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Series / Jackpot

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Game Show franchise created by Bob Stewart and originally hosted by Geoff Edwards in which 16 contestants competed for an entire week, answering riddles for cash prizes. One contestant was randomly selected to be the Expert, while the 15 others sat on bleachers. The Expert selected one of the 15 contestants in the bleachers, and that contestant would read their riddle and its cash amount. If the Expert got it right, they would stay in place; if not, they would trade places with the selected contestant.

One card was randomly selected to be the "Jackpot!" riddle, which the Expert could answer right away or hold off to add to the Jackpot. There was also an opportunity to win a "Super Jackpot" (worth up to $50,000) if its card appeared, or if the Jackpot amount matched the last three digits of the Super Jackpot total. Any Jackpot or Super Jackpot wins were split between the Expert and the riddle-holder.

Jackpot! ran from January 7, 1974 to September 26, 1975 on NBC, after which Stewart re-tooled the format into a 1977 pilot called The Riddlers (hosted by one David Letterman) which didn't sell. An equally-unsold pilot, recorded at CBS Television City in Hollywood, California for CBS themselves on June 9, 1984, and hosted by Nipsey Russell, mostly returned to the original format, but ousted the Super Jackpot and tacked on a bonus round. In 1985, the show appeared on USA Network, taped in Canada (airing there on Global Television Network, and on other Canadian stations via syndication {as Global only existed within Ontario at the time}) with Mike Darrow as the host and some slight changes (including referring to the Expert as the King/Queen of the Hill).

After a decent three-year run, followed by a one-year hiatus, the show moved to daily syndication with Geoff returning as host; the show ran just over a half-season, and ended when the distribution firm went bankrupt.

Not to be confused with the Norwegian movie Arme Riddere, which is known as Jackpot internationally.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round: The Super Jackpot. The 1984 Nipsey Russell pilot instead had Riddle-grams, a recycled form of the bonus game from Stewart's earlier Shoot for the Stars, which was in turn later remolded as Double Talk; here, the winning players had 60 seconds to solve seven word puzzles known as "riddle-grams" (ex.: "Freezing Dollars", which would be a "riddle-gram" for "Cold Cash"). Each correct answer was worth $100, and successfully solving all seven split $5,000 between the two winners ($2,500 per player).
  • Bonus Space: Some riddles had special effects on gameplay.
    • Bonus Prize was on all versions (award a prize for a correct answer). A variation introduced partway through the NBC run was "Double Bonus," which awarded a trip to both the answerer and the riddle holder.
    • Super Jackpot Wildcard appeared only during the NBC run. A correct answer split the Super Jackpot between the answerer and the contestant holding the card.
    • Double Dollars appeared only during the syndicated run, instantly doubling the Jackpot for a correct answer.
    • Instant Target Match appeared only during the syndicated run (boost the Jackpot so its last three digits match the target, allowing an immediate shot at the Super Jackpot). Considering that run's budget problems, this probably wasn't the best idea.
    • Return Trip appeared on the USA/Global and syndicated versions. A correct answer allowed both the questioner and answerer to return for the next week of shows.
    • On the USA/Global version, finding the Jackpot riddle last would add $1,000 to the total.
    • The $50,000 Riddles, played during the last season of the USA/Global version. Every player who answered one of these correctly during the season won an equal share of a $50,000 bonus at its end.
  • Flawless Victory: During the second and third seasons of the USA/Global version, any contestant who solved all 15 riddles without a miss won a new car, whether they hit the Jackpot riddle last or not.
  • Home Game: One was made during the NBC run with two distinct covers, although the format is much closer to the Darrow era.
  • Mystery Box: Nobody knew what was in those envelopes/wallets.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Don Pardo announced most of the NBC version (including the final week), with Wayne Howell filling in for a time near the end. Ken Ryan (who also announced Bumper Stumpers) and John Harris announced the USA version. John Harlan and Johnny Gilbert traded off announcing duties on the syndicated version.
    • Game Show Host: Geoff Edwards, who had begun hosting The New Treasure Hunt a few months earlier. The USA/Global version had Mike Darrow at the helm; the 1989 run saw the return of Edwards.
    • Studio Audience
  • Progressive Jackpot: The entire premise; build a jackpot by answering riddles, then solve another to win it.

This show provides examples of:

  • Grand Finale: The 1975 finale wasn't all that grand, partly due to the format change and partly due to an Expert not being able to pick the Jackpot Question in the second-to-last game when the gallery was whittled down to two. A male Expert then won the final Jackpot of $500 (rather than go for the Super Jackpot of $3,800), after which Geoff did a speech telling viewers to come back the following Monday for a new game helmed by Dick Enberg (3 For The Money, which ran for just eight weeks); Geoff then congratulated the big winners of the week (the biggest was a lady named Diana who won $4,475) before signing off. The last person heard on this version was Tom Snyder, doing a voiceover to promote the night's 90-minute episode of The Tomorrow Show with Jerry Lewis.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: If time ran out on a Friday episode while a game was in progress, the Jackpot was put at stake on the last riddle chosen.
  • Opening Narration: "Today, 16 players are here trying to win $25,000/$50,000. Every one of them holds a different riddle, but only one of them holds the Jackpot Riddle. You never know when someone in our game will stand up and yell..." (contestant stands up, yelling) "JACKPOT!"
  • Recycled Soundtrack:
    • The cable and syndicated versions used a sped-up version of the theme song from an earlier Bob Stewart game show, Shoot For the Stars.
    • The theme of the network version, "Jet Set", would become better known as the theme of the syndicated Major League Baseball highlights show This Week in Baseball.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: The show had a Welsh adaptation for S4C from 1992 to 1999 and again for a brief time in 2012; this version appears to be mainly modeled after the 1984 pilot (including the Bonus Round), but questions are asked in lieu of riddles like the original run's later format (possibly because riddles wouldn't translate all that well to Welsh).