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Chain Letter


Producer: Hatos-Hall
Host: Dennis James
Taping Info: December 4, 1964
Made it to Air: Not this version. It eventually made the air in 1966 at the 11 AM slot on NBC, replacing the soap Morning Star on July 4 but replaced on October 17 by The Pat Boone Show. The format of the airing show was actually closer to a different Hatos-Hall pilot Three of a Kind than this one.
Availability: It is in the UCLA collection.

In early 1964 Hatos-Hall tried the pilot Three of a Kind, which involved a team of players trying to keep a list going. A light-hearted affair, this pilot did not sell to NBC. So, after some retooling, it was brought back with a new title (Chain Letter), and a new host (Dennis James) and pretty much a different format on how the list kept going.

In the first round, four contestants try to name things that fit a category one at a time for a period of four minutes for five dollars per correct answer. In the second round, four contestants try to name things that fit a category one at a time for a period of four minutes for five dollars per correct answer. In the third round, four contestants try to name things that fit a category one at a time for a period of four minutes for five dollars per correct answer. In the fourth round, four contestants try to name things that fit a category one at a time for a period of four minutes for five dollars per correct answer. In the fifth round, four contestants try to name things that fit a category one at a time for a period of four minutes for five dollars per correct answer.

The "winning" player for the round was also given a bonus of varying amounts from $25 to $100 per round for having the most correct responses in a round. However, getting knocked out of a round was not as simple as just giving a wrong answer or a repeating answer. Sometimes you were allowed to re-guess, sometimes you weren't, all on the apparent whim of Mr. James. The only thing that clearly knocked you out was taking too much time. Categories on this episode were "household objects", "supermarket objects", "clothing", "last names in history" and "things too big to fit into a barrel", nice defined lists that of course involved no judging. There was no bonus game.

This show gave dull a bad name. And this was meant to be a prime time show, since Dennis James referred to "see you next week on Chain Letter." The judging needed to be stricter, the host less stiff (the more I see of Dennis James' 60s work I'm trying to figure out how he got job after job), the categories needed to be more narrowly defined, the rounds shorter and some variety to the games needed to be added. Other than that, it was just fine.

This pilot has been viewed 5992 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
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