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Series / The Joker's Wild

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"From Hollywood, here's the game where knowledge is king, and Lady Luck is queen! It's The Joker's Wild!"

Jack Barry-created Game Show during his post-scandal exile from TV in the 1960s. Two contestants took turns spinning an oversized slot machine. Each of its three wheels had five trivia categories and a Joker, which players could use to represent any category in the game.

Barry produced the first Joker pilot for CBS on December 8, 1968, followed by a second attempt on January 5, 1969, and a third (The Honeymoon Game) on October 3, 1970. The series finally landed in 1971 for about three months on KTLA, followed by a three-year run (1972–75) on CBS and two syndicated revivals.

Jack was host and producer from 1971 to 1984, with partner Dan Enright returning in 1977. During this time, it became part of a 90-minute syndicated block with sibling series Tic-Tac-Dough and Play The Percentages (the latter replaced by Bullseye). Bill Cullen carried the show from 1984 to 1986, with occasional fill-ins by Jim Peck. Pat Finn was the host of a series retool for the 1990-91 season.


In May 2017, it was announced that Sony Pictures Television (successor to Barry and Enright, and who had tried to bring the show back in 2006) would be bringing the show back on TBS, with Snoop Dogg hosting and producing, and now with more of a "faux-casino" theme. It premiered on October 24th, 2017, and its second season premiered on April 15, 2018.

Has nothing to do with the Batman villain, The Joker.


This show provides examples of:

  • All or Nothing:
    • The Fast Forward category. After every correct answer, players could either end their turn or take another question at the same value. If a question was missed at any point, the turn ended and all money accumulated on that turn was lost. This often led to the opportunity for large comebacks.
    • The "Bid" category. Contestants decided in advance how many questions they wanted to answer note ; if all of them were answered correctly, the player won the total amount (e.g., 3 questions at $100 each = $300). One wrong answer ended the turn and gave the opponent the opportunity to complete the bid and win all the money. note 
  • The Announcer: Johnny Jacobs, Jay Stewart, and Charlie O'Donnell — the typical B&E trifecta. One notable substitute was Marc Summers, then a CBS page, in his first television role. Ed MacKay announced the 1990 revival, and Charlie handled announcing duties on the CD-i versions and the 2006 pilots. Dave Burchell handles the 2017 version.
  • Art Evolution: The slides went from pictures of celebrity panelists and just category names (the pre-Jack pilots) to black-and-white pictures on colored backgrounds (starting with the Jack Barry shows, up until then only the "Joker" was multicolored with white face), and by the time of Joker! Joker!! Joker!!! colored pictures and backgrounds (one noticeable sign of this was the friendly "Joker" facing and smiling at the public; the original "Joker" was only seen with the side of his face).
    • A more obvious example might be the "Disney" slides: The first one had a hand drawing Chip the chipmunk on a brown background; the second had a light blue background with Mickey, Donald, and Tinkerbell in front of Cinderella's castle (all very noticeably off-model).
  • Artifact Title: Many fans consider the first format of the 1990 version to be this, since the Joker only appeared in the third window and was no longer "wild" (instead tripling the dollar amounts in the first two windows). Though in fairness, the show was still very watchable in its own right (as was pointed out by Game Show Garbage), especially in comparison to the reboot of Joker's sister show Tic-Tac-Dough that same season.
  • Auction: Two categories applied both the normal and reverse kinds.
    • "Just One More" was a category where there was a question with multiple answers, and the contestants bid on how many answers they could get right in a row. If the winning bidder couldn't get all the answers then, much like Family Feud, the other player only needed to give just one more right answer to win the question and the cash.
    • "How Low Will You Go?" was a reverse auction where a question was given, with a list of eight clues to the right answer. One clue was read at the outset, and the players bid back and forth as to how few of the other seven they would need. A wrong answer by the winning bidder meant that the opponent got to hear all of the clues before responding.
  • Audience Game:
    • The first known instance was for the week of March 3, 1975: After every Face the Devil, Johnny Jacobs called down an audience member to play Face the Devil for the same prizes from a duplicate large handle located at the foot of the audience.
    • On March 31, 1975, a tweaked version debuted for the next three weeks: This time, how the normal Face the Devil player did affected how many spins an audience member would get — spinning less than $500 (regardless of outcome) gave the audience player three spins, $500-$975 awarded four spins, and winning Face the Devil gave the audience player five spins. Hitting a Devil on the first spin meant no audience game was played.
      • After this, Jack presented the player a choice of three envelopes, each containing the name of an audience member. That player and the champ played a variant of the "Jokers and Devils" endgame: Spinning Joker-Joker-Joker awarded $100 to each player, and every subsequent Joker-Joker-Joker doubled it for a maximum of $1,600. A Devil took away both players' money, but gave the audience member a consolation prize.
    • During the later seasons of the syndicated run, at the end of an episode three audience members each took one spin, with dollar amounts from $10 to $100 on the reels. They each got to keep whatever total they spun, and the high scorer then played "Face the Devil" for a bonus prize and more cash, using the same rules and dollar amounts ($25-$200) as the onstage contestants.
    • The 1990s version had an audience game, too, albeit only to fill in time when the endgame ended early, and had people picked from the audience playing the standard endgame; three spins to match anything for $100 (if the person couldn't do that, they got a t-shirt).

