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Let's Make a Deal is a television game show which originated in the United Statesmarker and has since been produced in many countries throughout the world. The show is based around deals offered to members of the audience by the host. The contestants usually have to weigh the possibility of an offer being for a valuable prize, or an undesirable item, referred to as a "zonk". The show was hosted for many years by Monty Hall, who co-produced the show with Stefan Hatos.

The original and most widely-known version of the show aired from 1963 to 1976 on both NBC and ABC. A weekly nighttime syndicated version of the show aired from 1971 to 1977. Two daily syndicated versions aired in the 1980s. A show based in Canada aired from 1980 to 1981, while The All New Let's Make a Deal aired from 1984 to 1986. NBC aired a daytime series in 1990-1991 and three episodes of a weekly prime time version in 2003.

The weekly nighttime syndicated version, seen from 1971-1977, was distributed by ABC Films and its' successor, Worldvision Enterprises. The 1980 daily syndicated version was co-produced and distributed by Canadian production company Catalena Productions (Rhodes Productions was the U.S. distributor). The 1984 daily syndicated version was distributed by Telepictures. One episode of the show was part of the summer replacement series Gameshow Marathon on CBS in 2006, hosted by Ricki Lake.

A new version of Let's Make a Deal, hosted by Wayne Brady, debuted on CBS on October 5, 2009, replacing CBS Daytime's Guiding Light.

Format

Each episode of Let's Make a Deal (which was billed by Jay Stewart, who served as the show's announcer from 1964 until 1977, as "The Marketplace of America") consisted of several "deals" between the host and a member or members of the audience as contestants. Audience members were picked at the host's whim as the show went along, and couples were often selected to play as "one" contestant. The "deals" were mini-games within the show that took several formats.

In the simplest format, a contestant was given a prize of medium value (such as a television set), and the host offered them the opportunity to trade for another prize. However, the offered prize was unknown. It might be concealed on the stage behind one of three curtains, or behind "boxes" onstage (large panels painted to look like boxes), within smaller boxes brought out to the audience, or occasionally in other formats. The initial prize given to the contestant might also be concealed, such as in a box, wallet or purse, or the player might be initially given a box or curtain. The format varied widely.

Technically, contestants were supposed to bring something to trade in, but this rule was seldom enforced. On several occasions, a contestant would actually be asked to trade in an item such as his or her shoes or purse, only to receive the item back at the end of the deal as a "prize". On at least one occasion, the purse was taken backstage and a high-valued prize was placed inside of it.

Prizes generally were either a legitimate prize, cash, or a "zonk". Legitimate prizes ran the gamut of what was given away on game shows during the era (trips, fur coats, electronics, furniture, appliances, and cars). Zonks were unwanted booby prizes which could be anything from animals to large amounts of food to something outlandish like a giant article of clothing, a room full of junked furniture, or a junked car. Sometimes zonks were legitimate prizes but of a low value such as "Matchbox" cars, wheelbarrows, T-shirts, small food or non-food grocery prizes, etc. On the original series, zonks were often demonstrated by Stewart (a practice that continues with Jonathan Mangum), and legitimate prizes were modeled by Carol Merrill (although Merrill, too, helped model the zonks). On rare occasions, a contestant would appear to get zonked, but the zonk would be a cover-up for a legitimate prize.

Though usually considered joke prizes, contestants legally won the zonks. However, after the taping of the show, any trader who had been zonked would be offered a consolation prize instead of having to take home the actual zonk. This is partly because some of the zonks were intrinsically impossible to receive or deliver to the contestants. For example, if a contestant won an animal, he or she could legally insist that it be awarded to them, but chances are that the contestant did not have the means to care for it. In fact, a disclaimer at the end of the credits of later 1970s episodes read "Some traders accept reasonable duplicates of zonk prizes."

On some episodes, the first contestant(s) offered an unknown prize kept it for much of the show, not trading it in until the Big Deal.

