The Joker's Wild
First episode: September 4, 1972
Bill's first episode: September 10, 1984
Last original episode: May 23, 1986
Originally seen weekday mornings on CBS
Later shows (including Bill's) were produced for daily syndication.
"From Hollywood, here's the game where knowledge is king and lady luck is queen! It's The Joker's Wild!"
Two contestants take turns spinning the three wheels on a giant slot machine. The wheels contain five categories and jokers. If a contestant spins three different categories, a correct answer in the chosen category pays $50. Spinning a pair of a category is worth $100. Spinning three of a kind (called a Natural Triple) earned a jackpot of prizes and a question worth $200. The jokers are wild and can be used to represent any category the contestant wanted. The first contestant to score $500 after each contestant has spun an equal number of turns wins the game; spinning three jokers automatically wins the game with a single correct answer.
The winner then plays Face the Devil. The wheels now have money amounts ranging from $25-$200, with a Devil in a single window. If a contestant can spin $1,000 or more without seeing a Devil, they keep all the cash amassed plus a prize package.
Some of Bill's episodes during the first season also included a segment in which members of the studio audience competed against home viewers by telephone, spinning a special set of all-money wheels, with the high-scoring spinner playing their own Face the Devil game.
A durable series, remembered today as the successful return to network television for Jack Barry, who had been disgraced in the quiz scandals of the late fifties. The show ran for three years on the CBS daytime schedule, then after a two-year hiatus, began a long and successful run in syndication in the fall of 1977.
Barry, who battled health issues throughout the run of the syndicated series, began hosting the show on alternating weeks with guest host Jim Peck during the 1983-84 season, with a long-term plan of having Barry step aside in the fall of 1984 and passing the torch to Peck. When Barry died suddenly in the spring of 1984, the show's syndicator suddenly objected to the proposal, and Bill was pressed into service to take over as the new host.
Jim Peck never hosted another game show after The Joker's Wild, creating a rather odd coincidence. The 1977-1986 syndicated series was the last game show ever for all three of the prolific emcees who hosted it.
Bill himself was not in the best of health during his two seasons on the series. He had major pancreatic surgery in 1985 and became diabetic. In episodes from the 1985-86 season, Bill sounds tired at times, and the show's off-camera judge frequently has to jump in to correct his misreading of questions. Despite his health issues, Bill had committed to return to the show for the 1986-87 season. When not enough stations signed on to justify continuing production, Bill simply retired instead.
The entire series exists, and many episodes--though not nearly all of them--have been rerun on USA Network and Game Show Network.