about tax-free winnings, had a main stage shaped like a maple leaf, a Home Participation Sweepstakes that Canada could finally enter, "Loonie" and "Toonie" (local terms for the $1 and $2 coins) as the bottom amounts, and the Banker's office made to look like an ice hockey penalty box (he even paced back and forth in it like a coach).
  • Carried by the Host:
    • Well, maybe more by the ladies, but Howie defined the show for Americans.
    • Andrew O'Keefe basically is the Australian version. Even after 2,000+ episodes, he still had the same enthusiasm as he did on the first day.
    • Noel Edmonds is this for the British version, for better or worse. He tends to share this trope with the contestants — after all, some of those holding the boxes have been there for weeks!
  • Catchphrase: In Australia's version, Case 26 has been commonly known as "BOO-YA!"
  • Celebrity Edition:
    • The Australian version has special weeks where Dancing with the Stars contestants play for home viewers. One of them, Anh Do, actually became the series' second top prize winner (though technically, it was the home viewer he was playing for who won that money).
    • The British version had a celebrity edition, where the celebrity played for a charity and the box holders were all people selected by the celebrity (e.g. Jimmy Carr did a show where all the people with the boxes were other stand-ups)
      • Not only that, but to celebrate 10 years of DOND in the UK, there was a very special edition where the 22 box holders were previous contestants. And the contestant taking part? None other than Noel Edmonds himself, with Sarah Millican, also a former contestant, as the Special Guest Host!
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger: Done to incredibly-annoying levels during the NBC run.
  • Compressed Adaptation: As mentioned before, the game itself began as the bonus round of a Endemol-produced lottery game show in the Netherlands known as Miljoenenjacht (hosted by Linda de Mol, the sister of Endemol co-founder John de Mol), played by the winner of a multi-stage elimination quiz (starting with the two halves of the studio of 500 players as teams, then by the five sections within, then through the people in the section, with some bail-out offers and other things here and there too, etc.)note  The Miljoenenjacht format (quiz and all) did get exported to Belgium, but the briefcase game was sold internationally (the Netherlands included) as Deal or No Deal; the international versions either downsized the quiz portion into something more akin to the Fastest Finger rounds from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, picked a contestant randomly from a pool of contestants on-stage (like most European versions and the U.S. syndicated run), or just used a contestant pre-determined before the show (like the U.S. primetime version).
  • Confetti Drop: Top prize winners of all three aforementioned countries get showered with confetti (and money in the US version) at the game's end.
  • Crossover: The British version did a charity 'mash-up' with comedy panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats, where Jimmy Carr (the host of the latter) took over hosting duties from Noel Edmonds for one episode and the the latter's show's team captains (Jon Richardson and Sean Lock) were dual contestants.
  • Downer Ending:
    • On the British version, elderly contestant Corinne had a goal to buy a vintage Bentley from her birth year — something that would cost over £200,000, thus she was interested only in the top prize. Thoroughly uninterested in any bank offers, she managed to keep the £250,000 to the end, but with 1p as the other box remaining. Exasperated, the Banker offered Corinne £88,000, which she again declined. She turned down the swap, and...well, the fact that this is listed here pretty much gives the rest away.
    • Contestant Mark on the UK version managed to set an impossibly low record during the Gold Medal Deal week, which was held in honor of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The week featured a Nintendo Hard Catapult game when there were 5 boxes left, and one of the prizes was an all-expenses-paid holiday. When Mark managed to knock down all the highest amounts from the board and failed the catapult game (like everyone else that week), he was down to two boxes, £50 and £500. Possibly in an attempt to throw the poor guy a bone, the Banker said that if he had the box with £500 in it, he would also throw in the holiday that nobody had been able to win, under the condition that if the box contained the £50, he would walk away with nothing at all. Mark accepted, and... his box had £50. Meaning that Mark was the first person in any Deal game to walk away with nothing. Everyone was in tears, and Noel stated that it was unquestionably the unluckiest game of Deal ever. Three or four other contestants have taken similar offers from the Banker, failed, and walked away penniless, but considering he knocked out 10 of the reds save for the £5,000 in his first 11 boxes and never got an offer above £199, he still easily holds the title of unluckiest DoND contestant ever.
    • Donna's game from late 2006. Need I say anything more? OK. This happened about a month before Laura Pearce became the show's first quarter millionaire. She played a good game up until her 8 box offer. Her boxes left were £1, £5, £10, £50, £5,000, £10,000, £100,000 and £250,000. She received an offer of £21,000, which she took, on advice of her fiance. The playout to see what would've happened began, and... well... there's a reason this is here.
