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Top Secret

Producer: Martindale-Gilden
Host: Wink Martindale
Announcer: Johnny Gilbert
Taping Info: March 3 and 4, 1988
Other Pilots: This review is a combination of Pilots 1 and 3
Made it to Air: Nope, although there is a board game.

Three players were on stage and were each assigned a secret identity. Four clues were associated with each identity, and were assigned dollar values ($250-$500-$750-$1,000) based on their obscurity to the identity, with the $250 clue being the most obscure and the $1,000 being the least obscure. For example, here are four clues for the secret identity of "lobster":
  • $250-My bed is always wet
  • $500-When anyone draws butter, I flip out
  • $750-I have a great little tail, but I'm expensive
  • $1,000-What boils me is that I always end up in hot water
The point of the game is to try to buy the clues about the other player's identities and eventually guess those identities.

Players are asked a question prefaced with the two possible answers. The question would be worth anywhere from $100-$1,000 based on the dollar randomizer (a set of six screens with an indicator). If a player answered the question correctly, they had a chance to buy a clue from one of the other players. The clue was read aloud by the player, and if the purchaser was able to guess the top secret identity, the clue giver was knocked out of the round and had to leave the stage, while the purchaser picked up an extra $100. On the fourth purchased clues, they were all repeated for the guesser. Play continued until there was only one player left.

There were two rather severe penalties for incorrect answers. If you answered incorrectly on a tossup, you were locked out of the next one. If you tried to guess the identity on the fourth clue and failed, the clue giver automatically won the game.

The winner of the round went on to the "Super Sleuth" round where the player had 60 seconds to try to guess six secret identities. Each identity had three clues, and had to be guessed after each clue. A player earned $200 for each correct identification with a $5,000 pay day for all six.

All three players returned for the second round, which was rinse and repeat. The one additional wrinkle was the second "Super Sleuth" round was worth $10,000 if the player was making their second appearance on the show. If this was not the case, the returning champion was determined by money won in both the main and bonus games.

The only complaint I have about the show was the sound effects. I know the game was somewhat a comedy game with the punny clues, but the sounds detracted from the game and made it start to veer into parody territory. Not a complaint but never a good sign, there was clear evidence of a rigged pilot, as the first pilot had a stop tape to allow a player to give a correct identification after she couldn't get lobster despite the four clues above.

Wink Martindale has said that at one point Top Secret had a berth on the CBS schedule, but was removed when there was an executive change at the eye network. However, it is not known what it would have been replaced with is not known. The $25,000 Pyramid was cancelled at the beginning of 1988, and its replacement Blackout was tanking in the ratings. After 13 weeks, Blackout was gone, but Pyramid was back, only to be replaced 13 weeks hence with the first revival of Family Feud. There was also Card Sharks on the schedule during this time.

It's the briefcase of doom, indicating another episode of Top Secret.

The set.

The Winker.

The players await the tossup question.

One player is giving her clue.

The beginning of the Super Sleuth round.

A ticket for the second day of shooting.

This pilot has been viewed 7831 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 20, 2009 21:48 ET
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