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Duel in the Daytime

Producer: Jay Wolpert/Metromedia
Host: Peter Tomarken
Announcer: Johnny Gilbert
Taping Info: August 23, 1981, NBC Burbank
Made it to Air: No
Other Pilots: This is listed as #3, the tape date for this particular pilot is August 23, but the ticket below says August 22. I'll assume #1 and maybe #2 were shot that day.
Availability: UCLA Archive

Sports generally ride waves of popularity. Boxing was extremely popular after World War II, but is a niche sport today. On the other end, pro football was a niche sport until the early 60s. With ideas starting to run thin in the early 80s, Jay Wolpert decides to try to make a game out of America's first great sport dueling. The rules were simple. Two contestants dueled with pistols at ten paces, best-two-of-three, with the winner getting $500 and a chance at the bonus game. Five wins got you a car.

OK, that's all a lie, but frankly it would have been a much saner game show than what I'm about to describe. Amid trumpet fanfare, an incredibly busy set based on discarded set pieces from Medieval Times and an over-caffeinated audience, Peter Tomarken introduces our two duelers for the day Damon and Frances. These excited contestants have a choice to play one of six games for the first round: 'Inflation', 'Roto Foto', '4x4', 'Lyric Game', 'Speeling Eeb', and 'Scavenger Hunt'. The winner of the round will win a shield plus a game-specific prize, and three shields move you to the bonus game.

The first duel selected was 'The Lyric Game'. The announced prize was a sailboat for the winner of this first duel. Since this was apparently an unedited pilot, we got to see the prize description of the sailboat three times. Each player was given three songs to sing and could earn up to 20 points in each song, one point for each word. Frances wins 48-23, so she wins a shield. The second duel was 'Inflation', with the winner getting a juke box. The players must guess how much the price of a particular product has gone up over the last five years. For every dollar they are off, they must pump a balloon one pump. Play continues with more prizes until one balloon pops and the other player is considered the winner. Damon wins this duel, so it's all tied at one shield each.

For the third and fourth duels, the games change. The new selection is 'Dateline', 'Tug O' War', 'Blurb', 'Sloppy Slogans', 'Grapevine' and 'Take it Off'. 'Sloppy Slogans' for a trip to Hawaii is selected, and each player is presented in turn a slogan with one word wrong, like 'They Earn Money the Hard Way, They Burn It.' A player got 5 points for correcting the wrong word, and 5 more for guessing the company. If the player could not guess the company, the other player could try. 25 points won this duel for Frances. The fourth duel was 'Take It Off', which was a disappointing identify-the-celebrity from a portion of the face. First player to get it wins the duel, which Damon does so he can get a bedroom set.

And we're tied! Aren't we exicted? Aren't we worn out? The tiebreaker duel was one 'off the board' called 'Tongue Twisters'. Each player was given the same tongue twister, and whoever said it faster was the winner. Since there was an error in the judging, they re-shot it with a different twister. Frances gets it, wins a microwave for her trouble, and moves onto the bonus.

This bonus was so good, we get to see it three times, yet, parts of it elude my memory and faulty note taking. The concept of the bonus game is to try to guess the answer to a question that has been separated on multiple monitors. If you can get it in one part, you'll get $10,000. If you need a second part, you'll get $5,000. If you need a third part, you'll get $2,500. There may or may have not been at least one extra monitor that would not be used. You can guess multiple times, but you only have thirty seconds to get the answer. The monitors were spaced out, so there may or may have not been some athleticism involved. On Frances' first try, she got "Who is the cartoon character" by answering Popeye off one monitor in 4 seconds. Not good for the pilot, so stop tape, put a new one in. This time, she failed to answer Tinkerbell despite having the clues "Companion of" and "Name that Fairy". So, stop tape, try again. On the third try, she got Delilah off two clues for $5,000.

Like other shows that pretty much have your jaw on the floor for 25 minutes, it is very hard to convey in words how mind-bogglingly stupid this show was. This makes Whew! seem like C-SPAN. This could have worked if the underlying theme was not so overbearing, or if the games were not so silly. Blowing up balloons? Trumpet fanfares? Winning shields? This is NBC, not Nickelodeon. Or Chuck-E-Cheese.

An employee ticket. I hope you got coverage for tympanoplasty.

This pilot has been viewed 7418 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
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