      • For those of you who don't want to watch the video, she managed to take out everything except for the £100,000 and the £250,000, which would've given her a 5 box offer of £59,000 and a 2 box offer of £170,000. Her box contained the £250,000.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: During the Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened section of the third American episode, instead of showing what the bank offer would have been by popping it up on the display, one time Howie just says "You know the offer would have gone up after that." and the last time Howie talks to the Banker through the phone, asking how much he would have offered.
    • The Australian pilot episode was closer to the Miljoenenjacht format, beginning with 200 contestants in the elimination quiz, and a top prize of $2,000,000. The million dollar prizes disappeared after the first season, the quiz portion was eventually downsized, and became a half-hour show with a lighter atmosphere. A U.S. pilot for ABC was hosted by Northern Ireland comedian Patrick Kielty, which also had the quiz format (the version that eventually aired on NBC excluded it entirely).
  • Epic Fail:
    • This guy on the Australian version lost all four greens with his first four picks and got a bank offer of ten cents. After all was said and done, he ended up getting $10. He would come back for a special "Banker's Rematch" a few years later and did a lot better...but not before knocking out the $200,000 in his first pick again. To make it even worse, the top amount was in #14, which was his original case in his initial game.
    • And for Epic Fail endings, you can't beat this guy from the Australian version who had 50c and $1 left at the end and won the 50c. He seemed to take it in stride, though, and at least got a giant mock-up check for making DOND history.
    • A contestant in the American version dealt for $81,000 with half the board remaining. When they played out the "what if", most of the subsequent cases he picked out were the low values and the Banker's offers rose to $550,000. What was his case? $1,000,000. He was lucky, but bailed way too soon.
    • The very first Aussie contestant could also qualify, as the very first case he opened contained $2,000,000. While he did end up with a decent amount of money in $41,500, he still had the $1,000,000 in play when he dealt with 11 cases remaining. With most of the remaining cases in the "what if" segment being low values, the Banker's offers rose to $145,500 before the "final six" (75¢, $50, $500, $50K, $75K, $1M), $352,000 with the $50K, $75K, and $1M still in play, and $585,000 at the end. His case only contained $50,000, but it was still a bad deal regardless.
    • This player from the early Australian episodes (the ones with the $2,000,000 top prize) knocked out the top three amounts in her first three picks ($1M, $2M, $500K). By the "final six", the remaining cases were 25¢, 50¢, $5, $25, $250, and $100K, with a $24,500 offer from the Bank. Her father suggested she open one more case, which she did. We'd give you three guesses as to what her next pick contained, but you'll only need one.note 
    • The Aussie version had the hapless Peter Popas, who won $2, wagered it all on the Double or Nothing feature, and lost. The show gave him a Giant Novelty Check for "Nothing".
    • This Aussie contestant became one of the many Monkey (50¢) winners after his game pretty much fell apart by the Final Six. Subverted in which his partner won $10,000 for a successful Megaguess.
    • The infamous $6,000,000 top prize playthrough, which touted the idea an armored car with an escort had been brought in to ferry the dough safely. And there were several seven-figure amounts on the board that playthrough. The event failed spectacularly. In fact, you could have probably gauged a significant drop in viewers the moment the $6,000,000 case was revealed as they clicked off the channel in disappointment.
      • It also served as a reminder of how overblown the American Deal could be. The show never managed to give away that much money to a single contestant, and only twice did the US version give away seven-figure prize winnings - to its only two winners. And they had to make half the cases contain the Million just to force a win, and even then the first time they tried that it still didn't work. The US version couldn't manage even a normal win due to its broken format.
    • One contestant on the US version walked away with $5. Later lampshaded in a special episode that looked back at the lowest winners, and the Banker was quoted as calling her his favorite contestant.
    • Another US contestant picked case number 6 as his first case because it was his daughter's age. Case number 6 contained the million dollars, knocking out the biggest value in the game on the first pick.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Banker goes unnamed in every version.
  • Filler: The NBC run had two-hour episodes during sweeps consisting of one game with so much filler (celebrity cameos, gimmick-deals the contestant would never take, lengthened pauses, even field pieces!) that it was obviously done to keep NBC from airing a bomb drama or sitcom. Unfortunately, they ended up airing a bomb game show instead.
    • Inverted by the 200th episode where they chose to speed up the game by adding time limits.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: The Banker rarely appears onscreen in any version. When he does, he's framed entirely in shadow so that no one can see what he looks like.
