Winning Streak

First episode: July 1, 1974 
Last episode: January 3, 1975 
Seen weekday mornings 10:30-11:00 on NBC

The Show:

"You can double your money with every word and you may win over $100,000, or you may go broke. The decision is yours...This is Winning Streak!"

"You can double your money with every word and you may win over $100,000, or you may go broke. The decision is yours...This is Winning Streak!"

The contestants both had a seven-space row in front of them, and the contestant who won the letter chose the position to place it in and chose the next letter. (If a contestant won a letter they didn't need, they could reject it and still make the next selection.) The first contestant to form a word that fits the presented category wins the game and plays the bonus game.

In the bonus game, the contestant faces 18 numbered tiles. S/he selects a number between 1 and 6, and the hidden dollar amount (between $100 and $200) would be the base figure. The contestant then picks a number between 7 and 18. Hidden behind each space was a letter. Give a word with the chosen letter, win the base amount. The contestant can either quit there or keep picking hidden letters. For each letter picked, the contestant has to give a new word that contains all letters revealed, doubling the money for every acceptable word. A wrong guess or time running out means losing everything. Whatever the result, the contestant goes to a pulpit onstage to watch the next game.

Two new contestants lay the same front game, except with a different set of letters and a new category. The winner plays the bonus game, and if they bust, the winner of the previous game became the new champion. If the previous game's winner went bust and the second winner wins money, the second winner became champ. 

If both contestants come out of their bonus games with money (or presumably, if both went bust), they play "sudden death." This round was similar to the bonus round, with the contestants alternating between each other picking letters & giving words. The first contestant to get stumped loses, while the opponent wins their combined winnings (i.e., if one contestant got $1,040 and the other got $1,800, the sudden death winner got $2,840) and meets a new opponent.

Notes:

Winning Streak aired during the tenure of NBC daytime programming head Lin Bolen, who sought to give game shows on the network a more youthful look. Bill, who was 54 when this show premiered, grew his hair thick and nearly shoulder-length, and in surviving footage and some photos from the series, he can be seen in butterfly collars instead of neckties. Coincidentally or not, following the cancellation of Winning Streak, Bill didn't return to NBC until after Bolen's departure.

This is one of the stranger shows to emerge from Bob Stewart Productions. Stewart tended to stick with ideas that he liked or ideas that worked for him in the past, and as such, a Bob Stewart game show tends to bear some sort of resemblance to another Bob Stewart game show. He had many word games, many games where celebrities teamed with partners; quirky riddle-style questions, or incomplete questions that needed to be finished, or formats that dealt in the way that celebrities might answer certain questions. Winning Streak doesn't resemble anything else Bob Stewart ever did. 

Winning Streak owns a strange footnote in game show programming history.  When it debuted, it took the Jeopardy! time slot on NBC's daytime lineup.  (Jeopardy! moved to the time period vacated by Bill's earlier series, Three on a Match.)  Six months later, Winning Streak was replaced in the line-up by Wheel of Fortune. Years later, those two legendary Merv Griffin shows would become the biggest hits in syndication history. 

Winning Streak would also mark the last teaming of Bill and veteran announcer Pardo, who worked together on Bill's first network series, Winner Take All.  The pair also worked together on The Price Is RightEye Guess and Three on a Match.  A few months after Winning Streak ended, Pardo became the announcer for Saturday Night Live, a job he held for 38 seasons until his death in 2014.

Video:

One episode has aired on Game Show Network.  It's from August 9, which would have been the day that Richard Nixon resigned.  Our theory is that the episode was originally pre-empted for news coverage, and ended up in some different stack of tapes that survived when the others were destroyed. In other words, the most widely seen remnant of Winning Streak is an episode that almost certainly didn't see the light of the day when the series was on the air.

 

The pilot for the series, shot on May 5, is in the vast holdings of the UCLA archives but is not available for viewing there.  In addition, we have the opening minutes from the December 26 episode.

Clippings:

1974-07-03 Winning Streak.jpg
Variety  reviews Winning Streak