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Series / Un, dos, tres

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Un, dos, tres... responda otra vez (One, two, three... answer again), usually shortened as just Un, dos, tres, was a Spanish game show that first aired on TVE in 1972 and quickly became pants-crappingly popular among Spaniards. The show lasted ten seasons, and, not counting skips between seasons, was on the airwaves for a whopping 20 years, having a grand total of 411 episodes (so far, as it just won't stay dead).

The show followed a basic structure: Each episode was dedicated to a specific topic, for example, the French Revolution or the Far West, or Broadway Musicals, etc. In every episode, there were three (four in the first and second seasons) couples, two (three in the first seasons) being new to the show, the other one being the winners of the previous episode (the "champions"). Except in the 10th season, couples had to be of male and female, but they could have any relationship: romantic partners (married or not), siblings, father and daughter or mother and son (and any other kind of family relationship), coworkers, friends, etc. These couples had to pass through three "rounds":

  • The first "round", named "Questions & Answers", or simply "The Questions" for short, was a classic timed trivia quiz, where each pair was asked three multiple-answer-questions of ascending difficulty, like "give me names of flowers, for example the rose" in the first group, "give me names of countries of the American or Asian continent, for example Argentina" in the second group and "Give me names of British or American novelists who have died before the year 1900, for example Edgard Allan Poe" for the third group. The host would read the question and then say the name of the show, "Un, dos, tres... responda otra vez" ("One, two, three, answer again"), and the contestants had to obey, that is, they had to repeat the given example first (which only warrants the money they already had), and then give as many answers as they could within a frame of 45 seconds max. Before the first question, a secretary activated a slot machine that gave a little random amount of money, first between 10 and 159 pesetas (0.07 to 1.17 USD), later a little bit more, but never more than 999 pesetas (6.97 USD), with exceptions. In the first three seasons, there was no machine and the designated amount was always 25 pesetas (0.17 USD). Whatever the amount of money, it would be multiplied for the number of answers given in the first question. Then, that sum would be multiplied for the answers of the second question, and then the second sum would be multiplied by the answers of the third question. If they gave a wrong answer, repeated a previously given one or violated the rule that said that they had to give answers each member of the couple alternately, the negative cast stopped the clock ringing bells and sounding horns, losing any time they would have left. The couple with the highest amount of money at the end became champions and returned the following week, while the other couples proceeded to the second round.
  • The second "round" was the eliminatory "round", which usually consisted in doing silly physical tasks that changed each week according to the topic of the episode, such as cracking eggs open with your head while screaming "LA TIERRA ES REDONDA Y SE DEMUESTRA ASÍ" until somebody found the lone boiled egg and won. The winning pair would proceed to the third "round".
  • The consolation game, where the couple that had lost the elimination round would get a second chance to win at least a little more money (even though it wasn't rare that the couple in the consolation game ended winning more than the couple in the third round). It usually was a board game that also had its home version and usually offered a progressive jackpot, or later a panel-based game that featured really blatant Product Placement and huge amounts of money up to 10 million pesetas if they managed to, for instance, choose the four correct letters of the sponsor out of ten in four tries.note 
  • The third "round", named "The Auction", was the fun part. It was a show full of comedic sketches by a cast of recurrent actors that interacted with the host, and Broadway-like musical numbers performed by the secretaries and huge ballets in lavish sets built up each week according to the topic of the episode. Magicians, acrobats and any kind of show artists, as well as established guest singers from Spain and abroad (like Cher, for instance) were expected to appear in the show. Sometimes, even the host themselves would join the show as a singer. After each performance, an object related to it was brought to a table where the host and the contestants stood. Each object had a card attached to it with a text that the host read only partially, stopping with the phrase "Y hasta aquí puedo leer" ("And I cannot read beyond this point"). When there were three objects on the table, the couple had to dismiss one. The host read the rest of the text and revealed a prize they had lost, and then the show continued until the end where there were three final objects on the table. The contestants had to choose one and dismiss the other two, or dismiss them one by one. Anyway, the final object was the prize they won, if they could resist the urge of picking up instead the money the host would offer in exchange of the prize. With the reveal of the final prize, the show ended. Any prize could appear, from great prizes like the iconic brandnew car, an apartment by the sea, a trip abroad, jewels, thousands of money... to not so great prizes, like bottles of laxative, a scrapped car, 2 tickets for a local football match in the Canary Islands without the flight included, a bunch of broken shoes all for the left foot only, an automatic milker, 2.5 million matches... a couple even won their own tombs in the cemetery of their choice. The mascot, good or bad, was always included as a rule in one of the objects, usually as a booby prize, but sometimes including other prizes inside, some of them great, some not so great. In the case of having two mascots, one good and one bad, only one of them would appear but nobody but the host knew which one, if they won the good one, they could pick any prize of the auction they wanted, if they won the bad one, they left home with nothing but a doll of the mascot.

