Monday, January 17, 2011

Next Time You Hear That Beep...

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

... think of all the fun you can have on Supermarket Sweep! I first got cable in 1994 or so, which I think I've mentioned before. It was a big deal to my family, which previously only got the 6 or so channels that you can get over the air. This is actually really amusing, when you keep in mind how much TV I watched before age 10, haha. Anyway, my brother and I soon stumbled upon Supermarket Sweep and it became a staple of our post-dinner TV on weeknights, hehe. We used to get really into it, and were surprised at how poor some of the contestants were at the show!

Brief history: Although I didn't know it existed until the 90s, Supermarket Sweep actually premiered in 1965 on ABC, and was done in a real supermarket in New York City. The idea was born when a husband and wife thought it would be neat to just run through a supermarket and grab whatever you wanted. Well, after some tweaking, the show was born and came to stay in the 11am ABC time slot for two years. The show was off the air for a really long time before getting revived for Lifetime in 1990. It lasted five years and then another three in reruns, and this time was done in a mock supermarket in a studio instead of the real thing. PAX gave it a go from 2000-2003 with an additional year of reruns (again in a studio), but that was it. Now the show hasn't been seen for six or seven years, but I think it would still do well, especially with the economic downfall and the rising price of food. Plus, with all of the organic items out there changing prices left and right, it would make for some interesting twists. Plus, there are more than 1,000 episodes out there, so reruns could go a long time before repeating!

The game: The original game had multiple rounds, played by two teams of two, generally a husband and wife on a team. Round 1 was very Price is Right in that, one at a time, six products were shown, and whoever got the price correct won the item and 10 seconds to their time for the second round. Both teams played in the second round, where one person from each team went on a run through the market, throwing high-valued goods into the cart. The carts were totaled, then the other members of each team went and did the same thing. Carts were totaled again, and the team with the highest overall amount won the game and the privilege to play the next day. Both teams were allowed to keep everything they had put into the carts, so it was really a winner's game!

Notable changes to the way the game is played: When the show went to Lifetime, there were three teams, and they could be parent and child, best friends, siblings, etc. They wore matching sweatshirts to distinguish the teams. Teams were called from the audience by what grocery item they were holding (which we passed out before the show). There was first a question round, where one person from each team competed at a time, for two mini-rounds. Then there was a Round Robin round where the teammates alternated quickly between questions. Questions ranged from pricing to slogans and jungles to various word games about grocery items. Winners got 10 seconds added per correct answer. There was also a mini-sweep round, where a rhyming couplet was given and the team who correctly guessed which item it referred to had the chance to have one member run into the market and retrieve it. If they did it in 30 seconds, they got $50 added to the end round. If they did it in 20 seconds, they got $100 added. In the Big Sweep round, there was now a limit of 5 per item, plus you'd get penalized if you knocked things over and didn't clean them up. It was also at this point that you won the amount of money you'd racked up as your prize rather than the actual grocery items. There was also a special bonus of a giant stuffed animal or sign worth $50-300, but you had to get this item back to the checkout before time expired for it to count (normal grocery cart didn't have to make it back to count)... the best part about this was that you could steal it out of someone else's cart if they left it unattended. There were also smaller bonuses, like grounding a bag of coffee, weighing a bag of candy, putting certain bread items in a basket, or getting specific magazines. There were also buttons throughout the store that would give you clues as to what a special product would be that day. One of the craziest and most time-consuming options that appeared was digging through a barrel to find a marked item within. My brother liked it when they had to build a hoagie as a bonus. Oh, and then there was a BONUS SWEEP. The team that won the Big Sweep was given a clue and both members of the team ran into the grocery store to find the item, which had another clue, and then the second item had a clue to find the money prize. If you found one item, you got just $200... if you found 2, you got $400... if you found all three you got $5,000. . .

Special contestants: I don't know if there were ever any famous people as contestants on this one, but they did do some sort of military week at some point. There are some interesting people on there sometimes, but since it's so old, the video clips online are all pretty poor in both audio and video qualities, so I'll skip trying to bring in any specific examples.

Favorite Rounds: In one season of the Lifetime version, a giant Frankenstein walked through the aisles during the Big Sweep, which made the contestant have to turn around whenever they encountered him, and I thought that was great. I also remember a big tournament where teams played for a month to try to win a pair of cars, that was cool since the final week had different games and stuff. Once, when I was about twelve, I saw a question during the first round that I never forgot, probably because I was going through puberty and that sort of thing interested me at the time... it was the three guys' turn to answer, and the question was, "what cup size is the average American woman's bra?" and the first guy goes "C" and it's wrong. the second guy guesses "D" and it's wrong. The third guy hesitates before trying "B" and is surprised that he's right. At that point, what was he wavering between??

My take: I'd compete if given the opportunity, and I think I'd do well. My brother and I always thought that we'd compete together, but at this point in my life I'd probably choose my friend, Heather, as a partner. She knows prices, is into competition, thinks fast on her feet, and runs quickly, LoL. When it comes to the Big Sweep, I'd certainly go with diapers and turkeys like everyone does, but formula was a big one they always missed, so I'd sweep five of those into my cart. Spices are another category where you could rack up a lot pretty quickly, and those were rarely used. Plus, they're tiny. Another item I'd be sure to go with is coffee. Although something like 24-packs of soda would ring up the bill, they're just too large and take up too much cart space to help too much.

Did you ever watch Supermarket Sweep? Did you see more than one version of it, or just the Lifetime one? Who would you partner with if the show was still on the air and you were competing?
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