In addition, as the end credits of the show rolled, it was typical for Hall to ask random members of the studio audience to participate in fast deals. The deals were usually in the form of the following:
  • Offering cash to one person in the audience who had a certain item on them
  • Offering a small cash amount for each item of a certain quantity
  • Offering cash for each instance of a particular digit as it occurred in the serial number on a dollar bill, driver's license, etc.
  • Offering to pay the last check in the person's checkbook (up to a certain limit, usually $500 or $1,000) if they had one


Other deal formats

Deals were often more complicated than the basic format described above. Additionally, some deals took the form of games of chance, and others in the form of pricing games, similar to those used on The Price Is Right:

Trading deals

  • Choosing an envelope, purse, wallet, etc., which concealed dollar bills. One of them concealed a pre-announced value (usually $1 or $5), which awarded a car or trip. The other envelopes contained a larger amount of money as a consolation prize. The player had to decide whether to keep his/her choice or trade. In some playings it was possible for more than one player to win the grand prize.
  • Acting as a team with two or three unrelated traders. Sometimes, only one trader was allowed to speak for the team without consultation of the others. Other times, a "majority rules" format was used. Usually after a series of deals, the host breaks up the team and each contestant could individually decide on one or more options on a final deal. Related: A contestant acted as an "adviser" to another unrelated trader, being offered a cash amount or an unknown prize, with the contestants acting on their own on a final deal.
  • Being presented with a large grocery item (e.g., a box of candy bars)—almost always containing a cash amount—or a "claim check" at the start of the show. Throughout the show, the trader was given several chances to trade the item and/or give it to another trader in exchange for a different box or curtain. The final trader in possession of the item prior to the Big Deal of the Day was usually offered first choice of the three doors in exchange for giving up the item. The contents of the item was only revealed after the Big Deal of the Day was awarded (or prior to the Big Deal if the last trader with the item elected to choose one of the three doors).


Games of chance

  • Choosing four of seven envelopes, each containing $1 and $2 bills, whose contents they hoped added up to at least $7 for a grand prize. At various points, the host would stop and offer a buy-out.
  • Monty's Cash Register, wherein a couple had to punch keys on a 15-key register. Exactly 13 of the buttons hid amounts of either $50 or $100, and getting to a stated amount (usually $500–$1,000) won a grand prize. Stewart marked off any buttons hit so they could not be used again. The couple could stop at any time and keep what they have (always then being tempted with a follow-up keep-or-trade deal), but hitting "no sale" at any time ended the game. If a couple chose a "no sale" button on the first try, hitting the second "no sale" button the very next time also won the grand prize. Otherwise, Hall allowed the couple to take home whatever dollar amount they hit with the next key punch.
  • Monty's Money Machine, which contained several bills connected end to end in one long strip. The machine dispensed one bill at a time, and the player had to decide after each one whether to cut the strip and stop (keeping all money won to that point), or risk it and keep playing. If the machine dispensed a blank card, the player lost everything.
  • A contestant or a married couple was presented with a choice of three keys, one of which unlocked anything from boxes (containing money, trip tickets, etc.) to cars. The host usually offers a sure-thing buyout consisting of a smaller prize package, which was offered once one of the "dud" keys was demonstrated. A variation of this game involved more than one contestant selecting a key (sometimes from four instead of three). In this case, more than one key could (and often did) open the item, and contestants could trade in their key for an unknown behind a curtain/box or a cash amount. This probability game gave rise to the Monty Hall problem.
  • Deciding whether an announced prize was real or imitation, and choosing a cash amount or a box/curtain as a substitute.
  • Beat the Dealer: three contestants chose envelopes to start the game. Two of them contained $1,000, the other $100 (was $500 and $50 in the earlier versions). The two dealers who chose the $1,000 continued on to try to win an additional prize by picking the higher-suited card out of nine off a game board. The trader who won could then risk the prize and the cash by picking two more cards, one for themselves and one for the host, winner take all. If the player picked the higher card for themselves, they added a new car (or another big prize); otherwise, they lost everything.
  • Deciding whether an egg given to a contestant was raw or hard boiled and choosing a cash amount or box/curtain as a substitute. A raw egg was typically worth $500 to $1,000.
  • Putting a bill of a certain size through a magic trick device in the hope that the denomination is increased.
  • Panic Button: A couple is shown three curtains and is asked to press buttons from a series of six buttons. Of the six, one closes the first curtain, one closes the second curtain, and one closes the third curtain. Three others are "dud" buttons and do not close a curtain. Brady offers a take it or leave it deal, especially if two curtains have been closed and a contestant could lose the last remaining curtain if they press the final button. Contestants keep the curtains that remain open, and Brady pops open two more buttons to try a second panic-button game. One button keeps all curtains open and a cash bonus, while the other closes all curtains. If the contestant picks the button that closes all curtains, they lose everything. If the contestant picks the "dud," the contestant wins all prizes and the cash bonus.


