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Beat the Odds (1960s)


Producer: Bill Derman/Paramount
Host: Warren Hull
Announcer: Stan Chambers
Taping Info: Probably 1962
Other Pilots: Chuck Henry hosted a 1975 pilot that didn't sell
Made it to Air: This wasn't a true pilot, it was simply a replay of a local show on KTLA-Los Angeles sent to stations for possible syndication. This particular pilot film did not make it to air, but a 1968 version with Johnny Gilbert as host did make the syndicated rounds.
Availability: Some traders will have it, it is also available through Kinevideo (external link).

Beat the Odds had a very curious history, first starting as a local show on KTLA in Los Angeles on July 17, 1961. Mike Stokey was the original host, staying on until 1962 which according to The Encyclopedia of Game Shows Volume 3 he was replaced by Dennis James. However this pilot, purported to be from 1962, is hosted by Warren Hull who is better known as the host of Strike it Rich. This is probably an actual KTLA episode that was packaged together as a pilot film for possible syndication, since it includes a 30-second promo beforehand explaining how to enter the home viewer contest and more importantly, commercials. Eventually it did become syndicated in 1968 with Johnny Gilbert hosting. A later pilot hosted by Chuck Henry never aired.

The basic idea of the game is to make a word that starts with one letter, ends with another, and is at least a predetermined length of letters, either 5, at least 5 or at least 6. What letters and how many are determined randomly on a machine that the hosts starts and the contestant stops. Each correct answer earns the contestant 100 points. 1,000 points wins the game.

However, complicating the game is "Sammy the Whammy", who can cause you to lose all of your accumulated points (hmm, maybe Second Chance/Press Your Luck wasn't so original after all.) To help keep your points away from Sammy, you could stop and cede control to the other player, but insuring that your point total would not go below this number. Additionally, 500 points was also a safe spot that did not require you to lose your turn. As a neat little sidebar, if Sammy came up in both letter slots, you received a $50 gift certificate from a local merchant.

One additional neat quirk to the game that any illegal word was not challenged by a Reason A. Goodwin-type. Instead, the opposing player was would hit a bell. First, the accused player would be asked if they thought they were still right, and then a referee was asked. A successful challenge cost the accused player 100 points. I would assume an unsuccessful challenge cost the accuser 100 points, but that didn't happen in this episode.

About two-ways through the game, the game was stopped and a disjointed home viewer game ensued called "Lucky Seven". A postcard was randomly drawn which had the name and address of a home viewer with one letter in "Beat the Odds" circled. Warren Hull stood in front of seven pictures, each featuring a prize from a local merchant. From behind each picture, he pulled a letter. If the letter matched the circled letter on the postcard, the home viewer won that prize. If the circled letter was never pulled, since there were eight distinct letters in "Beat the Odds" but only seven prizes, the home viewer won the home jackpot, which was at $450 for this episode.

A nice extra touch on this episode was the inclusion of commercials. Although they were all national in scope (none of those classic 1960's local L.A. commercials), although we do see spots for Carnation Instant Milk, Right Guard and Colgate. Gene Autry's hotel was given a fee plug at the end for "out-of-town contestants."

I'm a sucker for word games and I fell in love with this one. My view of a successful game show has always been will the home viewer shout back at the TV his or her best answer. And I saw myself doing this. The only thing lacking was an endgame, which could have been easily added by having some speed round with predetermined letter sets. Hey Game Show Network, if you're looking for originals, this game wouldn't be a bad one. It wouldn't need high stakes, either.


Here's the title open with an actual studio audience (surprising for a local game show) and a nice outline of "Sammy the Whammy"

The home viewer jackpot, presently at $450

Liz draws a W and a Y. Can she use her wizardry to make at least a six letter word that starts with W and ends with Y or will she wearily concede her turn to her opponent wistfully?

Here's the current score, both players with 700 points although George is safely at 700 while Liz is only safe at 500.

Let's go to a commercial, first from Carnation Instant Milk. . .

. . .and a spot from Right Guard.

George gets a whammy.

And now more words from our sponsors, Colgate . . .

. . .and a spot (or spots) from Scotchgard by 3M. The announcer tells you to test for Scotchgard by adding spots to clothing before you buy it. I will tell you that your local retailer is probably not down with that idea.

It's now time for the Lucky 7 home game

Our home viewer has chosen the letter T

Warren's on the fifth letter, still no T.

Ooh, so close. The T pops in on the last letter. Congratulations, home viewer, you've just won carpet!

And if you want to enter the home game. . .

Liz hits a double whammy, but no fear, you've just won $50 worth of clothes!


This pilot has been viewed 9922 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
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