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There had been some speculation some time ago among game show buffs as to whether or not CBS' long-running daytime hit The Price Is Right could sustain ongoing viewer loyalty after Bob Barker inevitably passed the microphone to a new host. Now that Bob has retired from his Price duties after 35 years and Drew Carey has succeeded him, it very well could, but had Bob's longtime fanbase just didn't buy the idea of TPIR presided over by anyone else but their old familiar friend, I figured CBS might have had no choice but to drop it and find a new game to fill the hour-long void in their weekday morning lineup. That doesn't seem likely for now, but anyway, here's my own personal suggestion for a partial revival of Spin-Off. Granted, 30+ years of Barker and TPIR would undoubtedly be an awfully tough act to follow, but this proposal just might be able to hold its own if big prizes and big excitement is what viewers want during the day, as well as give Spin-Off a long-overdue chance to prove what a great show it could be--hopefully this time without the handicap of low affiliate clearances. Picture tuning into one of your local stations at, say, noon or 3 PM several years from now and hearing the following opening spiel from, say, Burton Richardson, and possibly a recording of "Countdown" by Brian Fahey accompanying him:

These are the numbers that could add up to as much as $10,000 for some lucky couple!

This is the big board where all the right moves mean a big win!

And these are the keys [on two plaques held by two gorgeous models] that unlock the doors to a galaxy of prizes...including a brand new car!

From Hollywood, this is...

And now, here's the star of our show...(fill in name of someone you feel could fill the late Jim Lange's shoes).

The show begins with two rounds of Spin-Off making a complete game. The game is played as it was in 1975, with the payoffs either the same as before or perhaps doubled. The couple who wins the game goes on to play a round of Seven Keys. The object here is to reach the final space on a 70-square board in fifteen moves or less by answering questions correctly, landing on Bonus squares that give the players extra moves, and avoiding Penalty squares which send them back a few spaces. If the couple makes it to the last space, they get to pick one of seven keys which unlocks the door to one of seven prize packages.

For the second round of Seven Keys, their opponents play while the first couple sits out this round. The third round of Seven Keys is the deciding round, with both couples competing against each other. This time, there is no limit to the number of moves required to get to the last space--both teams play until one couple reaches the final square or until there is no more time to finish the round, in which case the couple farthest up on the board automatically gets to pick a(nother) key. Regardless of whether each couple won a showcase key in the two previous rounds, or if neither one did, or only one did, either couple can win the game. If a couple who didn't win a showcase competes against a couple who did, and the couple with no showcase wins one in round three, there is still the chance that their prize package could be worth more--or less--than their opponents', with the money won earlier in Spin-Off also possibly being a deciding factor. Sometimes, the victorious couple may end up with two showcases.

Now, the champions go on to play a modified version of the old Super Spin-Off bonus round. One possible reason why the old Spin-Off show seems to be a target of criticism these days in some circles is that in the original Super Spin-Off round, if it became evident that a $10,000 or $5000 win wasn't in the cards by the final spin of the second number, the rest of the round suddenly became somewhat anti-climactic. So using this as a basis, I added an extra feature to this portion of the game to increase the suspense, even if a couple only ends up with a pair of numbers on the board.

The game play and cash payoffs are the same as before, but with this difference: also at stake is a new car. Seven new keys are brought out, one of which unlocks the door to the showcase containing the car. In order to have the best possible shot at obtaining that one coveted key out of the seven available, they have to spin the best possible number combination. Here are the payoffs:

One pair=$250 + Two keys

Two pairs=$500 + Two keys

Three of a kind=$1000 + Three keys

Full House=$1500 + Three keys

Four of a kind=$2500 + Four keys

Five of a kind=$5000 + Four keys

Consecutive Straight=$10,000 + Five keys

After the final number comes up for the payoff, the couple chooses which of the keys they want to try and unlock the door to the car showcase with. Then, after a final commercial break, Jim and the couple stand in front of the encased car and tells them to try each key won to try and open the lock. Here's where the added suspense comes in. Even though the odds are pretty good that they could win the car with four or five keys, there's no guarantee that they will, as two or three keys are left untouched (though $5000 or $10,000 plus a prize package or two is a mighty good consolation). Conversely, if they only end up winning $250 and two keys, the odds are one in seven that one of these keys will be the winner...and it could be! The possibilities are almost endless.

Well, there you have it. A possible way to revive two not-so-classic games in a new format that might benefit them both. Whereas NBC's 1983 attempt to combine Match Game and Hollywood Squares was perhaps marred by too many fond memories of the wildly-popular originals (and the absence of original Squares host Peter Marshall), Spin-Off doesn't have anything much to lose since so many people were either deprived of the 1975 original or watched NBC's competing Celebrity Sweepstakes out of habit. And even if CBS doesn't give it a shot in daytime, there's always prime time, another network, syndication or cable.

CUE END THEME MUSIC: This is Burton Richardson speaking for The Seven Keys/Spin-Off Hour! A Nicholson-Muir Production in association with Wellington Productions, David P. Johnson Enterprises Ltd. and Sony Pictures Television!

An Open Message to GSN (formerly Game Show Network):

Early in 2004 I took the plunge and bought my very first HDTV monitor with dual tuners, which enabled me to give digital cable a second chance in my home almost five years after an aborted three-week tryout with a far-less versatile set and a different converter box which unacceptably compromised my VCR's timer recording capabilities. This time around, it's expected to work out much better with my up-to-date set due to more connection options, and as a result, GSN is now back in my life on a regular basis.

Now comes word that you've not only changed your name, but much of your schedule as well. And while Lingo (love ya, Stacey!) and reruns of Password and What's My Line? are fine, there is a LOT of great old product out there that the former Game Show Network has either retired and will hopefully get back soon, or hasn't been picked up yet. The latter applies to Spin-Off, all the old tapes of which, as noted earlier, are still in existence in a vault somewhere, waiting to be run again after so many years languishing in obscurity following its original affiliate-pre-emption-riddled run on CBS in Summer 1975.

So now the ball is in your court. I'm paying big bucks to get your network on one of two digital tiers (the other has HD channels) I had to subscribe to in order to get some real good out of this $2000 monster in my living room, and GSN is still the only logical place for Spin-Off. So even if I never get to see that rare 1969 color kinescope of NBC's The Match Game, Beat The Clock with Jack Narz or Monty Hall, or Bill Cullen hosting the original Price Is Right in the wake of this GSN makeover, if you only take one program suggestion of mine to heart, please let it be to find a place--at least on weekends for awhile--to run off the entire twelve-week cycle of Spin-Off shows. Even if you bury it at 3 AM, I know how to set my DVR.

Just do it, GSN.

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