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Series / Press Your Luck

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"Today, these three players are after biiiiig bucks! But they'll have to avoid the Whammyyyyyy, as they play the most exciting game of their lives! From Television City in Hollywood, it's time to Press Your Luck!"
Rod Roddy's opening spiel.

"Big Bucks! No Whammies!"

Created by the late, great Bill Carruthers and featuring the late, great Rod Roddy and the late, great Peter Tomarken, Press was a re-imagined version of Carruthers's earlier (and far lesser-known today) Second Chance. Three contestants vied for the aforementioned Big Bucks by taking spins on the infamous Big Board, which featured plenty of cash and fabulous prizes, and perhaps the most famous game show villain ever, the Whammy. Land on a Whammy, kiss your winnings goodbye; land on four of them, kiss your game goodbye.

The series ran for three years on CBS's daytime schedule from 1983-86, becoming even more popular in reruns on USA Network and GSN. It served as the fourth episode of CBS' 2006 Game$how Marathon miniseries, hosted by Ricki Lake, featuring an In Memoriam to the recently-deceased Tomarken at the end of the episode.


Thus far, the series has spawned two revivals:

  • The first, Whammy! (originally called Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck), aired in 2002 on Game Show Network with a few updates to the original format. See that page for specifics.
  • The second, a largely back-to-basics revival that returned to the original series' format, began in 2019 on ABC for their primetime Summer Fun & Games block. Elizabeth Banks hosts.

Press featured one of the most (in)famous game show contestants ever in Michael Larson, who memorized the intricate but repetitive patterns of the Big Board before he came on the show, winning $110,237 in cash and prizes. His game took so long that it had to span two episodes (and it still had to be chopped to fit in the allotted time), his score display actually went on the fritz when he got into six-digit territory, and the board began to go out of its usual slide-change sync by the time he finally passed his spins. Larson's game was so notorious that CBS president Bud Grant, his vice president of programming, Harvey Shepard, and his vice-president of daytime programming, Michael Brockman, cited them as an embarrassment to the network and refused to re-air the Larson episodes following their initial showing; further, it was barred from airing elsewhere until GSN produced a two-hour documentary about the affair in 2003.


P.S.: Just what exactly is a Flokati Rug?note 

Big tropes, no Whammies, stop! Stop at a trope and a spin!

