$ale of the Century
And so it began on January 3, 1983, with the debut of $ale of the Century (Get it? They used a dollar-sign instead of an ‘S’. Man, they were clever!) Yes, back when game shows were game shows, and people could actually win stuff on TV without having to survive in the Amazon for a month or lose 180 pounds in a week…
Hosted by Jim Perry, who had cut his teeth on Card Sharks from 1978-81, it was a fast-paced, super-fun game that did so well it lasted for more than six years. And, really, what’s not to love about it?
Three contestants sat there battling it out with a series of very easy general knowledge questions (“We’ve all heard of William F. Cody, but usually under another name. What is it?”). Get it right (“Buffalo Bill”) and you score five dollars. Get it wrong, you lose five. Simple.
Along the way Mr. Perry (usually looking dapper in a double-breasted suit) would offer up an Instant Bargain or two to whoever was in the lead: Buy a $550 hi-fi for just $8! And then there was the always-interesting Fame Game portion of the show where Jim would read clues to a famous person’s identity. Be the first to buzz in with the right answer, and you got a shot at finding a money card on the big board, buddy!
Wrap the whole thing up with a speed round (obviously) to see who gets a chance at the really big prizes, and you, sir, have got yourself one of the best game shows of the 80s.
Lots of contestants came and went over the years, but none was more famous than Mark DeCarlo (yes, he who went on to host Studs in the early 90s). When all was said and done, he’d walk away with more the $115,000 in cash and prizes.
And of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the show’s lovely hostess Summer Bartholomew (TRIVIA ALERT: She won the 1975 Miss USA pageant!). Once she joined the show in 1984, all the pieces were in place, and $ale of the Century was on its way.
After almost 1,600 episodes, the $ale finally ended in 1989, but not without first earning a special place in our hearts.
God, how we miss game shows.
We ♥ $ale of the Century.