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Infamous Game Show that helped fuel the scandal of the 1950s. Host Jack Barry asked knowledge questions of two contestants, each of whom was in a Sound Proof Booth and not aware of the other's progress. Question values were worth from 1-11 points, appropriately increasing in difficulty. The object was to be the first player to score 21, but both players had the option to stop the game after correctly answering any question. Oh, and by modern standards, the questions were brutally difficult.
The scandal arose after a match between Charles Van Doren and Herb Stempel. Both men had been given the answers in advance (to make the game more dramatic, Dan Enright later said) and Stempel had been coached to lose. The whole incident was dramatized in the 1994 movie Quiz Show.
A Twenty One Revival was attempted in 1982 with Bullseye US host Jim Lange, but the pilot didn't sell. In 2000, NBC retooled the game for prime time, with Maury Povich as host. It ran for only a few months, but paid out big — Rahim Oberholtzer won $1.1 Million and David Legler topped that by winning $1.75 Million, both American game-show records. Legler's record would stand until Kevin Olmstead won the graduated grand prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (who would then be passed by Ken Jennings.)
Not to be confused with the film of the same name.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Bonus Round: One on the 1982 pilot, "Perfect 21" on the Povich version.
- Lifelines: The "Second Chance" rule in the 2000 revival that allowed a friend or relative to be brought onstage and give an answer. One of the few instances where using the Lifeline incurred an additional penalty, getting the question wrong then gave you two Strikes instead of just one.
- Sound Proof Booth: Pretty much defined this Trope.
- Confetti Drop: Confetti and balloons were released whenever a contestant surpassed the $1,000,000 mark.
- Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: The questions on the 1950s version.
- Who Wants to Be Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: The 2000 remake was basically NBC's answer to Millionaire.
- Career-Derailing Hosting Job: Averted for Monty Hall, who survived this — his first American hosting job — never being accused of knowing of any rigging going on.
- Genre Killer: The quiz show scandals (which Twenty-One came to symbolize) discredited game shows for some time. It wasn't until The Seventies that American viewers would trust such shows again on a large-scale basis (and 1999 for big money quizzes to come back in vouge).
- Pilot: At least two.
- March 1956: Taped for CBS, with not much different from the series...except a big freakin' "SPONSOR" above Barry where "GERITOL" was in the series. Nope, you definitely can't tell it's a pilot...
- April 24, 1982: Produced for daily syndication with Jim Lange hosting and Charlie O'Donnell announcing. Intended to replace the quickly-heading-out-the-door Celebrity Bullseye, which had the same host and announcer; didn't work.
- Stage Money: The 2000 version showed the contestants the money they won, which they took off the stage in a tote bag.
- Trans Atlantic Equivalent: Many.
- Granada Television produced a version for ITV from 3 July to 23 December 1958 with Chris Howland hosting, but pulled due to the quiz show scandals (with contestant Stanley Armstrong claiming he had been given "definite leads" to the answers).
- Hätten Sie's gewusst? ran in Germany on public broadcaster ARD from 1958–69, hosted by Hans "Heinz" Maegerlein. At eleven years, it's the longest-running version of the show.
- Australia's Nine Network aired Big Nine in 1968, hosted by Athol Guy. No, seriously, that's his name.