|CBS Primetime, March 23, 1950 – February 16, 1958|
CBS Daytime, September 16, 1957 – September 12, 1958
ABC Daytime, October 13, 1958 – January 27, 1961
|Bern Bennett 1950-1958|
Dirk Fredericks 1958-1961
|Maxine Elliott Theatre (Studio 51), New York City, New York (1950-1958)|
Ritz Theatre, New York City, New York (1958-1961)
Beat the Clock was television's first and longest-running stunt show. Produced and created by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, couples performed wacky and unusual stunts within certain time limits to win big cash and prizes.
One couple competed against the Clock to win a prize in stunts that could require one or both members of the couple. The stunt was described and the time limit was set on a giant wall 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 got 60-second limits. On the primetime version, 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, a couple continued playing as long as they kept beating the clock.
If the couple beat the $200 Clock, the wife would play the "Jackpot Clock" in which the words of a famous saying or quote was 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 (see below) would provide the templates for the traditional quiz-show bonus round, which would become a TV staple, starting in 1961 with the Lightning Round for the Goodson-Todman word game Password.
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 (see below).
There was usually a special technique for performing the stunt that had to be figured out, but even then, the stunt was usually difficult enough to require some skill or luck once the technique was realized. Viewers would usually try to figure it out and after a few weeks on the air viewers would often get it (sometimes Collyer would remark that viewers had been writing in and he would give certain dimensions of the props used so viewers could try to figure it out at home).
Usually either contestants themselves would start appearing on the show with the technique in mind, or audience members would shout it out to try to help them. A stunt would usually take a few weeks before the audience realized the technique, and then a few more weeks before someone was able to properly employ it.
Super Bonus Stunt
In response to the big-money prizes which began to appear 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 (see below), 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 Super Bonus was won only twice in its existence. The first Super Bonus Stunt involved the husband picking up four small paper cups from a table one at a time and stacking them atop a large helium-filled balloon using only one hand. The first seven contestants had trouble even getting the second cup stacked, but the eighth contestant to try the stunt on March 25, 1956 (the show's sixth "birthday" show) kept the balloon very close to the ground and at points held it on the ground (although Collyer warned him several times not to do so) and bounced the balloon as he grabbed the next cup. He was able to stack the four cups quickly and won $18,000, and subsequently also won the Jackpot Prize (a television). The contestants who qualified later in that program were brought back the following week to try the new Super Bonus.
The second Super Bonus Stunt again involved the husband who wore a football helmet with wooden salad bowl attached face-down on the forehead. The husband had to balance a wooden cylinder (about the size of a paper towel roll) on its end on the bowl. The cylinder was tied at its midpoint to a fishing line on a shortened fishing pole. It was designed by Frank Wayne who demonstrated the completing of the stunt before the studio audience prior to at least some of the tapings. This stunt proved very difficult, and most contestants who attempted it showed no indication of a technique for getting the rod to the bowl. Only one person even had the pole sitting flat for a brief instant until September 6, where both the first contestant (a holdover who had practiced at home) and the second contestant (for $62,000 and $63,000 respectively) managed to have the dowel sitting on the bowl for a few moments, but lost its balance when the string was slacked.
On September 15, 1956, Collyer announced that the next show would gain a new sponsor, and if the Super Bonus was not won Fresh and Sylvania would donate the Super Bonus Pot to charity. However, the first contestant, Gabriel J. Fontana, a holdover from the previous show of near-misses who had practiced at home, won the Jackpot of $64,000 (over $484,000 in 2007 dollars); he and his wife then won the Jackpot Prize, a washer and dryer. Each of the final three contestants employed a technique of raising the dowel very slowly so it did not swing around. Unlike the original bonus, however, the audience never seemed to catch on to a particular technique for the two Super Bonus Stunts, and advice was not usually shouted out.
Partway through the run of the second Super Bonus, a rolling desk/table with dollar value of the bonus printed on it was used to roll out the props for the stunt. This carried over to the Big Cash Bonus Stunt. It is notable that in the earliest surviving episodes from 1952 that air, the original bonus had a similar desk with the value of the bonus on it. The desk was done away with for several years until the idea was reused in 1956.
