#47: Blank Check
NBC: (January 1975 - July 1975)
Back in the 1970s, ESP was all the rage. You couldn't step outside your house without being hit with a story about how a person used ESP to pick the right lottery numbers or used their ESP skills to bend spoons or various feats that are impossible to do with just the human mind. Oddly enough, ESP actually was a main focus on game shows during that time, especially Match Game. But then the ESP Party was debunked by the government, but that doesn't stop people today from believing that ESP actually exists. But in 1975, Jack Barry decided that it would be a great mechanic for a game show. So, from the same genius game show mind that gave us The Joker's Wild, Tic Tac Dough, Concentration (Yes, he invented it and later sold it to NBC.), and Twenty-One, comes one of the most brainless shows in the history of game shows. It's time for Blank Check.
Hosting this train-wreck was one of the most underrated emcees of his day, Art James. After helming The Who, What & Where Game for 5 years, he landed onto this show. How he wound up on this pile is way beyond me. He does have some enthusiasm for the show, which is more that can be said for the audience, which sometimes is dead silent during the proceedings. The announcer, Johnny Jacobs, who was also the announcer of The Joker's Wild at that time, does his usual good job, but these two guys can't make up for a really lackluster show.
I just wanted to get started with the set. This has to be one of the most bland, boring sets that I've ever seen. All there is on this set is 5 podiums on one side for the challengers, the checkwriter position where the plywood duplicate numbers, his podium where the numbers randomize & the big check behind him & finally the big number jumbler where the 5 numbers in the check are shown. Even by 1975 Standards, this doesn't sound or look exciting.
The format, oh god. How do I put this delicately? Oh, I know. It's utter garbage and uninteresting at all. The Checkwriter must pull a lever in order to get the 5 numbers he must use for his check. Admittedly, the way it's show is pretty cool, but that's where the compliments end.
In order to get a number on the check, the checkwriter must fool a challenger. But in order to even do that, the 5 other contestants must answer a connecting word question. An example of one would be, "Give me the word that connects both students and a group of fish." The first contestant to buzz in with the right answer would win the right to usurp control from the checkwriter and take their place. The questioning, is average at best, but here's what makes Blank Check horrid.
How do you earn money on this show? You have to make sure you can fool your challenger. The challenger uses all of their ESP skills in their brains and have to guess what the checkwriter selected to put in their check. If the Checkwriter fools the challenger, then the number selected goes into the first slot of the check. If the Challenger is successful, then the checkwriter steps down and the challenger takes their place and the process starts all over.
Wow, talk about excitement. The tension of picking numbers in order to fill out a check. Surely this must have gone over well in the pitch meeting that Jack Barry had with then Vice President at that time Lin Bolen. I'm sure that she would have thought this would have been a super success.
Anyways, this process continues until a checkwriter has filled out the first three digits in the check, then we play for that all-important fourth digit. How do we do that? Well, seeing as the audience is dead, let's involve the audience.
The final number is won by trying to predict what prize the audience member has selected. The Audience member picks from a selection of 4 prizes, ranging in value from around $100 to a prize a tad over $1,000. If the audience member fools the contestant, they win that prize. If the audience member fools the contestant 3 times, they win the 4th prize & the checkwriter must vacate his position. If the Checkwriter correctly guesses the prize, they get to go for the 4th number. How does the 4th number get selected?
That's right, we play the same boring front game as usual. If the checkwriter fools the contestant, they get the full check. If not, then he loses his place to the challenger. Talk about your unoriginal ideas for a format. If anybody cares, and I doubt you do because you probably fell asleep just looking at the pictures and reading my descriptions, out of the 6 contestants that play that entire week, the contestant that writes the biggest singular check wins the grand prize of the week, a brand new car. To be perfectly honest, it does nothing.
And yet this show lasted 6 months. Go figure. One of the most boring shows in game show history, with a horrible premise, bad presentation, and even worse execution makes this show thankful it didn't go 13 and out. When asked about this show, host Art James called this show, "Blank Mind". He's thinking the same thing I am, once I saw this show. There's nothing exciting or interesting about this show at all. Aside from Art James and his bombastic way of presenting, you'd think you were watching a local production rather than something done for NBC.
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