Skill-based games

The following games were played for a grand prize, such as a car or trip and almost always involved grocery items. At certain stages of these games, Hall often offered a sure-thing deal (a prize or cash) to quit before the result was revealed. If all of Hall's offers were turned down and the grand prize lost, Hall would usually give the grocery items to the contestant as a consolation prize along with $50 or $100 in cash.
  • Arranging small prizes (usually $5–50) in order of dollar value.
  • Determining which item out of several was appearing on the show for the first time, or which item was first to debut.
  • Choosing which item was a pre-announced price, or which items' prices totaled a certain amount.
  • Recalling which grocery items were concealed beneath the letters in the name of a car model or trip destination.
  • Pricing successive items within a predetermined amount from the MSRP or manufacturer's suggested retail prices (on the West coast). The first item was always easy while the last item was always more difficult.
  • Pricing successive items with the difference between the contestant's guess and the actual MSRP of each item being deducted from an initial sum (usually $5.00) placed in an account. If there was any money remaining after the last item was priced, even as little as one cent, the contestant won the grand prize. The last item was always more difficult, so the object was to come as close as possible to the MSRP of each of the previous items in order to have a greater chance of winning the grand prize.
  • Pricing items with the total of all guesses within a predetermined range from the actual total of the suggested retail prices. A similar concept is used in the game Check-Out on The Price Is Right.
  • Competing against another trader or married couple to price a series of items closer to the suggested retail price and win increasing cash awards (usually $100, $200, $300 and $400, but sometimes $200, $200, $200 and $300 or $100, $100, $200, $200, $300). The first trader (or couple) to collect a pre-announced amount (usually $700) won a grand prize, such as a car or a trip (and kept any leftover money). The losing trader/couple was offered a regular take-it-or-leave-it deal in exchange for any cash accumulated. The consolation deal was also played for both teams if both obtained less than the required amount.


Door #4 (1984-1986 only)

Played every few days, and announced with siren and quick-zoom fanfare, a contestant was chosen by a computer at random based on a number which now appeared on the contestant's tag (1 to 36). A contestant who had previously been chosen for a deal earlier in the show had their number called on a few occasions. This contestant was chosen to play a special deal, which had four incarnations:
  • Version 1: The contestant was offered a prize in exchange for a mystery cash amount ranging from $1 to $5,000, which was concealed behind "Door #4" (in actuality another curtain).
  • Version 2: A 20-space carnival wheel was brought out from behind Door #4, which contained cash amounts from $100 to $5,000. The contestant spun the wheel and could keep the amount won, or spin again in hopes of winning a higher amount. If a lesser amount was spun, all winnings were lost. One space on the wheel read Double Deal, and if it was hit on either spin, doubled the winnings up to a maximum of $10,000. Hitting Double Deal on both spins also earned the top $10,000 prize.
    • Wheel configuration: $5,000, $750, $600, $200, $3,000, $350, $700, $150, $1,000, Double Deal, $500, $2,000, $400, $250, $800, $4,000, $300, $450, $900, $100.
  • Version 3: The contestant could keep $750 or risk it by spinning the wheel, which now contained spaces that earned $1,500 (by landing on a space marked "double") $2,250 (landing on "triple"), $3,000, a new car, or win less ($100 to $500, or perhaps even a zonk). The zonk was a T-shirt that read "I was ZONKED by Monty Hall". If the contestant kept the money, Hall would let the player spin the wheel to see what would have been passed up. In this format of Door #4 the car was always a Chevy Chevette. Also, instead of the car being displayed behind one of the doors, a film clip was shown.
    • Wheel configuration: Car, $200, Double, $100, $1,000, $250, $200, Zonk, $500, $100, Car, $250, $300, Double, $400, $300, Triple, $500, $400, $3,000 (the $400 and $3,000 spaces were swapped after a few playings).
  • Version 4: Played the same as Version 3, except the contestant was given $1,000 to start and fewer money possibilities were on the wheel. The spaces on this wheel were modified after a few playings of this version to include more Double spaces.
    • Wheel configuration #1: Car, $100, Triple, $200, Zonk, Double, $100, $4,000, $200, $100, Car, $200, Triple, $100, Zonk, Double, $200, Triple, $100, $200.
    • Wheel configuration #2: Car, $100, Triple, $200, Zonk, Double, $100, $4,000, $200, Double, Car, $200, Triple, $100, Zonk, Double, $200, Triple, $100, Double.