Big Cash Bonus Stunt
Starting on September 22, 1956 (the same day the show's new sponsor became Hazel Bishop) the bonus reverted back to the original Bonus Stunt format (attempted once per episode by whatever couple heard the bell ringing). The Jackpot started at $5,000 and increased $1,000 every week it was not won. If successful, the couple left the show with the "top prize"; otherwise, they continued on with the regular game.
Bonus Cash and Prize Stunt
Featured on the daytime version. A lucky couple had a chance to win a bundle of cash and their choice of a new car or a boat. To win, they had to successfully complete their Bonus Stunt.
Like the original Bonus Stunt, the cash value started at $100, going up each time the stunt was not successfully completed. The largest cash bonus won on the daytime edition was $20,100 during its years on ABC.
The stunts performed on the show were mostly created by staff stunt writers Frank Wayne and Bob Howard. In the early days of the show, playwright Neil Simon was also a stunt writer. The stunts were usually aimed towards fun with difficulty being secondary. The stunts would usually be constructed out of common household props such as cardboard boxes, string, balloons, record players, dishes, cups, plates, cutlery, and balls of almost every type. As was the case with many other game shows during television's infancy, the budget was low.
The stunts performed varied widely, but there were some common themes. Most stunts in some way involved physical speed or dexterity. Contestants often had to balance something with some part of their body, or race back and forth on the stage (for example, releasing a balloon, running across the stage to do some task, and running back in time to catch the balloon before it floated too high). Often the challenge was some form of target practice, in terms of throwing, rolling, bowling, etc.
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 thing - you can't use your hands".) Common twists included blindfolding one or both contestants, or telling them they couldn't use their hands (or feet or any body part that would be obvious to use for whatever the task was).
The other common element in the stunts was to get one of the contestants messy in some way often involving whipped cream, pancake batter, and such (usually limited to the husband of the couple). While it was not a part of every stunt, and sometimes it didn't even happen in an episode, it was common enough that when a couple brought a child on, Collyer would often ask what they thought the parents might have to do and the child would often respond "get whipped cream in their face". Many times the wife would be shown a task, be blindfolded, and then her husband would be quietly brought out and unknown to her she would be covering him with some sort of mess. When the mess was not hidden from the wife, Collyer would often jokingly tell the husband (who usually had a short haircut) that they would put a bathing cap on his head "to keep your long hair out of your eyes" before revealing what form of mess he would be involved with. Occasionally Collyer himself would get caught in the mess accidentally. These types of stunts might be considered a prototype for the kinds of stunts performed on future game shows such as Double Dare (although rival shows Truth or Consequences and Dollar a Second were also known for these messy kinds of stunts, as well). The props employed usually included household items such as cardboard boxes, dishware, toys, and food items.
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 could advise 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.
Sometimes, there were theme shows, such as one episode where all the stunts were circus themed, to celebrate the circus being in town; an international show, with each stunt having some relation to some other country; a show in which certain props were used in each stunt; a birthday show on the show's anniversary; April Fools shows where there was a trick in every stunt; and an episode at the end of each year redoing favorite stunts of that year.
In order to determine if the stunts could actually be performed, and to set appropriate time limits for them, the producers hired out-of-work actors to try them out. One of those who did this work was James Dean, who was said to be able to perform any task the producers gave him to try. He was so adept that he had to be let go, as he was too fast to set the time limits by. Collyer also noted on the air a number of times that he himself tested many of the stunts while they were being developed, often noting that the contestant performed the stunt with far more ease than he had. Another up-and-coming actor who would gain stature later in his career, Warren Oates, was also said to have worked on the show as a stunt-tester.
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 which was brought out.
- $100 Clock prizes included Michael C. Fina silverware sets, a collection of four Knapp-Monarch small kitchen appliances, or a Hoover upright, among others.
- $200 Clock prizes included International-Harvester refrigerators, air conditioning units (usually in the summer), a Tappan range/oven, a James dishwasher, Speed Queen washers and dryers (for some reason, they were only offered separately) and small Sylvania TVs. All of these prizes, except the Sylvania radio, were shown on "art cards" and not actually brought out on the show.
- The Jackpot Prize during Sylvania's tenure was always a Sylvania television set. Sometimes a hi-fi stereo/phonograph (with "famous surround sound") was included with the television, and it was noted that the Jackpot Prize was "worth more than $500". A notable (and often pointed out) feature of Sylvania's TVs at the time was the "halo light", which was an illuminated "frame" around the image which was supposed to have made watching the image easier on the eyes, similar to Philips' "AmbiLight" feature on television sets today.
