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Monopoly (1987)


Producer: Merv Griffin/King World
Host: Marc Summers
Announcer: Don Morrow
Assistants: Both unnamed, one female as a piece mover, one nerdy male as "Rich Uncle Pennybags"
Taping Info: September 28, 1987
Other Pilots: At least one pilot was made with Peter Tomarken in 1988.
Made it to Air: Eventually in 1990 as the weaker half of an hour of Saturday night summer game shows with Jeopardy! on ABC.

The history of game shows coming from board games has been sketchy at best. Video Village, Shenanigans and Seven Keys were based off of Chutes and Ladders and had moderate success, and strangely even spawned their own board games. Scrabble did not resemble its namesake at all, which I'm sure the producers figured out early on that watching people play Scrabble can be pretty boring. At some point in 1987, Merv Griffin bought the rights to Monopoly, and gave it over to King World to try to figure out a show out of it.

Marc Summers is your host for a show that seems a little more of a run-through than a true pilot. Indications of this include the heavy use of magnetic props rather than true art cards or video displays and the absolute butchered audio. Several times it was hard to hear Marc over the music. Players were stationed around a larger version of the board and did their own dice rolling.

Normally I'm not a big fan of PowerPoint and bulleted lists, but there are so many rules in this game that I really couldn't think of any other way to both get them all across and show the sheer insanity of trying to play a complicated game in a tight time frame. So, here we go:
  • Three players in this game:
    • Claire, who has the red dog
    • Larry, who has the yellow car
    • Isie, who has the blue hat
  • Each player starts with a bank of $5,000. Displays are used rather than Monopoly money.
  • Before the game, each player rolled the dice. The highest number got to choose from three envelopes, the second highest from two and the lowest took the leftover. Each of those envelopes contained either seven or eight properties.
    • Claire was assigned a monopoly of orange properties, 2 of the light blue properties, one of the purple properties and Boardwalk.
    • Larry received monopolies in both yellow and dark blue, 2 of the purple properties and one of the red properties.
    • Isie had a green monopoly, 2 red properties, one of the light blue properties and Park Place.
  • Observation: Nice set-up here, making sure that each player had one monopoly with a second player having two but not having a stake in Boardwalk/Park Place. Additionally, three of the other four non-monopolized properties are all in 2-to-1 ratios for one player, except for Boardwalk/Park Place. Sorry about that, back to the insanity.
  • "Rich Uncle Pennybags" assigns one house to each of the monopoly properties. Each player had the option of adding two houses if they so desire. Note that Marc had to explain all of this before the game began.
  • Now that the game begins, the first player rolls their dice and the unnamed assistant moves their piece. Several things can happen here.
    • If a player lands on an owned space that is part of a Monopoly, they simply pay rent to the owning player if they don't own the property.
    • If a player lands on an owned space that is not part of a Monopoly, the player who owns two of the three properties is asked a trivia question with two possible answers. If the player is correct, they receive the third property. If the player is correct, the other player receives the two properties to complete the monopoly. In either case, the new owner of the monopoly can improve it with up to two sets of houses if they desire, paying the normal game rates for the wanted amount of houses for that property.
    • If they land on Free Parking, they win the money currently in the Free Parking pot, further angering Monopoly purists who know that there is no such thing as a Free Parking pot.
    • If they land on a railroad, the player will be moved to a different space depending on the result of a mini-game. In round one, the mini game involved a player choosing from three hidden selections, with the chance of refusing one selection but being stuck with the next one. In round three, the mini game involved a player picking a letter in the word "monopoly" and moving to the designated space.
    • If the player is assigned to jail, on their next turn they are asked a trivia question with two possible answers. If they are correct, they are released. If they are incorrect, they pay $500 to Free Parking and they are released.
    • If the player lands on Community Chest, they are asked a trivia question with two possible answers. If they are correct, they win a set of houses. If they are incorrect, they lose a set of houses.
    • If the player lands on Chance, they are asked a trivia question with two possible answers. If they are correct, they go to Free Parking. If they are incorrect, they move to Luxury Tax and lose $100 times the roll of the dice.
    • Doubles gives the player another roll of the dice.
  • For Round 2, players during the commercial could add two more houses on any of their monopoly properties, as long as their bank did not go below $2,000. Additionally, $250 was added to Free Parking.
  • For Round 3, players during the commercial could improve as much as the want, as long as they could afford it. Additionally, some rules changed:
    • All players received the cash values of their properties and improvements as an augment to their current banks. They kept the properties.
    • $250 more added to Free Parking.
    • Chance and Community Chest were now wagering spots, where players could add or lose money in their bank based on their bets on a three-choice trivia question.
    • All rents doubled.
Is that enough rules for you? So much time is spent during the game explaining rules that there aren't many turns to be had. At the end of Round 3, the player with the most money moves on to the bonus game.

The bonus game is very similar to the airing version three years later. A player had five rolls to get around the board while avoiding one of seven Go To Jail spaces for $25,000 if they passed Go, or $50,000 if they landed. Each successful roll also earned the player a prize of varying values such as a bicycle or a computer which had to be risked on each turn. A player could stop at anytime to keep the accumulated prizes. Money earned during the main game was kept even if they landed on Go to Jail.

As you can see, my largest complaint about this game was just the ridiculous amount of rules you had to keep up with to try to keep this game true to Monopoly: The Board Game. Not that the way the eventual airing version played was any better, but was just one of those cases that unless you threw the pretense of the board game away and made something entirely different (like Scrabble did), there just isn't anything here to make an interesting half hour of television.

This pilot has been viewed 5657 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 20, 2009 17:42 ET
Feedback? Contact me at usgs-pilot at the usgameshows dot net domain