Taped November 9, 1978 for NBC
Two celebrity-contestant teams play; for pilot #1, the celebrities were David Letterman & Joyce Bulifant. For pilot #2, they were Arte Johnson & Liz Torres. Each team plays a question in each of the two rounds.
In the first round, each team is asked a question and given six answers. For example, "Which animal reproduces more frequently?" The contestant picks two answers from the six possible, and Bill restates the question. The celebrity makes a decision, and the correct answer (and only the answer, no additional information) is revealed. If correct, the team receives one point.
With the correct answer from the previous pair still revealed, the contestant selects one of the four remaining answers, and now the celebrity must choose the better answer of the new pair. Again, if correct, a point is awarded. Play continues until all six answers have been used (at which point Bill opens a big book and shows the correct order for all answers).
In Round Two, the trailing team goes first. This time around, the celebrity chooses the answers and the contestant makes the decision. Each correct answer this time around is worth two points. The team in the lead after Round Two wins $500 and plays the bonus round. Heaven knows what might happen in the event of a tie.
In the bonus round, six more answers are shown, and in this case, the question is, "Which animals have the shortest life expectancies?" (Strangely, BOTH pilots use this question for the end game.)
To start, Bill tells the team a fact about the worst answer (in this case, "Avoid the animal with the longest life expectancy, 100 years.") With that in mind, the contestant selects answers one at a time. Each correct answer is worth $500, and the contestant can quit any time. If the contestant gives a wrong answer, Bill reveals the next worst answer (in this case, the second-longest life expectancy) and the celebrity partner takes over and continues the bonus round. If the celebrity partner is wrong at anytime, all the money won to that point is lost and the game ends. If the team can clear the board without giving two wrong answers, the contestant keeps all the money won plus a fabulous bonus prize.
The webmasters of this site don't agree on everything and this pilot is one example. Mr. Ottinger considers it confusing and dull. Mr. Nedeff concedes that there's retooling to be done (in pilot #2, the game is still in Round 1 at the 12-minute mark and Bill is telling the players to keep it moving) but still believes there's something there.
NBC executives were never shown the Letterman/Bulifant pilot, only the Johnson/Torres pilot, because producers Jack Barry & Dan Enright felt that Letterman wasn't funny. Letterman actually was quite funny, but occasionally at the expense of the show; at the start of the game, he cracks that the set looks like Christmas at a ski lodge.
The undisputed star of the show is David Letterman's contestant partner, a wise-cracking woman named Madeline who is obviously having the time of her life and tosses out jokes throughout the show. She even lands a few zingers on Dave!
Funnily enough, despite Barry & Enright's feelings about Letterman, it was his involvement that led to this pilot being widely circulated among collectors. Actor/voiceover artist Christopher Bay took out an ad in Goldmine Magazine in the 1990s, offering a compilation tape with rare and early TV appearances by David Letterman. Letterman's pilot was included in the collection, and made the rounds among tape traders as a result.