  • The Alleged Car: Tripped the Whammy up in one animation where he tried to get away after setting explodium by the player's score. The car was kaput and the Whammy was kaboomed.
  • All for Nothing: In a bizarre twist of fate in the June 17, 2021 episode. A contestant named Matthew managed to survive after the other two contestants got hit with all four Whammies. He won by default, but entered the Bonus Round with no money. He made it all the way to the Big Bucks Bonanza and got two big prizes. Unfortunately for him, he hit a Whammy on his final spin and lost it all, making him possibly the first person in the show's history to finish with absolutely nothing. Must be seen to be believed.
  • All or Nothing: The Bonus Round in the 2019 version consists of 5 rounds for the winner to spin for big cash and prizes. Much like the rounds with all three contestants, the winner has a chance of losing everything if they hit four Whammies before they have the chance to walk out with what they have. After each round ends when a specific number of spins are used, they have the option to leave or continue. Note that anything they won beforehand is completely separate.
  • Amusing Injuries: Although losing all your money isn't fun, there are some animations of the Whammy getting injured in some way, and they are still fun to watch.
  • The Announcer: Rod Roddy, before (and during the first seven months of) his tenure on The Price Is Right. Someone else filled in for Rod twice: John Harlan during the September 17-October 1, 1984 episodes, and Charlie O'Donnell during the March 31-April 14, 1986 episodes. Neil Ross voices the 2019 revival.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • The "$2,000 or Lose One Whammy" space can give you a safety net if you're close to Whammying out. Also, any passed spins (which must be played first) become earned spins (which can be passed to another player) if the player with them hits a Whammy.
    • Amplified in the 2019 reboot which makes the space exclusive to the Bonus Round, and for good reason: you can’t choose to walk away with your current winnings until a certain number of spins have been taken, so this space is an absolute godsend to one who’s landed on their third Whammy with several spins left to burn.
  • April Fools' Day: It wasn't aired, but the staff and contestants played one on Peter on Episode 150, taped on April Fool's Day 1984. You can see the outtake here, courtesy of Wink Martindale's group.
  • Arc Number:
    • The $470 space in Round 1 is a pretty oddball amount compared to other cash spaces. Other than that and $525 (which was right above it), the other cash spaces all had amounts that were multiples of $50. Whammy! had a Shout-Out to this, with one space that awarded $740 and another that gave a choice of $555 or a re-spin.
    • The $1,400 space in Round 2 could also count, as the other cash spaces between $1,000 and $2,500 were multiples of $250. (Round 2 also had $500, $600, $700, $750, and $800, but except for the last one all of those also appeared in Round 1.) $1,200 was also used very early on in R2, before the first set of rearrangements.
    • Fans know Michael Larson's winnings of $110,237, as well as the main board pattern he exploited to accumulate that number: 2-12-1-9-4 (matched to their corresponding squares).
  • Artificial Stupidity: The Ludia game's AI opponents can be incapable of answering simple questions such as "What is 6x4?" or "How many months in a year?"
  • Art Shift: The Whammy modeled after Cyndi Lauper as animated more fluidly than the others.
  • Auto-Incorrect: In the May 26, 2021 episode, Elizabeth Banks asked the contestants what feature would have failed them if they meant to text "You look so good" but instead texted "You look so food." The answer, of course, is autocorrect.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Michael Larson's technique for breaking the board was to analyze the not-quite-random order that the lights would flash in, wait for the right moment where he knew there wouldn't be a Whammy, and pull the trigger to rake in $110,237.
  • Big "NO!": In the 2019 revival, a whammy's voice can be heard screaming this if you choose the option to lose a whammy.
  • Big "OMG!": Done occasionally when a player wins the game.
  • Big Word Shout: Steve Bryant's chant of "No Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammies!"
  • Big Red Button: Used both to buzz in to answer questions and to stop the board.
  • Blinking Lights of Victory: The spinner indicators around the prizes and whammies, and the winner's score, all flash.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Getting passed a stack of spins once you had built a solid lead. Especially if you already have three Whammies.
    • The Bonus Round of the 2019 reboot turns extra spins into this (and, judging by how each round increases the amount of them on the board, the producers were well aware of this). You can’t choose to walk away with your current winnings until a certain number of spins have been taken each round, including any spins earned via the board, which means each extra spin translates into yet another chance to hit a Whammy before that crucial decision point can be reached. God help the unfortunate schmuck who’s one Whammy away from elimination and proceeds to hit several of these in a row...
  • Bonus Round: Exclusive to the 2019 revival, the winner of the main game goes up against the Whammy himself, racking up as much cash and prizes as possible before hitting four Whammies (which, as always, means elimination). After taking a certain number of spins, the player can choose to walk away with their current winningsnote  or continue on to the next round. Each round increases the overall value of the board, but also makes the board more dangerous by throwing on more Whammies and extra spins. If a player can successfully accumulate a total of at least $500,000, the game automatically ends and the player’s winnings are jacked up to a million-dollar grand prize.
  • Bonus Space: Many. (Square numbers start at #1 for the top-left corner and go clockwise.)
    • + One Spin: Awarded an extra turn. Round 2 began with just one spaces which always contained an extra spin, specifically #4 ($3,000-$4,000-$5,000), adding #8 ($500-$750-$1,000) on February 28, 1984. Larson's strategy was basically built around hitting these as much as possible.
    • Directional Squares: Several.
      • Move One Space: Used in #1 (R1 only), #9 (R2 only), and #14 (R2 only, although the pilot also had it at #14 in R1). Allowed you to choose between 2/18 (#1), 8/10 (#9), and 13/15 (#14).
      • Go Back Two Spaces: Used in Square #6, took you to #4. Changed to Move Two Spaces in the 2019 reboot, though its location and purpose remain the same.
      • Advance Two Spaces: Used in Square #11, took you to #13. Likewise renamed simply to Move Two Spaces in the 2019 reboot.
      • Big Bucks: Used in Square #12, took you to #4.
      • Pick-A-Corner (R2 only): Debuted February 28, 1984. Allowed you to choose from 1, 10, and 15 (which included a Whammy in #1 at first), but said choices got progressively worse during Season 3, leading to its removal on July 25, 1986.
      • Across The Board (R2 only): Debuted March 10, 1986, although it wasn't mentioned on-air until it was first hit on March 17. Used in #17, took you to 8.
    • Double Your $$ (R2 only): Debuted March 8, 1984. Acted like a prize: removed once hit, replaced by another prize. Briefly reappeared from December 4-5, 1985, for whatever reason. note 
