Beat the Clock

From Academic Kids

Beat the Clock was a game show which ran on CBS from 1950 to 1958. The show was hosted by Bud Collyer. It ran again from 1969 to 1974 with Jack Narz and later Gene Wood (as The New Beat the Clock), from 1979 to 1980 (as The All-New Beat the Clock), with Narz again at first, then replaced by Monty Hall, and most recently, in 2002 with Gary Kroeger and Julielinh Parker as co-hosts.

The show had begun on radio with Collyer, who moved with it to television. Contestants were chosen from the studio audience, and were required to perform tasks within a certain time frame. The tasks tended to be of the slapstick physical variety, tending on the messy, with whipped cream, meringues, water balloons, etc. The money prizes were always secondary to the competition, with the winnings rarely more than $100, until such big-money shows as The Big Challenge forced Beat the Clock to start offering prizes up to $5000.

In order to determine if the stunts could actually be performed, the producers hired out-of-work actors to try them out. One of those who did this work was James Dean, who was said to be able to perform any task the producers gave him to try.

1950-1958 Game Format

Main Game: One couple competes against the clock to win a prize. The first stunt is worth $100 and requires either the husband or wife, or both. The stunt is described and the time limit is set. (There are very few times when a stunt required the full 60 seconds.) Should the couple beat the $100 clock, they move on to the $200 clock and the same rules are applied. If they fail to beat the $100 clock, they receive a consolation prize at less than $100. If they fail to beat the $200 clock, they get the $100 prize.

Jackpot Clock: Should the couple beat the $200 clock, the wife will play the Jackpot Clock in which a saying or phrase is scrambled up and that phrase has to be unscrambled in 20 seconds or less. If successful, then the couple wins the Jackpot Prize. If not, they get the $200 prize.

Bonus Stunt: A special signal would sound sometime during the show indicating that the couple that hears that noise will play for a bonus stunt that starts at $500 in cash and goes up by $100 each week that it is not won. (Bonus stunts have been able to reach four figures, even at $2,000 and $3,000.) These stunts are harder than the usual $100 and $200 stunts.

Super Bonus Stunt: Starting on February 25, 1956, after the last regular bonus stunt had been won, a super bonus was added where a couple could attempt to perform a bonus stunt that starts at $10,000 and goes up by $1,000 each time it is not won. This bonus went all the way up to $64,000 and was finally won on September 15, 1956.

Big Cash Bonus Stunt: Starting on September 22, 1956 (the same day Beat the Clock's new sponsor became "Hazel Bishop"), a special signal would again sound sometime during the show indicating that the couple that hears that noise will play for a bonus stunt that starts at $5000 in cash and goes up by $1000 each week that it is not won. This concept was identical to the original bonus stunt concept but previously had lower stakes. If they are successful, they are retired from the game. If not, they continue onward.

Bonus Cash and Prize Stunt: A lucky couple has a chance to win a bundle of cash and a special prize like a car or a boat. To win, they must successfully complete their bonus stunt.

Cultural references

"Beat the Clock" was the title of a UK Hit single in 1979 by German duo Sparks.

Beat the Clock was also the name of a rock and roll band in Minneapolis, Minnesota from 1988 to 1995.


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