Do You Remember? #85: Caesar’s Challenge

We’ve already talked about how hard it was in the early 90s to debut a daytime game show hit on the major broadcast networks, sometimes you’d get lucky and then other times, not so much. This is another one of those shows that never really went anywhere, Caesar’s Challenge:

Caesars Challenge is an American game show that aired on NBC from June 14, 1993 to January 14, 1994 and emanated from the Circus Maximus Theatre inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ahmad Rashād hosted the series and, in keeping with the theme of the show’s location, he was assisted by a man dressed as a Roman gladiator. Dan Doherty played the role for most of the show’s run, with Chad Brown and Zach Ruby handling the earliest episodes before Doherty joined the show.

The show was a co-production of Rosner Television and Stephen J. Cannell Productions.

Three contestants competed, and three rounds were played. The object in each round was to solve a jumbled word displayed on a 9-screen slot machine on stage by placing letters in their proper places. In order to do this, the contestants answered a series of multiple choice trivia questions that had three possible answer choices. Each new word was associated with a specific category, and a new set of questions were played for each word. Correct answers paid off at $100 in the first round, $200 in the second round, and $300 in the third round. Two words were played in each of the first two rounds, with the third round played until time was called with as many words they could get in as possible.

Correctly answering a question won money to the player that did so, as well as the right to place one of the letters. After a letter was placed, he/she got five seconds to guess it. One position in each word was designated the “Lucky Slot”, signified by a lighted red border surrounding the screen, and an instant cash jackpot was associated with it. The jackpot started each day at $500 and increased by that amount each word it went unclaimed, resetting to $500 once someone won it.

Once a word was correctly guessed, the player that did so won money based on how many letters were unplaced when the word was unscrambled. The value of each unplaced letter was equivalent to the value of the questions in the round ($100 in round one, $200 in round two, and $300 in round three as previously mentioned). If the player solved the word immediately after placing a letter in the Lucky Slot, the value of the jackpot was also added to his/her score.

If a word was in play when time was called in the third round, signified by the sound of a car horn, the Lucky Slot was taken out of play and the remaining unplaced letters were placed one at a time until someone guessed the word and earned the remaining money left from the unplaced letters. Buzzing in and answering incorrectly during this time locked a player out of the rest of the round. If a word was not in play when time was called in the third round, one final word was played; the letters of that word were placed one at a time until someone guessed the word.

The player with the most money at the end of the game won a prize package equivalent to his/her cash total (originally, the champion bought prizes with the money) and advanced to the bonus round. The other players left with parting gifts, including dinner for two and tickets to one of the headliner acts that were at Caesars at the time. In the case of a tie, another speed-up round was played between the tied players.

The idea for the series was kind of interesting, a Scrabble like game show centered around Caesar’s Palace, it’s a concept that I think could’ve easily played with some of the other game shows they had going at the time.

So, why didn’t it succeed? Caesars Challenge replaced Scattergories on NBC’s daytime schedule when it premiered on June 13, 1993 and inherited its timeslot of 12:30 pm Eastern. Some affiliates did not air Caesars Challenge at its scheduled time due to the affiliates’ longstanding practice of preempting programs that the networks aired in the noon hour in favor of news or syndicated programming; this resulted in some stations airing Caesars Challenge in another spot on their schedule while others did not air it at all. In the markets that did air the show at its normal time, Caesars Challenge faced off against CBS’ The Young and the Restless, and did not perform well enough against either that series or ABC’s Loving, its other competition. NBC cancelled Caesars Challenge after 31 weeks of episodes, and returned the 12:00 pm hour to its affiliates on January 17, 1994. However, NBC would take back the noon hour from its affiliates when Sunset Beach premiered in January 1997. USA later picked up the series and reran it in 1994.

A lot of people forget that the local news was not as all over the place as it aired today, most of the local newscasts aired at 6am, 12pm, 6pm, and 11pm, nowadays the local news can start as early as 4pm in some areas in the afternoon, 4am in the evening, and hell, some networks have even taken up a whole hour of news at 12pm nowadays. Plus it also doesn’t helped that the game show was competiting with two soap operas at the time.

So, the show was axed after six months and it’s a shame because Caesar’s Challenge was a fun little game show that I think in a better slot or on a better network, it would’ve succeeded. It should be revived by Game Show Network because I think a show like this could do really well on there but as it is now, it’s a forgotten piece of game show history.

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Posted in Do You Remember?

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