  • Bonus Round:
    • 1968-71: The winning player, after winning $250 for the game, could spin up to three times, taking whatever showed up on the reels (ranging from Zonks to big prizes and cash) after each spin. The Honeymoon Game ended it with an extra Let's Make a Deal-style choice of three numbered slides, each of which contained a very decent honeymoon vacation.
    • September 4 and 5, 1972: Same as before, but with only two spins. Some prizes had a black circle around them, and spinning three of those circles also won a new car.
    • September 6–18, 1972: Same as before, but the circles were gone and the car was among the prizes that could be spun (along with other nice items such as boats and trips).
    • September 18, 1972 - circa June 1974: The wheels now contained Jokers and Devils. The winner got three spins (originally four), and won a prize of increasing value each time three Jokers appeared. If a Devil appeared at any point, the player lost their prizes from that bonus round. (And no, that isn't a typo — the format changed mid-episode.note )
    • Beginning sometime between late April 1973 and Episode #418 (taped May 6, 1974), the bonus game became "The Money Wheels": The winner spun the reels for money while trying to avoid a Devil, and accumulating $1,000 or more awarded a prize package worth about $1,500 (although later in the CBS run, the cash was added to that total). Around September 1974, the game was renamed "Face the Devil".
      • A slight modification was used as the audience game from 1981 to 1985: three audience members spun the reels once for small amounts of money, and the person with the highest total played Face the Devil for cash and a decent prize. (Originally played a couple of times each week, it became daily in 1982.)
    • 1990-91: The winner would be read definitions for 60 seconds and try to identify the word; guessing correctly would get you a spin on the Joker Machine. Various prizes (trips, merchandise, and cash from $500-$2,000) were on the displays, and could be frozen after each spin; three of anything won. Jokers couldn't be frozen, however, and had to be converted...but spinning three Jokers won the Joker's Jackpot, which at one point got as high as $36,000.
    • 2006: "Face the Devil" returned, but with far more generous cash amounts- getting to $10,000 would be the threshold. However, the player could choose to risk it for more- a second Devil would be added, but so would three car images, and spinning those would get the player a luxury car.
    • 2017-2019: "Face the Devil" is back once more, but now with elements of the "Jokers and Devils" endgame. Money amounts from $300 to $1,500 (and, expectedly, one of the amounts is $420), with Jokers worth $2,000. If the contestant manages to reach the $10,000 mark or spin three Jokers, they win $25,000. The Devils are there as usual and if hit the money goes up in smoke.
      • Season 2 doubled the top prize, and now Snoop offers bailout money on top of the money earned to that point. Additionally, while the spins are still started by pulling the giant lever, the contestant now hits a large button to stop the Joker Machine.
  • Bonus Space:
    • The Joker was wild, as per the title, and could be matched with any displayed category to double its value. The player could also use a Joker to call for a category that hadn't come up in the spin, referred to as "going off the board"; if a category such as Fast Forward, Stumpers, or Mystery was in use, a trailing player could use them in conjunction with Jokers to attempt a large comeback. Spinning three Jokers originally won the game automatically, but this was quickly changed to require a correct answer from any of the categories.
    • They're a bit different in the 2017 run; here, spinning three Jokers awards the contestant money ($500 in round 1, $1000 in round 2, $1500 in round 3 starting in Season 2), and to get the money they answer a question- not from any of the main-game categories- read by Snoop Dogg.
    • The Honeymoon Game used Bonus for the semi-finals, which added a point to that couple's score and nothing more. The finals had the middle reel continuously occupied by Take A-Chance, which could only be taken if the question was answered correctly and contained anything from Add $50 to Deduct $100 (which was kind of dumb, since the only three dollar amounts shown for the questions were $10, $30, and $100).
    • For at least the week of September 16, 1974, to celebrate the show's 3rd Anniversary, special "Jackpot Jokers" were placed on the reels. Spinning three of them awarded a 45-day trip around the world worth nearly $4,000 plus a cash jackpot that started at $250 and increased by that amount every day it wasn't won.
