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The Child's Play  Pilots

Taped May 11, 1982 for CBS

The Show:

In April 1982, Bill signed off from Blockbusters for the last time. But unemployment didn't last very long. One month later, on May 11, 1982, he was at Studio 33 at CBS Television City to mount a pilot for an ambitious new game from Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions. Here's a look at the two pilots that led to the launch of Child's Play.

The basic idea of contestants trying to figure out words from definitions given by children was there, all right, but the way the game was played was far more intricate. Series creator Jonathan Goodson didn't even remember this original format when it was laid out for him in a 2012 interview, but responded that it must have been changed because "it sounded so bogged down."

For each word, the contestants were given symbols. One contestant got a bullseye, the other got a pair of candy sticks (the contestants alternated these symbols for each round). Having the bullseye meant a player could only take one guess at the correct answer, the candy sticks meant two guesses.

The "bullseye" player had an advantage though. After each definition, that player decided who gave a guess. They could force their opponent to answer, or they could choose to answer themselves (at the risk of being wrong and leaving the other player unopposed for the remaining definitions).

Also, if three definitions played out and no one gave a correct answer, a fourth definition would be shown, and the contestants would hit their buzzers to give a guess. For added help, Bill would preface the fourth definition by telling the contestants the first letter of the correct answer. (In execution, this rule played out awkwardly. In the second pilot, the contestant rings in immediately after hearing the letter, without hearing another definition.)

Every word was worth one point, and the round ended when a player reached 3 points. At that point they shifted to Fast Play. Words were still worth one point each, with six points winning the game and $500.

The winner went on to play the Triple Play round, called "The A-B-C Game" in the pilot (and since the pilot was produced for CBS, you can see why that name didn't make it to the series). In the pilots, the contestant had a full minute to give the needed six answers.


The pilots are treated as if they're back-to-back episodes of a series. The winner of pilot #1 appears as the "returning champion" in pilot #2, and her announced winnings are the money she's credited with in pilot #1.

The end credits say that the show is "A Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Production." When the show premiered in four months later, the company's name changed and and the series was "A Mark Goodson Production."

Child's Play Bill Cullen pilot
Child's Play Bill Cullen pilot
Child's Play Bill Cullen pilot
Child's Play Bill Cullen pilot

The "bogged down" lament of the show's own creator is understandable, particularly for a game that's strictly for laughs. But I (Adam) actually rather liked the added layer of strategy, and the added weight that the format gives to the first round of the game.

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