#48: Squares' Big Money
Syndication: (November 2001 - July 2002)
When Hollywood Squares came back on the air in 1998, it turned out to be a big hit. With big stars filling the squares, and with the great hosting of Tom Bergeron, most people figured that nothing could go wrong with this. Well, when Millionaire came on the scene, the game changed. People expected just a bit more from their game shows. Squares, however, kinda went stagnant and kept on bringing the funny. Then in the 4th season, the look and feel of the show changed. It took a more serious approach to the gameplay. Sure the comedy was still present, but it felt like it took a backseat to the game itself, when in the other versions the comedy was at the forefront. Ratings didn't go up like expected, so Whoopi Goldberg decided to change the bonus game, to give away more money and maybe that would help spike the ratings. So, instead of the tried and true, "Pick a Star Final Question", for a big prize like $10,000 or a nice trip or a car or a boat, or even a jukebox. In November of 2001, it all changed and we got the Big Money Quiz.
To make time for the Big Money Quiz, the amount of time for the game and the comedy was cut down. If I recall, the average amount of games changed from around 3 or 4 to just barely 2 or 3 games. So, the comedy continually suffered because it was cut out to fit in some more game. And people often watch Hollywood Squares for the zingers and the comedy and not for the cerebral fitness of the celebs or the contestants. So when time ran out, we got to the bonus game.
To start with, the contestant picked a celeb to help them win the bonus game. Normally, the most selected are Whoopi Goldberg, Bruce Vilanch or Martin Mull. The would have with them an envelope that would have amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. That would be the amount for each correct answer. So far, it's not that bad.
But where it gets bad is this. With 60 seconds on the clock, Bergeron has to barnstorm through a ton of questions that would normally be used as either Secret Square questions or End Game questions. Although it might not seem as bad as it sounds, it just doesn't fit with the Hollywood Squares show. It's like you have a serious quiz show, and then the end game is just a whole bunch of stunts. Oh wait, that was Break the Bank 85. Anyways, back to the game. Normally, the celeb would immediately give the answer or they would hem and haw and waste precious seconds for the contestant. And with only 60 seconds to try to get as many correct answers as you can, then wasting even 2 seconds can cost you a few thousand at the end.
So, after that test of mental ability, Tom offers the contestant one chance to double their winnings on a double or nothing question. Normally, the category would be on something far out of the contestants comprehension, like Ireland or World Geography or something that would fit into a 5th Grader bonus question. Most of the time, the contestants outright rejected it, normally because the contestants would have more than $10,000 or so on the docket already. This is what kills the bonus game. If it was just the 60 second quiz, then people wouldn't have complained too loudly. But they throw in this pathetic excuse to increase dramatics and tension, and it completely falls flat and just makes this round more drawn out than it needs to be.
So, instead of increasing ratings, it decreased ratings. It gotten to the point where the show was corpsing.
WAIT...HOLLYWOOD SQUARES IS CORPSING???
And that they did.
After the 4th season, King World continued to do the show, but they axed Whoopi Goldberg, and executive producers John Moffitt and Pat Turk Lee in favor of The MAN!
The Fonz and his producing partner, Michael Levitt, took over the producing role & completely revamped the show. The old set has been revamped from a blue/purple set to a bright, lively Gold drenched set, the board was revamped, the music had changed from the I Love Hollywood theme to a remix of Teena Marie's hit Square Biz to Hollywood Square Biz. Not to mention, a better bonus game that actually had a quickfire element that is better worked, makes sense with the format of Hollywood Square's questions & not to mention, a winnable big prize in either a car, a safe full of money, or a steamer trunk with a wonderful trip.
Further proof that something good can come out of a pile of suck.
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