    • Double Your $$ + One Spin (R2 only): Same as above, but with an extra spin. Debuted on April 12, 1984, and not used during the three Home Player Spins because CBS felt there would be some confusion if a contestant were to stop on that space while playing for a home viewer. The space was also not used from July 8-23, 1985, during which a trip to the 1985 Daytime Emmys in New York City (plus lunch with Peter) was offered.
    • $XXXX Or Lose-1-Whammy (R2 only): Debuted September 17, 1984 and originally seen in #16, but moved to #15 from February 5, 1985 to June 16, 1986. note  While the original cash option was a fixed $2000 (used both in the original show and Whammy!), future remakes (such as Game Show Marathon and the 2019 reboot) increased the value by varying amounts.
    • Add-A-One (R1 only): Debuted September 5, 1985 and acted like a prize, placing a "1" in front of the contestant's score (and more than once, happened when someone had $0). Originally located in #5, relocated to #7 on January 8, 1986, moved again to #2 as of the reboot.
    • Take the Lead + One Spin (R2 Only): Debuted in season 3 of the reboot, acts as a prize which sets the player’s score to the current first place score plus $1, and awards an extra spin. Only awards the spin should the player who hits it already hold the lead. Currently occupies square #7.
  • Butt-Monkey: The Whammy would often get pounded, kaboomed, or otherwise given comeuppance.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: One of the Whammy animations is a Whammy on a dollar bill saying "I cannot tell a lie. You lose!"
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Big Bucks, no Whammies!"
    • "Stop at $[cash value (and a spin)]/[prize]/a Whammy!"
    • "Here's a Press Your Luck (so and so) hint".
    • The Whammy had the Catchphrase "Ooh, nooo!" when a vehicle got wrecked or he himself suffered Amusing Injuries.
    • "You want to be careful about picking up a third Whammy in Round 1." - used by Peter Tomarken if a player got two Whammies in the first round. If a player got four Whammies they were out of the game. The really big bucks to be made were in the final round, so it made sense not to be to risky in the first round. This statement was an encouragement for the player to pass their spins rather than keep pressing their luck in the first round and end in a position where it would take only one more Whammy to put them out of the game in the final round.
  • Chest Insignia: The Whammies have a yellow shield with a "$" sign on it on their front. On Whammy, the shield bore an uppercase "W."
  • Chewing the Scenery: Many excited contestants when they won the game.
  • Christmas Episode: The Christmas Day 1985 show had Peter hosting in his bathrobe and pajamas, as well as Rod dressed like Santa Claus. It also featured cameo appearances by Peter's twin daughters Alexis and Candace, and it's the only post-November 1983 episode to not have an opening montage. note .
    • Ironically, the Tomarken family was Jewish.
  • Circling Birdies: Happened in two Whammy animations.
    • One had the Whammy skateboarding into a tree, accompanied by the tweets of birds.
    • Another had the Whammy attempting to snap a photo of the contestant losing all the money. Epic Fail ensued as usual, and the Whammy heard birds chirping.
  • Cliffhanger: Larson's appearance was split into two episodes during post-production; at the end of the first half, Peter appeared superimposed over a still frame showing the three contestants. Even more cliffhanger-like, the two parts aired on June 8 and 11, 1984, a Friday and Monday respectively.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: From September 28-October 18, 1983 (Episodes 8-22), the backdrops behind the audience were blue during Round 1 and red for Round 2, not unlike what would later be used on Jeopardy! from 1985-97.
  • Company Cross References: The 2019 revival, which aired on ABC, added Whammy animations referencing ABC shows like The Bachelor ("This is the final rose of the night. Take a moment...and say goodbye to your money!") and The Oprah Winfrey Show ("You get a whammy! You get a whammy! Everybody gets a whammy!").
  • Consolation Prize:
    • In addition to the usual cache offered to losing contestants, the show had the occasional Home Viewer Sweepstakes, where, during the second round, the player in control during a pre-designated spin could win an identical prize for a home viewer. If the contestant hit a Whammy, the home viewer won $500 "courtesy of the Whammy", while the two other contestants received a "Whammy" T-shirt as a consolation gift.
    • There were also door prizes for some members of the studio audience. From October 19, 1983 to December 18, 1984, it was usually Skyway Luggage, and the plug occasionally appeared at the start of the last segment. Beginning with December 19, and to the end of the run, it was a different prize during Rod Roddy reading off the parting gifts at the close of the show.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Played straight with the Larson episodes. Larson's knowledge of the light patterns enabled him to rack up $110,237.
    • Played straight with the Whammy himself in an episode with "WhammyBusters"; contestant Paul entered the second round with four spins, but didn't make a deal with the "WhammyBusters". Cue Paul getting Curb Stomped by the Whammy when he hits him on each of his four spins, resulting in him staying down for the rest of the game, which had no Whammies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Peter would often use dry humor, especially if someone buzzed in pre-maturely and answered incorrectly.
  • Developers' Foresight: A game show variant in the 2019 version, which adds special Whammy animations for contestants who stop at a Whammy without having any money in the bank (which can only occur from the bad luck of getting a Whammy first thing in the game or getting two Whammies in a row).
  • Downer Ending: Oh, so many examples, like any time a contestant is leading going into the very last spin, and then hits the Whammy on said last spin.
    • One contestant lost on the very last three dollars.
    • Michael Larson's record-breaking win turned into this, as he frivolously spent a lot of it on bad real estate deals and schemes including a $30,000 radio lottery involving $1 bill serial numbers that left him nearly broke, and the rest was stolen from his house when he left his remaining $50,000 lying around, with $5,000 in a closet taken by his soon to be ex-wife, who had had enough of Larson's behavior. All this by the end of the year in which he appeared on PYL, and at the very least, the money was well gone by the time the show entered its last few months of broadcast in 1986. Larson called up the show and suggested they do a Tournament of Champions, but the show declined (shame, that, since it might have helped boost their flagging ratings in '86). Plus he died of throat cancer while on the run, which Tomarken called "the ultimate Whammy".
    • Getting four Whammies in the bonus game of the 2019 revival of the show.
    • One player in the reboot entered the bonus game with no money after both of his opponents in the main game picked up four Whammies, then hit a Whammy on his final spin of the Big Bucks Bonanza, giving him a grand total of zero.
