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Series / Split Second (1972)

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The fastest game on television!

Game Show produced by Stefan Hatos-Monty Hall Productions for ABC from 1972-75. Host Tom Kennedy presented a three-part question to three contestants, and the order in which they rang in determined who answered when. The first player to ring-in got to choose an answer; the two others had to choose from the unclaimed answers. After all three players answered, they were awarded $5 each if all three were right, $10 each if two were right, and $25 if only one was right. The first two rounds consisted of 10 questions each, and Round 2 doubled the cash awards.

The third round was the Countdown Round. The leader after Round 2 had to give only three correct answers to win; the second-place player, four; and the third-place player, five (the Monty Hall version increased these numbers to four, five, and six, respectively; the current GSN revival has amounts of four, six and eight). In this round, the player in control was allowed to continue answering the same question until either reaching zero (which automatically ended the game) or failing to come up with a correct answer (after which, any remaining players could complete the question with what was left). All three players got to keep the money credited to them.

After a three-year run on ABC, the show was revived for syndication (distributed by Viacom) in 1986 with Monty Hall taking the role of emcee because he was displeased with the strict judging on Kennedy's version. The revival, which taped in Toronto, had increased cash awards and a different bonus round. Canadian GSN equivalent GameTV has rerun this version, and it was announced in September 2019 that Buzzr had picked up reruns.

A pilot was made in 1990 by Ralph Edwards-Stu Billett Productions, with Entertainment Tonight anchor Robb Weller as host and another different bonus round. This one failed to sell.

After over three decades of the franchise remaining dormant, news surfaced in November 2022 that another revival of the series was in the works for GSN, following the Hatos-Hall library being acquired by Lemonis/Glass Entertainment. It debuted in April 2023, with John Michael Higgins hosting (though not mind-taking) and a $10,000 top prize.

This show provides examples of:

  • The Announcer: Jack Clark on ABC (Jack also appeared onstage during certain visual questions and to start the correct car in the event the champion didn't choose it), Sandy Hoyt in syndication, and Bob Hilton for the 1990 pilot.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The 1986 version claimed that the Magic Kingdom was in Disneyland, instead of being a part of Walt Disney World on the other side of the country.
  • Artistic License – History: The 1986 version claimed that:
    • The car company Lada was from Holland, rejecting the contestant's correct answer of Russia.
    • George Washington moved to Washington DC in 1801, despite the fact Washington had died two years prior.
  • Artistic License – Religion: The 1986 version claimed that Job wrestled with a messenger from God, penalizing the contestant who correctly answered Jacob.
  • Bonus Round:
    • ABC: The champion picked a car onstage and tried to start it. Victory awarded the car and a cash jackpot that started at $1,000 and grew by $500 (originally, it started at zero and grew by $200) every day it wasn't won. (The four other cars had their distributor caps removed. Also, the show had to get a waiver from the fire department to allow the starting of a car engine within a confined building.) Winning five shows automatically won the contestant the car of his/her choice plus the cash jackpot; at least one episode circulates of five-day winner Marvin Shinkman picking a Pontiac Grand LeMans station wagon (he had a family, which joined him onstage).
      • Apparently, at one point in the run, a mechanic accidentally disconnected the sparkplug instead of the coil, so when the champion tried to start that car, it just spewed smoke for a minute — they still gave the champion the car, however.
    • Syndicated: Originally, the champion faced five windows, one of which read "CAR" on the back. Picking that window awarded the car, but otherwise the player won $1,000 (a "showcase" in early episodes) and returned on the next show; as with the original format, one window was removed for each additional game that player won (the same windows the champ picked in previous episodes), and winning five times awarded the car automatically.
      • Later in the run, they changed it — the champion had to find the three windows that read "CAR" (the other two had a prize, usually either a fur coat or a trip); if one of the prize windows was picked, Monty offered the champion the prize and a bribe ($1,000 for each day that player had been on) to leave the show. The fourth try had four "CAR" screens behind them, and as before, five wins awarded the car by default. Still later, a champ's fourth crack at the bonus round would only have three "CAR" screens, making it no different than their first three attempts.
    • 1990 Pilot: The champion was shown three video screens, each of which concealed a different exotic vacation. Picking the screen with the chosen trip won it.
    • GSN: The "Final Countdown" poses the champion questions with two potential answers. They must correctly answer seven of these in 60 seconds to win $10,000.
  • Bonus Space: The Singleton, added during the second half of the ABC run, awarded a bonus prize to the first contestant who scored $25/$50 on any one question.
  • Character Catchphrase: From the GSN version for the day's champion: "Your Split Second reactions have earned you $1,000!"
  • Double the Dollars:
    • Slightly averted during the Kennedy run; questions went from $5/$10/$25 in the first round to $10/$25/$50 in the second.
    • Played straight in the Hall run, where values went from $10/$25/$50 up to $20/$50/$100.
    • Also played straight on GSN, although played for points - 25/50/100 and 50/100/200.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The contestant podiums looked different in the earliest 1986 episodes; with no dollar signs on the scoreboards, the "1" on each podium was blue, the podiums themselves were gray instead of purple, and the contestants' names were written in the same font as the logo. The Countdown Round lacked music, and the graphics were different. The Countdown Round music debuted on the 17th episode, and the more familiar set and graphics were in place on the 19th. In even earlier episodes, a champion that didn't select the correct screen in the bonus round won a prize instead of $1,000 cash. Also, Sandy Hoyt would reveal the answers to the opening questions in the earliest episodes during the final commercial break before Monty started revealing them after his entrance.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: Jack Clark introduced the last ABC episode by saying " Split Second splits!"
  • Extra Turn: Correct answers during the Countdown Round allowed a contestant to keep control of the same question.
    • And each of the hosts has had different lines for that:
    Tom Kennedy: That is correct (right). You may continue.
    Monty Hall: Correct. Continue.
    John Michael Higgins: Yes, correct. (or) That's correct; keep going.
  • Golden Snitch: The Countdown Round is a very well-handled implementation of this trope.
  • Grand Finale: The last show on June 27, 1975 had a champion who failed to start the chosen car; Tom decided to give him the car anyway, then split the $1,000 jackpot between the other two contestants (one of whom was future ABC and CNN correspondent Judd Rose). Monty Hall then came out and thanked Tom for the wonderful run, after which a lot of the staff walked out onstage to wave goodbye as the credits rolled.
  • Lovely Assistant: Sharolyn Sparrow served as one of the prize models in the syndicated version.
  • No Fair Cheating: Answers in the Countdown Round would only be accepted if each clue was answered one at a time. At least one instance of this rule being invoked circulates.
  • Opening Narration:
    • 1972-75 on ABC, from Jack Clark: "This is our champion, (champion's name), and his/her two new opponents. Today, he/she will be trying for his/her (number of chance) to win one of these 5 (year and make[s] of car offered), today on Split Second! And now the host of our show, Tom Kennedy!"
    • Syndicated: Announcer Sandy Hoyt gives a trivia question before saying, "You'll find out when one of these three contestants wins the chance to drive home in this brand-new (maker and make of car), in just a Split Second! And now here's the star of our show, Monty Hall!"
    • GSN: "Welcome to Split Second! And here's your host, John Michael Higgins!"
  • Progressive Jackpot: As stated, winning the car on the ABC version also won the contestant one of these.
  • Speed Round: Subverted with the "Countdown Round", although it can end rather quickly if someone is on a sufficient roll.
  • The Teaser: Each episode of the GSN version opens with the players answering the first question of Round 1, before Michael says to the camera: "And that's how we play Split Second!", followed by the title card.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The second half of the ABC run added the Memory Buster; played once per day, Tom read a list of items and asked which three were related to one another.

Alternative Title(s): Split Second