NBC knowledge-based Game Show from Jack Barry and Dan Enright which was based on the children's game of Tic-Tac-Toe. Two contestants placed their X's and O's on a game board with nine categories, which were shuffled by a mechanical device after every turn. Each correct question would add money to a pot; whoever managed to get three-in-a-row won the match and the pot.
The original series debuted on July 30, 1956, with Barry as quizmaster, although sources differ regarding Gene Rayburn: Some state that he only hosted on Fridays until February 1957 (at which point he left), while others claim he replaced Barry sometime after April 3, 1958.
Regardless, a nighttime version began in September 1957 with Jay Jackson as emcee; however, this run was rigged about three-quarters of the time. October 1958 saw both versions change hosts, likely due to the erupting scandals Jackson was replaced by Win Elliott on October 2, with the daytime emcee being replaced by Bill Wendell four days later. The nighttime show was canned on December 29 of that year, followed by the daytime series on October 23, 1959.
A daytime revival with Wink Martindale aired briefly on CBS from July 3 to September 1, 1978. This time, the game board comprised nine TV screens connected to an Altair 8080, with nine AppleII computers as display slaves. The show also had a Bonus Round with a Dragon. Tic-Tac moved to syndication through Colbert Television Sales, still with Martindale as host, two weeks after the CBS run ended. In many markets, the show was often seen as part of a 60 minute block alongside fellow Barry & Enright program The Joker's Wild.
In 1985, Martindale left the series to produce and host the syndicated Headline Chasers, a show he also created. For the final season of this run (1985-86), the woodgrain set was replaced with a pastel-clad set, the logo seen above changed from yellow to blue coloring, more red boxes were added to the game, and Jim Caldwell became emcee.
September 10, 1990, saw the debut of another syndicated revival, this time hosted by Patrick Wayne (John Wayne's son) and with ITC Entertainment replacing Colbert Television Sales as distributor. This iteration, featuring several changes that were roundly disliked, was canned on December 7 after just 13 weeks (although repeats aired through March 8, 1991).
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Audience Game: The "Dragon Finder" game, which was played for a time in 1983 whenever a contestant either won or stopped early in the bonus game. Two audience members were invited up to guess where the dragon was hidden and win cash.
- Bonus Round: Present in all versions from 1978 onward, the idea being to complete a goal without finding the Dragon to win a prize package and some cash. Finding the Dragon "burned" the money and ended the game.
- CBS: The board contains four X's and four O's, with three of one symbol arranged to form a three-in-a-row. The contestant was credited with $150 for each symbol found, with the three-in-a-row winning (after a few weeks the money was bumped up to $1,000 [unless they found seven symbols for $1,050 or eight for $1,200]).
- 1978-86 Syndicated: Values ranging from $50 (later $100) to $500 were on the board, along with a "TIC" and "TAC." Accumulating $1,000 or more won, as did finding TIC and TAC.
- Wayne: Based on the CBS version, but now the player had to pick between X and O. $500 was awarded for the first time that symbol was found, with the pot doubling for each subsequent "chosen symbol" found. New to this version was the Dragonslayer, which was an instant win and immediately doubled the pot (maximum of $8,000); if the Dragonslayer was found before the player found one of their "chosen symbol", it was worth $1,000.
- Bonus Space:
- The center square is a variant, as it always required a two-part question to capture.
- The red box categories are a straighter example. Some of the most important were Bonus Category (three-parter, worth an extra turn), Secret Category (doubled the value of the pot, often leading to five-figure pots), Grand Question (replaced Secret Category, added $1,000 to the pot), and Double or Nothing (if answered correctly, player could try for a second box but had to risk losing the first one).
- In the 1990 version of the Bonus Round, the Dragonslayer.
- Extra Turn: Bonus Category. If answered correctly, the categories would be shuffled before the player's extra turn, allowing them to choose the category again if it turned up. Kit Salisbury was one of those who took advantage of this. Since the champion played first, they could win the game by repeatedly choosing Bonus Category, without the challenger ever having a turn; if this happened, the challenger would be invited back to compete in the next game.
- Game Show Winnings Cap: The UK version implemented a £1000 cap shortly after a contestant won £2360. The quiz scandal the nighttime US version was caught in might have motivated that decision.
- Home Game:
- Transogram released two editions and two "junior" versions during the 1950's run. Ideal Toys made a single version in 1978, which followed the CBS format for the main game, but utilized the syndicated endgame.
- A video game adaptation was planned for the Atari 2600, but The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 prevented its release.
- Kevin DeVizia once wrote a shareware game for Mac OS 9, called TicTacTrivia!. It hasn't been available since AOL Hometown closed.
- Another game called "Tic Tac Trivia" is one of the selectable games on the MegaTouch bartop game, only with a three-game series played and multiple-choice questions asked.
- Sky Zone Mobile made a version for cell phones with the 1978-86 theme, the Martindale logo, and a digital version of Wink himself. The set looks mostly like Martindale's, with a Caldwell-ish contestant/board backdrop.
- The Announcer: The 1950's run had Bill Wendell, followed by Bill McCord when Wendell became host, with occasional substitutions from Johnny Olson on the nighttime version. The 1978-86 era had Jay Stewart, followed by Charlie O'Donnell when Stewart left in 1981 following the death of his daughter, Jamie; substitutes included Johnny Gilbert, Mike Darrow, Bob Hilton and Art James. Larry Van Nuys announced the 1990's version.
- Game Show Host: Jack Barry, Gene Rayburn and Bill Wendell hosted the 1950's daytime version, with Jay Jackson and Win Elliott hosting the concurrent nighttime version with, again, Johnny Olsen as occasional substitute. Wink Martindale hosted from 1978-85, being replaced by Jim Caldwell for the final season. Patrick Wayne hosted the 1990's version.