  • Didn't Think This Through: A case happened with Michael Larson's well-known exploitation; it was obvious he had memorized the two patterns that mattered the most, but since they happened to be for spaces that also gave you a spin in the second round, he could theoretically go forever...unfortunately, he didn't memorize any other patterns that led to any other safe space that guaranteed no extra spinsnote , which meant he had to risk losing all of the money he had racked up in earlier rounds when he decided he was finally finished. Mercifully for him (though unfortunately for the staff) he ended up keeping it all.
    • That said, Larson did still have an out, which he used once he got to six figures: he could pass his spins to another player. As long as he played his patterns perfectly, he could simply pass any new spins he picked up to another contestant, as neither of his opponents knew the light patterns and weren't going to keep hitting spins the way he would.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: Occasionally, the light bulb on Peter Tomarken's podium would blink during a Q&A round. This was Peter's cue to go to the easier questions; the bulb would blink if the three contestants earned a combined total of fewer than 10 spins by the 2nd or 3rd question. The January 17, 1984 episode (#93) has a disclaimer stating that the entire second round was thrown out and redone due to the original one "fail[ing] to generate an adequate number of spins to provide for a full-length program".
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The May 18, 1983 pilot featured slides that were only shades of blue or green, and the first episodes used colors like off-white, which vanished after a handful of episodes. There was also a different sound for the Big Board, first heard in said pilot, replaced by a different one on November 2, 1983.
    • The original red buzzers had coils, similar to the ones on the game show PYL replaced, Child's Play. They would break constantly, which led to a redesign on the December 21, 1983 episode. But it still didn't work, so they were completely redesigned to their more familiar appearance on the February 14, 1984 episode.
    • In these early shows, the contestants were more sedated (they weren't yelling "Big bucks, no Whammies!" yet). The first contestant to chant the now-well-known mantra of the series was future game show announcer Randy West (Episodes 9-11; September 29-October 3, 1983).
    • The first week of shows (basically, the first seven episodes) had no Whammy foghorn.
    • Also used for the first seven episodes was the CBS "ding" sound for passing a spin.
    • The board looked a bit further away from the players in the first seven episodes.
    • For the first 22 episodes, the board sound was played at a lower tone of volume. It was amped up beginning on #23 (October 19, 1983).
    • Originally, the same light pattern was cycled over and over again until the player stopped the board. By the eighth episode, there were also instances where portions of them were jarringly skipped over. All of this was completely fixed on Episode 13 (October 5, 1983).
    • Since the game was still new, Peter gave more of a thoroughly detailed explanation of how the game was played for the first few months. His explanations were slimmed down considerably by Winter 1984.
    • The '83 pilot originally had just one Whammy animation (the Whammy running with a hammer). By the time the show became a series four months later, they reanimated it, as well as added 11 more Whammies to the rotation. As the series progressed, more Whammies would be added to the rotation (typically, several at a time would be added and/or reworked on an average of four times a year).
    • The first week of shows had the Whammies take away the entire player's score, leaving just $0 on their scoreboards. This was changed the following week, to having them take out the whole thing. By the 8th week, some of the Whammies began taking away the players' score, digit-by-digit.
    • The board's PYL logo for the '83 pilot was done in a different, stencil-like block font, with "PRESS" and "LUCK" in yellow letters over a black background, and "YOUR" with the colors inverted. Further, the redesigned PYL logo, as seen on the series, looked a bit darker in the first six weeks.
    • The contestants sported slightly different nametags in the first 8 weeks of shows (#001-#042; weeks 1-8). They were enlarged, beginning with the November 16, 1983 episode.
    • For a brief time, from the November 9-15, 1983 episodes, Peter introduced the returning champion first, before he introduced the challengers.
    • The prize cue originally had a jazzy arrangement with a saxophone lead. Beginning on October 19, 1983 (#23), it was replaced with a synth arrangement.
    • In the first few weeks, the questions were noticeably more difficult, resulting in low spin totals (one early episode had the contestants going into round 2 with a mere seven spins between them). Over time, the difficulty was adjusted in order to increase the number of spins won.
    • In Round 1, Square #4 initially used $750-$1,000-$1,250. This changed on October 19, 1983 to their more recognizable appearance, with $1,000-$1,250-$1,500. It was also the last R1 value change until December 6, 1985, when $500 + One Spin in #10 became $750 + One Spin.
    • There were also very few "+ One Spin" spaces in both rounds. While R1 always had four (five in the pilot), R2 went from having seven (eight in the pilot) to nine and eventually anywhere from 12-14. Combined with the more difficult questions resulting in fewer spins going into the round, the initial number of free spins in R2 resulted in episodes running way too short.
    • From December 5, 1983 to January 16, 1984 (Weeks 11-16), the R2 board only had 8 Whammies as opposed to 9 on any episode outside that span. To make things even weirder, episodes from January 17-23, 1984 (Week 17) had a Whammy in #2 in R2.
    • The series was always taped at CBS Television City in Hollywood, CA...but originally, tapings were held only at Studio 33 note . Beginning with the January 17, 1984 episode, they would alternate between Studios 33 and 43 every 1-2 months (with Larson's game taped at the former) before finally settling on the latter beginning with the February 20, 1985 episode.
    • The 2019 revival used four questions in the first Q&A round for the first two episodes produced. This was lowered to three questions for the other episodes.
  • The '80s: The show aired from 1983 to 1986, and some of the clothing and hair on contestants make it quite hard to miss. Many of the then-in-vogue music stars parodied in the animations also date the show to The '80s, such as Tammy Wynette, Boy George and Thriller-era Michael Jackson.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In some episodes in Republic Pictures' syndication package of 1985 episodes in the late 1980s, there is a short animation that plays at the end showing the Chief Whammy calling out his subordinates for taking too much money and prizes from contestants, stating their bank accounts are full and their warehouses overloaded. He also calls them out for mocking the contestants, and gives them all a vacation.
  • Every Episode Ending: Typically, each episode ended with Peter saying "Until next time, this is Peter Tomarken saying so long for Press Your Luck, bye-bye!", which was later changed to "Until next time, this is Peter Tomarken saying thanks for pressing your luck, bye-bye!". Some episodes even ended with Peter reciting a poem for the audience. Originally, he'd face the camera and recite a poem that was likely written by the writers of the show, such as "The Whammy is always a cute little guy, as long as he's only showing up when someone else is spinning." This was later changed to home viewers sending in poems, and Peter even acknowledged this - a month into production, at the end of a particular episode, Peter encouraged home viewers to send in poems as he was running out of the ones the show came up with.