The sets, as was the style at the time, were freestanding pieces of furniture that sat on legs on the floor with a speaker mounted below the screen. Various models were given away over the years—sometimes the same model several times in one episode, sometimes a different model each time the Jackpot was won in an episode. Roxanne (later Beverly) would pose with the TV which was revealed from behind a curtain in a small faux living room. The earliest win of a TV in the episodes whose records still air was a Jefferson 20" cabinet. Shortly after, on September 6, 1952, the new 1953 21" Montclair cabinet (model 177M) was unveiled. In December 1952 the 1953 21" Huntington and the 21" Kensington corner cabinet debuted on the show, though the Montclair remained the most common prize. On April 4, 1953 a different 21" Kensington cabinet with "French provincial stylings" debuted.
Some of the other models over the years included the 24" Penhurst console, the 21" Windermere console (with French provincial stylings), and later the "Cabinet of Light" (as the line was called) models, the 21" Belvedere, and the 24" Kimberly (circa 1956).
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.
When children were brought on the show, there were special gifts. Starting on September 6, 1952, Girls brought on the show were given a Roxanne doll that was produced at the time. On October 11, 1952, the Buck Rogers Space Ranger Kit was debuted for the male children. In the mid-50s, each child was given a camera kit (the brand of the camera varied often but it always included a supply of Sylvania "Blue Dot for sure shot" flashbulbs).
If contestants were involved in a messy stunt, Roxanne (later Beverly) would come out and take a picture of the husband/couple. Initially it wasn't made clear how the couple would get the photo (perhaps mailed to them), but later in the run, the camera would be given to the couple in addition to any their children might already have been given. Collyer would explain that when they developed the film, the first photo would be that of the husband/couple.
From 1956 and for the rest of the show's run on CBS, the Jackpot Prizes usually consisted of a Magnavox Color TV; Fedders air conditioners (usually awarded as a pair); Westinghouse washer & dryer pairs, and refrigerators; Hardwick ranges; and Easy "Combomatic" combination washer-dryers.
The show had several long-running catch-phrases. The most notable, which continued into the later revivals of the show, was the announcer's call after the opening theme: "Now here's America's number-one clock-watcher, Bud Collyer!" (and for the revivals, the appropriate host's name in place of Collyer's). A running joke was that announcer Bern Bennett's voice would often crack while reading Collyer's name in this introduction. Collyer would sometimes jokingly mock Bennett afterwards. On occasions when Collyer was absent for vacation or other reasons, Bennett would revise the call with the substitute host's name, "filling in for the vacationing Bud Collyer, here's America's number-two clock-watcher...".
After his introduction in early episodes, Collyer would open the show saying "Welcome once again to Beat the Clock: The show where you can have the time of your life playing against time for big time prizes."
When explaining a stunt, Collyer would sometimes refer to a given stunt as a "problem" ("here is your problem..."); almost always assuring the contestants if they were successful, "...we'll stop the Clock, and you'll (have) beat(en) the Clock...". However, when contestants failed a stunt, Collyer would tell them "You didn't beat the Clock; the Clock beat you."
When setting the clock, Collyer would say, "let's take a look at the clock, and see how many seconds you have..." usually interjecting the sponsor's name ("the Sylvania(/Fresh/Hazel Bishop) clock says you have___seconds...")
When the Bonus Bell rang (in the original Sylvania format, and later when it returned to a bell format for the Hazel Bishop era) Collyer would, in (perhaps mock) surprise, call out "The bonus! You get to try the bonus!"
At the end of an episode where a couple hadn't finished their Jackpot Clock, Collyer would always ask, "Can you come back next week?" and if affirmative, "Then you'll be our first contestants" (Collyer once referred to it as "the time-honored question").
At the end of every episode in the Sylvania era (and later with the Sylvania bit omitted), Collyer would close with: "Right now, this is Bud Collyer speaking for Sylvania, hoping that next time may be your time to beat the clock! Goodnight everybody."
The lyrics to the show's first Sylvania theme song, Lights of Broadway read:
- It's time to Beat the Clock!
