Press Your Luck
The show pitted three contestants who earned turns (or in the show's vernacular, "spins") on a game board by answering questions. The questions are asked, and the first person to ring in answers. That answer is offered as well as two additional possibilities for the other two players. A player getting the right answer by ringing in receives three spins. Players correct on the multiple choice gets one spin. Four questions are played.
The players now face the game board, comprised of eighteen windows surrounded by a string of lights that flash randomly from one to another. Each window features one of three items which change at about 3/4 per second at a time. The windows contain money, prizes and "Whammys," which are little cartoon gremlins (on "Second Chance," they were Devils). The player with the fewest spins earned goes first and hits a plunger to stop the board. Whichever window the lights stop is what the player scores, if money or prizes. Stopping on a "Whammy" wipes out the player's score (it appears via computer animation in front of the player's score and performs some cartoony stunt to erase it). At any time after the first spin, a player may pass his/her remaining spins to the player with the highest money score (if no score, player's choice). Four "Whammys" eliminate a player from further play.
Many of the windows with money also contain additional spins, which keep the player's turn going as long as he/she doesn't hit a "Whammy" or doesn't pass his/her spins. A player with spins passed to him/her must play them. If he/she hits a "Whammy," the spins are transferred to being "earned" spins and can take them or pass them.
The highest money amount in round 1 is $1500 and the board features medium sized prizes. The largest money amount in round 2 is $5000 and features higher ticketed prizes. The player who has the highest score is champion and wins everything tallied. Up to 1984, a player could only accumulate up to $25,000 in winnings on any CBS game show. In late 1984, the ceiling was raised to $50,000.
The show sparked a minor controversy in 1984 when Michael Larson, an unemployed truck driver, appeared on the show and in a contest that encompassed two shows won $110,237 off 45 spins. He had apparently memorized the board patterns, which were programmed at six random patterns and was able to hit money windows with additional spins. CBS feared another Quiz Show Scandal, but Larson had actually done nothing wrong. He merely taped shows and committed the board patterns to memory. After this incident, the board was reprogrammed with 22 random patterns to make it significantly harder to memorize.
Press Your Luck aired at 10:30 AM Eastern on CBS up to January 3, 1986. The following Monday it was moved to 4 PM Eastern (12 Noon Eastern in several markets with CBS owned-and-operated stations) where it played out to its finale on September 26. CBS reverted the time period to affiliates afterwards. It was revived in 2002 for Game Show Network under the new name Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck. Todd Newton hosted the new show.
- At a Glance: Additional information about the series