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Series / Monopoly

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Roll the dice, it's paradise!
But if you fail, you're goin' to jail!
Merv Griffin-produced Game Show adaptation of the classic real estate trading game for ABC as a companion for Super Jeopardy! in Summer 1990. Three contestants competed for cash as host Michael "Mike" Reilly asked crossword-style clues, each of which had an answer that started with a specific letter.

In Round 1, play began on Mediterranean Avenue and went clockwise around the board with a light that indicated the current property. The first player to buzz in with the correct answer won the value of the property in cash and gained control of it, but an incorrect answer deducted the value from the player’s score. Each entirely missed question halved the property value until someone gave a correct answer. The round ended when all of the properties on the board were awarded, but all properties of a color group had to belong to a single player; if they didn't, questions were played among the relevant players until a monopoly was formed.

During the commercial break, the players used the money accumulated during Round 1 to purchase houses ($50 each) and hotels ($250 each) to place on their properties, which as in the board game had to be built evenly. This determined the rent value of each question asked while on that property.

In Round 2, the Lovely Assistant rolled a pair of dice, and the indicator light (starting on GO) traveled that many spaces clockwise. What happened next depended on the space where the light stopped:

  • Property: Whoever controlled the property was given the question first; if that player missed, no penalty was assessed for that player but the clue was given to the two other players, who lost the amount if incorrect. A correct answer won the rent value of that property—full hotel rent from the board game, one-fifth of the hotel rent per house, or the mortgage value if there were no buildings.
  • Railroads: A question was asked, and the contestant who got it correct was allowed to go to any monopoly and try to get it for himself.
  • Electric Company/Water Works: The contestants played for 100 times the roll of the dice, up to $1,200.
  • Just Visiting/In Jail: Nothing happened, as per the board game.
  • Go to Jail: All contestants lost $250.
  • Income Tax: All contestants lost 10% of their score.
  • Luxury Tax: All contestants lost $75.
  • Chance/Community Chest: The top card was drawn and the instructions followed. Some cards differed from the board game, such as assessing street repairs to a specific property and the player who owned that property getting penalized.
  • Free Parking: A toss-up question was asked; the contestant who got it right collected a jackpot that started at $500 and increased by the amount of all fines/taxes/card penalties.
  • GO: Passing it awarded each contestant $200, after which the space the light landed on was played as normal.

After time was called, contestants were repaid for their houses and hotels at their original value.

The show began development in 1987, and in July 1988 an exclusive five-year deal was struck with ABC for a daytime series debuting in (at the earliest) Fall 1989 with a syndicated version (airing in either early fringe or the prime-access hour) attempted for Fall 1990. For one reason or another (TV Guide listed Patty Maloney as the main reason; see below), everything managed to fall apart—instead, all viewers got was a dismal 12-episode run from June 16 through September 1, 1990.

Game show fans tend to dislike Monopoly for its imbalances in both timing (far more time was spent awarding properties than rolling dice) and gameplay (a contestant who got no monopolies in Round 1 had little to no chance of winning).

This show provides examples of:

  • The Announcer: Don Morrow for the 1987 pilot, John Harlan for the '89 pilot, Charlie O'Donnell for the series.
  • Ascended Extra: Mike Reilly was the "current champ" on the 1989 pilot. As the story goes, Merv wanted to try playing the game in runthroughs, and had Mike host.
  • Board Game: Duh. One of the primary concerns for King World and Merv Griffin was trying to condense a game that normally takes over two hours into about 23 minutes.
  • Bonus Round: The contestant had to go once around the board within five rolls of the dice (rolling doubles gave an extra roll) while avoiding the Go To Jail spaces—four placed by the player, one in its usual corner spot. $100 was awarded for each space passed, which the player could stop and take at any time; passing GO awarded $25,000, but landing exactly on it (which never happened) was worth $50,000.
  • Bonus Space:
    • GO, like the board game, awarded $200 to each contestant upon passing it. Landing on it gave each player $400.
    • The four railroads let a contestant travel to any monopoly and try to win it from the player currently holding it.
    • Free Parking offered a Progressive Jackpot (which began at $500) if landed on. A toss-up question was asked to decide who won it.
  • Companion Cube: Patty Maloney's role as Pennybags in the 1989 pilot was treated like this, as Peter Tomarken recalled in a 2005 telephone interview with David Barber (published in the latter's 2008 book Television Game Show Hosts - Biographies of 32 Stars).
    Peter: I was told, "You can't talk to this person because it's an entity and she has a woman's voice." I remember saying, "You mean there's a human being in front of me constantly and I can't talk to it and I treat it as if it's an inanimate object? I thought the days of slavery were over." It was tasteless.
  • Crossword Puzzle: The clues were in this style.
  • Game Show Host: Marc Summers hosted the '87 pilot, with Peter Tomarken helming the '89 pilot. Mike Reilly, previously a waiter and former Jeopardy! contestant, did the series...and was his only emcee role.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: One-and-done. The pilots allowed for returning champs, but probably would've had a day limit like Merv's other shows at the time.
  • Lovely Assistant:
    • The 1987 pilot had an uncredited female to move the pieces and an uncredited male as Rich Uncle Pennybags. Of note, the latter looks and sounds remarkably like Harry Friedman, who took over production of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! after Merv retired from both in 2000.
    • The 1989 pilot was Patty Maloney's only game show role, albeit uncredited: dressed as Pennybags, walking around the board essentially as a "living token". According to a 1990 TV Guide issue, this was the "no sale" factor for most stations, and might well have been the Screw This, I'm Outta Here moment for Tomarken as well.
    • The series used three different dice girls: Kathy Davis, Kathy Karges, and Michelle Nicholas.
  • Pilot: At least two.
    • September 28, 1987: Hosted by Marc Summers, with a boatload of differences compared to the program that eventually aired.
    • November 1989: Shot for daily syndication, with a near-identical set to the series. The major differences were to the format, which is generally considered far better than what the series went with.note 
  • Scenery Porn: The set, with its huge light-up logo in the back (the host entered through the second O) and great replica of the board.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: "M-O-N-O-P-O-L-Y ... Roll the dice, it's paradise / But if you fail, you go to jail!" Complete with a deep bass harmony and "O"s sung by a woman who sounds like she's having a big O.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Despite the show's long development and eventual demise, it returned in 1992 for two series on S4C with virtually unchanged rules and a top prize of £5,000. While Series 1 used the typical UK board layout, Series 2 used world cities (basically a precursor to the board game's Here & Now World Edition).
  • 12-Bar Blues: The verses to the Thematic Theme Tune follow this progression.
  • Whammy: Three spaces immediately took money from all three players—Go to Jail (or simply going to Jail) cost $250, Luxury Tax cost $75, and Income Tax cost 10% of each player's score.