    • For a time beginning on January 8, 1975, there was a "Lucky Hundreds" promotion where the $100 spaces in Face the Devil were marked "Lucky", with Four Leaf Clovers. Spinning three Lucky $100 amounts won not only the bonus game (due to being a natural triple), but also a $7,200 trip and $3,000 cash. Beginning on January 15, the show began adding $100 to the cash bonus per day, which would grow until the trip was won or the prize package (trip and cash) reached $15,000.
  • Celebrity Edition: A panel, referred to as "living categories", was part of the 1968 and 1970 pilots. The concept returned for a special week in January 1974.
    • The concept of celebs being involved with questions returned for the 2017 run, albeit via video clips displayed on the large monitor behind Snoop, as opposed to the celebs being physically present in the studio (sometimes Snoop interacts with the stars in the clips, other times the celeb is solo).
  • Christmas Episode: The very first one in 1972 had "Santas" and "Scrooges" replacing Jokers and Devils, respectively, for the bonus round. Also, one of the contestants was a department store Santa who played the game in a Santa suit and was even introduced by Johnny Jacobs as Santa.
  • Double The Dollars: A rare case where this was for questions, not the entire round.
    • The "Mystery(?)" category in each game was played for double value if chosen (see below for details).
    • The "Stumpers" category in the second incarnation consisted entirely of questions that were missed by both contestants in a previous episode. When a player chose this category, s/he could hear the two wrong guesses and play for the normal value, or decline this help and go for double (originally a flat $100 extra in the first incarnation). If the player declined the help and missed, the opponent got to hear the wrong answers and played for the normal value.
    • For the 2017 version, the amounts in the first round are $100 for a single, $200 for a double, $300 for a triple and $500 for three Jokers. For the second round these amounts are doubled to rates of $200, $400, $600 and $1000, tripled to $300, $600, $900, and $1500 for Season 2.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • During the first two weeks of the CBS run, triples were only worth $150, spinning three Jokers won automatically without the contestant having to answer a question first, it took four wins to claim the Joker's Jackpot, and the bonus wheels contained prizes.
    • Additionally, the first two shows used a bonus round where some of the prizes had circles around them; spinning three circled prizes won the contestant a new car. By the third episode, this was dropped, and a car (or boat) became another one of the prizes found on the wheels.
    • During the first three shows with the syndicated era audience game in September 1981, contestants could either take whatever amount they got on their first qualifying spin, or pass it up and take a second spin. Also, the "Face the Devil" round offered the same elaborate prize packages found in the regular bonus game, rather than just a single prize.
  • Every Episode Ending: When series creator Jack Barry hosted, each episode usually ended with him asking the contestants "Can you come back tomorrow/on the next show?" (even though it was really, for the most part, just a 30-minute costume change for the host and contestants). The contestants replied yes, and Barry would say his usual closing spiel.
  • Game Show Host: Allen Ludden hosted in the 1960s, followed by Jim McKrell in The Honeymoon Game. Jack Barry hosted from 1971 to 1984, followed by Bill Cullen from 1984 to 1986, Pat Finn in the 1990s and Snoop Dogg in 2017. Jim Peck substituted occasionally during the 1981-84 period, and again in 1986.
    • Barry had originally planned to retire at the end of the 1983-84 season and turn over hosting duties to Peck. However, after Barry's death, Dan Enright picked Cullen as the new host instead.
    • For the CD-i games, the hosts were Wink Martindale (regular) and Marc Summers (The Joker's Wild Jr.).
    • The first 2006 pilot was hosted by game show veteran Mark Maxwell-Smith note ; the second one was hosted by future GSN Live correspondent Alex Cambert.
  • Golden Snitch:
    • In the main game, a contestant who spun three Jokers could win the game by correctly answering one question in any category, regardless of whether a full round was played. This could easily render every other event within a game irrelevant.
