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“Press Your Luck” is an American television show that first appeared in 1983. In the show, contestants answer questions and then spin a huge wheel of luck to win money and prizes. If a player stops at “Whammy” they will lose their money and prizes. The show became famous for its unique game mechanics and funny moments when players try to avoid the Whammy.
A new version of Press Your Luck came out in 2019 and was an update of the classic show for a modern audience. This version kept the basic rules: contestants answer questions and then decide when to stop the wheel and which prizes to choose. However, the show has also made some changes to make it more exciting and engaging for modern viewers.
The new version of “Press Your Luck” utilized new technology and visual effects to create a more vibrant and dynamic atmosphere. The show has also captured the attention of viewers because of its host and charismatic host who conducts the game and maintains the suspense.
Each episode of Celebrity Family Feud features three contestants competing across four rounds: two question rounds and two “big board” rounds.
In the question rounds, contestants earn spins by answering trivia questions correctly. The questions start as toss-ups, with contestants buzzing in to answer. Correct answers earn three spins, while choosing the correct multiple choice option yields one spin. No penalties are incurred for incorrect answers, but failing to respond after buzzing in results in being frozen out of the question.
In the “big board” rounds, contestants use their spins to win cash and prizes. The game board consists of 18 spaces cycling through cash amounts, prizes, and the Whammy. Contestants hit a buzzer to freeze the board and collect whatever is lit. Landing on a Whammy resets the total to zero, and accumulating four Whammies results in elimination.
Special spaces on the board include Big Bucks, Pick a Corner, Add a One, Double Your Money + One Spin, Money or Lose a Whammy, Take the Lead + One Spin, and The Big 40. Except for Big Bucks and Pick a Corner, these spaces are removed after being hit once.
In the first “big board” round, initial control goes to the contestant with the fewest spins earned. Passed spins must be played by the recipient, but are converted to earned spins if a Whammy is hit. The game ends when all spins are exhausted or forfeited.
The second half of the game follows the same format but with higher cash and prize values. The contestant with the highest score at the end becomes the champion, while the other two receive parting gifts.
If two contestants Whammy out, the remaining contestant may play one spin at a time until using their last spin, choosing to stop, or Whammying out. In the 1983 version, if all three contestants Whammied out, no one returned as champion for the next game.
In the 2019 revival of the show, there’s an extra bonus round not found in the original version. Here, the daily winner gets a chance at the “big board” to snag up to $1,000,000. The champion goes through five rounds, with a set number of spins in each: five in the first round, four in the second, and three in the rest. The game board has cash, prizes, special spots, and Whammys, just like the main game, but the values increase as the rounds progress. Some prizes are tailored to fit the champion’s preferences. If the champion lands on a Whammy, it erases all bonus round winnings, but doesn’t touch the main-game winnings. If the champion finishes a round with some money in the bank, they can decide to end the bonus game and keep their winnings or continue to the next round, with any lost personalized prizes returning to the board if hit by a Whammy. The bonus game stops immediately if the champion hits a fourth Whammy. If the champion completes all rounds, they take home the entire bank. However, if the bank hits or exceeds $500,000 at any point, the game wraps up, and extra cash is added to reach $1,000,000. Starting from Season 4, there’s a “Prize-a-Palooza” space in the final round, granting every displayed prize if hit
Press Your Luck is a revival of the game show format called Second Chance, created by producer Bill Carruthers. Originally hosted by Jim Peck, Second Chance aired on ABC in 1977. Similar to Press Your Luck, contestants answered trivia questions to control a board filled with cash and prizes, including spaces with a devil that could take everything away. Carruthers, along with Jan McCormack, began developing Press Your Luck in 1983.
Peter Tomarken, previously an editor for Women’s Wear Daily magazine, rose to television fame in 1983 with the NBC game show Hit Man. He was selected to host Press Your Luck after Hit Man was canceled. The show premiered on CBS in September 1983, replacing Child’s Play. Rod Roddy served as the announcer, with John Harlan and Charlie O’Donnell filling in occasionally. Carruthers, the creator of the show, also directed and provided the voice for the Whammy character, animated by Savage Steve Holland using computer graphics, a pioneering move in game show production.
In 1986, CBS moved Press Your Luck to a new time slot to accommodate a revival of Card Sharks hosted by Bob Eubanks. The show replaced Body Language in the network’s afternoon schedule. The CBS version aired its final episode on September 26, 1986, with the last tapings occurring in August of the same year. After the cancellation, Tomarken hosted other game shows and infomercials until his tragic death in a plane crash in 2006, along with his wife.
Press Your Luck made headlines in 1984 when contestant Michael Larson won big by exploiting a loophole in the game’s board patterns. Larson, an unemployed ice cream truck driver from Ohio, meticulously studied recorded episodes frame-by-frame, discovering non-random sequences. During his appearance on the show, Larson spun a Whammy on his first turn but then went on an incredible streak of 45 spins without hitting another one. His spins mostly landed on the highest-valued spaces, earning him a total of $110,237 in cash and prizes, spread over two episodes aired on June 8 and 11, 1984.
