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Series / The Big Showdown

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Let's roll those dice! No wait, they're too big.
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Game Show produced by Don Lipp and Ron Greenberg for ABC from 1974-75 and hosted by Jim Peck, in which three contestants answered questions to achieve a "Payoff Point" for a cash award ($25, $50, $75, $100, or $500) determined by a randomizer on Peck's podium.

The contestant in control after a one-point tossup chose one of six categories for a tossup question worth that many points. The main strategy was that the Payoff Point had to be met exactly, and no player could choose or answer a question that would cause them to exceed it; this added a layer of intuitive counter-blocking between the players. Following the second Payoff Point, six new categories were introduced. This round ended with a 90-second Speed Round, during which every Payoff Point following the current one was worth $100; once time expired, the contestant in third place was eliminated.

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The two remaining contestants played Final Showdown for a Payoff Point of 7, which awarded $250. Three categories were played with point values being from 1-3. First to reach the Payoff Point became champion and played the bonus round.

Showdown debuted on December 23, 1974 (as did its sister show The Money Maze) and lasted a mere six months against NBC's popular series The Doctors, ending on July 4, 1975. Despite its scarcity and obscurity, it is a cult classic revered by those who have seen it.


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This show provides examples of:

  • The Announcer: Longtime New York TV/radio personality Dan Daniel, in his only game show role. ABC staff announcer Dirk Fredericks held these duties for the pilot.
  • Bonus Round: The champion rolled standard dice with the sixes replaced by "Show" and "Down" to set a Payoff Point, then rolled many more pairs for 30 seconds; $250 was awarded each time the Payoff Point was hit, with $5,000 for Show-Down...but if the contestant rolled Show-Down instead of setting a Payoff Point, they won $10,000. If time expired, the contestant received five seconds for each Payoff Point they hit to continue rolling just for the $5,000.
  • Bonus Space: The Payoff Point.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: Rolling Show-Down meant you retired undefeated.
  • Lovely Assistant: Heather Cunningham, who only appeared in the bonus round and merely served to hand the dice to the contestant.
  • Opening Narration:
    • First opening: "These three players will compete in a classic battle of knowledge and strategy, and one of them will have a chance to win the top prize of $10,000, today, on The Big Showdown! And here's your host, Jim Peck!"
    • Second opening (following a montage of endgame wins from previous episodes): "Welcome to The Big Showdown! And here's your host, Jim Peck!"
  • Pilot: Taped in 1974 and simply called Showdown. Different theme, somewhat different set, and different rules:
    • The Payoff Point began at $25 and increased in $25 increments.
    • Final Showdown awarded $200 to the winner. (Amusingly, or perhaps not, the only category not chosen is the two-point "Politics '74".)
    • In the Bonus Round, hitting the Payoff Point stopped the clock and added five seconds to it immediately (although this rule did not come into effect).
    • Absolutely no mention was made of the $10,000 top prize until just before the contestant set the Payoff Point in the bonus round. During the rest of the show, the top prize was consistently stated as being $5,000.
    • Returning champs were always in effect, regardless of whether the bonus round was won.
    • An earlier pilot was taped in 1973 (also titled Showdown), and had a completely different bonus round, involving opening a large safe filled with over $10,000 in cash and prizes via the right combination. That bonus round was judged "too boring", and we got the bonus round we're familiar with.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: Congratulations, you've won our straight quiz, now let's roll dice!

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