|History of the Show||Game Rules|
Press Your Luck was based on the short-lived show Second Chance, seen in 1977 on ABC and produced by the Carruthers Company (which also produced Press Your Luck). A first attempt to revive the show occured in 1980, when the Carruthers Company pitched Press Your Luck with host Pat Sajak, then known only as a TV weatherman. When Press Your Luck returned in 1983, Sajak was occupied with Wheel of Fortune, so Tomarken, who had just come off a 13-week stint hosting his first game show, Hit Man, was given the job.
Press Your Luck premiered on CBS on September 19, 1983 at 10:30am, having replaced the Bill Cullen-hosted Child's Play. Sitauted between the popular $25,000 Pyramid at 10am and the megahit Price is Right at 11am, Press Your Luck had a good shot at success.
Forget about Child's Play...it's time to Press Your Luck!
Press Your Luck was a moderate ratings success, faring well against $ale of the Century on NBC. The ratings peaked in 1984, not surprisingly after Michael Larsen's legendary run against the board. But with daytime viewers declining in general, Press Your Luck's numbers began to slip in 1985. In late 1985, CBS thought it could do better in the 10:30 slot with a Bob Eubanks-hosted revival of Card Sharks and relegated Press Your Luck to the 4pm slot beginning on January 6, 1986, replacing Body Language. Only 55 percent of stations aired the show at this time, with the others opting for syndicated programs or local news. The show went into reruns in the summer of 1986 and was cancelled on September 26, 1986. To the show's credit, CBS gave up on programming the 4pm slot entirely after the show was cancelled and returned the time period to the few local stations (mainly smaller markets) that hadn't already found alternate programming for it.
The show didn't die, however, and returned in reruns on the USA cable network in September of 1987. As a testament to the popularity of the show, Press Your Luck continued in reruns for eight years, nearly three times as long as its original run. While USA altered its game show lineup at least twice a year in the interim period, Press Your Luck always found a place on its schedule, often in the late afternoon, when children returning home from school watched religiously. To this date, the show remains quite popular among twenty-somethings.
The game was played in two rounds, each with two parts. In the first part of each round, four questions would be asked to the contestants. On the pilot, five questions were asked each roun, which represented the only rule change from pilot to series. Near the end of Peter's reading of the question, one of the contestants could buzz in with what they thought was the correct answer. At that point, Peter would then give that contestant's answer and two other answers to the other two contestants. This was planned that by the time the other two contestants got the choices, one of the answers would be correct, be it the one given by the player who buzzed-in or one added as a choice by Peter. The other two contestants would then pick from this multiple choice format. If the contestant who buzzed-in was correct, s/he earned 3 spins to use in that round; if a contestant given the chance to guess from the multiple choices was correct, s/he earned 1 spin to use against the board. This process was repeated for all four questions. However, if a question was so difficult that no one buzzed in with an answer within 5 seconds, three choices (one of which was correct) were given to all three contestants to pick from, and any correct contestant won 1 spin. The maximum spins for each player in one round was, therefore 12; for all three players cumulatively, the maximum was 20. These maximum totals were acheived, but only on very rare occassions.
|A buzz-in answer can net you three spins, answering it with the multiple choice, one spin.|
The second part of each round was the arena where the big money was won: The BIG BOARD! In the first round, the player who had earned the most spins would play last in the round, with the player with the fewest spins playing first (in the event of a tie in either case, the player of the two [or three] that were tied sitting furthest to the left would play first). A contestant could choose to do two things before each spin: go ahead and spin or pass their spins. In the case that they spun, a light would dance around the 18 squares on the board (which, remember, each had 3 different prize or whammy possibilities), and when the contestant hit the red button in front of them, the light would stop at a square. In the event s/he landed on cash, the value of the cash would be added to a running total on the scoreboard in front of them; in the event of landing on a prize, the value of the prize would be added to their total, and the prize would be changed to a different prize on the board. If the contestant hit a Whammy, however, s/he lost any and all of the cash and prizes s/he had won up to that point and returned to $0. A cartoon Whammy would dance across the screen, making sure the contestant realized his/her loss, and a yellow square with a Whammy on it would pop up in front of their buzzer. This kept track of how many Whammies each contestant had received, which was important, because a contestant who hit four whammies in one game was automatically disqualified.
|This guy doesn't know what just hit him! The Whammy reduces him to $0.|
The other option to spinning, passing, was considered when a contestant felt s/he had earned enough money and "feared" a Whammy, (in the case of round one) had already hit two Whammies (Peter ALWAYS told contestant who hit two whammies in the first round that, "You want to be careful about picking up a third Whammy in round one"), or when they felt that they could get another contestant to Whammy and improve their standing in the game. When a contestant passed his/her spins, s/he passed them totally; i.e., they couldn't pass just one or some of their spins; they were all passed in bulk. Contestants were forced to pass their spins to the player of the three with the highest total at the time. If by chance the player passing the spins happened to be in first place at the time, the spins went to the player with the second highest amount of money. If, in either of these cases, there was a tie between the other two possible recipients of spins, the contestant could pick the recipient of the spins. The player who received the passed spins was immediately forced to take them. (there were exceptions to this; see below). If a player hit a Whammy while using a passed spin, the remaining passed spins were moved over to the earned spins column, so as not to let one player totally get hammered by Whammies due to the wraith of another.
|That passed spin could bring some extra cash...or a Whammy!|
The player who racked up the most money in cash and prizes at the end of round one received a strategic position for round two: the opportunity to play last. At the beginning of the second round, four different questions were asked (not of any real increased difficulty), and the players took their newly earned spins back to the board for a chance at even more money. The player who had earned the least amount of money in round one played first, spinning as usual. If s/he passed, the spins automatically went to the player who had earned the most money in round one. HOWEVER, this player, due to the fact that they had one the first round, didn't have to immediately take these spins. In fact, this player was able to wait until the other two players exhausted all of their earned spins AND any other spins that they happened to pass between themselves. After those spins had been exhausted, the winner of round one would play, and the winner of the game would be the player who wound up with the biggest total in cash and prizes. This person kept their winnings and returned the next day to play again; the other two contestants were given parting gifts. CBS had a limit on winnings a contestant could achieve on all their game shows; pre-September 1984, a contestant on Press Your Luck could play until they either played for five days straight, or earned $25,000 or more; whichever came first. Any contestant busting the $25,000 mark could keep any winnings OVER the $25,000. Michael Larsen played in this period, and was allowed to keep the around $85,000 or so in excess of the $25,000 limit that he won. After September, 1984, the CBS limit was upped to $50,000, with a few contestants exceeding this point, usually only after winning for five days.
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|Classic Press Your Luck||Whammy! The All-New PYL||Game Show Central|