Thursday, January 28, 2016

Classic TV: Gambit (1972)

Regular visitors to this here blog know I grew up with game shows occupying a lot of home time during the summer months and school vacations. Hey, it was better than nothing.

In 1972, Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley sold two series to CBS. One, The Amateur's Guide to Love, with Gene Rayburn, was a flop. The other, Gambit, would stick around for 4 years (1972-6). The two shows marked the first H-Q series since the studio joined forces with Hanna-Barbera for Wacky Races, a children's show, four years earlier.

Gambit was a quiz game built around a simple game of blackjack. Host Wink Martindale asked the questions of two contestant couples, who played a best 2-of-3 match. Oh, this was so much fun!

Now, let's scope out a sample episode from Martindale's YouTube channel:

Four years after the series ended, H-Q revived the series, and relocated it to Sin City itself, as Las Vegas Gambit. However, rather than return to CBS, H-Q sold the revival to NBC, which used it to replace David Letterman's failed daytime yak-fest. Las Vegas Gambit lasted a year before being cancelled. The show was taped at the Tropicana Hotel, which would later be home to Let's Make a Deal. Ironically, the Tropicana was also home to a short-lived series that was slightly derivative of Gambit during its first run---Dealer's Choice, a syndicated series that went through two emcees during the course of its run. We'll discuss Dealer's Choice another time.

In more recent times, Heatter revived Gambit anew, but under a new name, Catch 21. This time, there were three individual contestants, with actor Alfonso Ribiero (currently hosting America's Funniest Home Videos) as emcee. That series lasted about 2-3 years, and now is in reruns on GSN.

Rating: A.

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