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Tic Tac Dough (1956)

Producer: Barry-Enright Productions
Host: Jack Barry
Taping Info: July 23, 1956, New York City
Made it to Air: It joined the NBC daytime schedule on July 30, 1956, replacing Feather Your Nest, running until November 30, 1959, when it was a casualty of the quiz scandals and replaced by Truth or Consequences. The show had later runs on CBS in 1978 plus syndicated runs from 1978-1986 and 1990.
Availability: Paley Center

In 1956, Barry and Enright was hot. All of a sudden, properties by this production company were popping up all over the place. Everybody thinks Twenty-One was their first big game, but it was actually Tic Tac Dough, a reformatting of the Tic-Tac-Toe people played as kids. This version appears to be a test game rather than a true pilot, since its taping day was only seven days short of its premiere.

Jack Barry helms this show, adding another network to his pocket as his classic childrens' show Winky Dink and You is still running on CBS. The beginning is the Tic Tac Dough we all know and love, a tic-tac-toe board of nine categories, with the categories Federal Government, France, Fairy Tales, Baseball, U.S. Geography, Churchill, Labor, Fashions and Perception. Unlike the computer technology of the '80s, the categories had to be manually scrambled, which on this episode bordered on the comical. The mechanical gizmo got stuck quite often, with Barry occasionally going up to the board and trying to reset the categories.

In order to grab the square for your X or O, you had to correctly answer a question in the designated category for that square. Turns alternated until the game was won or it was a tie. If the game was a tie, the pot continued and another game was played. On this test episode, the jackpot started with $200, with $100 added every time a player correctly answered a center square question, which was considered a much tougher question. This would be different than the aired version, where each box was worth $100 and the center box worth $200. In the first game, the player representing 'O' won in three questions with a vertical win down the left, bypassing the center square. The losing player was given a watch for his troubles.

Then it got interesting. The winner was asked whether she wanted to keep her $200 and skedaddle or play again for more money. Ah, but this was not just a passing question. You were given what was the equivalent of a 1950's PowerPoint presentation. Jack brings out the next player, and tells the other player their exam score. If that isn't enough, the categories for the next game are revealed, and the champion was told whether the challenger scored higher, the same or lower on the qualifying test in those nine categories. Jack then told the audience that none of the test questions would appear in the main game (that idea would be saved for Twenty-One.) The champion chooses to take on the challenger, and promptly loses. Since the center square was used in this game, an extra $100 was in the pot. Jack also shows no tact whatsoever by asking the challenger her age.

After the now comical presentation, the new champion decided there would be great synergies and it would be a win-win proposition to play the new challenger. They got two questions into their game before the time had expired and Jack intoned with his famous question "Can you come back tomorrow?" They said yes, even though this was a test show and there was no tomorrow. NBC promos during this broadcast included a plug for Buddy Hackett's upcoming sitcom Stanley and an episode of Goodyear Playhouse with Darren McGavin.

If I was a network executive in 1956 and I was shown this, knowing this show would be on my schedule in a week, I would be downing the Maalox like it was water. The largest problem in this pilot actually was the category shuffling, since it was constantly breaking down. Second, the whole giving the c.v. of the new player seemed to drag things down. Third, the whole lose everything if you lose a game seemed a bit harsh. Fortunately, by the time the show made the air, #1 was fixed and #2 and #3 were dropped from the game.

This pilot has been viewed 5142 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
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