  • Extra Turn:
    • Again, the "+ One Spin" spaces. There were only a few in the beginning, but way too many by the end.
    • In the 2019 version, the "+ One Spin" spaces are a boon during the main game, but become a burden during the Bonus Round, in which a contestant has to take a certain number of spins before they can choose to walk away and each subsequent round increases the number of "+ One Spin" spaces in addition to Whammies.
  • For Want of a Nail: For how amazing Michael Larson’s trouncing of the game was, it bears mentioning just how close he was to losing every penny of it on his last spin. To wit, Larson ended up stopping the board too early, landing on square 17 instead of the desired square 8. Said square had just switched from $700 + One Spin to a trip to the Bahamas. The other value it could have switched to? A Whammy (incidentally, the very same one he hit on his very first spin). Essentially, Larson was spared being remembered for a very different reason by little more than the flip of a coin.
  • Foregone Victory: Extremely rare, but on at least a few occasions the first two players in the second round got four Whammies, leaving the 3rd player with spins but no competition. As a result, that contestant played against the Whammies with the ability to quit at any point, assuming they didn't end their final spin with a Whammy or Whammy-Out. This doesn't apply when one or both of the first players end with no money but have less than four Whammies, since the passing rule is still alive in that scenario and they can still receive any spins the other doesn't play and try to get back in the game.
  • Four Is Death: Four Whammies and you're gone. Beginning September 17, 1984, special Whammy animations were introduced that would play anytime a contestant hit four Whammies. The first was a baseball umpirenote , the second was a Whammy on a cruise ship note , and the third and final one, appearing in 1986, was a barbershop quartetnote .
  • Funny Background Event: Audience members would sometimes be seen dancing along to the music that accompanied certain Whammy animations, most notably the Breakdancing Whammy.
  • Game Show Host: Peter Tomarken (1983-86), Elizabeth Banks (2019).
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: Five days or $25,000, whichever came first. On November 1, 1984, the cash limit was doubled to $50,000.
  • Golden Snitch:
    • Games were won or lost based on the last few spins, and Round 1 could be considered a time waster since Round 2 had higher prize amounts and players tended to hit a Whammy at some point, making them lose everything they collected in R1.
    • The last round of the second German version had a car prize, which if hit resulted in that player winning the game immediately.
    • A contestant could have three Whammys and still win the game while another could have no Whammys and not win at all. It's a matter of the contestant with the three Whammys on how many spins they have, hitting squares with additional spins and its money value.
    • The ABC Revival with Elizabeth Banks turns this Up to Eleven:
      • Prizes in excess of $50,000 are common in the second round.
      • Unlike the original version, it is easy to get over $10,000 in the first round, meaning that hitting "Add-A-One" could add $100,000 to your score.
      • The third season introduced the "Take The Lead + One Spin" space. If someone in second or third place hits this space, their score would be bumped up to that of the first place player plus $1.
  • Halloween Episode: The October 31, 1984 show started with Peter showing kids' drawings of the Whammy, and ended with Peter doing a little dance wearing the mask of Frankenstein's Monster.note  The 1985 one offered nothing special, other than the use of the Halloween Whammy from the year before, and neither did the 1983 one.
  • Home Game: Several.
    • The first was released for the PC by GameTek in 1988. Directional spaces only let you move in one direction, and the unique "Lose One Turn" removed a spin without touching your money.
    • Many "amateur" (unofficial) versions were done for PC in the 1990s and 2000s, somewhat a combination of love, boredom, and the absence of a console/PC game that didn't require DOS. One in particular, made by Curt King, stood out for containing every single prize and Big Board layout ever used, audio tracks of many Whammies and most of Peter Tomarken's calling of spaces, all three board sounds, male and female computer opponents, a program for users to create their own layouts, great renditions of the Big Board "slides" despite being made by hand, an immensely-detailed customization menu, and was not only very user-friendly but easy on the PC (both in space required and in CPU usage).
      • A set of "third-party" modifications to King's program made the slides even more accurate, added custom prizes of $10,000 and $25,000, allowed the board to display slide colors according to each of the show's three seasons, had a Christmas motif that added decorations to the board, and even included a special Round 1 board that gave contestants a number of chances to rack up spins for Round 2. More amazingly still, the mod community is still going strong to this very day: take, for instance, this visual/board mod for the 2019 reboot, unveiled a full day before said reboot even premiered!
      • One Flash version, created by a user with the handle "BigJon06", better known today as a video game speedrunner, features so many extra gimmicks that players can use, which could result in Pinball Scoring-levels of insanity (think insane combos like 1,000,000 + Decatuple Your Money and a Spin + Add a One being common occurrences). And they love posting their games on YouTube to the ranks of Memetic Mutation.
    • A DVD game was released in 2007 with Todd Newton as host and the 1980s set, but 1) the Big Board has several lights on it instead of a single spot, 2) there's no single-player mode, 3) the game has three rounds of questions and spinning, and 4) the Big Board layouts are very odd, partly since there are three rounds.
    • An electronic handheld version was made in 2008, and was also derided. Not only was the Big Board far too small, it was also divided with half the spaces above the screen and the other half below. And the game was housed in a TV set.
    • Versions were released for Wii and Nintendo DS in 2009. Better than the DVD and handheld games, albeit not by much...and despite massive input from the fans, Ludia still managed to screw the game up; see the YMMV tab for more info.
    • A Facebook app was created for the game in 2012; unlike other officially-released home versions of recent years, this one seems to be fairly well received aside from its length. Here's a review.
    • Travis Schario has created a single-player Flash version of Press Your Luck; it is no longer online.
    • Despite the abundance of digital versions of the game, an actual, physical board game wasn't released until the ABC reboot in 2019. The game, which even comes with a Whammy plush (the first since the early '00s), is paired with a mobile app, with players answering questions and tallying score (and Whammies) using the physical game, and spinning in the app. Some deviations have been made for the sake of gameplay (up to 4 players can play a game instead of the traditional 3, and games can last up to 3 rounds as opposed to the show's 2), but it's otherwise a faithful game, going as far as to even use videos of many of the Whammies actually featured on the show.
