Caesars Challenge is an American game show that aired on NBC from June 14, 1993 to January 14, 1994 and emanated from the Circus Maximus Theatre inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ahmad Rashād hosted the series and, in keeping with the theme of the show's location, he was assisted by a man dressed as a Roman gladiator. Dan Doherty played the role for most of the show's run, with Chad Brown and Zach Ruby handling the earliest episodes before Doherty joined the show.
|Created by||Michael Dubelko
|Directed by||Steve Grant|
|Presented by||Ahmad Rashād|
|Narrated by||Steve Day|
|Theme music composer||Stormy Sacks|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||155|
|Executive producer(s)||Rick Rosner|
|Location(s)||Caesars Palace, Las Vegas|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Rosner Television
Stephen J. Cannell Productions
|Original release||June 14, 1993– January 14, 1994|
Three contestants competed, and three rounds were played. The object in each round was to solve a jumbled word displayed on a 9-screen slot machine on stage by placing letters in their proper places. In order to do this, the contestants answered a series of multiple choice trivia questions that had three possible answer choices. Each new word was associated with a specific category, and a new set of questions were played for each word. Correct answers paid off at $100 in the first round, $200 in the second round, and $300 in the third round. Two words were played in each of the first two rounds, with the third round played until time was called with as many words they could get in as possible.
Correctly answering a question won money to the player that did so, as well as the right to place one of the letters. After a letter was placed, he/she got five seconds to guess it. One position in each word was designated the "Lucky Slot", signified by a lighted red border surrounding the screen, and an instant cash jackpot was associated with it. The jackpot started each day at $500 and increased by that amount each word it went unclaimed, resetting to $500 once someone won it.
Once a word was correctly guessed, the player that did so won money based on how many letters were unplaced when the word was unscrambled. The value of each unplaced letter was equivalent to the value of the questions in the round ($100 in round one, $200 in round two, and $300 in round three as previously mentioned). If the player solved the word immediately after placing a letter in the Lucky Slot, the value of the jackpot was also added to his/her score.
If a word was in play when time was called in the third round, signified by the sound of a car horn, the Lucky Slot was taken out of play and the remaining unplaced letters were placed one at a time until someone guessed the word and earned the remaining money left from the unplaced letters. Buzzing in and answering incorrectly during this time locked a player out of the rest of the round. If a word was not in play when time was called in the third round, one final word was played; the letters of that word were placed one at a time until someone guessed the word.
The player with the most money at the end of the game won a prize package equivalent to his/her cash total (originally, the champion bought prizes with the money) and advanced to the bonus round. The other players left with parting gifts, including dinner for two and tickets to one of the headliner acts that were at Caesars at the time. In the case of a tie, another speed-up round was played between the tied players.
The day's champion was given a chance to win a brand new automobile in the final round. Once again, the thematic setting of its location was employed by the show as playing the bonus was referred to on air as "facing Caesars' challenge" and the round itself referred to as the "tournament" by host Ahmad Rashād.
During the thirty-one weeks that Caesars Challenge was on the air, the show employed two different bonus games. Both involved unscrambling words within a time limit but were conducted in different fashions.
The first bonus game format featured a giant rotating bingo cage with 200 lettered balls inside of it, which hung from the ceiling of the Circus Maximus. Leading into the round the cage would be lowered until it came to rest alongside a chute to which a ramp was attached, onto which the lettered balls would drop as they came out of the cage. To start the round, Ahmad Rashād gave the command, "let the tournament begin".
Upon the giving of the command, the cage began spinning and each letter was called out by the gladiator as it came down the ramp. A backstage computer kept track of each letter as it was drawn, looking for any dictionary-certified nine-letter word that could be formed from the drawn balls. Once such a word was found, a gong sounded and a voice bellowed "Caesar says STOP". The cage then stopped rotating and the nine letters were displayed in the order in which they came out of the cage. Initially, no balls were drawn until the round began. Later, some were drawn as a time-saver leading into the commercial break before the bonus game. These balls were shown to the audience before the round officially began.
A new champion got to place one of the nine letters in its proper place, and once it was the champion received 10 seconds to guess it correctly. If he/she was not able to do so, the champion would be allowed to place one additional letter for each subsequent time he/she returned. Guessing correctly at any point in his/her reign won a champion the car and retired him/her undefeated.
The second bonus format was introduced on November 22, 1993, and continued for the remainder of the run.
This time, instead of solving one word the champion had to unscramble five different words. The words were displayed on a screen placed in front of the slot machine and were not revealed until Doherty pulled a curtain covering the screen away. The screen consisted of words that were five, six, seven, eight, and nine letters in length and displayed them in descending order. Starting at the bottom, the champion's objective was to unscramble all five words within 30 seconds. The letters were automatically placed one at a time and the champion could not advance to the next word until the one in play was correctly guessed.
If the champion correctly guessed all the words, he/she won the car and retired. If not, he/she could return up to two more times to try again and was automatically retired on the third day if he/she still had not won the car.
During the closing credits of every show Rashad and Doherty (or his predecessors), carrying a large bowl, would go into the audience and give the patrons a chance to try to unscramble words. Each audience member who was chosen had to unscramble a five-letter word without any letters being placed. Every time someone did so correctly, Rashad would allow them to grab something from the bowl. Inside the bowl were gold-covered chocolate medallions, Caesars casino chips, and dollar coins and successful contestants won whatever they could grab in one handful.
Caesars Challenge replaced Scattergories on NBC's daytime schedule when it premiered on June 13, 1993 and inherited its timeslot of 12:30 pm Eastern. Some affiliates did not air Caesars Challenge at its scheduled time due to the affiliates' longstanding practice of preempting programs that the networks aired in the noon hour in favor of news or syndicated programming; this resulted in some stations airing Caesars Challenge in another spot on their schedule while others did not air it at all. In the markets that did air the show at its normal time, Caesars Challenge faced off against CBS' The Young and the Restless, and did not perform well enough against either that series or ABC's Loving, its other competition. NBC cancelled Caesars Challenge after 31 weeks of episodes, and returned the 12:00 pm hour to its affiliates on January 17, 1994. However, NBC would take back the noon hour from its affiliates when Sunset Beach premiered in January 1997.
- Schwartz, David; Ryan, Steve; Wostbrock, Fred (1999). The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows (3 ed.). Facts on File, Inc. p. 31. ISBN 0-8160-3846-5.
- Caesars Challenge premiere, June 14, 1993
- Ahmad Rashād: "they are going to continue to come out one at a time, however many it takes, until our computers tell us we have at least one nine letter dictionary certified word." Explanation from each bonus round in this format.
- Caesars Challenge premiere, June 14, 1993.
- Neil Bines' appearance on Caesars Challenge, aired July 30, 1993.
- "Program Listings". TV Guide. September 4–10, 1993.
- "Program Listings". TV Guide. 25 June – 1 July 1994.
- "Program Listings". TV Guide. 29 October – 4 November 1994.