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Series / The Cheap Show

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"The following program, although edited for television, still may contain some objectionable material. The producers feel that alone should be enough to make you stay tuned to this channel."
Disclaimer shown before the each episode.

"This authentic Early American bee smoker worth nine dollars and eighty-four cents, or any one of these other exciting, nearly-great prizes might be taken home by our contestants. And we have something horrendous in store for their unfortunate loved ones. All this and much, much less tonight on The Cheap Show! And here's the host of The Cheap Show — the only man we could find who'll work this cheap; the man who actually believes that his check is in the mail, Mr. Dick Martin!"
Opening spiel, as read by Charlie O'Donnell.

Game Show that ran in weekly syndication from 1978-79 with Dick Martin of Laugh-In fame as emcee. Two teams competed, with Martin asking questions to a thr-oh, sorry, two-celebrity panel. The team "in control" then picked one of the two given answers; a correct pick awarded you a point (and a great prize such as Dick's toenail clippings) and one of your opponents got covered in slime, while a wrong answer gave your opponent the point and toenails while your teammate got covered in slime.

The first team to reach 20 points won the game and moved on to The Semi-Colossal Prize Sweepstakes Finale, in which the couple picked a hole from 1-12 and hoped the show's mascot hamster Oscar scampered into said hole.

The Cheap Show was a parody of low-budget games, with embarrassingly-cheap "prizes" and the most obvious Golden Snitch format ever — Exactly What It Says on the Tin, in other words, although that was the point.


This show provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: One running gag had Dick calling Wanda by some other name - Winda, Zelda, Lila, Fillmore...
  • Affectionate Parody: ...Although the "Affectionate" part could be argued against.
  • The Announcer: Charlie O'Donnell, no stranger to the genre that was being mocked (particularly the "cheap" prize descriptions, almost certainly intended to parody his role on Wheel of Fortune).
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Most of Dick's comments, especially his monologue. Justified, in that the show pretty much asked for it.
  • Bonus Round: The Semi-Colossal Prize Sweepstakes Finale, where Oscar the Wonder Rodent ran around in a circular area with holes representing actual and legitimate prizes, and the first hole he went into determined what prize would be won. If the couple could correctly guess where he'd go, they'd also win the grand prize of an actual, legitimate new car! note 
  • Advertisement:
  • Catchphrase: "Remember, it's not whether you win or lose — it's how much it costs you!"
  • Consolation Prize: Some were described between Rounds 1 and 2, and more following the Bonus Round. As with the endgame, these prizes were genuine.
  • Covered in Gunge: More than likely the first American game show example - if you lost a round, your loved one got something dumped on top of them, or a Pie in the Face.
  • Credits Gag: Such as "Oscar's Wardrobe by MOTHER NATURE".
  • Golden Snitch: An intentionally absurd example - the first two questions were worth one point each, while the final question was worth 20 points. 20 points were required to win the game.
  • Half Hour Comedy
  • Lovely Assistant: Wanda (Janelle Price), a dim-bulb ditz who talked in a very stilted/robotic manner. Oh, and men in drag.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The bonus game depended on the hamster's brain, not yours.
  • Mascot: Oscar, the Wonder Rodent.
  • Opening Narration: Quoted at the top of this page.
  • Take That!: Toward low-budget games and those who ran them.
  • Zonk: The main-game "prizes", typically worth less than $20.