Thursday, August 31, 2017

Classic TV: The Joker's Wild (1972)

Jack Barry cemented his comeback in television, at least on a national level, with CBS' The Joker's Wild, which marks its 45th anniversary on Labor Day.

Barry had been exiled in the wake of the quiz show scandals of the late 50's, and after working for a chemical company in New York, returned to television on a regional level first before returning to network television in 1969, taking over for Dennis Wholey as the host of ABC's Generation Gap. Two years later, Barry sold The Reel Game to ABC, with himself as host, and, at the same time, a test run of Joker began in Los Angeles on KTLA before CBS picked up Joker, which launched on Labor Day, 1972.

Game play was different in the early days, as opposed to the end game that everyone remembers, where contestants had to beat the Devil in order to win big prizes, a gimmick that was copied on other Barry-produced programs (i.e. Tic Tac Dough, Bullseye). Joker was one of two shows that Barry sold to CBS, the other being Hollywood's Talking, a revamped version of the 1967 ABC series, Everybody's Talking (Barry was an uncredited co-creator of the show). Barry also sold Blank Check to NBC.

The Joker's Wild's initial run ran for three years (1972-5), and then was brought back in syndication in 1977 after reruns of the original series had proven to be successful on local channels around the country. The syndicated version was also the most successful, running for 9 years (1977-86), with Bill Cullen stepping in after Barry passed away in 1984. The last incarnation ran in 1990 for 1 season.

For the 45th anniversary, TBS is bringing Joker back, with rapper-actor Snoop Dogg as host and co-executive producer, partnered with ultra-busy Michael Strahan (The $100,000 Pyramid, Good Morning America, Fox NFL Sunday).

Let's take a look at an episode from the original Joker's 1st week.

In 1979, Barry spun off a junior version of the show, Joker! Joker! Joker! (previously reviewed at Saturday Morning Archives), a return to the days when Barry was producing shows for children (i.e. Juvenile Jury). This series ran for 2 years.

Rating: A.

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