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Parker Garcia
Parker Garcia

Against The Clock

Substitute hosts on the original version included Bill Hart (1951), John Reed King (1952), stunt creator Frank Wayne (1953), Bob Kennedy (1954), Win Elliot (1955), Chuck Lafille (1956) and Sonny Fox, who became Collyer's permanent substitute from 1957 to 1960. Collyer was referred to in the introductions as "America's number one clockwatcher", and the fill-in hosts were each named "America's number two clockwatcher".

Against the Clock

One couple competed against the clock to win a prize in stunts that required one or both members of the couple. The stunt was described and the time limit was set on a giant onstage clock. The time limit was always a multiple of 5 seconds, usually at least 30 seconds. At one point Collyer said that a 55-second time limit was the maximum, but later on, stunts occasionally had 60-second limits. On the primetime edition, the first stunt was called the $100 clock. If the couple beat the $100 clock, they moved on to the $200 clock and the same rules applied. If they failed to beat the $100 clock, they received a consolation prize worth less than $100. If they failed to beat the $200 clock, they got a prize worth more than $100. On the daytime versions, couples continued playing as long as they kept beating the clock, with various prizes awarded for each victory.

On the primetime version, if the couple beat the $200 clock, the wife would play the jackpot clock in which the words of a famous saying or quote were scrambled up on a magnetic board and that phrase had to be unscrambled in 20 seconds or less. If successful, then the couple won the Jackpot Prize. If not, they got a prize worth more than $200. Occasionally, when the wife of the couple did not speak English very well, the husband was allowed to perform the jackpot clock.

The jackpot clock and the Bonus Stunt would provide the templates for the traditional quiz show bonus round, which would become a TV staple, starting in 1950 with the bonus question round on You Bet Your Life.

In the show's earliest set design in available episodes, there was a round display near the contestants mirroring the clock. This display had three rings of light like a target. The outer ring would light during the $100 clock, the middle ring for the $200 clock, and the center circle would light during the jackpot clock. This feature was removed in later set designs.

Some time during every episode (between normal stunts), a bell would sound. The couple playing at the time would attempt the Bonus Stunt for the Bonus Prize that started at $100 in cash. If the stunt was not beaten, it would be attempted the next week with $100 added to the prize. When it was beaten, it was retired from the show and a new Bonus Stunt began the next week at $100. The bonus (as the name suggests) did not affect the regular game, and win or lose the couple continued the regular clocks wherever they left off. Beginning in August 1954, the starting amount for each Bonus Stunt was raised to $500, still increasing $100 each week.

Bonus Stunts were harder than the usual $100 and $200 clocks and sometimes reached $2,000 and even $3,000 on rare occasions. The first time the Bonus reached $1,000 was on February 28, 1953, when it was won for that amount. In 1956, the Bonus Stunt was replaced by the Super Bonus.

In response to the big money prizes on other networks' game shows, CBS talked Mark Goodson into increasing the stakes on Beat The Clock. Ultimately the plan was unsuccessful as the ratings never did improve much, perhaps leading to the end of the Super Bonus. Starting on February 25, 1956, after the last regular Bonus Stunt had been won, it was replaced by the super bonus which started at $10,000 and went up by $1,000 every time a couple failed to beat the clock. Unlike with the regular bonus stunt and the "Big Cash Bonus Stunt" that followed it, the Super Bonus was attempted by every couple who qualified by beating the $200 clock. Originally the stunt was played at the end of the show by each couple that qualified, and "because of the high prize value" a special timing machine made by the Longines company was used, which was touted as the most accurate portable timer available. Probably realizing that seeing the same stunt a few times in a row was a bit boring, they moved the Super Bonus right after the $200 clock and before the jackpot clock on March 17, dropping the Longines timer.

The setup for the stunt was often designed to look easy but then have a complication or gimmick revealed. For example, Collyer would say "All you have to do is stack four plates", check the clock to see how much time they had to do it, and then add "Oh, and one more can't use your hands". Common twists included blindfolding one or both contestants, or telling them they could not use their hands (or feet or any body part that would be obvious to use for whatever the task was).

