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"Ladies, please..."—Howie Mandel
"We've had game shows based on card games. We've had game shows based on pub quizzes. But never have we had a game show based on the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. Until now... In other words, my suitcase contains the financial equivalent of Schrödinger's Cat: a sum that exists in a theoretical superposition, being both substantial and meager until I open and observe it, thereby assigning it a quantifiable value in the physical universe."
Popular Game Show, from a Dutch format. The original version debuted in 2000. The American version achieved near-instant popularity after its debut on NBC in December 2005, while other versions — which some have compared to the Geoff Edwards versions of Treasure Hunt — air pretty much everywhere.
On the NBC version, host Howie Mandel asked a contestant to choose one of 26 numbered briefcases held by identically-dressed sex objec-er, models. Each briefcase contained a different amount of money from 1¢ to $1,000,000. The game proceeded as the contestant chose to see the contents of the other briefcases. By process of elimination, the contestant guessed how much money his or her briefcase contained. As briefcases were eliminated, the Banker made offers for the contestant's case (more or less the arithmetic mean of the amounts still on the board by the end of the game, less than that early on). Ultimately, the player had to choose between one of the deals offered by the Banker and the value of the case chosen at the beginning. The contestant's time on the show ended when a deal was made, or the contestant stuck it out to the end; in the event a deal was taken, the other cases were opened to see whether the deal made was a good one. Occasional special episodes increased the maximum prize to $2,000,000 or more.
A half-hour syndicated version debuted in September 2008 and essentially cut out all the fluff while adding various elements of the British version (see below), with a top prize of $500,000. Gimmicks were still used, however, and the 22 contestants (and their replacements) only stayed on for one week. Ratings fell sharply during the second year, and the show wrapped production around midseason. The series was put out of its misery again, this time for good, on May 28, 2010; repeats continued to air through September 10 in syndication, and September 28 on My Network TV.
The British version (hosted by Noel Edmonds, a former DJ and Saturday Night presenter whose career had been on the skids) was such a hit that a Saturday primetime show was added. The UK version has 22 boxes, each manned by a possible future contestant (they're sequestered together when they're not filming to encourage rapport during the game), with the top prize being £250,000.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Carried by the Host: Well, maybe more by the ladies, but Howie defined the show for Americans.
- Andrew O'Keefe basically is the Australian version. Even after 1,000+ episodes, he still has the same enthusiasm as he did on the first day.
- Noel Edmonds is this for the British version, for better or worse. He tends to share this trope with the contestants — after all, some of those holding the boxes have been there for weeks!
- Celebrity Edition: The Australian version has special weeks where Dancing With the Stars contestants play for home viewers. One of them, Anh Do, actually became the series' second top prize winner (though technically, it was the home viewer he was playing for who won that money).
- Confetti Drop: Top prize winners of all three aforementioned countries get showered with confetti (and money in the US version) at the game's end.
- Game Show Appearance: Comic Relief did probably the straightest example ever with the UK version, with Catherine Tate as her sitcom character Nan.
- Home Game: Among other kinds, an arcade version actually worth playing since you can win redemption tickets.
- Let's Just See What Would Have Happened: Even when a contestant takes a deal, the rest of the game was played out as if s/he hadn't. Especially annoying on NBC, which sometimes stretched it out over two or more segments.
- Subverted in the UK and Australian versions, because even after taking a deal your game may not necessarily be over; if two vastly different numbers are left at the end, the Banker may offer the player a "Banker's Gamble" (UK) or "Chance" (AU), thus giving you the opportunity to forfeit your deal and open your case. This resulted in the UK version's second top-prize winner.
- Monty Hall Problem: Subverted. While a contestant who reached the final case was always offered the opportunity to switch it out with his/her case, Howie went out of his way to explain that this was not a Monty Hall situation: the show offered the switch to everyone who got that far, and he had no personal knowledge of which case contained which dollar amount.
- Mystery Box: Quite a few of them, in fact.
- Product Placement: Some cases in the syndicated run promoted HP, Listerine, Sears, Splenda, Evian, and Visine-A.
- Show the Folks At Home: See Trailers Always Spoil, below.
- Who Wants to Be Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: NBC managed to follow ABC's Millionaire lead and run the show so many times per week people got bored of it. The 2007-08 Writers Strike didn't help matters any, as Deal and other games were used to plug the holes left by dramatic programming.
- Zonk: What happens when you knock out the big prizes early in the game.
- The Christmas 2007 episode featured gag prizes in lieu of certain small amounts. The case usually reserved for 1¢ contained a "Lump Of Coal", for example.