    • This was also possible if a player hit a triple on Mystery ($400) or Stumpers ($400 if they decided not to hear the two previous wrong answers).
      • This was different during Tournaments of Champions, though. If the "challenger" (first person spinning) did this first, or was otherwise first to reach $500, the "champion" was allowed one last spin in hope of tying or winning.
    • The 1977–86 syndicated series originally had a bonus prize for anyone who spun three of the same category with no Jokers. This later became a Natural Triple Jackpot, a growing prize package. A prize was added for every game in which a Natural Triple didn't occur. However, winning this jackpot had no effect on the scoring.
    • In the syndicated bonus round, getting three of the same dollar amount on any spin was an automatic win.
      • The Bonus Round in the 2017 version must be won by reaching the target amount, three of the same dollar amount will not automatically win.
    • In the 90's version, during the category phase of its run, three Jokers gave a player an instant $250 and the player got to see three categories behind each joker to see which category to get $100 questions from.
      • In the bonus round, three Jokers won the Joker Jackpot. If you spun less than three Jokers on one spin, they had to be converted to try to complete a triple of a prize that was on the reels. Two prizes and a Joker meant you could choose which prize to make a pair for, then use the last reel to get the third prize for the triple.
    • The 2017 version, due to how it's played and not being able to straddle between shows (having a weekly timeslot and all), actually averts this on a number of levels. For starters, each player spins at least four times in the first round, then three times in the second (changed to twice in each of three rounds), and a set target money amount is no longer the sole determining factor in getting to the endgame. Hitting a triple awards no prizes in either the front game or the endgame, and a three-Joker spin no longer results in an automatic win by just one question. (If a player has a lead of above $1000 with one question remaining in Round 2 though, the game is automatically over as the most three Jokers is worth is $1000, and a player who missed his question cannot get its money stolen by the other player getting it right: only the spinner gets the right to answer.)
  • Guest Host:
    • Jim Peck filled in for both Barry and Cullen at various points.
    • Like many other game shows at the time, Joker also had various guest announcers. One of them was, believe it or not, the aforementioned Marc Summers! (He was a 22-year-old page at CBS at the time.)
  • Home Game: Milton Bradley made three of the adult series and one of the children's spinoff. Philips also released two video game versions of the show for their CDi console in 1994 (over three years after the show was last seen in first run)—an adult version and a junior version. An online version is playable via the TBS website for the 2017 run.
  • Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened: Often done if a contestant walked in the "Face the Devil" round before hitting $1,000.
  • Lovely Assistant: Jeannie Mai served as this in the first season of the 2017 run, explaining how the game works and what the players have to do; she was removed for the 2018 episodes (likely because Snoop Dogg has adjusted to being a game show host).
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • As is typical of a Barry-Enright game show, winning the bonus round was simply based on luck (i.e., get $1,000 or more in as many spins as necessary without hitting the Devil).
    • Also applies to the main game. If the challenger reached $500 first and was leading by more than $50, it was always possible for the champion to spin a combination with a low enough value to lose by default.
    • At least the 2017 version averted this regarding spins on the Joker Machine during the main game- for the first round players get to spin at least four times, and three more times in the second round, making the cash scores less relevant to the win. But on the flip-side, one of the minigames involving rolling a die to determine how many questions you have to answer in a question is definitely this.
      • However, since the player trailing at the end of Round 1 spun first in Round Two, it was possible to be eliminated mathematically by either not spinning a combo on the final spin to catch up, or the other player getting a lead above $1000 at the end of the second spin (in which not even three Jokers could catch up as it was worth only $1000).