The key to the programme's success was the fact that, instead of true game show, it was more of a Sketch Comedy masquerading as one. The programme had a cast of countless cartoony characters on board, with the main ones being divided into the "positive side", consisting on the presenter and a bunch of Sexy Secretaries, and a "negative side", characters who opposed the contestants and wanted them to lose, and would announce when they had ran out of time or made a mistake. Traditionally hailing from the fictional village of "Tacañón del Todo", the negative side, consisting of the miserly Don Cicuta and Los Cicutillas in the first season, Los Tacañones, which were pretty much Don Cicuta split into three characters, in the second season, and Las Tacañonas, from seasons three to nine, were, despite their role, adored by the audience due to their antics.

Another staple of the series was the mascot, Ruperta the pumpkin, who was introduced in the second season and quickly became the face of the show. Apart from singing the intro tune in a memetically high-pitched, screechy voice, Ruperta would also traditionally appear (usually) as a Whammy/Zonk in every episode's auction round. Although the show had other mascots during it's run: Botilde the boot, El Chollo, bringer of good luck, and El Antichollo, his Evil Twin, and El Boom & El Crack, none of them managed to achieve Ruperta's popularity.

After ten years of hiatus, the show was revived in 2004 as Un, dos, tres... a leer esta vez ("One, two, three, now it's time to read"), which, while sticking to the show's formula, made certain noteworthy changes: The show was now focused on reading and literature, and the eliminatory round, instead of focusing on physical challenges, now consisted of answering questions about the "book of the day", hence the contestants had to read the book if they wanted to pass it. In keeping with the literary theme, the "Tacañón del Todo" "negative side" characters were replaced by book-burning firemen from the "Fahrenheit 451 Brigade", who wanted to purge the world of written literature. The "Fahrenheit 451 Brigade" initially consisted of Colonel McPhantom and his mute assistant Kowalsky, but they weren't very popular among the public, so, after four broadcasts, they were replaced by General Antilivroff and Dimitri, who spoke Russian-sounding gibberish and were overall much sillier and more in the vein of the "Tacañón del Todo" characters.

British tropers may find some similarities between this show and the ITV game show 3-2-1. It's no coincidence: 3-2-1 was based on Un, dos, tres, and they were both created by the same man. Un, dos, tres was also versioned in the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Belgium, and it was the first Spanish show to be exported outside of Spain, and the only one until the arrival of Operación Triunfo almost 30 years later.

In September 2022, a second revival was announced by production companies Prointel and Isla Producciones in association with GlobalStudio, this time aiming for a distribution in digital platforms. This revival materialized in October 2023 with a one-off live special on Twitch hosted by Spanish streamer David "TheGrefg" Cánovas.