- Lights of Broadway, sights of Broadway
- Sounds of Broadway all around
- And there above shines the name "Sylvania"
- Pioneering light, sight and sound
- Finer products, better products
- Best at quality
- Made for you by Sylvania
- Pioneer for half a century
- Beat the Clock, brought by Sylvania
- Beat the Clock, to entertain ya
- It's time to play Beat the Clock
The lyrics to the show's second, more commonly known Sylvania theme song read:
- Tick tock, tick tock
- Hickory dickory dock
- It's time to Beat the Clock
- Time for fun has now begun
- Let's all play Beat the Clock
This new introduction debuted on December 20, 1952. Initially, between the theme and the description of Sylvania's products ("Incandescent bulbs, fluorescent tubes and fixtures, photo lamps, radio and television sets, radio and television tubes, and electronic devices suitable for homes, offices, schools and factories"), there was an eerie montage of different people laughing, ostensibly enjoying the show, but the clips were somewhat maniacal in appearance (possibly due to the stark black background behind the people).
Unlike the first theme, this one did not mention Sylvania; but after the laughing clips, there would be a mention of Sylvania and its products. On February 14, 1953 the laughter clips were removed from the opening.
1950: The Beginning
Beat the Clock began airing Thursday nights on CBS on March 23, 1950, running with no commercials. Even the show's introduction was austere; no theme song, just a shot of the Clock ticking off the seconds as announcer Bern Bennett would say "It's time for America's favorite party game, "BEAT THE CLOCK..." and then introduce Bud Collyer.
Initially the show ran for 45 minutes, then expanded to an hour (it is unclear if this was still on Thursday) before moving to Saturdays. The show did not have a sponsor until the Saturday night shows, and this is believed to have happened in September 1950 (Collyer mentions on October 4, 1952 that they've just celebrated two years of sponsorship).
Those prior episodes are believed to not be in the available library of episodes (hence some of the reason for the unclarity). The show was telecast from the Maxine Elliott Theater (Studio 51).
1950-1956: The Sylvania Era
The most recognizable era of the show was from 1950 (or 1951), when it moved to a more standard half-hour on Saturday nights at 7:30 PM Eastern. This is when the show was sponsored by the Sylvania company. Notable on the show were their flashbulbs, radios and television sets. The show was CBS' lead-in to Saturday night programming. One program on their schedule in 1952 was Jackie Gleason's variety show on which he once performed a Honeymooners sketch on the Beat the Clock set with himself and Art Carney as contestants (this sketch, titled "Teamwork: Beat the Clock", was considered one of the "lost" Honeymooners episodes but has since been available on home video).
The first year or two of this period are also presumed unavailable. There were very few production changes during this period the show; The first theme song from this period was Lights of Broadway. This later changed to the more familiar Hickory Dickory Dock (lyrics quoted above). The theme from the original unsponsored show is unknown.
In late 1955/early 1956 there were a few production changes to go along with the gameplay changes that began later in 1956. The first notable change was the absence of assistant Roxanne in August 1956. There was never any explanation for her departure. One rumor persists that Collyer was jealous of her popularity, but other sources cite that she left to get married. Since Roxanne did give birth to her daughter Anne shortly after her departure from the show, this gives more credibility to the latter.
Sylvania began a contest in 1955 where viewers could visit a local Sylvania dealer and get an entry form to mail in for the contest. The entries were placed in a big rotating drum on the show and one of the contestant couples/families would draw the top three winners for the week (with additional winners being drawn after the show).
While not a significant change to the show itself, the contest may have been the impetus for a longer-lasting production change. Shortly before the contest drawings began, the Jackpot Board, which had been behind the contestants' podium, was moved to the first curtain to the (viewers') left of the podium. This might have been preparation for the contest, as the drum was placed behind the curtain which had previously contained the Jackpot Board.
The final notable production change in this period involved the show's opening. The show previously opened with the theme and an animated clip. Added before this was an opening teaser, which affected the show in a number of ways. In the teaser, Collyer would stand with the first couple on the show and explain the stunt they would have to perform; however, he would leave out that crucial detail that would make it difficult. The detail was not usually something easy to guess like blindfolding or whipped cream, but was usually something that would surprise everyone such as changing a factor of the stunt to make it more difficult (for example, Collyer would demonstrate throwing a baseball into a barrel but then replace the baseballs with basketballs that would barely fit into the barrel, or moving the contestant much further away from the barrel, etc.).
