Let's Make a Deal

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Let's Make a Deal was a television game show that was filmed at Disney-MGM Studio in Soundstage 2 from 1990-91. The show was based around deals offered to members of the audience by the host. The contestants usually had to weigh the possibility of an offer being for a valuable prize, or an undesirable item, referred to as a "zonk".

The original, most widely-known version aired from 1963 to 1976 on both NBC and ABC. A weekly nighttime syndicated version of the show aired from 1971 through 1977. Two more syndicated Let's Make a Deal series aired daily in the 1980s. The first, based in Canada, aired one season from 1980 to 1981. The second, called The All New Let's Make a Deal, aired for two seasons from 1984 to 1986.

The two most recent regular series of Let's Make a Deal have aired on NBC. The first, a daily daytime series, aired during the 1990-91 season. This is the version that was taped at the park. The second, a weekly nighttime series, aired for several weeks in 2003.


[edit] Format

Each episode of Let's Make a Deal consisted of several "deals" between the host and a member or members of the audience as contestants. Audience members were picked at the host's whim as the show went along, and couples were often selected to play as "one" contestant. The "deals" were mini-games within the show that took several formats.

In the simplest format, a contestant was given a prize, and the host offered them the opportunity to trade for another prize; however, the offered prize was unknown. It might be concealed on the stage behind one of three curtains, or behind "boxes" onstage (large panels painted to look like boxes), within smaller boxes brought out to the audience, or occasionally in other formats. The initial prize given to the contestant might also be concealed, such as in a box, wallet or purse; or the player might be initially given a box or curtain. The format varied widely.

Technically, contestants were supposed to bring something to trade in, but this rule was seldom enforced. On several occasions, a contestant would actually be asked to trade in an item such as his or her shoes or purse, only to receive the item back at the end of the deal as a "prize". On at least one occasion, the purse was taken backstage and a high-valued prize was placed inside of it.

Prizes generally were either a legitimate prize, cash, or a "zonk". Legitimate prizes ran the gamut of what was given away on game shows during the era (trips, fur coats, electronics, furniture, appliances and cars). Zonks were unwanted booby prizes which could be anything from animals to large amounts of food, or something outlandish like a giant article of clothing, a room full of junked furniture, or a junked car. Sometimes zonks were legitimate prizes but of a low value such as matchbox cars, wheelbarrows, T-shirts, small food or non-food grocery prizes, etc. Though usually considered joke prizes, contestants legally won the zonks; however, after the taping of the show, any trader who had been zonked would be offered a consolation prize instead of having to take home the actual zonk. This is partly because some of the zonks were intrinsically impossible to take delivery of: for example, if a contestant won an animal, he or she could legally insist that it be awarded to them, but chances are that the contestant did not have the means to care for it. In fact, a disclaimer at the end of the credits of later 1970s episodes read "Some traders accept reasonable duplicates of zonk prizes."

[edit] Other deal formats

Deals were often more complicated than the basic format described above. Additionally, some deals took the form of games of chance, and others in the form of pricing games, similar to those used on The Price Is Right:

[edit] Trading deals

  • Choosing an envelope, purse, wallet, etc., which concealed dollar bills. One of them concealed a pre-announced dollar bill (usually $1 or $5), which awarded a car or trip. The other envelopes contained a larger amount of money as a consolation prize. The player had to decide whether to keep his/her choice or trade.
  • A player might be given a roll of bills, with only the outermost one showing, and have the chance to either keep it or trade it for a box/curtain. Sometimes a large outer bill hid a roll of small ones, and vice versa.
  • Three unrelated traders acted as a team on deals. Sometimes, only one was allowed to speak for the team without consultation of the others; other times, a "majority rules" format was used. Usually after a series of deals, the host broke up the team and each contestant could individually decide on one or more options on a final deal.
  • At the start of the show, a contestant would be given a large grocery item (e.g., a box of candy bars), almost always containing a cash amount. Throughout the show, he/she was given several chances to trade the box and/or give it to another trader, in exchange for the box or curtain. Only after the Big Deal of the Day was awarded was the cash amount or prize given. Variant: A "claim check" was given to a trader at the start of the show for any prize shown during the regular deals and chances to trade throughout the episode. The prize ranged from cash and cars to zonks. The "claim check" was sometimes played as the very last regular deal, however, with one sure deal offered in lieu of its contents.

