done deal

Let's Make a Deal broadcast history

The U.S. television game show Let's Make a Deal, one of the most popular of its genre from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s, proved durable enough to find its way onto the schedules of several networks and syndication well into the mid-2000s. Its appeal of suspense, anxious decision-making and the thrill of contestants winning large prizes has proven attractive to several generations of viewers.

Original 1963-1977 version

The original version of Let's Make a Deal aired from December 30, 1963 to September 11, 1977.

NBC, 1963-68

Originating from the NBC Burbank Studios, the program began on NBC's daytime schedule as a mid-afternoon feature, shown at 2 p.m. Eastern/1 p.m. Central. At first, Deal faced stiff competition, namely from CBS' highly popular game Password, although ABC programmed reruns of the sitcom Father Knows Best, a schedule filler that enabled host and packager Monty Hall, in partnership with Stefan Hatos, to get a foothold among viewers.

Sensing that it had a potential hit on its hands, NBC decided to give the new game a yet stronger challenge to sharpen its teeth. Six months into the run, on June 26, 1964, Deal moved to 1:30/12:30, where CBS' mammoth serial As the World Turns was considered untouchable in the Nielsens. Although Deal never bested the soap, the fortuitous emergence of contestants wearing outlandish costumes to get Hall's attention enticed numerous viewers to become as addicted to the bargaining and skits as those who followed the exploits of the residents of Oakdale. Meanwhile, ABC, much as what happened to them on most daytime timeslots, got squeezed out of the race, resorting to reruns of hourlong westerns and even dramas (that actually began at 1/Noon) and short-lived games.

Deal made strong progress on NBC until 1967, when Hatos and Hall approached NBC primetime executives about making the summer replacement primetime run of Deal, which aired between May 21 and September 3, permanent. By this time, though, Hollywood Squares had become the network's top daytime game. Perhaps because a high number of its shows had been affected in the 1950s quiz show scandals, NBC seldom aired games at night, unlike CBS and ABC. Also, the show, although a clear hit, was a perennial second-place finisher in its daytime slot. Thus, the network denied Hatos and Hall's request, in favor of an evening Squares. Angered by the decision, the partners decided to shop the program to the other networks, and ABC, which had always been a distant third in ratings and affiliated stations, was looking for an established show to give its daytime lineup a boost. However, CBS's head of daytime programming, Fred Silverman, did actively recruit the show (he had passed on Squares) to replace the recently cancelled To Tell The Truth for daytime. Also, Hatos and Hall proposed that the show might refresh CBS' then aging but still highly-rated prime-time lineup. However, CBS president Frank Stanton and (more likely) chairman William Paley vetoed Silverman's move for daytime and the producers' move for prime-time (due to CBS' then-strict prize limits for game shows).

ABC, 1968-76 and Syndicated, 1971-77

Thus, Christmas week 1968 saw the end of Deal's five-year run on NBC, ending Friday, December 27. On the following Monday and at the very same timeslot, ABC took over (incidentally the show's fifth birthday), replacing a Florida-based game, Treasure Isle (shuffled with a Heatter-Quigley-packaged game, Funny You Should Ask). ABC lost none of Deal's NBC viewers, something fairly unusual for a show changing networks. Encouraged by this success, in the 1970s ABC would pick up other network daytime castoffs such as The $10,000 Pyramid and The Edge of Night. Production ultimately moved from Burbank to the ABC Television Center in Los Angeles.

For its part, NBC's loss of Deal affected it to the point of falling into third place in daytime at times in 1969. The network went through no fewer than eight different shows in the 1:30/12:30 slot until 1975, earning that time of day a dubious nickname among industry insiders: the "graveyard." Among the failures there included a revival of Art Linkletter's talk show and the original Jeopardy!

ABC also gave Hatos and Hall its desire: a weekly primetime Deal, seen on various nights of the week between 7:30/6:30 and 8:30/7:30 p.m. The antics ran at night from February 7, 1969 through August 30, 1971. However, because the FCC's Prime Time Access Rule effectively forced all three networks at the time to eliminate a half-hour of programming each evening (a full hour on Sundays), ABC had no choice but to let Deal go, along with other games and family-oriented shows. But, in exchange for the cancellation, the network sold Hatos and Hall nighttime production rights (through ABC Films and later Worldvision) that enabled them to start a syndicated version, which aired from 1971 to 1977.

Meanwhile, now a daytime institution, Deal kept on entertaining viewers with Hall's peculiar blend of salesmanship and flattery of contestants. But, after a dozen years on daytime, it finally began to decline in 1975, beginning in April, when NBC solved its "graveyard" problem by expanding Days of Our Lives. By December 1, CBS followed suit with ATWT, meaning that, for the first time ever, Deal came in third place in its slot. ABC's fix was for Deal to move to Noon/11 on December 29, where CBS' hit The Young and the Restless had emerged as the winner after a three-year struggle. Even against NBC's frank failure The Magnificent Marble Machine, Hall lost most of his old audience to other games and soaps. The Friday after the U.S. Bicentennial, July 9, 1976, witnessed the final ABC (and original daytime) episode; Family Feud, a Goodson-Todman game hosted by Richard Dawson, took Deal's place.

