Monday, August 29, 2011

A Smart Spin on a Kid's Game...

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

Tic-Tac-Toe is one of those things that I don't remember learning how to play. I know that I enjoyed the game and received an electronic version around the time I turned six years old. I also remember the first time I figured out basic strategy, rather than randomly starting where I wanted and not always considering the defensive. Tic-Tac-Dough is quite more advanced than the time-killer that entertains small children, but it has the same basic premise at heart. 

Brief history:
Originally, the game aired on NBC from 1956-1959 (taped in NYC), then on CBS and in syndication from 1978-1986 (taped in Hollywood), and a short syndicated run from 1990 to 1991 (taped in Hollywood). The first version premiered during daytime television in July, with evening (color) broadcasts starting in 1957. What is sadly the most memorable thing about the early history, however, is that the show was related in the large quiz show scandals taking place. Producer Howard Felsher was caught red-handed, and it is estimated that 75% of the evening shows were rigged to a certain degree. It is estimated that Felsher pleaded with 50 or more people to lie on the stand. The daytime version was not caught in fraudulent practices. The 70s tried the show again, also marketing to a summer daytime audience originally. International adaptations aired in the UK (1957-1967), Germany (1958-1967 and 1992), Australia (1960-1964), and Russia (1990s). Reruns of the latter two versions have been seen on GSN and USA.

The game: Basically there's a tic-tac-toe board that you want to fill. You earn your mark by answering a question correctly, and the reigning winner plays the Xs. Each of the nine squares had a category, and you had to answer the question in that square to get your mark there. The center question required two responses. After each player had a turn, the categories shuffled around. As a question was answered, money would go into a jackpot for the winner. As soon as the game was going to end in a draw, the players started over on a new board. The jackpot carried over. You could keep winning until you were defeated - there was no maximum number of appearances. There were a bunch of "special" categories as well, that could give a player extra turns, allow them to get a new question, make the opponent answer instead, and several other different options. Here's an episode from 1985 in full, allowing you to see a few rounds (the quality isn't amazing):

oh, and episodes did "straddle," meaning that they could cut off and continue next time, like you saw if you tuned in until the end of the clip.

Notable changes to the way the game is played: In the original show, a winner could retire or take on a new competitor... but if you chose the latter, their winnings would come out of your own! Beginning in the late 70s, Fridays were "hat days," and host Wink Martindale would don viewer-sent headwear. From 1978 onward, categories shuffled after each question. During the summer of 1978, draws didn't happen - a tiebreaker was asked instead. Also at that time the limit was $25,000 maximum winnings (thought from '78-'86 you could win a car if you won five matches in a row!). In both the 70s-80s version and the 90s version, there was a Bonus Round as well. There, you had to pick from the nine squares to win money and prizes while avoiding a square that had a dragon behind it. From 1980 onward, "secret categories" were denoted in red. Correct answers to these doubled the value of the jackpot, though later they became "grand questions" and only added $1,000 instead. In the 90s, the jackpot was reset each time a new board was used.

Special Contestants: In 1980, Tom McKee defeated 43 opponents over nine weeks, winning EIGHT cars and over $300,000 in cash and prizes. He missed 32 questions out of like 385 during his reign.

Favorite Rounds: There's not much as far as rounds go, but I do enjoy watching when the contestants have to play the center square or do the "special" categories. For what it's worth, I'm NOT a fan of the "bonus round" and avoiding the dragon.

My take: I actually think that this game is pretty tough. The questions are really all over the place, and I'm not sure how I'd do at all. Plus, tic-tac-toe was never my game as an adult, so I'd need lots of practice before giving it a shot. I'm curious as to whether anyone I know would jump at the chance to play this one or if people tend to be as hesitant as I.

Did you ever watch Tic-Tac-Dough? Did you see more than one version of it? What about when - was it in reruns or in the original runs?
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