Big Deal of the Day

Each show ends with the Big Deal of the Day. Beginning with the day's biggest winner, and moving in order to the winner of the lowest prize value, the host would ask each contestant if they wanted to trade their winnings for a spot in the Big Deal (whose value was usually revealed at that point). He would continue asking until two contestants agreed to participate. In the 2009 version, only one player participates in the Big Deal.

The Big Deal involves three doors, famously known as "Door #1", "Door #2", and "Door #3", each of which contained a prize or prize package. The top winner of the two was offered the first choice of a door, and the second contestant was then offered a choice of the two remaining doors. One door hid the day's Big Deal, which was usually more than the top prize offered to that point. It often included the day's most expensive prize (a luxury or sports car, a trip, furniture/appliances, a fur, cash, or a combination of two or more of said items). The other two doors concealed prizes or prize packages of lesser value. Zonks were never included in the Big Deal, although there was always the possibility that a contestant could wind up with less than his or her original winnings. All three doors were normally opened, going in order of increasing value. In the 2009 version, the other two doors are referred to as the "Small Deal" (worth about $1,000-$3,000) and the "Medium Deal" ($3,000+).

Sometimes one of the doors contains a cash prize, contained within a container such as "Monty's Cookie Jar", "Monty's Piggy Bank", a "LMaD Claim Check", or in the 2009 version, the "Let's Make a Deal Vault". In some cases these cash prizes have been the Big Deal, but often they are not.

Value

The Big Deal values shown in the table are to give a general idea of the average value of said prize package. On occasion, Big Deals were worth considerably more than the highest stated value in a particular version.

Version Value Notes
1963-1977 (NBC/ABC/Syndicated) Daytime: $1,500-$5,000Primetime/Syndicated: $7,000-$15,000+ The Big Deal in the 1963 pilot was $2,005. During the syndicated years, prizes that were normally part of the daytime Big Deal (such as cars, trips, and fur coats) were often part of the runner-up door.
1980-1981 (Syndicated) $5,000-$6,000 Cash prizes were given in the form of "Monty Dollars" or "Let's Make a Deal Money". As explained on-air, the show was seen in Canada and America, and contestants could take home money in American or Canadian currency (with a likely preference for the American greenback because of its then-relative strength).
1984-1986 (Syndicated) 1984-1985: $6,000-$8,0001985-1986: $8,000-$12,000+
1990-1991 (NBC Daytime) $12,000-$20,000
2003 (NBC Primetime) $50,000+ Largest Big Deal in the three aired episodes was $56,000+.
2005 (Spanish / Univision) Daytime: $3,000-$5,000Primetime Specials: $26,000
2009-Present (CBS Daytime) $20,000-$40,000+


Super Deal

During the 1975-1976 syndicated season, a new "Super Deal" was offered for Big Deal winners. At this point, Big Deals were limited to a range of $8,000 to $10,000. The contestant could risk their Big Deal winnings on a 1-in-3 shot at adding a $20,000 cash prize. The other two doors caused the player to lose the "Big Deal", but he/she took home a $1,000 or $2,000 consolation prize. Given this scenario, a Super Deal winner could win as much as $30,000 in cash and prizes (in fact, the first-ever Super Deal won the $30,000 maximum). Later, the consolation prize was changed to $2,000 and a mystery amount (between $1,000 and $9,000).