After ABC's cancellation, Hatos and Hall moved production for its final syndicated season from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, where it took place inside the Las Vegas Hilton's showroom. By this time, newer weekly prime-access weeklies such as Match Game PM and Name That Tune increasingly displaced Deal, which was one of the first generation of off-network evening games in 1971. At the end of the season, Hatos and Hall ended the 14-year-old format, turning instead to other projects such as NBC's It's Anybody's Guess and Hall's 1979-1980 stint hosting Goodson-Todman Productions' Beat the Clock.

Syndicated, 1980-81

However, Hall got the itch to make deals again, and he and Hatos brought the show back for a short time during the 1980-1981 season. Recorded in Vancouver B.C., Canada (Hall's native country) primarily for that nation's viewers, the revived Deal was seen on some U.S. stations during that season and for several years afterward, as a cheap source of what is known to industry insiders as "Cancon."

This version was co-produced by Catalena Productions (who had also produced Pitfall).

Syndicated, 1984-86

A modestly successful remake, called The All New Let's Make a Deal, debuted in September 1984, premiering among a number of new syndicated games. This version was taped at the NBC Studios in Burbank, California (returning to its original studios), and was distributed by Telepictures (but remained a Hatos-Hall production). Although the show began with a small budget, it managed to widen its audience and budget as the series progressed. Hall was joined on this version by announcers Brian Cummings (season 1) and Dean Goss (season 2), both of whom participated in the game as Jay Stewart did years earlier.

The 1986 finale featured cameo appearances by original model Carol Merrill and Jay Stewart. Reruns continued for several years on several different cable networks.

Geoff Edwards, who hosted The New Treasure Hunt, substituted for Monty Hall for one week during the first season while Hall suffered a bout of laryngitis. It was also said that Edwards once subbed for Hall in the 1960s when the program still aired on NBC, although no evidence exists for this.

NBC, 1990-91 daytime

On July 9, 1990, NBC tried a revival of the show starring announcer Bob Hilton, but the show flopped, in large measure because many NBC affiliates pre-empted the network at 10 a.m. Eastern/9 Central for syndicated programming instead. Monty Hall was brought back midway (albeit with much grayer hair; following the trend Bob Barker began in 1987) through the run to try to boost the ratings, but it was too late, petering out after just six months on January 11, 1991. This version originated from the Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida, and was co-packaged by Dick Clark and Ron Greenberg; Stefan Hatos had retired by this point.

1996 FOX revival--Big Deal

Big Deal was FOX's attempt at a spinoff of Let's Make a Deal in the fall of 1996. This version, which was produced with Hatos and Hall's approval (although they were not involved in the production and were reportedly not happy with the results), added elements of Truth or Consequences to the gameplay and was hosted by Mark DeCarlo. Originally scheduled as a placeholder for L.A. Firefighters, the show ran for six weeks in September and October 1996 on Sunday evenings.

NBC, 2003 primetime

In 2003, the network tried another revival of Deal in primetime, this time starring Billy Bush, with announcer Vance DeGeneres.

Monty Hall himself came back to this version as executive producer, although the show apparently differed significantly from his vision. Hall had wanted Al Roker to host this version, although the producers of this version (which were supplied by NBC, the same ones that also produced Blind Date) had their own ideas, which apparently pushed away viewers.

It was not a success on any front. Some longtime fans of the format complained about the new show's raunchier tone, citing such skits as a deal in the premiere where a contestant had to reach beneath a male cast member's skirt to retrieve items related to the deal. Meanwhile, younger viewers (for whom the changes were purportedly intended to court) never gave the show a chance. Perhaps the most damaging, however, was NBC's placing the show against FOX's emerging hit American Idol. Five hour-long episodes were shot, but only three aired before NBC pulled the plug; the other two never aired.

Hall, joined by daughter Sharon, returned to conduct a deal on the final airing. Hall's deal also brought back a contestant from the 1970s version who had passed up three separate cars during a single deal. She lost out on a car once again.

Univisión, 2005

On January 10, 2005, a Spanish-language franchised version of Deal, titled Trato hecho (literally "Deal Made" or "Done Deal"), premiered on Univisión. The term used for "zonk" on this show was chasco, which is the Spanish word for "disappointment". This version originated from the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. Guillermo Huesca served as the host. The show was cancelled after an eleven-month run.

One-off episodes

While Let's Make a Deal has not been revived in English-language form since 2003, there have been two one-off episodes of the show that have taken place.

In 2006, Let's Make a Deal was the second of seven game show formats used in the RTL Group and ITV joint production Gameshow Marathon, which aired on CBS. The series was hosted by former talk show moderator Ricki Lake and used celebrities as contestants. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried was shown in at least one zonk (as a baby in a high-chair) and in a Dodge Viper in the big deal (which neither contestant picked). Gilbert referred to his infamous blooper on Hollywood Squares by shouting at the contestants: "You Fool!" during the spiel for the car.

In 2008, ABC's Good Morning America feature Let's Make a Deal as part of its classic game show week, along with Gambit and The Newlywed Game. Hall, 86 years old, returned to host the one-off episode, and in doing so became the oldest host of a game show ever, surpassing Bob Barker, who was 83 at the time of his retirement as host of The Price is Right. This version of the game featured Hall making several small deals with audience members, exchanging the usual trinkets for envelopes full of "Monty dollars." The people who had the envelopes with the most Monty dollars were brought on stage for the Big Deal.

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