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Spin-Off: The Most Underrated Daytime Game Show of 1975--Page 2

Meanwhile, back in Central Iowa, KCCI-TV continued to see no reason to move Mary Brubaker to a different time slot or carry Spin-Off via tape delay. Over the next few years Mary's show would reduce Goodson-Todman's Double Dare and their revival of Card Sharks to cable-only status (brought in from Cedar Rapids over WMT for most of their runs), and keep another resurrected G-T oldie--The All-New Beat The Clock hosted by Monty Hall--out of both the Des Moines airwaves and the Iowa Editon of TV Guide® (none of the CBS affiliates listed in there ever put it on). The series that would eventually bring her 9 AM show down in the '80s was the syndicated Donahue on a competing station--only THEN did KCCI adopt the suggestion I made to them back in the Joker's Wild days about working a shortened version of her show into the noon news. Back to 1975: As the final week of Spin-Off approached in early September, it looked as though the pre-emption-happy Des Moines affiliates would score their second victory in their efforts to force me to miss out completely on the entire run of a network game show that year (WOI-TV made short work of ABC's brief 1975 revival of a revamped You Don't Say! by replacing it with reruns of The Big Valley, and I never made it out of town to see it elsewhere--no car or the ability for me to drive one until 1978). But on the eve of Labor Day came...


As usual, KCCI and WMT bumped all regular programming for that year's edition of The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon (and I hope they eventually find a cure for Muscular Dystrophy; I say this because it's a horrible thing to have to live with and--sincerely--not just so they won't have to show the telethon any more). But this year for the first time, we had a second station on cable picking up the telethon: WTCN-TV, a Metromedia-owned independent from Minneapolis/St. Paul which was added to the Des Moines cable lineup in January of that year (it was removed in 1979 when it affiliated with NBC, which was too bad--I could have used an alternate NBC station to offset the tons of pre-emptions imposed by WHO-TV in Des Moines at the time). Anyway, the scheduling of the telethon by WTCN (whose call letters are now KARE) presented a problem for the cable company who had to black it out due to the non-duplication protection rules cablecasters had to abide by in those days: what to replace it with for the next 21-and-a-half hours? They found a happy solution--aim their signal toward Mason City's CBS affiliate KGLO-TV* which carried all regular CBS programming during the three-day-weekend...including Spin-Off. What an unbelievable stroke of good fortune! Finally, a chance to see it just a mere four days before the final broadcast. The only two downsides were that (A) VCRs weren't avaiiable in Des Moines that year so I had to settle for an audio-only recording of the entire show, and (B) none of the couples won $10,000 that day. But I had no cause for complaining--we could have had problems with the cable reception on that channel or a power failure during that half-hour. Mercifully, we didn't.

*KGLO-TV later became KIMT-TV, had its listings added to the Iowa Edition of TV Guide in 1982, and was thrust into the national spotlight in 1995 due to the kidnapping of local news anchor Jody Huisentruit who, according to local sources, was found dead some time ago. Absolutely senseless...


The curious thing about virtually every game show created by Messrs. Nicholson and Muir is that they either involved married couples or a variation on the theme of poker. Spin-Off combined both, but what were their other games like? There weren't many of them and their one smash hit, The Newlywed Game, was a hit for Chuck Barris, so with this show they had to bask in reflected glory. In their efforts to come up with an independent hit, they first rolled out the syndicated Matches N' Mates in 1967. Taped for one year in Cleveland and later Atlanta, this show pitted two married couples against each other in a game of questions and answers combined with a bit of memory exercise, in which they picked one of nine question boxes lettered A through I, host Art James read the question, then they picked one of twelve numbered squares on a board hoping to get the correct answer. If they got it right, a letter was revealed which was in turn revealed in a corresponding space in a row of squares which spelled out a word or name which one team had to correctly guess to win the game.

After its cancellation in 1968, Art James resurfaced as host of Nicholson-Muir's next syndie game: Pay Cards! This was a poker-type game involving actual cards, 20 of them numbered face down on an electronic game board, which were randomly chosen by contestants who tried to build the best hand. Celebrities also were seen as contestants, with their pictures showing up as a "wild card" on the board. The game's big winner went on to play the Jackpot Round, in which he/she had to memorize the positions of 12 cards shown face up on the board for about ten seconds, then electronically reverted to face-down status. A large 12-section wheel showing each card description was then spun, with the player having to correctly pick the card spun in order to win a large cash prize. This show, too, lasted only one year, but in 1981 it resurfaced as Super Pay Cards!, again hosted by Art James, with Mary Lou Basaraba as assistant and announcer, but without the wheel. The revamped version was taped in Canada and also ran one season, but was rerun for years on Canadian television thereafter.

