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"Close calls...narrow escapes...split-second decisions...and $25,000 in cash! A combination guaranteed to make you say...Whew!"—Rod Roddy's Opening Narration.
The rules...oh, boy. Stay with us here. There were two contestants — one as the Blocker, one as the Charger. The Blocker would place six Blocks on the game board, which had five Levels of five boxes each (valued from $10-$50), plus a sixth Level with only three boxes ($200, $350, $500). No more than three Blocks could be placed on any of the first five Levels, and no more than one on the Level 6. After the Blocks were placed, the Charger took control of the board, with a 60-second time limit to get to the top by answering "bloopers" — clues with an intentionally wrong word (e.g., "Bob Barker is the host of The Price Is Too Damn High", with the correct answer being The Price Is Right). A correct answer advanced to the next Level, while finding a Block imposed a five-second penalty. In addition, if the Charger wanted (typically if time was running short), s/he could call "Longshot!" and advance immediately to Level 6, where the Blocker would place a seventh Block using one of three "secret buttons". The Blocker and Charger then traded places. Games were played best-of-three, and the winner advanced to the Bonus Round.
Still with us? The bonus round was the Gauntlet of Villains. Here, the contestant was given 60 seconds plus one second for every $100 won through Charging and Blocking. The "Villains" were cartoonish characters with bloopers displayed in screens on their stomachs, and the contestant had to run through all ten in the given time for $25,000.
On November 5, the format was slightly altered to use teams of one contestant and one celebrity. This venture, appropriately called Celebrity Whew! and originally promoted to run for three weeks, ended up remaining until the show's end on May 30, 1980.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Bonus Round: The Gauntlet of Villains.
- Later in the run, the format was adjusted so matches wouldn't straddle between episodes. To help this, players who won the first two rounds then played a third round against the house for additional money/Gauntlet time. The six Blocks were placed by the Villains, with a seventh added on Level 6 if the Longshot was used.
- Celebrity Edition: The show switched to two celebrity-contestant teams in November 1979; among those who participated were Jamie Farr, Marcia Wallace, and Betty White. Unlike many other examples of this Trope, Celebrity Whew! didn't really suffer all that much — the only real change was that teams split duties in Charging, Blocking, and running the Gauntlet.
- Game Show Winnings Cap: Beginning in June 1979, a five-game limit was imposed on contestants. Any contestant who beat the Gauntlet retired immediately.
- Sound Proof Booth: While the Blocker placed Blocks on the board, the Charger sat behind a scenic flat wearing headphones that played white noise.
- Sudden Death: Any time "LONGSHOT!" got yelled out, which typically happened when the Charger knew they weren't going to get to Level 6 before time ran out. Yelling "LONGSHOT!" stopped the clock, with the sound effect of screeching tires and a crash, then immediately brought said Charger to Level 6.
- Once the Blocker put a "secret Block" among the three bloopers (Tom reminded the Charger that there may already be a Block on Level 6), the Charger had to find a blooper and correct it to win. If they couldn't at that point (by either finding a Block or not solving the blooper), the Blocker won.
- Whammy: The Block, which forced the Charger to wait five seconds before selecting another value on that Level. The Blocker, meanwhile, was awarded the amount it was attached to.
This show provides examples of:
- Animated Credits Opening: Done by none other than Hanna-Barbera. A young lady dodges the Gauntlet's characters in what appears to be a Scooby Doo-style haunted house, eventually reaching a large pot of gold. A word bubble comes out of her mouth, which turns into the show's logo before dissolving to the same logo on-set.
- Calvin Ball: Just look at the freaking rules, although it becomes a lot easier to understand upon watching an episode or two.
- Downer Ending: Randy Amasia, a high-profile member of the online game show community, was a contestant in August and searched for years for his second episode. Just hours before a copy was secured, he died of throat cancer.
- Both of his episodes circulate as master recordings, but his first day also circulates from its original broadcast. The person who taped it, a co-worker of Randy, then forgot to tape the second episode (with the $25,000 win); Randy stated years later that he felt it wasn't a coincidence said co-worker quickly became a former co-worker.
- Grand Finale: The last show had a final Block configuration (composed by the Villains, as per the format) resembling either a finger with the $350 space as its green nail...or a penis, a fact which Kennedy seemed to notice.
- Hurricane of Puns: They flew fast, freely and furiously here, including one about an announcer named "I Beg Your" Pardo.