The Super Deal was discontinued when the show permanently moved to Las Vegas for the final season (1976-1977), and Big Deal values returned to their previous range of $10,000 to $15,000.

Audience attire

When the series began, studio audience members wore suits and ties or dresses. Over time the show gradually evolved into the costume-wearing menagerie it became. In 2003, GSN presented the May 25, 1963 pilot with commentary from host Hall.

In the special, Hall mentioned that two weeks into the series (January 1964), an audience member had brought in a small placard that read "Roses are red, violets are blue, I came here to deal with you!" The placard caught Hall's attention, and he chose the player to be a contestant. On later tapings, more people began bringing signs.

Again to get Hall's attention, another audience member showed up at a taping wearing a crazy hat, which also eventually caught on with others. The costumes and signs became a part of the show itself and got crazier and crazier as the show went on.

The most frequently-asked question was if the show provided the zany costumes for the studio audience. The standard response was that all contestants came to the studio "dressed as they are", in the words of Jay Stewart.

Reception

Upon the original Let's Make a Deal's debut, journalist Charles Witbeck was skeptical of the show's chances of success, noting that the previous four NBC programs to compete with CBS' Password had failed. Some critics described the show as "mindless" and "demeaning to contestants and audiences alike."

By 1974, however, the show had spent more than a decade at or near the top of daytime ratings, and became the highest-rated syndicated primetime program. At the time, the show held the world's record for the longest waiting list for tickets in show-business history – there were 350 seats available for each show, and a wait time of two-to-three years after requesting a ticket.

In 2001, Let's Make a Deal was ranked as #18 on TV Guide's list of "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time." In 2006, GSN aired a series of specials counting down its own list of the "50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time", on which Let's Make a Deal was #7.

Episode status

Many of the show's estimated 4,700 episodes exist:
  • NBC Daytime/Nighttime: Status is unknown, though it is very likely that the original tapes were wiped as they were recorded over by NBC with new programming in an era when videotape was an expensive commodity. The 1963 pilot exists, with Wendell Niles as announcer, contestants in normal business attire (typical of its first season), and a Zonk behind one of the doors in the Big Deal (worth $2,005). The 1967 nighttime finale exists in the Library of Congress, along with a few scattered daytime episodes. Three daytime episodes are at the Paley Center for Media.
  • ABC Daytime: More than 500 episodes exist. A clip from the ABC daytime premiere was used on Monty Hall's "Biography", which aired during Game Show Week on A&E. Another episode from 1969 was found, which features a gaffe that Hall himself rated as his most embarrassing moment on Let's Make a Deal – at the end of the show, he attempted to make a deal with a woman carrying a baby's bottle. Noting that it had a removable rubber nipple, he offered the woman $100 if she could show him another nipple (she didn't). This clip was restored utilizing the LiveFeed Video Imaging kinescope restoration process, and was re-aired in 2008 as part of NBC's Most Outrageous Moments series.
  • ABC Nighttime/1971-1977 Syndicated: Exist almost in their entirety and have been seen on GSN in the past. The Family Channel reran the syndicated series from June 7, 1993 to March 29, 1996.
('NOTE: All episodes exist from 1980 onward.)
  • The 1980-1981 Canadian version was seen in reruns on the Global Television Network for much of the 1980s.
  • The 1984-1986 syndicated version has been seen on GSN in the past. Reruns previously aired on the USA Network from December 29, 1986 to December 30, 1988 and The Family Channel from August 30, 1993 to March 29, 1996.
  • The 1990s NBC version has not been seen since its cancellation.
  • The 2003 NBC prime time version only aired three of the five episodes produced, with no rebroadcasts since.