Technicality in the rules was not a major issue on the show. The goal was usually to make sure the contestants had fun. Collyer would often stop the clock in the middle of a stunt if the contestant(s) was struggling so he advised them on a better way to do the stunt. Often if a condition of the stunt was "don't use your hands," Collyer would ignore the first use of hands and just warn the contestant. If the time limit was nearly up on a task, he would often give them a few moments extra, or tell them if they started before the clock ran out and succeeded in that attempt, he would count it. Sometimes if a contestant had come close enough (for example, if they had to stack cups and saucers without the pile falling over, and the contestant knocked the pile over while putting the last cup on top), he would give them the stunt if they did not have time to do it again. If there was a problem with a prop breaking or running out of a supply, such as balloons, Collyer would simply give the stunt to the couple, citing it as the show's fault. Similarly, on the messy stunts, since the goal was just to mess up the husband, the time limit was often unimportant and the clock would be stopped when Bud felt the husband was messy enough.

Prizes varied depending on the era of the show and the sponsor at the time. During Sylvania's tenure as sponsor (which began in March 1951), consolation prizes for losing the $100 clock were usually a Sylvania radio.

There were also various gifts given to the contestants just for appearing on the show. There was a Sylvania Beat the Clock home game produced which was given to contestants starting in the mid-50s. When it was novel, Collyer would open the box and explain that it would be fun for not just children but adults at parties, and he would point out the working clock and the instructions for stunts and all the props. Later in the run it would be brought out, shown and whisked away just as quickly. The boxes were reworked a few times, and there was a new edition released later in the run. Both versions were manufactured by Lowell Toy Mfg. Co. of New York, who produced a number of television-based home games at the time.

At some point during the show, the celebrity would perform a "Solo Stunt" (which seemed to have supplanted the Bonus Stunt on the original show). The couples won $50 if they guessed correctly whether the star could beat the clock or vice versa. Towards the end of Narz's tenure as host, stunts would be replaced in the second half of the show with the celebrity playing a game of intuition with the couples, who would play for a cash prize that was divided among them.

The show was now called The New Beat the Clock (although the logo still read simply "Beat the Clock"), and the set was refreshed with a new color scheme and a redesigned clock. Like his predecessor, Wood also wore suit jackets with the show's logo sewn on the pockets.

Two couples, one usually a returning champion, competed against each other and the clock. The champion couple (or champion-designate if the previous episode had ended with a retiring champion couple) wore red sweaters while the opposing couple wore green.

The first two rounds began with the couples competing against each other in a stunt worth $500 for the winner. One stunt usually featured the women of the couples, while the other featured the men, though the other partner sometimes had to help as well. The stunts were conducted for 60 seconds and were either races against the clock to perform an objective or competitions to outscore the opponent in the stunt before the clock ran out. In the former case, the clock was run as a fail safe, and if neither couple managed to complete the stunt, the team furthest along won.

Hall would then bring the winning couple across the stage to compete in a stunt by themselves for an additional $500. After Hall described the stunt and what both partners had to do, the clock was set and the couple had to complete the stunt in the allotted time. Doing so won the $500, but failure to do so did not.

The Bonus Stunt round was conducted the same way as the solo stunts were. Hall would give the objective of the Bonus Stunt to the champion couple, then the clock would be set and the couple had to complete the stunt before time ran out. If they did so, as previously mentioned, they won ten times their Bonus Shuffle score for a maximum of $10,000 and a new Bonus Stunt would be played on the next show. If a Bonus Stunt was played five consecutive times without a couple managing to complete it, the stunt would be replaced with a new one.

Before the playing of each stunt, a two-part trivia question was asked. Answering it correctly gave the team 10 extra seconds to complete the stunt and both parts had to be answered correctly, one by each player, in order to get those 10 seconds. 10 points were given for completing the stunt with one additional point for each second remaining on the clock (for example, if a couple completed a stunt with three seconds remaining, they scored 13 points for the round).

The two remaining couples were then shown the stunt they would have to attempt. After the stunt was described, another trivia question was asked. In this case, the female half of the couple was given the option to answer it, have her partner answer it, or pass it to the other team to make them answer. If the couple answered correctly they would be given control, but if they did not the opponents did. The two couples then bid down from a base time of two minutes to see who could complete the stunt in the fastest amount of time, and bidding continued until one team challenged the other to beat the clock. The stunt was then played, and if the challenged couple completed it they won the game and advanced to the bonus game. If they were not successful, the challenging couple won the game. 041b061a72




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