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Riddlers


Producer: Bob Stewart
Host: David Letterman
Celebrities: JoAnne Worley, Robert Urich, Joyce Bulifant, Michael McKean, Debralee Scott
Taping Info: November 4, 1977, NBC Studio 2, Burbank
Made it to Air: No
Other Pilots: There were two taped that day. This review is for #1. I've not seen #2.
Availability: It has aired on GSN and is on the trading circuit. It's also available at UCLA.

Celebrities on game shows were hot in the mid 1970s were hot. Jackpot had been canceled, so there was a perceived (but not real) deficit of riddle-based game shows. The ideas were combined, and The Riddlers were born. A team of five celebrities competed against five civilians of a common profession. On this particular episode (as opposed to other episodes, which there aren't any), they were dance instructors. The civilians played for themselves, while the celebrities played for home players.

The host of The Riddlers was none other than David Letterman, at this time a 30-year-old aspiring comic. He proves to be someone who really knows how broadcasting works, getting in zingers without dominating the game, echoing what the audience must be thinking at home, namely, how can these people be that stupid.

The game involved one player reading a riddle to another player such as "I'm the part of the body that says hooray." If the player answered correctly, an indicator moved down their line and the riddle answerer became the riddle giver. If the riddle could not be answered, control moved over to the other team. Once the indicator had came up and down the row for a total of nine riddles, the team won the game and moved on to the bonus round.

The bonus round involved five fictional quotes, each of which was harder than the next. The players could win money by guessing who would have said the quote. The first quote was worth $100, the second $200 and so on down to the final for $500. A $500 bonus was awarded if all five quotes were answered correctly. One of the funniest things happened during this pilot when David Letterman told the players should arrange themselves according to "intellectual ability", Joyce Bulifant, JoAnne Worley and Debralee Scott fought to be in the dummy spot.

An indication that this was an unedited pilot was an incident where a light burst, but the aftermath was kept in. The largest problem with this show is that the celebrities were so dominating, the civilian players seemed to be an afterthought. A better way to do the main game would have been to have just two celebrities plus one civilian on each team. That way, the players are actually playing against each other and they are involved in every move if they're placed in the center. Plus, it's a shame David Letterman never got the break in show business he deserved before he withered into obscurity.

A Pilot Light Bonus
Proof the pilot wasn't edited a light explodes during taping and hilarity ensues


It's JoAnne Worley

Robert Urich (who knew he did impressions)

Joyce Bulifant

Michael McKean

and Debra Lee Scott

They are here to play The Riddlers

Hosted by David Letterman

Here is the civilian team of dance instructors

The object of the game is to move this indicator back and forth.

Jo Anne Worley flees the stage after sniper fire.

Sadly, violence occurs trying to establish positions for the bonus game.


This pilot has been viewed 5299 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