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Series / Shoppers Casino

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In 1987, there was a trifecta of dueling Game Shows that tried to cross the genre with the growing fad of home shopping: namely, ABC's Bargain Hunters (a Merrill Heatter production which host Peter Tomarken reportedly really hated, infamously calling it "a piece of shit") and the syndicated The Home Shopping Game (which tied in with the Home Shopping Club). While neither show was all that great, both had some redeeming elements.

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...Oh, wait, that third game. Until pictures were posted for all to see in December 2012, references to this legendary yet obscure syndicated entry were limited to assorted posts on a popular forum which - in an almost Creepypasta-like quality - described it as the worst game show ever made (a post from 2005, a topic from 2006, and another topic from 2011). That show was the legendary Shopper's Casino.

And unfortunately, it's real. In fact, several traders have had an episode (the premiere, as it happens) since at least May 1998.

But on to the game itself, because that's (presumably) why you're here - basically, the entire show consisted of two contestants playing casino games, specifically Blackjack, Roulette, and Chuck-a-Luck. Win a round, win a prize and points relative to its price note . Blackjack was relatively normal, Roulette only offered Black, White, Odd, and Even as bets, and Chuck-a-Luck is a dice-based game you've probably never heard of before this. If the Bonus Bell went off, that round was played for double. The winner after six rounds (two of each game) got to spin a "Big Wheel" for a bonus prize.

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...And that's it. Much like those other shows, each prize was also offered to home viewers, and a lot of the time between games (or even during them in some cases) was spent plugging the prizes and reminding viewers to have their credit cards ready and call now. Even worse, the advertisements shown during commercial breaks were all direct-response ads! (...but more on that later.)

So what were the issues with Shopper's Casino? Many. Poor production quality (camera angles, lighting, etc.), one of the laziest, blandest sets in the history of the genre, a noticeable gap in the betting choices for Chuck-a-Luck (the only choices were "12 or Over" and "9 and Under"), the hosts were terrible, the aforementioned direct-response ads had better production values than the show itself (but only slightly), and...well, here's a full explanation with pictures, if you dare...or the episode itself on YouTube, if you've got a Bile Fascination.

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The fact that its existence was treated like an Urban Legend should be proof enough that it didn't last long, and it didn't (by all indication, it aired from September 8 through at least the 29th).


Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round: The "Big Wheel", which wasn't big. Or much of a wheel.
  • Bonus Space: The bonus bell.
  • Home Participation Sweepstakes: There seemed to be one, although the person supposedly playing over the phone on the premiere sounded like she was in the studio. (It's been speculated that the premiere was an aired pilot, which would explain it.)
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Don Helvey.
    • Game Show Host: Jeff Maxwell and Debbie Sue Maffett. The latter had previously served a near-pointless hostess role in Merrill Heatter's unsold High Rollers revamp Lucky Numbers in 1985.
    • Lady Luck: Cynthia "Cindy" Brooke, who later appeared in the May 2, 1989 issue of Weekly World News, which name-dropped the show. Yeah.
    • Studio Audience: Yes, really. They were probably bored to death, though...
    • And "Dirty Harry" (Tom Bronson), the guy who ran the games. Of all the issues with the show, he's not one of them, mainly because he looks and acts like most casinos feel about giving people money - i.e., not at all.
  • Promotional Consideration: It was basically an Infomercial dressed as a game show; about 65% of the show is dedicated to hawking the prizes and reminding viewers to call. Legacy International—who has an ad for a work-at-home scheme in the circulating episode, is credited as a production company in the credits alongside a company called Knight Productions. Also of note is that the Legacy ad, "be a contestant" spiel, and the insulation-matting ad in the aforementioned episode give the same post office box in Culver City as their addresses.
  • Undesirable Prize: Somewhat; would a Coca-Cola anniversary pin set really be that desirable?

This series provides examples of:

  • Luck-Based Mission: It's a casino. An indescribably crappy casino, but still a casino. Barely.
  • Pilot: It's been speculated that the circulating episode, being the premiere, was an aired example given the low-budget everything and the aforementioned "phone player" sounding like she was in the studio. If so, it was a really bad first impression.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Two different examples.
    • The opening logo graphic gives the name as "Shoppers Casino", with no apostrophe.
    • The on-set logo gives the name as "Shoppers Ca$ino", opting to spring for a dollar sign but not for an apostrophe (never mind that absolutely no cash is involved during gameplay).

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