- Studio Audience: A few people would come down to play "Dragon Finder" around 1983.
- Think Music: Used on the center square.
- Whammy: The Dragon.
This show provides examples of:
- Bland-Name Product: The second-edition Transogram Home Game was re-released in 1960 as 3-in-a-Row Home Quiz, with no references to the show whatsoever.
- Patrick Wayne's "YOU WINNNNNNNNNN!"
- Also from Wayne's version: "Tic Tac is back!"
- "You find the Tic and the Tac, and you get the Dough."
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- 1950s version:
- The winner of each game on the 1950s version had to decide whether to leave the show with all winnings intact or face a new opponent. If the champion was defeated, the opponent's winnings were deducted from their total.
- 1970s version:
- Up to around midway through the syndicated version's first season, the categories would shuffle after both players have had one turn ("X" plays, "O" plays, shuffle). The episode after then-grand champion Brian Donovan was defeated, the rules changed to having the categories shuffle after each turn ("X" plays, shuffle, "O" plays, shuffle).
- The entire CBS run could be counted as such, given the bonus game's rules (simply find the hidden tic-tac-toe before finding the dragon) and the prevalence of black-boxed categories where either contestant could "jump in" and claim the box with a correct answer. As such, two full games and two bonus rounds were played per episode.
- On the syndicated version, the category and bonus game dollar value fonts were smaller; also, very early on $50 was an amount. Also during the first season, there were no red bonus/jump-in type categories.
- 1950s version:
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Once while interviewing an elderly plant expert, Wink asked her, if he were a flower, how she would know he was a good specimen. She replied that she would need to examine his stem.
- The Hilarity of Hats:
- Instant Awesome: Just Add Dragons!: Seriously, what do dragons have to do with tic-tac-toe?
- Luck-Based Mission: Barry-Enright loved to do this in the bonus round.
- In the CBS version, this was "Find three-in-a-row to win while avoiding the Dragon".
- In the 1978-86 syndicated run, it changed to picking squares to reach or exceed $1,000 or finding the words "Tic" and "Tac", but avoiding the Dragon.
- The 1990 one was similar to the CBS version, but the contestant picked X or O as their "designated symbol". One string of three-in-a-row symbols was placed on the board, and it wasn't always possible with the chosen symbol to win the prize package. If the Dragonslayer was found, the contestant won the prizes and double the pot.
- Mighty Roar: The 1978-86 Dragon had one.
- Negated Moment of Awesome: April 3, 1958 (nighttime), the circulating Jay Jackson episode. Both contestants keep getting questions right to cause tie games and build the pot to about $25,000...or it would be, had about 75% of the nighttime series not been rigged. (Only one question is not answered correctly in the entire half-hour, but only because the contestant claimed someone in the audience had shouted out an answer a claim that Jackson quickly backs up, saying he heard it as well.note )
- No Indoor Voice: Patrick Wayne. "YOU WIIIIIIIIIIN!!!"
- Opening Narration: See above; on the CBS episodes, Jay Stewart added the "From Television City in Hollywood" spiel.
- Pilot: Taped in February 1978, it had different podiums (X's and O's all over the front for the contestants and colors, instead of nameplates, plus eggcrate displays for the contestant's winnings), different microphones, a rectangular pot readout atop the gameboard (likely changed to its more familiar arch shape to be more easily visible), printed X's and O's as the background behind the contestants, and a printed TTD logo behind Wink; in the series both were popped out. Pictures of the pilot set were used in early publicity shots and TV Guide ads for the show, and on the box of the 1978 home game.
- Pungeon Master: Wink loved his puns, and memorably subjected contestant Dan Klock to a Hurricane of Puns (saying his job was very "timely", joking that Dan might get "ticked off" by all the puns, so Wink should "watch" what he would say, etc.) The hurricane ended with "It's time to play Tick-Tock-Dough."
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: Wayne tended to read the rules and questions in a monotone before jumping in with his "YOU BLOCK/WIN!"
- Top Ten List: One of the special categories was called "Top Ten" which dealt with these. The contestant who gave the higher answer won the symbol on the board. It was renamed "Top This" when Jim Caldwell took over.
- Totally Radical: About six weeks into the 1990 run, the Bonus Round began having the Dragon and Dragonslayer rap their purpose instead of Wayne describing them himself. A couple of egregious examples:Dragon: "Tic or Tac... Tac or Dough... pick the dragon square and you'll be po'."Dragonslayer: "Think hard, think smart, think wise! Pick the dragonslayer and win your prize!"
- Transatlantic Equivalent: Several, although none in the same decades as the Martindale/Caldwell era (i.e., the show's peak).
- The United Kingdom got Criss-Cross-Quiz, which ran from 1957 to 1967 on ITV. Jeremy Hawk helmed until 1962, when he was replaced by Barbara Kelly. A children's version without cash, called Junior Criss Cross Quiz, aired alongside the parent show from 13 November 1957 to 29 June 1967. Hawk was the original host, followed by a string of what appear to be guest presenters (including Bob Holness) until Kelly took over.
- Germany got Tick-Tack-Quiz on ARD, hosted by Fritz Benscher and running weekly from 1958 to 1967. It returned on RTL Plus in 1992 as Tic-Tac-Toe, now a Reg Grundy-produced daily version with host Michael "Goofy" Förster, which was based on the 1990 format.
- Australia had a Reg Grundy adaptation, simply called Tic-Tac-Dough, on the Nine Network from 1960 to 1964 with Chuck Faulkner hosting.