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Series / Deal or No Deal

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The new American logo...
...and the new British 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. Each offer is calculated based on the average of all the values still in play at that point, starting with a small percentage of it in early rounds and increasing as the game goes on. Then the player decides whether to accept or reject the Banker's offer. Keep the big prizes in play, and the offers go up. Knock them out, and they go down. 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 mid-season. 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 and a female Banker), this version gives the player one chance per game to counter the Banker's offer with a higher value. If the Banker accepts the counter-offer, the player receives the amount he/she named and the game ends. This version ran for one season, from December 2018 to August 2019.

In March 2023, a British revival is confirmed by ITV with Stephen Mulhern taking the helm. Filming starts in July and the top prize is reduced to £100,000.

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 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.
  • Birthday Episode: The UK version had “Banker’s Birthday” weeks from 2008-2014, which celebrated… you guessed it, the banker’s birthday.
  • 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 "Box 23", which could contain either "Double", "+ £10,000", "Money Back", "Half", or "Nothing", offered to the contestant at the end of the game.
  • The Cameo: Nong, the show's fifth quarter-millionaire, appeared in the UK show's 2,000th episode to give Noel an award. She also appeared as a box opener on the 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Deal Or No Deal parody special.
    • The UK show's 10th-anniversary special had all the box holders be past contestants.
  • 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-YEAH!"
  • 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 series produced as a spin-off to the original. These editions obviously featured a celebrity playing 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!
  • Christmas Episode: Done numerous times in multiple versions.
  • 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 an 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. The same applies to other international versions as well.
    • Averted in the Grand Finale of the UK versionnote , most likely due to the episode being filmed at an art gallery in Glasgow.
    • There have been several moments in the UK version that have used it not for big winners. On the first anniversary special, confetti dropped at the end of the episode. It was also used for a "Harlem Shake" video that was uploaded to the show's official channel, although according to someone who worked on the show, the cannons were set off purely for test purposes.
    • The Italian version originally averted this trope but later played it straight.
    • The Turkish version went a step further by setting off pyrotechnics on stage!
  • Crossover: The British version did a charity 'mash-up' with the 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 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 one of the few contestants (prior to Box 23's addition) 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 the advice of her fiancé. 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).
    • The UK version's first two series had a slightly different-looking set and some of the graphics were different as well. The price stickers inside the boxes were black-and-white for the first half of Series 1, and eventually, they gained color by March and were soon razed by the end of the series. The "Banker's Offer" graphics were also different, originally saying just that before being replaced with a rosette with an "R" on it.
  • 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.
  • Game Show Host: Howie Mandel in America, Noel Edmonds in Britain, Andrew O'Keefe in Australia, Kris Aquino in the Philippines.
  • Gender Flip: The banker in the CNBC revival is female, as opposed to male in earlier versions.
  • 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.
  • Insistent Terminology: On the American version, if a player had a bunch of low values and a single high one still in play, Howie would call the high one the "land mine" — since finding it would blow up the player's chance at taking home any decent money.
  • 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 first offer worth 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.
  • Lifelines: 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; or else you just move to the next round.
  • Long Runner: The British version lasted 11 years, while the Australian version lasted a decade.
  • Long-Runner Tech Marches On: The CNBC revival replaced the wired, handset phone for the Banker at the contestant podium with an iPhone.
  • Lovely Assistant: Twenty-six of them held the cases on the NBC version. Only two appeared during the syndicated run; their job was to spin the Deal Wheel at the beginning of each episode and help the contestants close the cases.
  • 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 box/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. The contestant (intentionally) picked the top 5 amounts in the very first round, then after a technical gaffe, the lights went out in the studio. What came up on the board after? "Got you, Noel!".
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The gameplay really boils down to choosing numbers and opening cases. However, the dramatic music, the hosts' lengthy conversations with the contestants, and the possibility of winning big make 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 further 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.
    • Coincidentally, the announcer for Deal or No Deal's Phone-in competition was Alex Lovell, the main presenter for Brainteaser), Endemol's other phone-in interactive game show.
    • 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 a January 2008 episode, a Ford F-250 pickup replaced the $50,000 case.
    • In the UK, the PG Tips logo was digitally added to contestants' mugs in 2012.
  • Progressive Jackpot: The US version's Million-Dollar Missions are a variant of this, as an additional million-dollar case was added to the board for each time it wasn't won.
  • 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.)
    • In early 2006, most of the games in the UK version featured a small number of predictable sequences of cash values assigned to boxes, and in some cases, several games were completely identical. When viewers wrote into the show to point this out, it was discovered that the Microsoft Excel system used to generate the sequences was only pseudo-random. 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: The host 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.
  • Show the Folks at Home: At least one episode of the US version did this, revealing the contents of some cases (upon being selected by the player) to the home audience before being revealed to the player (usually after a commercial break).
  • Special Edition Title: All theme weeks from the UK version had one.
  • Spoiler Opening: The opening titles on the first UK episode of 2014 didn't hide the secret of Box 23 that well...
    • The US version's 4th season premiere spoiled that the million would be won for the first time. And in said episode where the million was won, they even said it was "the biggest moment in Deal history" and kept hyping it up during commercials, even showing the celebration.
  • Studio Audience: Of which 22 are picked to open boxes in the syndicated and British versions. The Aussie version picks 26 people to open the cases.
  • 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.
    • The UK version spoiled the penultimate quarter million win via a Twitter promo.
  • 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 as a cameo from their hosts, although the remainder of the proceedings were conducted identically to the standard episodes recorded stateside, and the episodes were produced in countries that used the visual design of the U.S. version as well. The Philippines episode, which was produced by ABS-CBN's version Kapamilya, Deal or No Deal note  and used its production style and slightly different graphics instead.
    • The "On Tour" series of the British show, which aired at the end of the show's run in 2016, had the show travel to different locations in the UK. Various locations included Blackpool Tower, the Flying Scotsman, Warwick Castle, and even a plane. The game was slightly re-tooled, allowing contestants to pick whatever box they want instead of it being random, and the Offer Button and Box 23 were not used.
  • 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 money tree (starting with 1 guilder, then going to 10, then to 100 and so on until the final question which was worth 10,000,000 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' '80s 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.
    • Even the UK version did this as well. During the 2006 Christmas Specials, £1,000 was replaced with Peanuts, while during the end of December 2008, a Turkey Sandwich was added, replacing 1p, but was soon removed upon the Banker's request.
    • 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.