CBS investigated Larson’s strategy and determined it wasn’t cheating, allowing him to keep his winnings. However, they reprogrammed the board with new patterns to prevent others from replicating his success. Larson’s story was later featured in various media, including a two-hour documentary on Game Show Network hosted by Peter Tomarken in 2003. It also appeared in TV Guide magazine in 1994 and was the subject of an episode on PRI’s This American Life in 2010. Additionally, Larson’s tale was covered in the first episode of Game Show Network’s documentary series Cover Story in 2018.
Rebroadcasts, syndication, and digital television networks
In early 1987, Republic Pictures packaged 130 episodes of Press Your Luck for off-network syndication. These episodes originally aired on CBS from February 25 to August 23, 1985. They also marked the show’s debut on USA Network from September 14, 1987, to December 30, 1988. Press Your Luck continued airing on USA Network until October 13, 1995, when the network discontinued its game show block.
Game Show Network aired the show from September 2001 to March 2009, featuring episodes from February 1984 to November 1985. The show returned to Game Show Network in 2012, airing episodes from the September 1983 premiere to February 1984. From 2014 to 2016, Game Show Network broadcast episodes 561 to 696, originally aired from November 1985 to May 1986. Following this, Game Show Network aired episodes from 1984 to February 1985 until the show was once again removed from the schedule in May 2017. In December 2017 to February 2018, Game Show Network showcased episodes from 1984 as part of a Saturday night game show block.
On July 2, 2018, reruns of Press Your Luck began airing on GameTV in Canada.
Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck
On April 15, 2002, Game Show Network introduced a revival known as Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck, hosted by Todd Newton with Gary Kroeger as announcer. Although a pilot episode was hosted by Tomarken. This version maintained the original gameplay and was touted by Game Show Network executives as a contemporary take on the classic. One notable addition was the “Double Whammy”, which not only wiped out the contestant’s earnings but also subjected them to physical stunts like objects dropping from above. Whammy! aired from April 2002 to December 2003.
On February 21, 2019, Fremantle released a casting call for a fresh edition of Press Your Luck, inviting potential contestants to apply. ABC announced its partnership with Fremantle to revive the series in early 2019, with new hour-long episodes already in pre-production, including Press Your Luck and Card Sharks. John Quinn, known for his work on Celebrity Name Game, serves as the executive producer. Elizabeth Banks was chosen to host the show. Neil Ross initially served as the announcer and voiced the Whammy for the first four seasons, with Chris Ahearn taking over both roles from season five onwards, although the Whammy animations featuring Ross continued to be used. The series premiered on June 12, 2019, after an early premiere the day before. The first season comprised eight weekly hour-long episodes. Despite the 2023 Writers Guild of America strike, ABC confirmed in mid-2023 that the show’s fifth season would debut as planned later in the year.
Press Your Luck has seen international adaptations since its debut. In Australia, Ian Turpie hosted a version aired on Seven Network from 1987 to 1988, produced by Grundy Worldwide with Bill Mason as executive producer. A German adaptation called Glück am Drücker (“Good Luck on the Trigger”) aired on RTLplus in 1992, hosted by Al Munteanu, featuring an animated vulture named “Raffi” instead of Whammys. Another German remake, Drück Dein Glück (“Push Your Luck”), aired daily in 1999 on RTL II with Guido Kellerman as host, featuring an animated shark as its mascot. In the United Kingdom, an ITV version ran for two seasons from June 6, 1991, to September 20, 1992, in the HTV West region, hosted by Paul Coia. However, it was canceled after the second season due to budget cuts following the ITV franchise auctions of 1991 and declining ratings.
Additionally, Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck was adapted in the Philippines as Whammy! Push Your Luck on GMA Network from 2007 to 2008, hosted by Paolo Bediones and Rufa Mae Quinto.
In 1988, GameTek launched a computer game version of Press Your Luck for IBM PC compatibles and the Commodore 64. Ludia Inc., now part of RTL Group, in collaboration with Ubisoft, released Press Your Luck: 2010 Edition on October 27, 2009, across various platforms including PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Nintendo DS, and Wii. Later, on August 24, 2010, the game hit the PlayStation 3 as part of the Game Show Party bundle pack alongside Family Feud: 2010 Edition and The Price is Right: 2010 Edition.
Another version, Press Your Luck 2010 Edition, featuring Terry McGovern as the off-screen host, came out in the U.S. for multiple consoles and PC. Additionally, a game based on the 2019 format, featuring a slot machine and the Big Board bonus game, was released.
In January 2012, a Facebook app developed by Ludia, based on Press Your Luck, debuted. In this version, ten contestants participate in a single-question round, aiming to answer questions correctly for cash rewards ranging from $500 to $1,000 or a Whammy. The faster a contestant answers correctly, the more bonus cash they receive. However, answering the Whammy question incorrectly results in losing all accumulated money.
Press Your Luck Talent
Elizabeth Banks, Host
Elizabeth Banks is an American actress, producer, and director known for her roles in films such as “Pitch Perfect,” “The Hunger Games,” and “Spider-Man.” She has also successfully hosted television shows, including “Press Your Luck” in 2019. Her career is marked by diversity and talent, actively working in the entertainment industry as an actress, producer, and director.