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"Is this one of your fantasies? You see a big, beautiful supermarket, and they say to you... "Go ahead, do what you've always wanted to do! Run wild! Grab everything you can get your hands on! Everything in this supermarket is yours — and it's all free!" From Hollywood, where dreams do come true, it's the return of the one and only Supermarket Sweep!"

Game Show created by Al Howard that originally ran on ABC from December 20, 1965 to July 14, 1967, but is more famously remembered for its 1990-95 and 2000-03 revivals on Lifetime and PAX.

The game was simple: In the first round, teams of two players each were asked questions about products that you'd normally find in a supermarket. Whenever a player answered a question right, they'd get bonus time that would aid them in the second half of the show — a large shopping spree-like dash through a supermarket.

At the end of the sweep, the team that picked up the largest cash value of groceries throughout the market was the winner...and during the ABC run, everyone got to keep the groceries.


Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Big Win Sirens: A series of sirens and a clanging bell were used if the $5,000 was won.
  • Bonus Round: The Bonus Sweep, not present in the original, for $5,000.
  • Bonus Space: By the end of the run, you couldn't round a corner without a special item, task, or quest that gave out bonus money. No bonus ever offered more than $300.
  • Consolation Prize: In the original series, everyone got to keep all the groceries they got in the Sweep.
  • Golden Snitch: The Big Sweep was all that mattered. The front game was only there to build up time for the Sweep itself, and it wasn't unheard of (though very rare) for the team with the least amount of time to win. By the end the expensive Farmer John hams, gallon bottles of vegetable oil, baby formula, turkeys, and diapers were pretty much the show's equivalent to R-S-T-L-N-E — always claimed, always a guarantee of a good Sweep total.
  • Mystery Box: The giant inflatable groceries (or grocery mascots; it wasn't uncommon to see the Jolly Green Giant) had an amount of money attached to them from $50-$200 in $50 increments; the top prize was increased to $250 in 1993, and special shows occasionally had a $300 bonus.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: On the ABC version, this was handled by Wally King (1965-66) and Richard Hayes (1966-67) with Johnny Olson and Gene Wood doing frequent subs. Johnny Gilbert did the Lifetime version and the first five months of the PAX version, after which Randy West held this role for the remainder of the run.
    • Game Show Host: Bill Malone on the original, David Ruprecht on the revival.
    • Studio Audience: In the Lifetime era and early on in the PAX era, contestants were picked from the audience if they had a certain product. "Who's got the Ritz crackers? Okay, you're on!"
      • Originally "Come on, you're on!" Wonder why it was changed...
      • One could argue that the contestants were seeded into the audience before the episode began. Later on during the PAX run, the contestants ran out of the market with their items to their stands to start the show.
  • Product Placement: The biggest use of this Trope for everyday items outside of The Price Is Right (and perhaps inclusive).
  • Retired Game Show Element: The first Lifetime season occasionally had a giant monster roaming the aisles, with contestants having to turn around if they encountered it.
Tropes used in Supermarket Sweep include:
  • And Your Reward Is Groceries: The ABC version gave all three couples the groceries they picked up in the Sweep, while the winning couple got the groceries and returned to defend their championship.
    • On the Lifetime/PAX versions, the groceries were only used to build cash totals; only the winning team kept their cash total. (In fact, one contestant put her episode up online and said that most of the dry goods they used were past their expiration date, and the perishables such as meat and cheeses were props.)
  • Big Red Button: Used to activate the clue monitors in later episodes; the monitors were touchscreens when they debuted.
  • Cap: In the Big Sweep, you were limited to five of any one item.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • "Who's got the [grocery item]? Okay, you're on!"
    • "It's the Super Bonus!" (when the $250 inflatable was found)
    • "Remember, the next time you're at the checkout stand and you hear the beep (beep-beep!), think of all the fun you could have on Supermarket Sweep!" [1]
  • Downer Ending: One Bonus Sweep had the team grab the $5,000 and start celebrating, not realizing that the sirens weren't blaring. Ruprecht, who was not smiling, had to not only calm them down but explain that the team grabbed the money about a half-second too late.
  • Epic Fail:
    • One "Team 3", going into the Big Sweep with the 1:30 base they were given at the start of the game, finished with no bonuses and a dismal $374...to which everybody still applauded.
    • Another "Team 3", also having the 1:30 base in the Big Sweep, decided to go the "try for a bunch of bonuses" route...and got none, finishing with about $5.
  • Failed a Spot Check: It happened on several occasions that a team in the Bonus Sweep would walk right past the next clue they needed to get. At least one team did this multiple times with the same clue.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: In some early Lifetime episodes, Ruprecht would make a joke involving a grocery product (e.g., "Aren't we all glad to be here?"), then toss said product off-camera to groans from the audience.
  • Linked-List Clue Methodology: The Bonus Sweep. Clue #1, which David read, led to the first product which contained Clue #2, which led to the second product which contained Clue #3, which led to the third product and the $5,000.
    • This led to problems at least once — a team read Clue #2 wrong and went for the wrong product, which happened to be the third item (the one with the $5,000); they had to put the money back and try to find the third clue...which didn't happen.
  • Long Runner: The Lifetime/PAX version ran for a total of eight years, which is pretty good for a cable game.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Several.
    • Originally, simply grabbing the third Bonus Sweep product awarded the $5,000. The money prop, which became the item that needed to be grabbed, was added around 1992 — although its famous "fan" appearance didn't come until later.
    • The Linked-List Clue Methodology above wasn't enforced, either — grabbing the third product awarded the money, regardless of whether the other two items were found. The regular rule, where teams in this situation had to find the other items and then double back, probably began when the money prop was introduced.
    • The use of cents in Big Sweep totals was discarded after the first Lifetime season (unless two teams totaled within a dollar of each other), although the familiar "running total in corner" display was not adopted until around 1993.
  • Pilot: There was one in 1965, and according to Stephen Battaglio's book David Susskind: A Televised Life a contestant had a heart attack during it. As a result, executive producer Leonard Stern added a rule stating that runners had to be 40 or under and have a note from a physician certifying they were healthy enough to participate; this rule was Stern's only contribution to the show despite his credit, mainly because he was pretty much occupied with overseeing Get Smart and developing three sitcoms of his own: He & She, The Hero, and Run, Buddy, Run.
  • Scenery Porn: The Ruprecht-era supermarket, especially toward the end of the run. As you may expect from a real supermarket, there were several people involved in "restocking" the shelves for each taping.
  • Schmuck Bait: The pound-of-coffee/dollar's-worth-of-candy bonuses, originally worth $100 each, were definitely worth stopping for until rising grocery prices reduced them into this Trope. Somewhat remedied for the last two seasons (2001-03), where they each doubled to $200.
  • Serious Business: A supermarket shopping spree. Hell, yeah.
  • Spin-Off: The original series was replaced (with the same announcer, host, and production company) on July 17, 1967 by The Honeymoon Race. Three men, driven by their wives in bumper cars, competed in a series of five stunts to win prizes — in other words, a precursor to Shop 'til You Drop. The show ended on December 1. (Only the fifth episode is known to exist, and as mentioned on the Trivia tab any extant footage is owned by HBO.)
  • Title Drop: See Catch Phrase, above.
  • Trans Atlantic Equivalent: Two UK runs from 1993-2001 and 2007 with Dale Winton.

Notes

  1. (Originally said by just Ruprecht, the contestants began joining in by 1993.)
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