I remember watching Matches N' Mates and Pay Cards! in the late 1960s. Both shows were picked up in Kansas City by WDAF-TV and, along with a locally-produced TV Bingo game seen in 1965 and 1966 which home viewers played while watching, they were the ONLY non-network daytime shows I cared to watch on WDAF, despite their having scheduled them in place of NBC offerings. TV Bingo and Pay Cards! both ran at 1 PM in place of Days Of Our Lives (no big deal--I was more interested in the commercials that punctuated the soap operas than the soaps themselves back then). But Matches N' Mates, for some oddball reason, was carried initially at 3 PM in place of NBC's The Match Game, which was then shown via tape-delay in the adjacent 3:30 slot. Try to find any sense of logic in that. If WDAF had kept The Match Game at 3 and then ran Matches N' Mates at 3:30, not only would it have saved time, trouble and money, but those who--like us--just got a color TV could have continued to see The Match Game in Living Color, as the WDAF tape-delays could only be broadcast in black-and-white. Later, WDAF moved Matches to a different time and Match went back to live color clearances at 3...for a while, anyway.

The original Pay Cards! was the only Nicholson-Muir game show to spawn a home version (from Whitman) sold in the U.S.; not shown is the Super Pay Cards! home game which primarily was sold in Canada where the show was taped. These were among the few TV home games you didn't have to keep buying new editions of, since there were no questions and answers, passwords or puzzles to inadvertantly memorize.

CBS bought Spin-Off six years after the demise of the original Pay Cards! Years after its unceremonious cancellation, several game show reference books started appearing on store shelves, and the authors of at least two of them actually thought Spin-Off and the show that replaced it--Give-N-Take--were the very same show, meaning the latter! For the record, all Give-N-Take had in common with Spin-Off were its original time slot and its host. In the new game, four contestants answered questions, then pushed a button to stop a spinning arrow mounted in the center of the area where the players were circularly seated, and whoever it pointed to when stopped elected to either keep a prize or give it to another player in order to avoid going over a $5000 limit.

Give-N-Take had a great theme song, but I still prefer Spin-Off. And as is all-too-often the case, I was in the minority here. Other books on past game shows (not all of them, mercifully) dismissed it as "mediocre" or "forgettable", and after I started getting on the web regularly in late 1997, I found at least one game show website (which I won't identify at this time, at least) that absolutely rips the show apart. And even though Nicholson-Muir Productions hasn't yet been successful in any effort they may have made to try and revive it--which they ought to do now that the broadcast airwaves aren't choked with nearly as many games as they were in the day of the original show--they at least used a reworking of its theme music as the theme for their last game show to date, 1981's Super Pay Cards!

I discovered that tidbit of information on the web (which led to my eventual acquisition of a videotape copy of one SPC! program, the only one I'd ever seen), as well as a more sobering bit of news regarding tapes of old game shows: many that I hoped or assumed were still in existence were erased or thrown out in order to make storage space. Nobody in the television industry thought back in the 1980s that there would one day be such a thing as cable's Game Show Network whose schedule includes reruns of old game shows. As a result, although old color episodes of Goodson-Todman's Password from 1967 and all episodes of the 1970s Match Game are still around, the 1960s Match Game from NBC and the 1970s Password revival from ABC are almost non-existent today. Even sadder to me is the presumed fact that only one color tape of NBC's It Takes Two with Vin Scully is all that remains of this great celebrity couples' show that was much-appreciated by me but not by a vast majority of game show well as a few NBC affiliates out there who turned it down--idiots! And it was also assumed for some time that CBS didn't bother to save ANY of their old Spin-Off tapes--not even one for history's sake. When I sent an e-mail to Jim Lange, currently an L.A. radio personality, mentioning the series he told me that he owns a brief video outtake but didn't think any complete shows--other than the audio tape I made of the Labor Day edition brought in via cable from Mason City--still existed in the wake of the broadcast networks mass-erasure of irreplaceable--but presumed expendable--vintage game show episodes on tape. But, late in 2000, came an announcement via the Game Show Discussion Newsgroup of...


According to the message, someone discovered all the old videotapes of the 1972-75 CBS network run of The Joker's Wild which until then were also presumed permanently lost. They were found within the confines of WCBS-TV in New York City, and from there this historic find was shipped to the West Coast, where the tapes were carefully and lovingly transferred to current broadcast tape standards, and later turned up on Game Show Network, which has (or had) a large stake in the reairing of whatever old Jack Barry-Dan Enright product they could get their hands on. But as far as your Webmaster here is concerned, the REAL discovery made at WCBS that great day was that they also discovered (drum roll, please)...