International

RTL Group holds international (and as of February 2009, American) rights to the show, and has licensed the show to 14 countries.
  • An Australian version aired from 1976-1977 on Channel Nine. A new Australian version of Let's Make a Deal has had its pilot taped and is expected to air on the Nine Network once again.
  • The Frenchmarker version was called Le Bigdil and aired weeknights from 1998-2004 on TF1marker. Although the framing concept of the show is similar to the American version of Let's Make a Deal, stunts similar to those seen on Beat the Clock are played throughout the show as well.
  • A Germanmarker version called Geh aufs Ganze! ran from 1992-2003. The show began on Sat.1 and later moved to kabel 1. The show was initially hosted Jörg Draeger, who was later succeeded by Elmar Hörig. The German version of the Zonk was an always a red and black plush mouse the trader got to take home.
  • The show is scheduled to air on Alpha TV in Greecemarker as an hour-long series. 140 episodes have been ordered.
  • A Spanish-language American version called Trato Hecho aired on Univision in 2005. Guillermo Huesca was the host.
  • The Turkishmarker version is Seç Bakalım, hosted by Erhan Yazıcıoğlu with Spice Girl Geri Halliwell as a model.
  • An Indonesian version debuted on the Antv network April 2006, as Superdeal 2 Milyar (The 2 Billion Rupiah Superdeal).
  • An Indian version was aired on Star Plus for two seasons and was called Khul Ja Sim Sim.


Home games

In 1964, Milton Bradley released a home version of Let's Make a Deal featuring gameplay similar to the television show. In 1974, Ideal Toys released an updated version of the game featuring Hall on the box cover. An electronic tabletop version by Tiger Electronics was released in 1998. In the late summer of 2006, an interactive DVD version of Let's Make a Deal was released by Imagination Games, which also features classic clips from the Monty Hall years of the show.

Various U.S. lotteries have included instant lottery tickets based on Let's Make a Deal.

2009 version

Model Alison Fiori models one of the 2009 version's "zonk" prizes, a live llama.
July 8, 2009 a non-airing pilot was taped at CBS Television Citymarker in Hollywood, California. Hosted by Wayne Brady, the show put out a casting call. Components featured the same "zonks" behind one of the three curtains and Wayne choosing contestants in the audience based upon their attention-grabbing creative costuming. With the show now owned by FremantleMedia North America, the staff of fellow Fremantle game show The Price Is Right assisted in production of the pilot, with executive producer Michael G. Richards, announcer Rich Fields and model Rachel Reynolds participating in their respective roles. Let's Make a Deal was one of three games the network auditioned, along with Pyramid and The Dating Game, to fill the time slot vacated by the cancellation of the soap opera Guiding Light. Monty Hall returns to this version as a consultant.

This version premiered on October 5, 2009 in the time slot vacated by Guiding Light - 9 AM, 10 AM or 3 PM ET (9 AM or 2 PM in all other time zones), by the local station's choice, dependent on local commitments to syndicated programming. The current version tapes at the Tropicana Resortmarker in Las Vegas. Jonathan Mangum, a longtime Brady associate from his former self-titled daytime talk show and his current "Making It Up" live stage show at The Venetian Hotel casinomarker, joins Brady as the show's announcer and former Deal or No Deal model Alison Fiori serves as the show's model.

Unlike previous versions, only one contestant plays for the Big Deal of the Day.

References

  1. The Intelligencer - June 7, 1993
  2. TV Guide - March 23-29, 1996
  3. The Intelligencer - December 29, 1986
  4. The Intelligencer - December 30, 1988
  5. The Intelligencer - August 30, 1993
  6. The Intelligencer - March 29, 1996
  7. http://www.timesunion.com/data/pork/
  8. During tapings the contestants are encouraged to be high energy and dance in the isles during commercial breaks.


External links




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