There were a few side effects of this change. The Clock's buzzer would sound, telling Collyer time had run out. Originally this buzzer often came while Collyer was explaining a stunt or during the performance of a stunt. The same stunt would start again the next week (in a form of suspense, perhaps, to bring the audience back). Collyer would often suggest that they practice the stunt at home (sometimes jokingly, if the stunt involved props that would be very unlikely to be found in the home). Collyer would then ask the contestants if they could come back, which they usually could.
After the opening teaser was added, contestants who had only the Jackpot Clock left and said they could come back were suddenly absent the next week, with Collyer explaining that after the show it seemed inconvenient to come back for just the Jackpot Clock, and that the couple had played the Jackpot Clock after the show went off the air. This generally avoided the next week starting with a Jackpot Clock (which would not work with the teaser).
After the change Collyer would often rush contestants to perform the Jackpot quickly if they had just barely enough time in order to not have the Jackpot Clock at the beginning of the next episode. Additionally, when a contestant ended the show in the middle of a stunt or after the stunt was explained, it was not repeated the next week. The teaser started with a brand-new stunt. Collyer began telling contestants "You'll start next week with this stunt or another, we're not sure which yet" (which he said every time it happened for months), but rarely was the same stunt held over after the change (until late in the Fresh sponsorship - see below - when they started sometimes holding stunts over to the next week again).
Around the time the Super Bonus Stunt moved from the end of the show to after the $200 Clock, the opening teaser was changed from the preview of a stunt to a preview of the Super Bonus Stunt, telling the audience what the prize was up to that week. The effects of the teaser change (the Jackpot never starting a show, couples who were in the middle of a stunt getting a new one the next week) continued, however.
These changes seemed aimed at streamlining the show and making each show run faster and less informally. After the changes, children began not being brought out with the couple (kids gradually started reappearing after several months in the middle of 1956 with less frequency than they originally had been), even when the couple said the children were backstage or in the audience. The stunts started getting a little harder and Collyer was a bit less helpful. Stunts tended to be more often aimed towards skill and difficulty than the slapstick and embarrassment that had been at the forefront in the past. (Before this, it was commonplace for every couple to win the Jackpot in an episode.)
This in some ways "modernized" the show — one might note that the conversation between Collyer and children of contestants was very much definitive/reminiscent of early game shows of the 1950s. Similarly, the addition of the teaser and the Super Bonus in some ways took the feel of the show away from a very informal free-flowing game that happened to have cameras rolling to a more smooth-running, pressure-filled atmosphere with a more "produced" feeling and more gimmicks than ever before.
1956: Fresh Deodorants
In late Spring 1956, just weeks after Collyer's announcement of a new Sylvania contest (see the 1955 contest above), Beat the Clock got a new sponsor — Fresh Deodorants. Along with this came a number of production changes. First, the show's Hickory Dickory Dock theme song was replaced by a jazzy electric guitar piece (with no lyrics) to the tune of the song Bicycle Built For Two, over footage of a field of daisies (daisies apparently being a theme of the new sponsor - "Fresh as a daisy"). After a few episodes, a lyric was added that was an alteration of the lyric of the original song (possibly a slogan of the company at the time). The walls (previously in a type of bubble/marble pattern) and podium were changed to have daisies decorating them, and the famous Clock was redressed into a Fresh motif. The contestants even wore small daisy lapel pins. More jazzy guitar music was added to the opening teaser of the Super Bonus, and while the contestants attempted the bonus (in a sort of Flight of the Bumblebee pace of panic). Collyer also took every opportunity to toss "Fresh" or "daisy" into his dialogue during the show.
There were two other changes of note to the actual implementation of the show; first, the Jackpot Clock (the magnetic word puzzle) moved back to its original location behind the contestants' podium. Secondly were the prizes; Naturally the new sponsor brought new prizes. First the gift given to contestants still included the home game (now "courtesy of Fresh" with Fresh graphics on the box, though seemingly still including a photo of Roxanne) but the camera kits with Sylvania flashbulbs were replaced by a gift box of Fresh products (and of course, photos of messy stunts were no longer taken). The Jackpot Prize was no longer a TV set, but various rotating prizes.
On the first episode of Fresh's sponsorship, Jackpot Prizes included a Westinghouse Deluxe Laundromat washer and matching dryer, and a pair of York snorkel air conditioners. Betty or Eileen posed with the prizes instead of Beverly. The last Sylvania prize ever awarded on the show was a Windermere console with a hi-fi.