Well, this HAS to be a sign. With so many old game shows--both popular and not-so-popular--tragically gone forever, why would fate be so unusually and unexpectedly kind as to spare (so far) the short run of an obscure game show I loved but droves of people in and out of the TV business were decidedly indifferent to? Only a very small fraction of game show affectionados (possibly consisting of myself and any married couples still around today who appeared on the show and won $10,000 or more; I'd love to hear from you) have any sense of respect for this short-lived, beleagured show (although I did hear from one fan who'd revive it on his own fictitous TV network if he could, as this page indicates), yet the discovery of the old tapes could someday lead to a resurfacing of the episodes on GSN, though I'd much prefer they'd air on USA, Pax or some other cable network I don't need a digital converter to pick up. As for reruns on local broadcast stations, I wouldn't be too willing to trust good fortune to come my way. I'm sure it would turn up in Kansas City this time around if it were offered that way, what with seven commercial stations including an independent there, but for every few syndies that were picked up in Omaha while I was here and failed to show up in Des Moines, there were one or two whose fate in those two markets were just the opposite--Marilu and The Martin Short Show come to mind--and I can all-too-easily picture Spin-Off reruns playing on perhaps KPWB (WB 23) in Central Iowa while my Omaha stations assume we only want first-run games, yak and gavel-bangers in daytime. No, it has to be GSN or an analog cable channel I have for the old Spin-Off reruns...and remember, all you folks who missed it during the CBS run...if you haven't seen it, it's new to you. If the reruns of the original series click, it could lead to a whole new version of Spin-Off in syndication or on GSN, perhaps this time with an escalating jackpot for each time a consecutive straight is not achieved in the Super Spin-Off. But I came up with what may be an even better way to revive it: click here for all the details.

The letter you have just read is true. Only my home address and Nicholson-Muir Productions' phone number have been deleted to protect the innocent.

Of course, in order for this series to be available in reruns, those precious original tapes first need to be preserved for future broadcast a la the CBS Joker's Wild eps, then be made available for distribution and be able to find a network--if only GSN--that wants to put it on for a rerun cycle or two. But most important--above all else--these rare tapes MUST be kept a safe distance from the dreaded magnetic eraser or the trash bin. They were blessed with having been discovered--now let's all hope these don't get written off as junk and thrown out after all. God knows how many rare videotaped shows of the past will never be seen again, but which ultimately should have been saved.

A final word to those of you who couldn't care less if the Spin-Off tapes ever would face destruction or plan to cry foul if GSN or another cable network ever decides to put them on: Please remember that your TV has an "Off" button and a channel selector, and that you don't have to watch Spin-Off if the idea of its possible return to the airwaves makes you cringe. The control that TV sets don't have--but SHOULD have had decades ago--is a button that when pushed overrides the local stations and replaces them with a set of out-of-town (or state) network affiliates that allows one to see the desired program he/she would have missed on the crappy local stations who think they have their grubby fingers on the pulse of what's "right" for their market. If anyone had made one like that years ago, I'd have been one of the first to buy it. Moreover, if old TV show tapes or films were meant to be destroyed based on how short-lived, unpopular or savagely criticized they were, all the prints and negatives of those 30 episodes of My Mother, The Car would've been sliced into guitar picks sometime during 1967...and this one's actually played in reruns from time to time. America, I think you can survive several months of Spin-Off reruns. You've surely sat through far-worse excuses for game shows.

I'm sure Darva Conger would be inclined to agree.

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This page is dedicated to the memory of former Spin-Off emcee Jim Lange, whom we tragically lost in February 2014, and also Randy Amasia, a once-frequent poster to back in the days when it was a good, decent newsgroup that has now sadly deteriorated into a breeding ground for endless, stupid, obscene troll posts.

Serious game show affectionados should avoid that group at all costs and join us "good guys" at the Invision Power Board Game Show Forum.

NECESSARY DISCLAIMER: All color vidcaps shown on Page One were taken exclusively from a public domain-offered print of a 16mm promotional film for the series which I alone personally acquired earlier. They were NOT stolen from any other websites which happen to contain similar or identical color vidcaps from any other film copies--tape-transferred or not--of any promo for Spin-Off. Anyone who wishes to use any images from Spin-Off featured here or on any other site must get permission from that site's Webmaster.