[edit] Games of chance

  • A contestant or a couple was presented with a choice of three keys, one of which unlocked anything from boxes to cars. A variation of this game involved more than one contestant selecting a key; in this case, more than one key would open the item, and contestants could trade in their key for an unknown behind a curtain/box or a cash amount.
  • Deciding whether an announced prize was real or imitation, and choosing a cash amount or the box/curtain as a substitute.
  • Beat the Dealer: three contestants would choose envelopes to start the game; two of them contained $500 cash, the other $50. The two dealers who chose the $500 continued on to try to win a middling prize by picking the higher-suited card out of nine off a game board. The one who won could then risk the prize and the cash by picking two more cards - one for themselves and one for the host, winner take all. If the player picked the higher card for themselves, they added a new car (or another big prize); otherwise, they lost everything. Once during the 1984-85 season, three grocery items were shown for the final part of this deal. The trader picked one item for Monty and one for themselves, and if the contestant picked the more expensive item, they would win the third-tier prize.
  • Deciding whether an egg given to a contestant was raw or hard boiled and choosing a cash amount or box/curtain as a substitute. A raw egg was typically worth $500 to $1,000.

[edit] Skill-based games

These games were played for a grand prize, such as a car or trip and almost always involved grocery items. At certain stages of these games, the host often offered a sure-thing deal (a prize or cash) to quit before the answer was revealed. If all of His offers were turned down and the grand prize lost, Hall would usually give the grocery items to the contestant as a consolation prize along with $50 or $100 in cash.

  • Arranging small prizes (usually $5–50) in order of dollar value.
  • Determining which item out of several was appearing on the show for the first time.
  • Choosing which item was a pre-announced price, or added up to a certain amount.
  • Recalling which grocery items were concealed beneath the letters in the name of a car model or trip destination. This is generally considered the hardest of the games, since the traders would be more concerned about pricing than the name of the item.
  • Pricing successive items within a predetermined amount from the suggested retail prices (SRP) (on the West coast). The first item was always easy while the last item was always more difficult. This is because the earlier items were significantly less expensive than the last one, which was usually missed by as much as $10.
  • Pricing items with the total of all guesses within a predetermined amount from the total of the SRPs; a similar concept would be used for the game Check-Out on The Price Is Right.
  • The contestant is given a dollar amount (often $5), and is asked to price several items. The difference between the contestant's guess and the actual SRP of the item was deducted from the contestant's money. If the contestant had even a penny left, they won the grand prize. The last item was always more difficult, so the object was to come as close as possible to the MSRP on each of the previous items. This concept is somewhat similar to Cliff Hangers and Lucky $even on The Price Is Right.
  • Two traders competed against each other to price a series of four grocery items or small prizes. The first contestant gave a price, and the opponent gave one; the one who was closer got a cash prize (e.g., $100). Each succeeding item was worth more (e.g., $200, $300 and $400), with the players alternating turns going first. The first trader (or team) to collect a pre-set amount (usually $700) won a grand prize, such as a car or a trip (and got to keep any leftover money). The losing contestant was offered a regular take-it-or-leave-it deal in exchange for any cash accumulated; the consolation deal was also played for both teams if both obtained less than the required amount. Usually this grocery deal had the winners of each item winning $100 for the first, $200 for the second, $300 for the third, and $400 for the fourth. However, in the 1984-86 run, the progression was $200–$200–$200–$300, and on at least one occasion, five items were used worth $100 for the first two, $200 for the second two, and $300 for the fifth.

[edit] Big Deal of the Day

Each show ended with the Big Deal of the Day. Beginning with the day's biggest winner, and moving in order to the winner of the lowest prize value, the host would ask each contestant if they wanted to trade their winnings for a spot in the Big Deal (whose value was usually revealed at that point). He would continue asking until two contestants agreed to participate.

The big deal involved three doors, famously known as "Door #1", "Door #2", and "Door #3", each of which contained a prize or prize package. The top winner of the two was offered the first choice of a door, and the second contestant was then offered a choice of the two remaining doors. One door hid the day's Big Deal, which was usually more than the top prize offered to that point. It often included the day's most expensive prize (a luxury or sports car, a trip, furniture/appliances, a fur, cash or a combination of two or more of said items). The other two doors concealed prizes or prize packages of lesser value. Zonks were never included in the Big Deal, although there was always the possibility that a contestant could wind up with less than his or her original winnings.

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