1956: Hazel Bishop
On September 22, 1956 the Hazel Bishop cosmetics company became the show's new sponsor and were the final sponsor of the show on CBS. This coincided with the above-mentioned new Big Cash Bonus which was likely a response to the failure of the Super Bonus to improve ratings. In perhaps another response, the show also moved to a new time - 7:00–7:30 PM Eastern time. This made it the first program ever to open a Saturday night lineup at 7:00. However, some affiliates had other programming commitments and the show lost about 20 stations.
A new theme song was introduced called Subway Polka, and the opening teaser introduced months earlier was eliminated. The set was redressed very similar to the way it had originally appeared, and even the Clock itself went back to its original appearance (except for the Hazel Bishop name instead of Sylvania's on the face). Another change that coincided with the new sponsor and timeslot was that Beverly Bentley was no longer with the show. (She had been reassigned to appear with June Ferguson as the models on The Price is Right). Contestants were introduced by the announcer, and prizes and gifts were presented by the other assistants. The gifts included a giftbox of Hazel Bishop cosmetics and a yet-again-rebranded home game.
In January 1957, the home game was replaced with a new home version of the magnetic Jackpot Board. The prizes remained, for the most part, the same or similar prizes as under Fresh's sponsorship. A few weeks into the new Big Cash Bonus, the lighting was dimmed (or at least some camera effect was used) to darken the studio and highlight the contestants and the lights on the Clock.
1957: New Timeslot
The ratings continued to decline and on February 8, 1957 the show moved to Fridays at 7:30 PM Eastern. Corresponding with this change was a redesign of the show's set (it is suggested that this might be the point where the show moved to the Ritz Theater in New York City, but other sources date that as 1958 and likely refer to the point where the show moved to ABC).
Unlike previous set changes, this was not simply a redress of the walls and surfaces. The contestants were now introduced by opening a curtain to the area behind the newly redesigned podium. The Jackpot Board was moved to the wall to the left (viewers' left) of the podium/curtain. The curtained wall (with the show's title above it) between the Clock and the podium was removed to reveal a wall further back. There was a small semi-circular curtained area to the (viewers') left of the Jackpot Board which rotated more into view when needed and contained the Jackpot Prizes.
A few weeks later, the show's title was put on the back wall again, and a curtain (that was sometimes left open) was re-added to the center stage area.
Artistically, the set had a diamond motif. The contestants were once again given the home game instead of the magnetic board. Other gifts were also given to children, such as a radio kit for young boys or a doll for girls. A few weeks into the new night, they began playing recorded playful music while the contestants attempted their stunts (reminiscent of how music played during the Super Bonus in the Fresh era of the show; one of the musical pieces was Rimsky-Korsikov's "Sabre Dance").
On June 21, 1957 the show aired unsponsored; Hazel Bishop began sponsoring only every other week. The show did not change much except for the obvious stoppage of any mention of Hazel Bishop. The Clock was rebranded with the title of the show and the podium was bare. The contestants still received the home game (a new edition that had been introduced several months earlier), but obviously not the Hazel Bishop gifts. Other recent gifts that were still given included a crystal radio kit for boys brought on the show, and a "Beat The Clock, Rags to Riches" doll (whose clothes changed her into a princess) for girls.
On September 16, 1957 CBS began airing the show at 2:00 PM daily in addition to the Friday night show, which made Beat the Clock only the second nighttime show ever to have a daytime version. The nighttime show continued to lose viewers and shortly afterward moved to Sunday nights at 6:00 PM without a sponsor. On February 16, 1958 the nighttime show ended after eight years.
(Because records after this period are not currently distributed - see below - dates are difficult to confirm.)
There was one amendment to the format of the daytime version: As long as contestants kept beating the Clock, they stayed on; after two "wins" they'd receive what was more or less a prize package, sometimes consisting of an entire room of furniture; major appliances; (for expectant or newlywed mothers) a nursery; a prize package that could consist of "kid oriented" items like clothes, toys and games, bicycles, etc. These victories also increased opportunities for the contestants to try to win the Bonus Stunt more than once. The Bonus Stunt would revert to the nighttime version's original initial payoff of $100, increasing by that amount each time it wasn't won; Unlike the nighttime version, a new car was also at stake. Eventually, the contestants would have their choice of either the new car or a boat if they won the Bonus Stunt.