  • Home Game: This show gained, among others, an arcade adaptation that replaces money with redemption tickets.
  • Idiot Ball: The majority of contestants get handed one at some point. The most persistent carriers of the Ball frequently end up carrying it straight to a 1¢ win as they are too stubborn and/or stupid to give up and take the deal offered. It's especially bad when the Banker decides to give them the Game Show equivalent of a pity party and offer them something very close to the top remaining amount...and they still walk away with the penny.
  • Jerkass:
    • The Banker in the American version usually insulted players (through Howie on the phone) if said contestants did or said something funny or obnoxious. One of the last NBC-era contestants was a math teacher trying to figure out what the Banker's first offer would be, which made the Banker flash the studio lights with a sound clip saying "Nerd alert!" The Banker then stuck it to him by making the offer a measly $3 for trying to do the Banker's job.
    • The Banker in the British version is a Scrooge-like character who sometimes laughs when contestants hit a bad run. Though the odd time he throws them a bone if things get really bad, he still clearly has a blast offering the Sadistic Choice or seeing players defeated.
  • Lifeline: Zigzagged. The counter-offer feature in the CNBC revival lets you counter the banker's over with one of your own, potentially allowing you to win more money. If the banker accepts, though, the game ends.
  • Long Runner: The British version lasted 11 years, while the Australian version lasted a decade.
  • Long-Runner Tech Marches On: The contestant podium on the CNBC revival now has an iPhone for the Banker's phone rather than an typical handset.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Nothing but. The contestant has to pick one container from any number of them, and just hope they picked something worth going home with.
  • Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened:
    • Even when a contestant takes a deal, the rest of the game was played out as if (s)he hadn't. It was a really painful experience if the contestant had the top amount in their suitcase. Especially annoying on NBC, which sometimes stretched it out over two or more segments.
    • Subverted in the UK and Australian versions, because even after taking a deal your game may not necessarily be over; if two vastly different numbers are left at the end, the Banker may offer the player a "Banker's Gamble" (UK) or "Chance" (AU), thus giving you the opportunity to forfeit your deal and open your case. This resulted in the UK version's second top-prize winner.
  • Monty Hall Problem: Subverted. While a contestant who reached the final case was always offered the opportunity to switch it out with his/her case, Howie went out of his way to explain that this was not a Monty Hall situation: the show offered the switch to everyone who got that far, and he had no personal knowledge of which case contained which dollar amount.
  • Mood Whiplash: The 2,000th British game. Noel ended up getting Gotcha'ed himself.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The gameplay really boils down to choosing numbers and opening cases. However, the dramatic music, Howie's lengthy conversations with the contestants, and the possibility of winning big makes the game much more interesting.
  • Mystery Box: Technically, all of the cases were these; you wouldn't know the amount of the boxes until you opened it.
    • The UK version took this a step farther by adding a 23rd Box; should the player decide to open it, it would either double/halve/lose the money, keep it as is, or add £10,000.
  • Pet the Dog: One contestant on the British version really needed money, but made some bad decisions and was left with a pitiful amount. He was so obviously distressed that the Banker phoned up again and offered to buy the mug he'd been drinking from for a ridiculously-high sum.
  • Phone-in Game Shows: The UK version from 2005 until 2007, had a phone-in competition where the viewer could choose a selection of money prizes on-screen. It was removed after Channel 4 and the phone-in supplier got fined after the 2007 Phone-In Scandal that affected the UK. The program gave the impression that the viewers watching could win any one of the three prizes on offer, although the producers of the series knew which prize would be available before the lines had opened.
    • On a note in regards to this, the show was recorded in the same studio that fellow Endemol phone-in game show Brain Teaser was recorded at. Constantly, the announcer for Deal or No Deal's Phone-in competition was Alex Lovell, the main presenter for Brain Teaser.
    • The Phone-in Competition returned with a different format in 2014, but was removed in 2015 due to the show's inconsistent scheduling.
  • Product Placement: Some cases in the syndicated run promoted HP, Listerine, Sears, Splenda, Evian, and Visine-A.
    • In the UK, the PG Tips logo was digitally added to contestant's mugs in 2012.
  • Random Number God: Many contestants come up with systems to govern what order they open the boxes in, in accordance with some bizarre belief that this will help. Some of these really do start to look like Random Number Worship after a bit.
    • One US contestant actually lampshaded and defied this, intentionally choosing numbers that had either no or minimal significance to him. (For example, he chose his first case because a drunk guy in Ohio once told him that was his lucky number.)