  • Home Participation Sweepstakes: The series held such event once every eight-nine months (May 14-June 11, 1984; January 21-February 15, 1985; and October 21-November 22, 1985), as a gimmick to entice more viewers to watch the show. Normally, the way it worked was that for the next 20 episodes, three viewer-submitted postcards would be placed with each of the three contestants, and during the 2nd round, one of the spins would be the coveted Home Player Spin. If the contestant playing that spin drew that card, that was who he or she would be playing for. Up to $5,000 in cash alone could be won for that one lucky viewer. But if the contestant stopped at a Whammy, the viewer would get $500 instead. Those who didn't get their cards drawn got a Whammy T-Shirt.
    • The Carruthers Company, feeling the show's demise was probably imminent, decided to have the last Sweepstakes go out with a bang: and instead of 20 episodes, it ran for 25. At the end of the last episode, a special all-cash board was created, and all 75 cards were placed in a fishbowl with the show's logo on it, and randomly drawn by the day's winner. Whatever amount the winner stopped at would then be multiplied by the total number of spins earned in Round 2 (i.e. $5,000 X 20 = $100,000). In this case, the winner stopped at $2,000, which was multiplied by 18, resulting in a $36,000 win for the lucky home viewer, and a balloon and streamer celebration in the studio.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Sherlock Holmes Whammy says, "It was greed that got him".
  • Innocently Insensitive: A contestant named Scott Haven was on for two episodes, February 27 and 28, 1985. He would often say "No little red men" as his description of the Whammies, unaware that "little red men" was a racial slur for Native Americans. Peter could even be heard telling Scott that he had just insulted the entire Indian population.
  • Infinite 1-Ups: The basis for Michael Larson's strategy. Back when he played, the board had two spots that were always free of Whammies and provided [Money] + One Spin. By always hitting the buzzer when the light was on those squares, he could lock himself in a potentially infinite loop. Granted, he couldn't do it forever because what he was doing was very complex and stressful, but he managed to do it for nearly an hour.
  • Jump Scare: The 2019 revival has a Whammy dolled up like Pennywise, who just stares at the contestant for a while before leaping at the camera with a mouthful of teeth.
  • Kingmaker Scenario: If only one player has spins left and is in last in R2 by a large margin, they can technically still pass their spins even though this virtually eliminates any chance of them winning. This would give the second-place player a chance of winning if the first place player hits a Whammy. Peter would joke that the player in second would buy the last place player lunch or be their best friend if that ended up happening.note 
  • Kick the Dog: The Whammy often caps off the theft of the money with some bonus humiliation, like bringing out a whole choir to sing about how the contestant sucks.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Many times, the Whammy will steal the money and then be hit with swift punishment. One example has him smacking a fly with a flyswatter...then getting swatted himself by a giant fly.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: A more specific list can be seen in They Changed It, Now It Sucks!. After the very stable season 2 which only had two different board configurations, the final CBS season brought with it neon and many undesirable changes to the board.
  • Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened: Occasionally used on the 2019 reboot's bonus game.
  • Limited Animation: The Whammy animations, which are kind of low-budget, and the fandom wouldn't have it any other way.
  • Loophole Abuse: Larson exploiting the patterns set into the board at the time. CBS admitted that he wasn't actually breaking any rules and therefore said they had to give it to him.
  • Losing Horns: A two-note synth sound that highly resembles a foghorn, naturally played whenever a Whammy was hit.
  • Luck-Based Mission: It was supposed to be one from the beginning, but Larson proved that it can be won with skill.
  • Missing the Good Stuff:
    • Washington D.C. was the highest ranked television market where PYL did not air regularly. In Atlanta GA,note  PYL didn't air there either but in a strange quirk, a UHF independent in that city was supposed to start airing a same-day delay of The $25,000 Pyramid on September 22, 1986 (PYL's final week) at 4 PM but forgot to record that day's episode. Hung up with what to air, they picked up the CBS feed and aired that day's PYL.
    • The program didn't air on January 28, 1986, due to non-stop coverage on the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and on the 29th, the January 27 episode was preempted in favor of a sitcom rerun on stations that carried the program outside of 4:00 p.m. on "Tape Delay". The latter aired on January 27 as normal.
  • Nintendo Hard: Amassing the $500K needed to snag the million-dollar grand prize in the Bonus Round is notoriously difficult, especially once the number of Whammies on the board starts to skyrocket in the later rounds and hitting even a single one sends you back to square one.
  • Non-Standard Game Over:
    • If two contestants had "whammied out" but the third contestant still had spins, he or she could either stop and keep everything won to that point, or keep going in hopes of winning more. The contestant had the option to stop after any spin.
    • If a game ended in a tie, then the tied contestants would be brought back on the next episode. More than once, a game ended in a three-way tie at $0, meaning that all three contestants returned for the next game.
    • If all three contestants Whammied out, the game ended immediately with no winner and three new contestants played on the next show.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • The original set of light patterns were retired and replaced with new ones on June 20, 1984, shortly after Larson's appearance. As a precaution, they were changed again on July 31. On September 17, the final change was made, increasing the number of light patterns to 32, which was probably too much for anybody to memorize and exploit.
    • Shortly after this, the Pick-A-Corner square appeared, and the board patterns at that point made it possible to hit the square so that one of the choices in the other corners would be a Whammy note That Whammy was moved one square down. This pattern returned for Whammy!, where hitting Move One Space sometimes gave the player the option of taking a Double Whammy.
  • Offscreen Crash: Sometimes happened to the Whammy. The airplane one is Harsher in Hindsight since Peter Tomarken died in a plane crash.
  • Oh, Crap!: When a contestant hit a Whammy, or the Whammy got injured (or a vehicle wrecked).
  • 1-Up:
    • $2,000 or Lose-A-Whammy could play as one.
    • The + One Spin spaces can also count since they're the only things that can keep a trailing player alive long enough to rack up money and catch up to the leader.
  • Opening Narration:
    • May 18, 1983 (Pilot): "These three players have been especially selected today to play television's richest game. Jack Campion is a lawyer who always plays to win, Maggie Brown says she never even thinks about losing, and Matt Dorf tells us he thinks the guy who says 'Winning isn't everything' is crazy. But only one of them can play and win today, as they play television's most exciting and challenging new game — Press Your Luck! And now, here's your host, the star of Press Your Luck, Peter Tomarken!"
    • September 19-October 4, 1983: "These three contestants are about to play the most exciting game of their lives, which only one of them can win." [each contestant is introduced one by one, with Rod making a comment about each of them] "From Television City in Hollywood, it's time to Press Your Luck! And now, here's your host, the star of Press Your Luck, Peter Tomarken!"
    • October 5-November 4, 1983: "These three contestants are about to play the most exciting game of their lives. [each contestant is introduced one by one, with Rod making a comment about each of them. For the 2nd player, if player 1 was a returning champion, Rod would say that he or she hopes to better that figure today, but the 3rd player has other plans for both of them.] "From Television City in Hollywood, it's time to Press Your Luck! And now, here's your host, the star of Press Your Luck, Peter Tomarken!"
    • November 7, 1983-end of run in 1986 (following a montage of clips from previous episodes): "Today, these three players are after hiiiiigh stakes (later "biiiiiiiig bucks"note ), but they'll have to avoid the Whammy as they play the most exciting game of their lives! From Television City in Hollywood, it's time to Press Your Luck! And now, here's your host, the star of Press Your Luck, Peter Tomarken!" note 
    • June 12, 2019: "Tonight, these three players are after big bucks, but they’ll have to avoid the Whammy, as one of the most exciting game shows of all time returns! From Television City in Hollywood, it’s time to Press...Your...Luck! And now here’s the host of Press Your Luck, Elizabeth Banks!"
    • June 19, 2019-October 29, 2020: "Tonight, these three players are after big bucks, but they’ll have to avoid the Whammy, as they play the most exciting game of their lives! From Television City in Hollywood, it’s time to Press...Your...Luck! And now here’s the host of Press Your Luck, Elizabeth Banks!"
    • May 26, 2021-present: "Tonight, these three players are after big bucks, but they’ll have to avoid the Whammy, as they play the most exciting game of their lives! From Studio Center in Hollywood, it’s time to Press...Your...Luck! And now here’s the host of Press Your Luck, Elizabeth Banks!"
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: Elizabeth Banks joked about this in the 2019 reboot, when she responded to a Whammy parodying James Bond with a remark that Whammy Bond is still kind of attractive.
  • Pet the Dog: In some Christmas Episodes, the Whammy Choir would sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", and did not alter the lyrics in any way.note 
  • Pie in the Face: On two whammy animations this happened:
    • One had a Sleazy Politician yell "If elected I will raise your taxes!" before the pie creamed him.
    • The second one had Tammy Whammette singing like country star Tammy Wynette with the accompanying whammy playing guitar after introducing her "Ladies and gentlemen! Tammy Whamette!" he's promptly pied with Tammy looking surprised.
  • Player Elimination: Hitting a Whammy causes you to forfeit any earnings up to that point. If you hit four whammies, your score gets set to zero and you are out of the competition.
  • Player Nudge: If a contestant hits two Whammies in Round 1, Peter will warn them about the possibility of landing on a third as a subtle coax into getting them to pass any remaining spins.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • The most serious example is the one with Jim Hess; when he got a third Whammy, he swore under his breath, but the audience could clearly tell he was saying "Oh, shit!" Upon Whammying out, he yelled, "JEEZ! FUCKING SHIT!"
    • A later episode had one contestant, Billy, swear often at the board, but instead of resorting to the Seven Dirty Words like Hess did, he simply went for the catchy-sounding "Whammy, be damned!". It backfired on him, as he Whammied out rather quickly.
  • Press X to Die: One of the options presented early in Pick-A-Corner's life could have been a Whammy, although no contestant ever willingly picked that when given the choice.
  • Promotional Consideration
  • Pyrrhic Victory: One contestant had her two opponents Whammy-Out… but she herself had $0 and no spins, and thus became the only contestant in the show's history to win with $0. She lost her second game, though, so she received the same consolation prizes the other loser got.
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • The main theme was based on Keith Mansfield's Flash, which was used on the pilot.
    • The Facebook app uses a new recording of the theme song in certain parts.
  • Refrain from Assuming: The game show is Press Your Luck, not Whammies (unless you literally are thinking of Whammy!).
  • Retraux: Despite every other visual aspect of the 2019 reboot being tuned up and refined to modern standards, the Whammy animations still retain the Limited Animation of old.
  • Revisiting the Roots: While the first revival Whammy! adapted a more high-tech aesthetic, the aesthetic and gameplay of the 2019 revival is almost identical to the 1983 show. Most obviously, while the Whammy animations in Whammy! were done in CGI, the animations in the 2019 reboot return to the Limited Animation of the original, to the point that some of them are taken straight from the original show.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: The Whammy's dog, Fang. Lampshaded in one episode; a question was asked "We all know the Whammy doesn't have many friends, but one friend he does have is his dog. What's the pooch's name?". None of the contestants rang in, so Peter provided the choices of Fido, Fang, and Spot (all three guessed Fang). Of course, Fang isn't opposed to putting the Whammy through misfortune (i.e. dragging him around or eating his food).
    Whammy (while pulled across the score display by his dog): Hold it, Fang, hold it! Don't forget the moneyyyyyyyyyy!!!
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Could apply with the Whammys' appearances in front of the contestant's score.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: One prize square read "Flatwear", though it was later corrected.
  • Rule of Funny: On June 14, 1985, one question asks which Looney Tunes character has "Sufferin' succotash!" as a Catchphrase. All three contestants say Sylvester, but the answer on Peter's card is Daffy Duck. How does the show handle this error? With Mel Blanc calling Peter to explain. In his Sylvester voice.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The "Big Tongue Whammy" slide may be a Call-Back to Sammy the Whammy, the mascot of the 1960s game Beat the Odds, who had a very similar expression; making this more likely is the fact that Carruthers tried to revive Odds in 1975 for ABC, albeit with Sammy replaced by a lightning bolt.
    • Many of the Whammy animations used on the show were shoutouts to the world of entertainment. A good example was the rarely used Astronaut Whammy, which showed the rocket ship "PYL83" taking off without him, and the Whammy saying "I thought I had The Right Stuff?"
