Celebrity Sweepstakes was an American television game show that aired on NBC's daytime schedule from April 1, 1974 to October 1, 1976. The show also had two separate weekly syndicated runs from 1974 to 1975 and 1976 to 1977.
Jim McKrell hosted the show. Bill Armstrong was the announcer from 1974 to 1977, with Dick Tufeld & John Harlan substituting. Joey Bishop & Carol Wayne were the regulars that appeared most often. Other regular panelists included Clifton Davis, Buddy Hackett, George Hamilton, and Freddie Prinze. CS was produced jointly by Ralph Andrews and Burt Sugarman. The first theme song was composed by Stan Worth, and the second by Alan Thicke.
Contestants could bet $2, $5 or $10 (unless he or she had $10 or less, at which point the bet defaulted automatically to $2) or up to $100, if he or she bet on the favorite out of the panel (near the end of the run, the contestant could not bet more than what they had minus $10 when doing this).
A correct answer would win the contestant the value of the bet times that celebrity's odds (a $10 bet on a celebrity with the right answer and his/her odds are at 5:1 would win $50), a wrong answer lost the value of the bet and the opponent could then make a bet of his or her own on that same question. If no celebrity had the correct answer, the question would be thrown out (known as a "scratch" and indicated by a loud horn) and replaced. The round was timed. If either player dropped down to less than the minimum $2 bet, both players were given $2 (or $1 if that player already had $1).
Near the end of the show's run, the celebrities no longer wrote down answers. This made the game run quicker, and made it more likely that a question would be answered, since if the current player's celebrity got the answer wrong, the other celebrities now knew that it was a wrong answer; however, it made it possible that nobody knew a question.
Both players kept any cash won on the show. The player with the greatest cash total won the game. Originally, if the game ended in a tie, both players came back, but this changed to both players leaving if the both lost everything on the last question. A contestant with three wins (at one point, five) won a car. Originally, players could stay on for seven days, and could win a second car with six wins; later, this became three days, then five (this was when the change was made to needing five wins for the car, but it was then changed back to only needing three wins for the car, although the five-game limit remained).
On the syndicated versions, two different contestants (no returning champions) played each week. The winner of the game received a bonus prize.
Later in the syndicated version, a "fanfare" played in the game meant that the contestants also had a chance to predict how many celebrities had the correct answer. If either prediction, or both, were correct, the player(s) won a bonus prize package, called the "exacta". This was also added to the NBC version in the last 13 weeks of its run, although they added a rule where the two players had to choose different numbers.
A later promotion involved home contestants; over a week, celebrities played the game (mainly from NBC soap operas, although Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford of Wheel of Fortune appeared on the last day), each playing for someone at home, but in order to win, the home player had to be able to answer the phone when called. (One contestant would have had the lead, but her phone was busy; fortunately, she was drawn by another celebrity, who ended up with the highest score.) The top three celebrities (whose home contestants answered the phone) won their game amounts for their home contestants, plus an extra $75,000 to the winner, $20,000 for second, and $5,000 for third.
But on January 6, 1975, NBC relocated it to 10/9 a.m., where it finally found a large audience, besting CBS' Joker's Wild soundly, which led to the latter show's cancellation that summer. CS served as the lead-in for Wheel of Fortune during the latter show's first year.
However, on November 3, CBS expanded Price is Right to a full hour, that network's first regular hourlong daytime program. CS began to decline after that point, with NBC moving the show on June 14, 1976, when the network gave the 10/9 slot over to reruns of the prime-time sitcom Sanford and Son. NBC later on decided to knock it down a half-hour, against the second half of TPiR, where it did no better than opposite the first. CS aired its final episode on October 1, clocking in exactly a 30-month run to the day. Hollywood Squares would take over the 10:30/9:30 slot.
Andrews and Sugarman syndicated CS originally in September 1974 as a concurrent companion to the NBC version; it was a weekly offering that appeared mainly in medium-to-large-sized markets during local stations' Prime Time Access slots of 7 to 8 p.m. Eastern or 6:30 to 7 p.m. Central. CS did not get renewed by its syndicator for the next season.
In the late spring of 1976, Andrews and Sugarman tried it again. CS met with no greater success in 1976-1977 than it had two years earlier, and the program ended production at the end of that season.