- Big Red Button: Arguably, the "Deal" button, with its throbbing red light.
- Canada, Eh?: The five Deal Or No Deal Canada specials, filmed in Toronto (a Canadian city) and hosted by a Canadian (Howie Mandel is indeed a proud Canadian) with Canadian models, a Toronto backdrop, bragging about tax-free winnings, the main stage shaped like a maple leaf, a Home Participation Sweepstakes that Canada could finally play in for once, "Loonie" and "Toonie" ($1 and $2) as the bottom amounts, and the Banker's office decked to look like a penalty box (complete with him pacing back and forth inside it much like a hockey coach).
- Commercial Break Cliffhanger: Done to incredibly-annoying levels during the NBC run.
- Downer Ending: On the British version, elderly contestant Corinne had a goal to buy a vintage Bentley from her birth year — something that would cost over £200,000, thus she was interested only in the top prize. Thoroughly uninterested in any bank offers, she managed to keep the £250,000 to the end, but with 1p as the other box remaining. Exasperated, the Banker offered Corinne £88,000, which she again declined. She turned down the swap, and...well, the fact that this is listed here pretty much gives the rest away.
- Epic Fail: Oh, boy.
- This guy on the Australian version lost all four greens with his first four picks and got a bank offer of ten cents. After all was said and done, the player ended up getting $10.
- And for Epic Fail endings, you can't beat this guy from the Australian version who had 50c and $1 left at the end and won the 50c. He seemed to take it in stride, though, and at least got a giant mock-up check for making DOND history.
- A contestant in the American version dealt for $81,000 with half the board remaining. When they played out the "what if", most of the subsequent cases he picked out were the low values and the Banker's offers rose to $550,000. What was his case? $1,000,000. He was lucky, but bailed way too soon.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Banker.
- Filler: The NBC run had two-hour episodes during sweeps consisting of one game with so much filler (celebrity cameos, gimmick-deals the contestant would never take, lengthened pauses, even field pieces!) that it was obviously done to keep NBC from airing a bomb drama or sitcom. They ended up airing a bomb game show, instead.
- Follow the Leader: A self-inflicted example. Endemol gave ABC a big-money, luck-based "pick the object" game called Set for Life in Summer 2007. It was terrible and got canned after seven episodes.
- Some casinos use their own Deal knockoffs, obviously for much lower stakes.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: The Banker rarely appears on-screen in any version.
- Idiot Ball: The majority of contestants get handed one at some point. The most persistent carriers of the Ball frequently end up carrying it straight to a 1¢ win as they are too stubborn and/or stupid to give up and take the deal offered. It's especially bad when the Banker decides to give them the Game Show equivalent of a pity party and offer them something very close to the top remaining amount...and they still walk away with the penny.
- Luck-Based Mission: Nothing but.
- Jerkass: The Banker in the American version usually insulted players (through Howie on the phone) if said contestants did or said something funny or obnoxious. One of the last NBC-era contestants was a math teacher trying to figure out what the Banker's first offer would be, which made the Banker flash the studio lights with a sound clip saying "Nerd alert!" The Banker then stuck it to him by making the offer a measly $3 for trying to do the Banker's job.
- Pet the Dog: One contestant on the British version really needed money, but made some bad decisions and was left with a pitiful amount. He was so obviously distressed that the Banker phoned up again and offered to buy the mug he'd been drinking from for a ridiculously-high sum.
- Random Number God: Many contestants come up with systems to govern what order they open the boxes in, in accordance with some bizarre belief that this will help. Some of these really do start to look like Random Number Worship after a bit.
- Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: Used endlessly in conversations with the Banker.
- Roger Rabbit Effect: One episode featured Bobby Generic from Bobby's World voiced by, you guessed it, Howie Mandel. He asked the contestant if he accepts the offer or continue. Obviously, the contestant has to act it out and told before he liked Bobby's World.
- Title Drop: After revealing the Banker's offer, the host always asks the contestant "Deal or No Deal?"
- Trailers Always Spoil:
- The commercials NBC ran took almost all of the suspense out of watching, because they showed the contestant reaching a certain point...yet the network still insisted on showing us all the fluff and crap before the stuff in the trailers. And both times the million was actually won, they hyped the hell out of it!
- Partway through the second syndicated season, a gimmick was introduced where the home viewers were shown, before the game even began, which cases contained the top two prizes and the penny. Needless to say, this completely killed the last bit of suspense that made the American version fun to watch.