    • The bonus round in the 2017 version now has the goal to get $10,000 or more without hitting the Devil to win, and a Natural Triple here was NOT an automatic win, unlike the Jack Barry version. So it plays it straight here.
  • Minigame Game: The 2017 version has partially become this, with all sorts of added things like die-rolling or celebs giving questions.
  • Must Make Amends: On this episode, a champion spun three Jokers on the first spin and correctly answered the question, thus meaning his opponent never got a chance to play. Jack made an on-the-spot decision to invite her back on a future episode.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • In a holdover from shows like 21 and The $64,000 Question, Joker originally had a rule in which winning contestants had to risk losing the money they won if they wanted to play another game. If they played another game and lost, their money (but not prizes won in the bonus game) would be deposited into the "Joker's Jackpot", which would be awarded to any player who won four games (quickly reduced to three). This caused some contestants to go home with only parting gifts, even if they won two or three games.
    • The 1990s version changed on January 7, 1991, to using categories in the main game, with everything else remaining as it was. The last three episodes (March 6-8) reverted back to the money format, most likely to avoid straddling.
    • When the show began the champion sat at the left spot (from Jack's P.O.V.), and the new contestant on the right. This was most likely changed so the champion could have one final spin once his opponent hits $500.
  • Opening Narration: Quoted at the top of this page.
  • Pie in the Face: The first slides for "Comedy Movies" and "TV Comedy Shows" used a man getting hit in the face with a pie. When they used all-color slides for the categories, "Comedy Movies" used a picture of Groucho Marx and "TV Comedy Shows" used a husband-and-wife couple reminiscent of Happy Days.
  • Pilot: At least six.
    • December 8, 1968: The first known attempt was recorded in grayscale with Allen Ludden as host (CBS executives did not yet trust Barry to work on-camera). Each category corresponded to one of five celebrity panelists, who read the questions themselves; question values were worth from 1-3 points depending on the spin, the players answered 1-3 questions depending on the spin, and the contestants played to 13 points. Three Jokers earned a pick of the categories for a possible win.
    • January 5, 1969: Produced in color with Ludden returning as host, however without the celebrity panel (note that the camera is trying not to show anything to the right of the Joker Machine's border, although it caught a bit of the "celebrity" desk anyway).
    • October 3, 1970: The Honeymoon Game, a weekly 90-minute(!) game hosted by Jim McKrell, used the 1968 format for the last two-thirds of the show (including, yes, the celebrity panel). About the first third... 
    • The pilot for the 1990-1991 revival, taped in September 1989, had a less-frightening logo on top of the Joker Machine; per a brief clip shown by Pat Finn when he introduced the pilot for Shop 'Til You Drop on Wink Martindale's YouTube page, the third window of the machine still had Jokers, but held time amounts instead of cash amounts.
    • Two more were shot in 2006 for a planned revival, alongside another game show format called Combination Lock that had been bounced around since the late 1990s. This version had the classic format, just beefed-up cash-wise (with first to $5,000 winning). The endgame also had the stakes raised; see above for that. Both shows were planned for 2007 debuts, but neither series was picked up.
  • Progressive Jackpot:
    • The original Joker's Jackpot, described below, was used from September 1972 to at least December 1973. It was likely ditched when The Money Wheels/Face the Devil debuted.
    • The cash bonus for the "Lucky $100's" feature in the last CBS season. It started at $3,000 and increased by $100 per day until someone won it and the trip it was paired with, or until the combined value of these prizes reached $15,000.
    • The Natural Triple Jackpot. While the original version used from about 1974 to 1975 awarded a small prize worth about $300, the revamped version used from 1983 to 1986 awarded a prize package for spinning three of the same category. A new prize was added for each game it wasn't won.
    • The 1990 revival also had a Joker's Jackpot—it started at $5,000 and increased by $500 per show until a contestant won it (via spinning three Jokers in the bonus game).
