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Series / Whew!

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"Close calls... narrow escapes... split-second decisions... and $25,000 in cash! A combination guaranteed to make you say... WHEW!"
Rod Roddy's Opening Narration.

Game Show created by former Jeopardy! contestant Jay Wolpert, and one of his first works after leaving Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions. Hosted by Tom Kennedy, the show premiered on CBS on April 23, 1979.

The rules... oh, boy. (Whew!) Stay with us here. In each round, one contestant played an offensive role (the "Charger"), and the other played defense (the "Blocker"). The board had five "levels" of five boxes each with dollar amounts from $10 to $50, plus a sixth with three worth $200, $350 and $500. The Charger's goal was to advance up the board in 60 seconds by correctly solving "bloopers" — clues containing a humorously-incorrect statement (e.g., "Bob Barker is the host of The Price Is Too Damn High", with the correct answer being The Price Is Right). If the Charger answered incorrectly, they could try another clue in the row.

Before the Charger started to play, though, the Blocker hid six "Blocks" on the board (no more than three in a row on the first five levels, and no more than one in the sixth row), which imposed a five-second penalty if hit. If the Charger was running out of time and hadn't yet reached the sixth level, they could call a "Longshot" and skip right to that row — however, the Blocker got to place an extra block using one of three "secret buttons". The Charger won the round either by advancing through all six levels, or by calling a Longshot and then finding/correcting a blooper. If the Charger ran out of time, or called a Longshot and then either missed a blooper or hit a block, the Blocker won. Games were played best-of-three, with the players switching roles each round and the champion deciding who played which role in the third round if needed.

On November 5, 1979, the format was slightly altered to use teams of one contestant and one celebrity. This venture, appropriately called Celebrity Whew! and originally promoted to run for three weeks, ended up remaining until the show's end on May 30, 1980. Among those who participated were Trish Stewart, Jamie Farr, Gary Collins, Mary Ann Mobley, Robert Vaughn, Marcia Wallace, John Saxon, and Betty White.

Whew! was initially aired against NBC's All-Star Secrets, which Whew! handily outperformed. NBC then moved The Hollywood Squares into the timeslot- with Squares winning the ratings battle decisively (although Squares would end a month after Whew! did). Its cancellation left CBS with only one game show — The Price Is Right — from June 1980 through January 1982, when Tattletales returned to the network's daytime schedule.

In September 2021, after being absent from the airwaves for four decades, Whew! began airing on Buzzr.

"The game show Whew! is best described by these TROOPSnote ":