    • Owing to the UK version initially using Microsoft Excel to assign cash values to boxes, the same sequence of cash values would frequently appear in the same boxes as its RNG was only psuedo-random. One eagle-eyed viewer noticed this and wrote in to the show to tell them. Subsequently, values were picked by drawing balls out of a bag.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Whenever the Banker, who is portrayed as a sinister antagonist, calls Howie, the set darkens and the lights change to a harsh red, creating a stark, overwhelming contrast with the two colors. The Banker himself is only seen silhouetted in black against a red screen.
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: Howie repeats the Banker's words to the contestants and audience. Justified because the Banker is He Who Must Not Be Seen, so the audience and contestants would have no other way of knowing what the Banker is saying.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: One episode featured Bobby Generic from Bobby's World voiced by, you guessed it, Howie Mandel. He asked the contestant if he accepts the offer or continue. Obviously, the contestant has to act it out and told before he liked Bobby's World.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: In 2006, the rival network Canale 5 poached the original host of the Italian version to host a very blatant ripoff of Deal called Fattore C. It was essentially the same but with a Medieval European Fantasy motif and a few rule changes, such as replacing the boxes with busts of Italian celebrities, needing to answer a question about one of said celebrities to receive an offer, and that if you went the distance, you could only keep what was in your box...-er bust, if it was the larger of the final two amounts. Needless to say, it got Screwed by the Lawyers.
    • Some casinos use their own Deal knockoffs, obviously for much lower stakes.
  • Shout-Out: The title music for the US version is derived from the theme music of Dog Eat Dog, which also appeared on NBC in the States.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • The syndicated US version would have theme weeks from time to time, with changes to the board animation.
      • A teachers week featured the board erasing the revealed amounts like a chalkboard.
      • A firemans week featured the board burning off the revealed amounts.
      • A policemans week featured the board locking the revealed amounts behind bars.
  • Title Drop: After revealing the Banker's offer, the host always asks the contestant "Deal or No Deal?"
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • The commercials NBC ran took almost all of the suspense out of watching, because they showed the contestant reaching a certain point...yet the network still insisted on showing us all the fluff and crap before the stuff in the trailers. And both times the Million was actually won, they hyped the hell out of it!
    • Partway through the second syndicated season, a gimmick was introduced where the home viewers were shown, before the game even began, which cases contained the top two prizes and the penny. Needless to say, this completely killed the last bit of suspense that made the American version fun to watch.
  • Vacation Episode: In 2008, the NBC version did a series of "World Tour" episodes, filmed from the studios of international versions of the show in Estonia, South Africa, and the Philippines. All of the episodes featured the local briefcase models, as well a cameo from their hosts, although the remainder of the proceedings were conducted identically to the standard episodes recorded stateside. All of the episodes were filmed in countries who used the visual design of the U.S. version, but the Philippines episode did use the presentation and production style of the local version, Kapamilya, Deal or No Deal note  more extensively than the other episodes (which just used the usual U.S. graphics).
  • Who Wants to Be "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?": One of the most well known shows that followed Millionaire's formula. It has one contestant competing for a $1,000,000 prize, copious amounts of Padding, and foreboding music if someone might win the million. The original Dutch version played this completely straight from 2000 to 2002, as the Bonus Round was instead a fairly straightforward 7 question general knowledge round that followed an exponential moneytree (starting with 1 guilder, then going to 10, then to 100 and so on until the final question which was worth 10000000 guilder).
  • Zonk: You do technically win the small prizes like $.01 if you get them in your case.
    • The European daily versions often substituted certain low-value amounts with joke prizes. The Italian version, when hosted by the singer Pupo, had a prize called "Forse", wherein the prize was that he would sing his song "Forse".
    • The U.S. version did so too, but more for special occasions. For the Thanksgiving specials and Christmas, $10 was replaced by a pumpkin pie and $25 by a turkey. The doubled suitcase top prize had a stuffed turkey inside as a humorous touch for the winner that never was.
    • In another special, they added gravy, cranberry sauce, and stuffing (replacing the penny, $1, and $5 respectively).
    • On a Christmas special in 2007, $1 was replaced by coal, $5 was replaced by eggnog, and $10 was replaced by fruitcake.
    • In the Rockin' 80's special of January 2008: $1 was replaced by a scrunchy, $5 was replaced by hairspray, $10 was replaced by leg warmers, and $25 was replaced by a boom box.
    • Subverted when a real prize was in play. For instance, on January 14, 2008 a truck replaced the $50,000 spot.
      • The Australian version had this permanently, with a car being offered in the space between the $20,000 and $50,000 spaces.


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