  • Recycled Soundtrack:
    • A 1980 tournament borrowed the theme from another Barry-Enright show, Break the Bank.
    • Over 2 decades after the 1990 version was canned, Greggo reused a copy of the 1990 theme for his original game show Farkle.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune:
    • The CBS version used Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley's "The Savers", a rare example of a Real Song Theme Tune being used on a game show. Beginning on October 21, 1974, it used "Joker's Jive", a Suspiciously Similar Song composed by Alan Thicke.
    • When the show returned in 1977, "The Savers" returned as the opening theme and "Joker's Jive" was the closer. Beginning in 1978, Hal Hidey's rearranged version of "The Savers" became the opening theme, and an original Hidey composition unofficially called "The Whistle Theme" became the closer.
  • Spin-Off: Joker! Joker! Joker!, a children's version which ran from 1979 to 1981. Notable for being one of the few weekly syndicated games, and one of the few children's games, to use returning champs.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • If no Jokers were spun, the player had to choose a question for the full amount in one of the categories on the reels ($50 for a single, $100 for a pair, or $200 for a natural triple). However, if one or two Jokers came up, the player could go "off the board" and choose a category they liked better that wasn't displayed. Also, while a Joker could be played to increase the value of a displayed category, players often chose not to do so if the full amount would allow the opponent to win or take the lead.
    • If a pair and a Joker came up, the player could discard the pair but use the Joker to go "off the board" in that category, playing for $50 rather than $100. This was the only situation in which a displayed category could be played for less than its full value.
    • If the challenger reached $500 first during a game in which the Bid or Fast Forward category was in play, the champion could tie or win either by spinning and choosing that category, or by spinning at least one Joker and going "off the board" in the category.
    • Averted in the 2017 version: If Jokers come up, they MUST be played for full value. If you have two different categories and a Joker, you can choose which one to use the Joker with, though. Of course, these are "only spinner can answer questions" where a wrong answer does NOT give the opponent the chance to steal the cash.
  • The Stoner: For the 2017 version, unabashed weed smoker Snoop Dogg is not only hosting but producing, so many of the questions now reference or revolve around weed in some fashion; one of the cash amounts in the bonus game is $420.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: The "Unlikely Pairs" category had this pairing for the category's color slide.
  • Tournament Play: Held annually, from 1977-1980, with the top winners from the preceding year (or, for the CBS-era the top winners from the entirety of that series) were invited back for a tournament in which the winner won a huge jackpot. The first three seasons had top prizes of $50,000 (in 1977), $100,000 (in 1978) and $250,000 (in 1979), half of which was cash plus several rooms of furniture, a car (or two cars) and several luxury vacations. In 1980, the winner got $25,000 a year for 10 years, with the show donating $250,000 to the winner's favorite charity, while the runner up got $10,000 a year for 10 years and $100,000 donated to their favorite charity.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: For the 2017 version, some categories have multiple-choice questions, while others have celebrities giving the questions, or become semi-minigames, such as one where the contestant rolls a die to determine how many questions they have to answer, or how many clues they get for a particular question. Another one seems like a knockoff of Match Game, where Snoop writes down his answer to a question on a blue card and the contestant attempts to guess it.
    • Starting with Season 2, players can challenge each other to answer unwanted questions in the third round ("Slang That Thang"). A right answer awards the money to the contestant who gives it, but a miss pays off to the challenging player instead.

  • Whammy: Spinning a Devil in the bonus round took away the cash accumulated in that playing and ended the game. The 2017 reboot has the Devil now Red and Black and Evil All Over with an Evil Laugh when he shows up.
  • Zonk: Some of the prizes in the 1968–72 Bonus Round.

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