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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 any contestant whose score would cause them to exceed it with the chosen question could not participate in 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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Game Show Tropes in use:

  • 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.
  • Personnel:
    • 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.
    • Game Show Host: Jim Peck, in one of his better shows.
    • Lovely Assistant: Heather Cunningham, who only appeared in the bonus round and merely served to hand the dice to the contestant.
    • Studio Audience

This show provides examples of:

  • 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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