High Rollers Pilot: 1986
Ah, High Rollers. It was a fantastic show in the 70s. Hosted by the afro wearing Alex Trebek, and announced by Kenny Williams, it was a must watch show in both incarnations. While the 2nd incarnation was the best, even with the prizes getting really weird in the end, especially with that $10,000 Antique Chinese Fishbowl. Unfortunately, High Rollers was cancelled alongside Hollywood Squares and Chain Reaction in 1980 to make way for David Letterman’s disaster of a daytime talk show. However, Merrill Heatter didn’t give up on High Rollers.
His first go at a revival of sorts was the 1985 pilot, Lucky Numbers. It was also hosted by Alex Trebek and announced by John Harlan with Debbie Sue Maffett as the hostess. To be fair, it wasn’t a bad pilot, it just was very unremarkable. It wasn’t picked up by Networks or syndicators, so Merrill tried again in late 1986 with a rebooted version of High Rollers.
The Pilot of High Rollers was pretty much what you got in the actual run. Hosted by Wink Martindale and announced by future Game Show Garbage inductee Dean Goss, this version of the show had the traditional High Rollers gameplay, with a killer set, plus they brought back the BIG Numbers from the original 1974-1976 incarnation. Now what killed this version was the snail pace gameplay & the minigames. To be fair, some of the games were just one roll like the Full House game or Wink’s Garage Sale. But others would take a while to play like Dice Derby & Love Letters.
While the show would be picked up in 1987 for a year in Syndication, it wouldn’t last because of a mix of slow gameplay & poor timeslots. Also included in the pilot was a pitchfilm for the show. The Pitchfilm will live in infamy because of the demonstration of one mini-game that was mind-boggling and very stupid at the same time. Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time for…
The Duel of the Dice
Here we see Wink with our “contestant” eagerly awaiting his opponent for the duel. All he has to do is beat this person in one roll. His name is High Roller. And who might this person be?
A monkey. Seriously, he’s going to roll against a monkey. I mean, this belongs in a SNL Parody of game shows or a storyline for a sitcom. But a monkey? That just hurts my soul. (Great line Necro Critic.) The contestant is ready to compete against our simian foe…
But the Monkey is just staring into the green screened stars. Wink asks him to turn around…
But he’s still content at looking at the stars. (Note: I did not use the same picture. He actually did the same move.)
Now Wink looks like he’s getting ready to kill that monkey. So, he asks him one more time to turn around…
And this time he does.
So, now Wink explains to the “contestant” that all he has to do is get a higher roll than High and he wins a Trip to Hawaii & $1,000 in Travelers Checks. At least if he wins, he won’t be completely shamed for having to compete against a monkey.
While the “contestant” is nodding feverishly, the monkey is just mocking him and Wink. I also smell some cockiness in the Monkey. So, without any further ado, let’s get this duel going. Our “Contestant” picks up the dice….
And he rolls a 7. A middle of the road number. Now all he hopes for is that High rolls low instead of high to win his trip and cash. Wink asks High to roll…
But he’s staring at the dice and pretty much says, “I don’t like those dice.” Wink asks why he doesn’t roll those dice. Well, we find out why he doesn’t roll those dice.
He only rolls the Golden Dice. Great. Not only is he not caring, he’s also a primadonna and a bling king as well. Swell. Well, now that High has his dice. He proceeds to motion with the dice. And what does the monkey roll?
“We’ll find out after this, you’re watching Duel on ABC”.
DAMMIT, Greenie. Get out of here.
So where were we? Oh yeah, High has his Golden Dice. He motions and rolls…
A 5. The “contestant” wins. So, he wins and gets his vacation & $1,000 in Travelers checks. So, after seeing that,
The Monkey palms his head in shame and disappointment. Afterwards, Wink puts over the show and the pitchfilm ends.
With all that said, this mini-game didn’t even make it to air. And I’m thankful that it didn’t. The mini-game took way too long, I mean 2 minutes for a mini-game in a 22 minute show doesn’t exactly make for a good game show. But then again, this is the 1987 High Rollers where one match took about 3 episodes to complete. Not only that, why a monkey? I mean, you could have given an audience member a roll and maybe given them some cash to the audience member if they beat the contestant. At least that would make more sense than having a chimp rolling the dice like a chump.
The show would make it to air in 1987 and get cancelled in 1988. Wink would continue to host other shows such as The Great Getaway Game, Trivial Pursuit & Debt. Dean Goss would announce Slime Time & the various Pyramids around the era. The Monkey would proceed to go back to the LA Zoo and continue to live like a monkey.
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