This show provides examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Mayra Gómez Kemp was one of the show's comedians before being picked as the new hostess in the third season after the original host, Kiko Ledgard, was forced to retire due to sequels from a freak accident in a hotel.
  • Audience Participation: Sometimes, all kinds of gruesome things could be thrown to the audience, sometimes harmless, sometimes disgusting, but often among these things there was one distinguised piece that allowed the fortunate who caught it to play with the host in a mini-game of chosing between a handful of boxes for a prize that could be really good or not so good. Other times, the host would ask for anyone in the audience to give him a pair of scissor or any other object he needed in exchange for some money.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Creator Chicho Ibáñez Serrador used to open the seasons with a skit set inside the TVE headquarters, accompanied by his talking dog, Mariano, with whom he would discuss the state of things in television and on the show itself. On the season 8 opener, in 1992, Mariano and Chicho talked about TVE's declining ratings and the slow but steady growth of Antena 3 and Telecinco, the privately-owned networks that had arrived in Spain two years prior, and Chicho comments "How dare anyone say TVE is going to sink!"... then heads to a nearby window and the viewers see a background of fishes, simulating that TVE's headquarters have literally sunk underwater.
  • Carried by the Host: Subverted by Mayra Gómez Kemp, who was able to replace the iconic Kiko Ledgard in the task of hosting the show and stayed for six consecutive years, longer than any other host. Played straight with any other host after her, who were always compared with Mayra to some extent, which made ratings slowly fall down after her departure.
  • Catchphrase: Countless, although the most notable is possibly "Hasta aquí puedo leer" ("And I cannot read beyond this point"), which has entered Spanish language as a colloquial phrase when saying something in a vague way and refusing to give details. Other catchphrases include "Son amigos y residentes en Madrid" ("They're friends and reside in Madrid") when introducing contestants, "Han sido 7 respuestas acertadas a 25 pesetas cada una, 175 pesetas" ("It's 7 correct answers, being 25 pesetas each, that is 175 pesetas") and variations after each question, or "¡Campana y se ha acabao!" ("Here's the bell and time is out!"), shouted by the negative cast when time was over, among tons of catchphrases.
  • Cartoon Creature: The fans are still out on just what the hell El Chollo and El Antichollo are supposed to be. Same with El Boom and El Crack.
  • Celebrity Edition: Some episodes had celebrities as contestants and everything they earned was given to a charity.
  • Christmas Episode: Except the tenth season, which was not aired on Christmas time,note  all the rest of the seasons had the tradition of containing at least one special episode dedicated to Christmas, usually on the week of Christmas Eve, sometimes also on New Year's Eve and the Wise Men Night. The particularity of these episodes was that, in contrast to the rest of the season, they were dedicated entirely to children, with children as contestants, all the audience made of children and the show, questions and prizes specially designed for children. This was a nod to the younger viewers, since demographic studies showed that the majority of viewers of the show were between 12 to 16 years old.
  • Covered in Gunge: Not literally, sometimes it was slime, sometimes it was cake, sometimes black ink that dissapears, but contestants were warned in anticipation by the production team to bring two shirts and trousers of the same shape and color, just in case one of them didn't come out of the elimination round... as clean as it was, and had to change.
  • Crossdresser: Ruperta is a cartoon female pumpkin that dresses with a male canotier and cane, while the rest of the cartoon female pumpkins that appear in the intro dress like females and wear lipstick and makeup. Yes, she's not human but a pumpkin,note  but the difference between her and the other pumpkins is remarkable, and one of the first examples of a cross-dressing character in a Spanish television that in 1976 was just starting the transition from dictatorship to democracy, though not much attention was given to it at the time.note 
  • Cut Short: The 2004 revival. It only lasted 19 episodes, but it was meant to last two episodes more. The staff apparently didn't know about the cancellation until midway through the recording of the last episode.
  • Demoted to Extra: Colonel McPhantom failed to catch on as the lead negative character of the 2004 revival, so he was removed from this position after four episodes and started making short apperances at the auction part instead.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The seasons that featured Ruperta as a mascot had a theme song performed by Chicho himself, as he voiced the pumpkin, albeit his voice was altered to sound high-pitched.
  • Edutainment Show: The 2004 revival. Though it really was much more entertainment than education.
  • Epic Fail: Several examples.
    • In 1976, a couple instead of repeating the example given by the host in the first question, they gave a different one of their own... and it was wrong. That meant that they ended the question round with 0 pesetas, as all later questions would have to be multiplied by 0 too. It never happened again, as it was stated as mandatory in the rules to repeat the example (or a specific variant of the example) as the first answer.
