Concentration was the NBC game show where players match prizes on a game board and win them by solving a picture puzzle. It was created by Bob Noah and is based on a concept by Buddy Piper from the children's card game.
Two players face a game board of thirty numbered squares, each comprising a trilon with spring-activated motor. In turn, players call two numbers, one at a time, and each square shows either a prize or an element of progress. If the items do not match, the squares revert to their original positions and the other player selects two numbers. Once a player makes a match, the items (if it is one) is put on his/her prize rack and the squares rotate again showing portions of a picture puzzle. These puzzles are comprised of letters, numbers, objects and syllables in order to spell out, as Hugh Downs noted, "the title of something, a well-known phrase or something you know." For example, a puzzle may show a shoe with the sole highlighted and a plus sign, meaning add it to the next clue, which in this case is the letter "d"; followed by a tooth, a plus sign and the letter "E"; the letter "h", a plus sign, an eye, plus sign, the syllable "est"; a drill bit, a plus sign and a door. Together, it phoenetically reads out "sole + d / tooth + e / h + eye + est / bit + door." In English, it says "Sold To The Highest Bidder."
A player's turn continues until he/she fails to make a match. The first player to solve the puzzle exactly wins the game and all prizes matched (if a player has racked up no prizes or gag prizes, he/she is awarded $100). A champion may play up to 20 games before retiring and qualifying for the show's annual Challenge of Champions, first inaugurated in 1963.
Some of the elements used on the show:
- Forfeit 1 Gift: A player matching this must give up a prize, if he/she has one, to his/her opponent. If the player has no prizes, then there is no further harm. The game resumes as usual.
- Take 1 Gift: A player matching this is allowed to take a prize from his/her opponent, if the opponent has one. If the opponent has no prizes, then the game resumes as usual.
- Wild Card: This automatically matches whatever the other selected number has. Because of this, the last two numbers on the board, should a game reach that point, will not match and will be left there until either the puzzle is solved or the game ends in a draw. If a player picks two Wild Cards on the same turn, a $500 bonus is awarded regardless of the game's outcome. That would later be upped to a new car.
- Gag prizes: These goofy-sounding items are insurance markers for a player in case a Forfeit 1 Gift card is matched sometime afterwards.
- Draw games: If a game ends in a draw, a new game is started. Each player may carry over up to three prizes from the draw game. This exemption also applies if time runs out for a show and over half the puzzle is exposed (the entire puzzle is shown at this point and the solution disclosed). The new game would begin on the next show with each player retaining three prizes from the default draw game.
During the last three years, a home viewer contest was offered up. Viewers sent in postcards and their last initial dictated which number on the board to turn (A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.). The prize behind that number was awarded to the viewer. If the chosen number had a Forfeit or a gag prize, the viewer won $100. Take 1 Gifts awarded $250, and Wild Cards paid off $500.
Concentration was first produced by Barry-Enright Productions but after that firm was brought up on cheating charges from Twenty-One, NBC assumed production duties on the show and appointed Norm Blumenthal as producer. Two nighttime editions aired. The first, in 1958, was a quick stop-gap after Twenty-One was canceled, and the other was a color-telecast six-month run in 1961. The daytime show was the last NBC show to transition from black-and-white to color in 1966. It had aired 3,689 separate shows during its run in the span of 3,101 days (in the days before videotape, two live shows were done, once for the East Coast then two hours later for the West Coast). It was daytime's longest running game show running consecutively on the same network, a record shattered in 1987 by The Price Is Right.
After NBC canceled Concentration, they licensed Goodson-Todman Productions to create a new syndicated series with Jack Narz as host. NBC brought it back in 1987 under the Mark Goodson Productions banner with the new name Classic Concentration. Alex Trebek hosted this edition (comedian Orson Bean hosted a pilot for this edition in 1985).
There is much debate as to the status of the show. Seven kinescopes of the original series are on the trading circuit (the earliest from October 15, 1958), while several others are at the UCLA Museum of Television and Radio. Other claims are that all shows exist while others claim that some 150 shows exist in kinescope. Norm Blumenthal, producer of the show, says that with the exception of the scant few kinescopes the series is wiped. It is presumed that the Goodson-Todman edition exists in its entirety, as does Classic Concentration. NBC controls the rights to the series and as of the current time they have no plans to issue it for rebroadcast.
The 1958-73 version of the series is now owned and distributed by CBS Television Distribution (through its acquisition of the TV catalogue of National Telefilm Associates/Republic Pictures Television, which includes the pre-1973 NBC archive), although NBC retains ownership of the series' copyright.
- At a Glance: Additional information about the series