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Whew!


Producer: Burt Sugarman/Bud Austin
Host: Tom Kennedy
Announcer: Rod Roddy
Taping Info: December 4, 1978, presumably in Los Angeles
Made it to Air: Yes, it joined the CBS lineup on April 23, 1979 in a CBS overhaul that saw the deletion of Match Game '79 from the Eye network. Celebrities were added in November of 1979, because that always works. The last episode aired on May 30, 1980, where it was replaced with reruns of Alice.
Other Pilots: This one is marked as #3, so there's probably two others somewhere.

Jay Wolpert was a semi-hot property in game shows in the late 1970s. As a producer on The Price is Right, he was responsible for contestant selection and some of the long-form film parody showcases. So, Jay struck out on his own and made this game called Whew!, a classic among game show geeks but not among the general public. Tom Kennedy, a very busy man in the 1970s who at the time of this pilot was hosting Name That Tune got the call for this pilot and proved to be unusually hyper.

Richard Dawson once joked that the rules of this game took the whole show to explain, so pay attention. There were two players. You were either the "charger" or the "blocker". If you were the charger, you were taken off stage while the blocker placed six "blocks" on a 33-square game board. The game board had six levels, levels one through five had five boxes each of increasing dollar amounts ($10-$20-$30-$40-$50), while the sixth level had three boxes ($200-$350-$500). No more than three blocks could be played on levels one through five, and only one block on level six. The purpose of these blocks essentially took five seconds off the charger's clock.

(Pause to catch breath) Once the blocks were placed, the charger came out and attempted to charge the board. To successfully do that, the charger must successfully correct one "blooper" on each level. The example blooper from the pilot was "America entered World War II when the Japanese bombed Pearl Bailey." Of course, that actually started the Spanish-American War. The player had 60 seconds to do this, minus any blocks he or she found along the way, which ate up five seconds per block. If the player was running out of time, he or she could call "long shot", which advanced the player to the sixth level but allowed the blocker to add an additional block to that level. If the charger hit a block, the blocker won the round. If the charger successfully corrected the blooper, he or she won the round.

(Pause for a oxygen refill) Each player took one turn each as charger and blocker. If the game was tied at one, a third round was played. The non-champion was given the choice whether to block or charge. Once a player had two boards won, he or she moved on to "The Gauntlet of Villains" for a chance at $25,000.

(Pause for Paddles! Clear!) In the gauntlet, you had 60 + (d / 100) [d = the number of dollars won in the main game] seconds to correct ten bloopers. If you got 10, you won $25,000 and was retired from the show. If not, you won $100 per corrected blooper and played a new challenger. Whew purists will note that the drum track used during the running was absent, plus some of the bloopers did not have the word that needed to be corrected at the end of the blooper like the actual show. Also, the arms of the villains did not move.

It's a shame that a 30 minute show only had 4 minutes of actual game play (placing blocks does not count). Probably a buzz-in round, replacing the time used to place blocks, would have allowed some of the humor to develop and slowed the pace down, which actually would have helped. Tom Kennedy has quipped several times "Whew! was a hit! When they found out it was on the air, they canceled it." Well, it really never was a hit, suffering clearance issues and low ratings compared to an aging Hollywood Squares and nothing on ABC.

This pilot has been viewed 3555 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
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