Another new wrinkle was "Ladies' Day". Usually once a week, only women would appear as contestants. Sometimes, when entire families appeared on the show, there would be a stunt that would at least include, if not totally engage, the children of the family.
The daytime show was not a failure but it did not meet CBS' expectations, either. It was announced that Beat the Clock would be replaced by The Jimmy Dean Show in September. The daytime show aired on CBS for just under a year until September 12, 1958. However, at the time ABC was in the process of developing a daytime lineup which it previously lacked - so they began picking up various low-budget shows. CBS permitted Collyer to move to ABC with the agreement that ABC would not do a nighttime version.
Following a month-long hiatus, ABC began airing the show on October 13, 1958 at 3:00 PM and ran until January 27, 1961 (with one last timeslot change to 12:30 PM).
- Host: Bud Collyer
- Substitute Hosts: Bob Kennedy, Sonny Fox, Win Elliott, Frank Wayne, Bill Hart, John Reed King
- Announcer: Bern Bennett (1950-1958), Dirk Fredericks (1958-1961)
- Substitute Announcers: Lee Vines, Bob Shepard, Hal Simms, Dick Noel
- Assistants: Roxanne Arlen (1950-1955), Beverly Bentley (1955-1956), Joanne Jordan (1956-1957), Madeline Tyler, Bette Calvin, Nancy Kovack, Louise King, Toby Dean
- Commercial Announcer: Bill Shipley (Sylvania)
- Producers: Gil Fates, Bud Collyer, Jean Hollander
- Directors: Byron Paul, Jerome Schnur, Franklin Heller, Paul Alter, Ira Skutch, Lloyd Gross
- Stunts: Frank Wayne, Bob Howard, Neil Simon
- Set Designers: Grover Cole (CBS), Neil DeLuca (CBS), Robert Rowe Paddock (CBS), Hy Bley (ABC), Dick Bernstein (ABC)
In Popular Culture
Beat the Clock has been referenced, featured or spoofed in the following:
- Sesame Street - Spoofed as "Beat the Time", hosted by Muppet Game Show Host Guy Smiley.
- The Honeymooners: episode "Teamwork Beat the Clock" (1954). Ralph and Alice are contestants. Bud Collyer guest stars.
- Ramäge (Mobility Cathexis) (1972) - Joe E. Hype says, "This isn't 'Beat the Clock.'"
- Alice: episode "Alice Beats the Clock" (1980) - Title reference.
- For the Boys (1991) - "I don't want to write for 'Beat the Clock'"
- Four Rooms (1995) - When Ted appears to be in a hurry to leave the room, Chester tells him to "stop playing 'Beat the Clock'."
- Game Theory (2003)
- Conan: episode "A Renaissance Most Foul" (2011) - Conan O'Brien's tour guide at Madame Tussaud's mentions Beat the Clock.
Main Article: Beat the Clock/International
Game Show Marathon (2006)
Beat the Clock was featured in the weekly hour-long tournament-styled game show, Gameshow Marathon, this episode premiered on June 7, 2006.
Game Show Marathon was hosted by Ricki Lake, announced by Rich Fields along with Todd Newton as the Prize Delivery Host featuring six celebrity playing seven classic game shows. The show was filmed at CBS Television City in Hollywood and aired on CBS from May 31, 2006 to June 29, 2006.
In a tournament styled format, two of the celebrities played a stunt as a team with a time limit of 60 seconds. The other two celebrities played the same stunt, trying to beat the first team's time. The two celebrities on the winning team then faced off in another stunt. The winner of the second stunt played one final stunt alone and if it was completely successfully within the 60-second time limit, a home viewer wins a car in addition to the other prizes earned by the winning celebrity.
Home Viewer Question
Main Article: Beat the Clock/Merchandise
Main Article: Beat the Clock/Photos
It is unknown whether the CBS and ABC daytime episodes are lost or damaged, but they are rarely seen. However, circulating amongst collectors is one surviving daytime episode from September 23, 1960 with a Bonus Stunt win of $20,100 plus the choice of a car or a boat, which set a record for daytime TV winnings in the post-scandal era. Many episodes from the nighttime version have survived, GSN has previously aired episodes dated from 1952-1958. Currently, Buzzr is now airing these from 1952.