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Often used by Tom to describe the Gauntlet of Villains: "imbalanced imbeciles," "treacherous troglodytes," and so on.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Done by none other than Hanna-Barbera. A young lady dodges the Gauntlet's characters in what appears to be a Scooby-Doo–style haunted house, eventually reaching a large pot of gold. A word bubble comes out of her mouth, which turns into the show's logo before dissolving to the same logo on-set.
  • Audience Participation: The audience joins in on counting the time down when a block is revealed.
  • Big "NO!": After at least one Gauntlet win, the Villains' monitors displayed "OH NOOOOOO!!!!!"
  • Blinking Lights of Victory: When a contestant won the $25,000 bonus round, all of the lights in the studio would flash and blink, including the cyclorama background which would shift from red to blue.
  • Bonus Round: The Gauntlet of Villains. Tom would ask a series of rapid-fire bloopers, and each correct answer awarded $100 and one step past each Villain (a series of cartoonish characters); a wrong answer meant that "Villain" displayed the correct answer on their "Telly Belly". (The contestant also had to respond within two seconds, or the answer would come up automatically.) Getting past all ten Villains in the given time awarded $25,000. The contestant received 60 seconds, plus one more for every $100 earned in the main game. The theoretical maximum, assuming the contestant only answered and blocked the highest-valued bloopers, at one per level, was 75 seconds ($750 in the two rounds they would have won, or $1,500).
    • In April or May 1980, near the tail end of the series, the format was adjusted so matches wouldn't straddle between episodes. To help this, players who won the first two rounds then played a third round against the house for additional money/Gauntlet time. The six Blocks were placed by the Villains, with a seventh added on Level 6 if the Longshot was used.
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • Mr. Van Louse, of Snidely Whiplash.
    • Count Nibbleneck, of Dracula.
    • Frank and Stein, of Frankenstein's Monster and Igor.
    • Kid Rotten, of Billy the Kid.
    • Dr. Deranged, of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.
    • Alphonse the Gangster, of Al Capone.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "I want to introduce you now to ten of the most [disparaging description] who ever stood between a [champ's occupation] and his/her money. And here...they...are!"
    • "Giving me the level and the money amount...CHARGE!!"
    • Tom, the audience, and the blocker(s) would chant "5! 4! 3! 2! 1!", whenever the charger hit a block.
  • Celebrity Edition: The show switched to two celebrity-contestant teams in November 1979, but unlike many other examples of this trope Celebrity Whew! didn't really suffer all that much - other than the aforementioned "no straddling" alteration, the only real change was that the teams split duties in Charging, Blocking, and running the Gauntlet.
  • Comeback Mechanic: The Longshot. No matter how many Blocks or wrong answers the Charger ran into, this call would let him/her jump straight to Level 6 for a chance to win the round by finding and correcting one last blooper (this could not be done if the Charger got to Level 6 on his/her own without calling Longshot; if that happened, the Charger had to either correct the blooper or suffer the Block; also, it could not be done while under the 5-second penalty of a Block [that penalty applied no matter how little/much time was on the clock, so if the Charger called a square with less than 5 seconds left, and it was a Block, it was an automatic loss]).
  • Consolation Prize: Rather nice if you lost to a champion — dining room furniture, refrigerators and color TVs were among the fare. Ergo, even a losing contestant could get a nice $500-$1500 payday.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The crew members' names were enclosed in comic-strip Speech Bubbles in the shape of the show's logo.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Mr. Van Louse the landlord, dressed in a black suit and top hat, with a sinister mustache, holding eviction papers in his hand.
  • Downer Ending: Randy Amasia, a high-profile member of the online game show community, was a contestant on August 27-28, 1979 and searched for years for his second episode (in which he won the $25,000 in his first attempt at the Gauntlet). Just hours before a copy was secured, he died of throat cancer.
    • Both of his episodes circulate as master copies, but his first day also circulates from its original broadcast. The person who taped it, a co-worker of Randy, then forgot to tape the second episode (with the $25,000 win); Randy stated years later that he felt it wasn't a coincidence that said co-worker quickly became a former co-worker.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • During the premiere episode, Tom uses a classic Sony ECM-51 microphone for the first few minutes, placing it in a holder located on the side of the charger's podium after the game started; not only does the mic disappear after the first segment, but Tom is never shown using it again for the remainder of the series.
    • For the first week, the level 6 boxes were red instead of green. The first Gauntlet win was also accompanied by a unique cue; it would be changed to the show's theme before long.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: The last show had a final Block configuration (composed by the Villains, as per the format) of $20 and $40 on Level 2, $30 on Levels 3-5, and $350 on Level 6 - resulting in what was either a finger with the $350 space as its green nail, or a penis. In either case, Tom seemed to notice what they were going for.
  • Foreshadowing: One of the snarks the Gauntlet of Villains showed after a contestant didn't complete the run was "Try Password". A little over a year later, host Tom Kennedy would become the host of Password Plus.
    • Actor and singer Bobby Van appeared on a show to surprise his wife Elaine Joyce who was a celebrity player that week. Van previously hosted Showoffs in 1975. Tom Kennedy would host its revival, Body Language, in 1984.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: Any player who beat the Gauntlet retired immediately, as CBS had a $25,000 winnings limit in effect at the time. A five-Gauntlet limit was added sometime between mid-June and late July 1979 (shortly after Howard Wilson managed to win seven matches, and won the Gauntlet on his seventh try, leaving with $32,750).
  • Hurricane of Puns: They flew fast, freely, and furiously here, including one about an announcer named "I Beg Your" Pardo.
  • Lifelines: The Longshot.
  • Mercy Kill: If a contestant used up all five spots on a Level and didn't correct any bloopers, s/he automatically moved on to the next Level. Although this may seem like rewarding failure, using up all five spots (especially if three were Blocks) led to a higher chance of forcing the contestant to use the Longshot.
  • Miracle Rally: If the charger contestant was running short on time, he/she could call a Longshot and stop the clock, skipping to the top row. If the charger didn't hit a block, he/she could win if the question was correctly answered.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: If the Charger couldn't correct any bloopers on the sixth Level with any time remaining, the Blocker automatically won the round.
  • Pilot: Three were taped in December 1978, though aside from some audiovisual differences (more colorful set (including lights on the Charger's podium to count down the five-second penalty following a block being hit), some different music, and the bloopers not being underlined) it was largely identical to the aired show. Clips appeared in CBS debut promos, and Pilot #3 was uploaded by Wink Martindale in January 2020, and aired by Buzzr in September 2021.
  • Red/Green Contrast: The blocker was designated with a red octagon and the charger was designated with a green arrow. Those symbols appeared on the game board accordingly.
  • Rogues Gallery: The Gauntlet of Villains, consisting of Alphonse the Gangster, Bruno the Headsman, Mr. Van Louse the landlord, Nero the Fiddler, Count Nibbleneck the Vampire, Frank and Stein, Kid Rotten the Gunslinger, Jeremy Swash the pirate, Dr. Deranged the mad scientist, and Lucretia the witch.
  • Run the Gauntlet: The Bonus Round, what else?
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • Any Charger who ran the clock down to less than five seconds, then picked a square instead of calling a Longshot, took a big chance on falling victim to this. If they hit a Block, they lost the round.
    • Any Charger who cleared Level 5 with too little time to pick, hear, and answer a blooper on Level 6 and didn't call a Longshot was nearly guaranteed to lose the round.
  • Smurfette Principle: Lucretia the Witch is the only female villain in the Rogues' Gallery.
  • Snarky Inanimate Object: The Villains' screens displayed mocking comments both before and after the Gauntlet, whether the contestant won or lost.
    • Averted in the case of contestant Stephen Matthews; during his original appearance in October 1979, after winning a match, Stephen dislocated his knee by jumping from his excitement. When he returned to play the Gauntlet in January 1980, the Villains' commented with "How's the Leg?" and after winning the $25,000 "No Jumping!"
  • Sore Loser: If the contestant won the Gauntlet, the villian's monitors would say something like "We went easy!", "Cheater!", or "The IRS is coming!"
  • Sound Proof Booth: While the Blocker placed Blocks on the board, the Charger sat behind a scenic flat wearing headphones that played white noise.
  • Timed Mission: 60 seconds in the front game, 60 seconds plus one second for every $100 earned from Charging and Blocking in the Gauntlet.
  • Whammy: Downplayed. When the Charger hit a block (indicated by one of the Villains holding a stop sign they had to wait five seconds before getting to select another value on that Level. The Blocker, meanwhile, was awarded the amount attached to it.

This is Rod Roddy speaking! ''Whew!'' is a production of the Bud Austin Company! Stay tuned for ''The Price Is Right'', following the news, over most of these CBS stations!