    • Other notable examples were the whammy dressing up as The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Culture Club frontman Boy George. The whammy's girlfriend, Tammy, was a shout to country music legend Tammy Wynette.
    • There are Whammies in the 2019 version that reference not just music, but pop culture in general. These include a blonde-haired Whammy flying in on a dragon and saying "Winter is coming!", one coming in from a car and saying "I'll take your money so fast, you'll be furious!", one referencing The Bachelor's rose ceremonies with the Whammy dressed like Chris Harrison, one that resembles Oprah Winfrey and one dressed like Pennywise.
    • Another 2019 Whammy is dressed up like Inigo Montoya and puts a spin on his Signature Line.
      "Hello, my name is Whamigo Montoya. I stole your money. Prepare to cry."
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Tammy Whammette got pasted a few times, like when she tried leading the audience in aerobics, only to slip and get tied up in a knot.
  • Sleazy Politician: Parodied in one of the Whammy animations. A Whammy dressed as a politician barked "If elected, I will raise your taxes!" before getting a Pie in the Face.
  • The Song Remains the Same: The Turkish version did this to any Whammy that was singing. They didn't even provide subtitles or dub anything the Whammies spoke.
  • Split Screen: When it was down to the final spin of the final player with spins still remaining, a splitscreen on the big board would show both that player and the player who would either be the winner if they whammied out, or who was in the lead if the player taking the spin wasn't in the lead. If they picked up an additional spin, then the split-screen would continue into the next spin. Otherwise, the splitscreen would slide away to show only the contestant who had won. Also, the spinning contestant whammied, no whammy animation would be played; they would just clear away the splitscreen and go directly to the winner.
  • Studio Audience: In a neat twist, the contestant island rotating to face the bonus board meant that not only did we see the players as they were pressing their luck, but also the audience behind them.
  • Teeny Weenie: Weirdly implied in one of the animations where the Whammy is caught showering and is embarrassed that his (pixellated) naked self is seen on television. He defends himself with "The water's cold, I swear."
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Peter himself often caused this; there have been many instances where he notes how well the contestant is doing and just happens to mention the whammy. GUESS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
    • "One more spin." Often as not, they Whammied. Lampshaded by Tomarken from time to time; he had a name for the Whammy that often ensued—the "one-more Whammy".
    • At the start of the Michael Larson two-parter, Peter said he was certain there would be big bucks that day. Oh, he had no idea.
    • The Boy George Whammy would come in singing "Who would ever hurt a Whammy?" Drop the Hammer ensued.
    • The Benjamin Franklin Whammy, while flying a kite, said that "The chances of you winning this game are about as good as my getting hit by—" *ZOT*
  • Title Drop: Peter would sometimes ask contestants "Are you ready to press your luck?"
  • This Page Will Self-Destruct: The Mission: Impossible Whammy from the 2019 revival.
    Whammy (while dangling by a wire): This money will self-destruct in *BLAM* —no seconds.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: At least four, none of which were really that successful.
    • An Australian version hosted by Ian Turpie aired from 1987-88 and, per Reg Grundy's tradition, the set and format were very faithful to the original - it even used the same Whammy animations! The Big Board was scaled down ("Stop at $30!") and had some rather unusual Bonus Spaces (Lose-1-Whammy or $200 + One Spin?!).
    • A British version helmed by Paul Coia ran on HTV West from 1991-92. While the format was faithful, the budget was minimal — the Big Board used points, and the big winner received £200. The show was quickly kicked from primetime to Saturday afternoons, then Sunday afternoons.
    • A German version, Glück am Drücker (more clips here), aired for a time in 1992. This iteration used a kinda-similar set (the Big Board used a five-by-five layout instead of six-by-five), animated vultures instead of Whammies (complete with unique animations), and a "light box" which moved at a speed more like that on Second Chance.
      • An updated version, Drück dein Glück, ran from 1999-2000. This version replaced Whammies with Hainz the Money Shark and an atmosphere closer to Whammy!
    • And as with many other game shows, Sabado Gigante had their own version at one point.
    • A Turkish version named Şansını Dene ran from 1994-1996.
  • Troll: If the contestant got a Whammy, it will taunt the contestants as it steals their money.
  • Undesirable Prize:
    • Most prominently the Flokati Rug, the former Trope Namer note . Whenever this was hit, Peter would go gleefully nuts, and told the contestant "Once you find out what it is, could you send us a picture?" note 
    • Basically any Round 1 prize under $500. In Round 2, when given a choice, savvy contestants knew that cars were good, golf clubs were bad.
    • A choice of a Mediterranean Cruise easily beats out a trip to Palm Springs (the cruise was the most expensive square they had note .
    • Double Your $$ (+ One Spin) when the score is meager, like $0 (in which case you only get the spin and the space is taken off; it originally had no extra spins attached to it, making it worth completely zilch with $0, one step above the Whammy).
    • Add-A-One when a contestant's score is $0 (which happened several times with a contestant hitting it either on their very first spin or after hitting a Whammy).
    • Season 3 of the revival introduced a new special space to Round 2: Take the Lead + One Spin.note  This space is not all that great to land on for a player who already has the lead, but it at least eliminates the possibility of either of their opponents hitting the space.note 
  • Vaudeville Hook: Gets a tap-dancing Whammy that tries to get back on the screen.
  • Vocal Evolution: The Whammy was primarily voiced by Press creator Bill Carruthers. Originally, he had more of a high-pitched and harmonized voice. But near the very end of the run, for some of the very last Whammies used on the show (such as the Circus Car, the Judge, and the Doctor ones), the voice began sounding a lot more gruff and harmonized.
  • Whammy: Trope Namer. Dozens of animations have been used (some rarely), with a few also involving a female (Tammy Whammette) and/or a dog named Fang.
  • Who Wants to Be "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?": Downplayed in the reboot - the top prize of the Bonus Round is $1,000,000, but otherwise the game retains the same fast pace and fun atmosphere as usual.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: With three Whammies and a lot of passed spins (which you have to use up), you really rack up the bucks—and then when you're just that last passed spin away from being the champion, you Whammy out.

This is Rooooooooooooooooood Roddy! Speaking for Press Your Luck, A Carruthers Company Presentation!

Video Example(s):


Michael Jackson Whammy

The contestant's winnings are moonwalked away in this classic "Press Your Luck" whammy styled after Michael Jackson.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

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