    • In 1991, in the show dedicated to Gangsters, fenomenal prizes were offered: three cars, 12.5 million pesetas (80,578.76 USD), 20 million pesetas (128,976 USD), an apartment by the sea in Villajoyosa, Alicante, a trip to Japan, a joint prize of 16 million pesetas (103,140.81 USD) and two cars, and one million pesetas (6,446.30 USD) offered by the host in exchange for the final prize. Contestants rejected all these prizes and kept the only booby prize that was offered that night: six orthopedic collars.
  • Exact Words: This trope often came into play during mini-games in the auction stage; as the contestants could ask any question they wanted and the host was not allowed to lie to them, but could withhold information from them. For example, there was a game that involved a lottery hype full of balls and the contestants could extract up to 6 balls, but the moment ball number 13 appeared, they would lose. After the contestants stopped playing before picking up the maximum six balls, the host explained to them that, indeed, if a ball with the number 13 had come out, they would have lost — but there never was any ball with that number inside the hype.
  • Fishing for Sole: One of the mascots of the programme, Botilde, was a river boot.
  • Grand Finale: Each season ended with a great amount of fanfare, with huge musical numbers, resolving any character arcs, and ending with a farewell speech by director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador. in-universe tears are expected when secretaries say good-bye and the director puts some props from the show in a coffin to bury it down, an imagery that has become a classic of the show.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: El Chollo and El Antichollo were modeled after this. There would always be a Chollo in the auction round, but it could be El Chollo, who allowed the contestants to pick any prize, or El Antichollo, who made them leave with nothing.
  • Laughably Evil: The negative characters were all this, which is what made them so popular.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The fictional town most of the negative characters were billed from was called "Tacañón del Todo" ("Absolute Miser"). And they were quite the misers indeed.
    • General Antilivroff. His surname is a Russianized version of "antilibros" ("anti-books"). They were book burning firemen inspired on Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The brigade Antilivroff and his henchmen belonged to was named "Brigada 451".
  • Nerd Glasses: The secretaries wore them. It became sort of a symbol for them.
  • Phone-in Game Shows: In the eighth season, the host asked viewers to call a number and give an answer to the question he gave, and in the following episode he would call the selected winner to tell them they had won ten million pesetas.
  • Promotional Consideration: As the show's spectacularity kept on rising, so did the budget required to maintain it, which required the constant appearance of sponsors during the whole show.
  • Retired Game Show Element: Some season saw changes in the rules that weren't quite accepted by the audience and were retired afterwards, most notably changes in the rules of the questions in seasons 4 to 6 and a rule in the 10th season to answer a question related to the book of the week to let one of the prizes stay on the table, a rule that only lasted for three episodes.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Some negative characters, most notably Las Tacañonas, used rhyming couplets to mock contestants who had given a wrong answer in the question round.
  • Show the Folks at Home: During the Auction there was a couple called "Sufridores" ("Suffering Contestants"), locked away in a separate room where they watched the Auction. They were informed by the secretaries about where the best prizes where hidden, and sometimes subtitles on-screen informed viewers about what they were being told. In the end they would win the same prize as the contestants at the Auction, and the suffering consisted on seing them dismiss the best prizes or go straight to the worst prize without being able to do anything about it.
  • Stuff Blowing Up / Trash the Set: The ninth season ended with the entire set exploding by way of some special effects.
  • Think Music: The song that was played when the contestants gave their answers on each question is the only music that has been present and unchanged in all the ten seasons of the show, from 1972 to 2004.
  • The Voiceless: Don Cicuta's sidekicks in the first season, Los Cicutillas, never spoke a line. The same happened with McPhantom's partner, Sgt. Kovalsky, and Antilivroff & Dimitri's backing henchmen.
  • Trojan Horse: Ruperta and Botilde were by default Booby Prizes, winning only their dolls and nothing more, but sometimes, they could hold other prizes inside, some of them good, some not so good. In fact, the best prize ever given on the show was hidden inside Ruperta, in 1993: a car, an apartment by the sea, a check worth 5 million pesetas (30,000 EUR) and a yacht, a set of prizes given twice, one for the contestans and another one for the suffering contestants. Other times, on the contrary, Ruperta only contained chocolate eggs or churros inside.