The Trivial Pursuit Game Show

Trivial Pursuit on Television

The Trivial Pursuit Game Show

There were two Trivial Pursuit-themed game shows. Trivia works great on television--look at the success of Jeopardy! for just one example of the grip trivia has on modern audiences. What started as a nostalgic quiz game among friends in the 50s and 60s has grown into a huge industry, with quiz games at bars and radio trivia games all over the world.

Here are some details about the two Trivial Pursuit game shows, along with a mini-review of each.

Trivial Pursuit on The Family Channel

From June 7, 1993 to December 30, 1994, a game show closely based on the Trivial Pursuit board game ran on The Family Channel. Wink Martindale was the host--fans of game shows know Wink from programs like

Tic-Tac Dough and other Game Show Network productions. Wink is so famous in American game shows, he earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The announcer for the show is equally famous to game show insiders--Randy West intoned for Supermarket Sweep and was often a substitute on shows like The Price is Right and even Saturday Night Live. As far as Family Channel games shows go, the show was relatively popular, for a game show based on a board game, and reruns of the program lasted well into 1996.

Trivial Pursuit purists are quick to point out that this program was only loosely based on Trivial Pursuit. Major differences between the board game and the game show: to earn a wedge, players had to correctly answer two questions rather than one, there was a "steal" move possible where opponents could steal a question away after someone answered a question incorrectly, and the brown wedge was inexplicably replaced with red.

Another big difference: Trivial Pursuit the game show was an hour-long program consisting of what produces called one "Interactive" part and one "Main Game" part. In the first half-hour, or "Interactive" part, the first round of play saw as many as twelve contestants play a multiple-choice "lightning round" where contestants played into the more traditional Trivial Pursuit-style second round. Round One consisted of five questions, each with four multiple-choice answers, which a large pool of potential contestants was given 10 seconds to answer. Players earned points by answering quickly and correctly, with a point range from 0 to 1,000. After those first five questions, the six players scoring highest went on to Round Two.

Round Two was just like Round One, except with half the number of contestants. At the end of Round Two, the contestant pool was cut in half again, and three players won a prize and the opportunity to continue on to the next half-hour of Trivial Pursuit play.

This "Main Game" section is the most similar to actual Trivial Pursuit. Contestants chose a category and tried to answer two questions from the standard TP categories: Geography, Entertainment, History, Art & Literature, Science & Nature, and Sports & Leisure.

Round Two of the second half-hour of Trivial Pursuit the game show used categories from either the Movie or TV editions of Trivial Pursuit, and play continued like it Round One.

Round Three (geez, this game really drags on, doesn't it?) was "Jeopardy!-style", where players competed to answer a "toss-up" question to gain control of the question and answer board. The player who had the most pie pieces at the end of this round, or the first player to earn all six pie pieces, won a prize, $500 cash, and the right to play in the game's Challenge Round.

The Challenge Round offered six questions in the six basic Trivial Pursuit categories--for every question answered correctly, the player earned another $100. If the player answered all six questions, they won $1,000 and a trip to an exotic location.

This game show probably never caught on as well as it should have because of the hour-long format. Most people don't have the attention span to watch an hour of trivia questions, even with Wink Martindale at his Wink Martindale best.

Trivial Pursuit: America Plays on Fox

Another game show loosely based on Trivial Pursuit premiered on September 22, 2008 and lasted only nine months, one full game show season. The show ended on May 22, 2009 and aired in reruns until September 18th of that year. Hosted by Christopher Knight, of The Brady Bunch fame. This show was produced in conjunction with Hasbro, in an attempt to make a "better" game show than the Family Channel's version in the 90s.

Replacing Temptation on the Fox network's lineup was probably the kiss of death for Trivial Pursuit: America Plays--Temptation is famously the lowest-rated game show of all time, having aired only two episodes before being cancelled.

Attempting to involve viewers is a long-standing game show tactic--this iteration of Trivial Pursuit game shows saw three in-studio players compete again "America's Team", three people who submitted their questions and answers on a video hookup.

Rather than letting contestants pick their own categories and questions, a gimmicky device called a "Randomizer" selected a category and question at random from a board of six categories with six questions each, ranging in value from $250 to $500 in increments of $50. Obviously, more valuable questions were considered "harder."

Correct answers by the players in the studio added money to their "bank," and earned that individual player a wedge. Wrong answers added money to "America's Team's" bank.

The first question of the game was "All Play," meaning anyone could offer an answer. The player who answered kept control of the game until they blew it on a question or ran out of time.

Any player who earned three category wedges moved to the "Hot Pursuit" round, and the game continued for the remaining two players. The first two players to fill three of the wedges in their token moved on to the "Hot Pursuit" round, leaving one person out of luck.

In the "Hot Pursuit" round, every question was a toss-up $500. The first player to answer six questions won the whole game, along with a total of $3,000. That player also won a shot at the final round, known as "Head to Head."

In the "Head-to-Head Round", the winning player faced off against "America's Team" on six questions, in increasing value from $500 to $5,000. If the in-studio player ended up with a larger bank, he won. If "America's Team" ended up with more cash, they won.

Neither of these Trivial Pursuit games really caught on, probably because Trivial Pursuit's heyday was sometime in the early or mid 80s. Game shows are not as profitable or popular as they once were, even with stars like Chris Knight and Wink Martindale at the helm.