May 11, 1982


Taped for CBS


Bob Hilton


Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions

In April 1982, Bill signed off from "Blockbusters" for the last time. But unemployment didn't last very long for Bill. One month later, on May 11, 1982, he was at Studio 33 at CBS Television City to mount a pilot for an ambitious new game from Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions. Here's a look at the two pilots that led to the launch of "Child's Play."

"These children, and others like them, will try to make you understand what they're talking about on..."

And right away it's a different logo...the differences are just beginning, though...

The basic idea of contestants trying to figure out words from definitions given by children was there, all right, but the way the game was played was almost entirely different.

For each word, the contestants were given symbols. One contestant got a bullseye, the other got a pair of candy sticks (the contestants alternated these symbols for each round). Having the bullseye meant you could only take one guess at the correct answer, the candy sticks meant you had two guesses.

The "bullseye" player had an advantage though. After each definition, that player decided who gave a guess. They could force their opponent to answer, or they could choose to answer themselves (at the risk of being wrong and leaving the other player unopposed for the remaining definitions).

Also, if three definitions played out and no one gave a correct answer, a fourth definition would be shown, and the contestants would hit their buzzers to give a guess. For added help, Bill would preface the fourth definition by telling the contestants the first letter of the correct answer. (The flaw with this rule was seen in the second pilot, where a contestant rang in and gave the correct answer after hearing just the initial letter, and not waiting for the definition.)

So anyway, every word was worth one point, and the round ended when a player reached 3 points.

At that point they shifted to Fast Play. Words were again worth one point each, with six points winning the game and $500.

The winner went on to play the Triple Play round, called "The A-B-C Game" in the pilot (and since the pilot was produced for CBS, you can see why that name didn't make it to the series). In the pilots, the contestant had a full minute to give the needed six answers.

End of show. If there's anything of interest to note here, the show ends with an announcement that Child's Play was a Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Production. By the time the series went to air four months later, the company had been renamed to Mark Goodson Productions.

To this day, the changes between pilot & series make me scratch my head. Maybe somebody felt the pilot format was too complicated. Maybe somebody felt the strategy element stood in the way of a game where the emphasis was supposed to be on comedy. Whatever the reason, a great GAME was sacrificed for the aired series. We'll never know, but it may have cost them a longer run.

Up One Level to: Child's Play

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