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Dollar a Second

Producer: Chuck Barris
Host: Bob Eubanks
Announcer: Johnny Jacobs
Taping Info: 1981, most likely at KCET-Los Angeles
Made it to Air: This version didn't, but this pilot was a remake of the Jan Murray version that aired on DuMont, NBC and ABC on a weekly prime-time basis between 1953-1957.
Availability: This pilot has aired on GSN and is on the trading circuit.

In the early 50s, a show aired on French Television called Cent Francs a La Seconde. This show was then imported to the United States as Dollar a Second and was hosted by Jan Murray. I have not seen either the French show or the American show from the 50s, but if either of them was anything like this pilot, they were clearly the worst show on television ever.

Apparently running out of ideas, Chuck Barris tried several revivals in the 70s and early 80s. Another Jan Murray show, Treasure Hunt, proved to be a moderate success, if getting profiled on 60 Minutes is considered a success. A remake of the 60s drawing game Camouflage was an absolute disaster, exiting the syndication market after just 13 weeks. So, Bob Eubanks was dusted off from his Newlywed Game experience and his own recent All-Star Secrets to helm this game. To keep the recycling going, the theme for this episode was eventually used on the 80's version of Treasure Hunt.

The game is a simple stunt show, but full of the humiliation not expected on TV for at least 20 years. The first contestant was dressed in a loose track suit and was expected to jog in place while answering questions. Another contestant was forced to wear a boy's outfit from the early 1900s. Each contestant would earn a "dollar a second" as long as they remained in the game. The player would generally answer questions with some sort of stunt, such as hitting their feet together for the correct answer of how many legs a particular animal has.

Answering a question incorrectly forced a player to "pay the penalty", which varied from getting doused with water or trying to build a pie before it fell from a conveyor belt. Additionally, there was an "outside event", when completed, would cause the contestant to forfeit their money and leave the game. The first outside event was a player at a slot machine and was considered completed if they player won the jackpot (which she did, forcing the poor guy in the Buster Brown suit to lose). The other outside event was a run scoring in a baseball game, specifically a 8-5 San Francisco victory over the New York Mets from June 18, 1980 with John "The [convicted on two] Count[s, one each of assault and criminal trespass]" Montefusco getting the win. (boxscore information courtesy Retrosheet, criminal information courtesy The United States Court of Appeals, District of New Jersey, 01-3276).

This was painful to watch and was a sad commentary if people would be willing to humiliate themselves on television for a mere $500. Of course, I have been proved wrong, since the contestants on Fear Factor tended to do much worse. Additionally, the pilot alludes to the fact that this would be a daily show, since there was a "can you come back tomorrow" question. I don't know how they would have come up with new humiliations day after day, although Jerry Springer has been on for over a decade, so I should really stop trying to underestimate the shame of the American populace.

It's Dollar a Second!

Here's Bob with the first contestant.

Here's the first outside event, somebody playing a slot machine.

Our first contestant must pay the penalty, which is being groped by a production assistant dressed as a robot.

Do you have any shame?

Here's the other outside event, which I am proudly using without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.

This pilot has been viewed 9122 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
Feedback? Contact me at usgs-pilot at the usgameshows dot net domain