Press Your Luck Was The Best Game Show of the 1980s
"No Whammies, big bucks, and.....STOP!" If you were a fan of game shows in the 1980s, you know that line refers to one of the most exciting game shows in the history of television, Press Your Luck.
With an environment of controlled chaos, the show featured bright lights, loud studio audiences, that crazy doot-doot-doot noise on the board, three over-the-top contestants, and one of the best game show hosts ever, the late Peter Tomarken. Even The Price is Right's Rod Roddy was a part of it.
The show consisted of two rounds. Each round consisted of two sub-rounds; a trivia round followed by contestants pressing their luck on the big board.
During the trivia round, players would win "spins" based on how many correct answers they gave. Tomarken would ask a question and one of the contestants would ring in and give an answer. The other contestants would then be given multiple choice. If the first contestant answered correctly, they would be given 3 spins. The other two contestants would be given 1 spin if they answered correctly. There was always the potential for high comedy when the first contestant could ring in and give a completely ridiculous answer.
The trivia round, however, is not what made people tune in to Press Your Luck. Ah yes, the big board is where the action was. Based on the spins that each contestant earned, they would have that many turns at the big board. The big board consisted of 18 squares with cash, prizes and the dreaded Whammies. To the tune of very '80s sound effects, one square at a time would light up at random (yes, I know it wasn't totally random, as Michael Larson proved) and the players would hope that when they pushed that red button the lights would stop on a prize or cash. If so, that amount of money would be added to the total. But if a Whammie would show up, they would lose all their accumulated earnings.
The Whammy was the star of the show. If a contestant stopped the board on a Whammy another very doomsday '80s sound effect would play and a graphic of a whammy would saunter across the screen in an effort to take a contestant's money. If a contestant landed on 4 Whammies they were eliminated from the game.
After all spins were played in the second round, the player with the highest accumulated amount of cash and prizes was declared the winner.
As the game came down to the final spin, Press Your Luck knew how to ramp up the drama. They would have a split screen of the two contestants that had a chance to win. Typically it consisted of one player spinning and hoping to avoid the Whammy, while the other contestant prayed that a Whammy would show up. Regardless of what happened, it was always thrilling to see the winning contestant stand up and scream while more raucous music played.
Press Your Luck only ran for three years. However, those three years were packed with excitement, drama, the perfect host, and loads of fun.