Beat the Clock

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Bud Collyer on 1958's version of Beat the Clock.

Perhaps the granddaddy of stunt-based Game Shows, this Mark Goodson-Bill Todman creation has been around in some form since 1950. The premise is simple: Here's a clock. Here's a silly stunt. Can you perform the stunt before time expires? If you do so, you win.

The original version, which aired on CBS (1950-58) and later ABC (1958-61), starred Bud Collyer as host. Brought back for a five-a-week syndicated revival in 1969, the show was hosted by Jack Narz, who left in 1972 due to travel expenses eating up most of his salary. Gene Wood, then the show's announcer, was quickly promoted to host until 1974, making for one of his few non-announcing gigs. In 1979, Monty Hall of Let's Make a Deal fame hosted a one-season revival, again for CBS; this role was one of the few times he hosted a show he didn't create, and the only time he ever worked for Goodson-Todman.

PAX brought back the show yet again in 2002 with Gary Kroeger as host, and tacked on a Bonus Round copied from The Diamond Head Game. In 2006, the original Clock was part of CBS' Gameshow Marathon with Ricki Lake. Universal Kids brought the show back again in 2018-2019.

The format was exported to the United Kingdom in the 1960s, forming part of the popular variety series Saturday Night at the London Palladium. It was the first of many games hosted by Bruce Forsyth.

The following Game Show tropes appear in Beat the Clock:
  • Bonus Round:
    • The Jackpot Clock and Super Bonus Stunt during the original era are the Ur Example. Solo Stunt and Versus Stunt during the Narz/Wood era, the Bonus Shuffle in the Hall era, and the Swirling Whirlwind of Cash and Prizes on Kroger's version.
    • The Bonus Board during the Narz/Wood era, using the show's title to hide cash prizes of $25, $50, $100 and $200; couples would pick a letter after clearing a stunt, and receive the amount behind it. The day's full layout would be shown after all stunts had been completed.
  • Celebrity Edition: Celebs appeared occasionally during the original 1950-61 era, while the Narz/Wood era incorporated the celebrity guest into its regular format. The Monty Hall version switched to all-celebrities on November 5, 1979, and never looked back.
  • Game Show Appearance: In a "lost episode" of The Honeymooners, Ralph and Norton appeared on a Collyer episode to do a stunt involving cups, saucers, and "a lemon machine".
  • Golden Snitch: The Monty Hall version and the PAX version.
    • In the Monty Hall version, the teams played shuffleboard to determine who went to the bonus round. The team with more money got three pucks, while their opponents got two. The team whose puck touched the highest money amount without falling off the board won that amount, became the champions, and played a final stunt for 10 times that amount.
    • In the PAX version, there were two:
      • The first was an elimination stunt after each team played a timed stunt. The team that had the highest score got an advantage, the team with the lowest score, a disadvantage. Last team to finish was out of the game.
      • The second followed on to the first. The two teams got to see the final stunt, then played Bid-a-Time to determine who would play the stunt (first bid was determined by a trivia question, and couldn't exceed two minutes); low bid played. If they finished the stunt within the time, they won; if not, their opponents did.
  • Home Game: The original series had a few, as did the Narz/Wood era. Collyer would often start a new couple off by handing them a copy of the game, assuring them that they will have as much fun with it as their kids will.
    • Collyer once appeared as the special guest on I've Got a Secret and ended the spot by giving a copy of the Clock game to Secret host Gary Moore, who then gave Bud a copy of the Secret game in kind.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Bern Bennett (1950-58), Dirk Fredericks (1958-61), Gene Wood (1969-72), Nick Holenreich (1972-74), and Jack Narz (1979-80). Kroeger's version didn't have an announcer.
    • Game Show Host: Bud Collyer (1950-61), Jack Narz (1969-72), Gene Wood (1972-74), Monty Hall (1979-80), and Gary Kroeger (2002-03). Yes, you read that right — both Narz and Wood were host and announcer at one point.
    • Lovely Assistant: Roxanne was the most famous hostess during the original era.
    • Studio Audience: A few members would usually play a game during each show of the Narz/Wood era.
    • Unexpectedly Difficult Stunt: The Bonus Stunts.
  • Progressive Jackpot: The reward for completing a (Super) Bonus Stunt in the Collyer era. At one point a Super Bonus reached $64,000 before being hit.
Other tropes include:
  • Animated Credits Opening:
    • Used during the later part of Sylvania's sponsorship, a mouse would dance on the titles to an arrangement of "Hickory, Dickory, Dock". After the logo-clock parted like a curtain, the mouse put together the names of Sylvania products much like the Jackpot Clock the wives played.
    • A different animation, this time of an alarm clock that would literally be beaten by a hammer-wielding man, was used for the 1979-80 series.
  • Ascended Extra: During the final Narz season, Gene Wood was the guest celebrity for a week with the announcing duties handled by Nick Holenreich. In September 1972, Wood took the hosting reins and Holenreich became permanent announcer.
  • Catch Phrase: "Maybe next time will be your time to beat the Clock!" "The BONUS!!!!"
  • Companion Cube: The titular Clock, given how often the host had to refer to it. Gene Wood's "Talk to me, Clock" is especially notable, as is the 1979-80 opening and the incident listed at Funny Moments.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: See Funny Moments.
  • Long Runners: The original version ran for 11 years.
  • Moving the Goalposts: In the Bud Collyer version, after describing a seemingly simple stunt, then seeing what the time limit was for the stunt, Collyer would often add an additional complication before letting them start, such as disallowing use of hands, or removing the netting from the net they would be using. When he did that, though, he stopped at that one iteration.
    • In at least one stunt, the contestants were told they would have to step over seemingly unpassable knee-high obstacles to get to the goal items. Once they had their blindfolds on, Collyer removed the obstacles; in order to see, the contestants try to navigate around things that were no longer there.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Highlighting the stunts in the Narz/Wood versions.
  • Product Placement: During Sylvania's sponsorship their appliances were given as prizes, and Roxanne would take a picture of the husband of the team (usually after a stunt involving whipped cream or other messy substances) with the camera that would be given to the couple. Collyer would always point out that she was using a "Sylvania Blue Dot for sure shot" flash cube.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: The Sylvania years had Hickory Dickory Dock, while the Fresh Deodorant era had A Bicycle Built For Two. Both used new lyrics.
  • Spiritual Successor: Minute to Win It crosses the idea of completing challenges with the idea of earning progressively more money for each completed task.
  • Stage Money: The bonus round in the 2002 version had the contestants in a chamber collecting flying cash (and prizes).
  • Stunt Casting: Literally, as celebrities would help the contestants do the stunts on the Narz/Wood versions.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: The original had a vocal theme, which even went so far as to mention the sponsors by name.
  • Timed Mission: Kinda the whole point of the thing, isn't it?
    • And then PAX completely missed the point of it by running two stunts with no clock: the opening stunt is a straight race to see who can finish first for 10 points, and an elimination stunt, also with no clock. (The eliminator comes after each team has a timed stunt of 30 or 40 seconds, depending on whether they can answer a two-part question.) The team with the most points after the timed stunts is put at an advantage, the team with the fewest at a disadvantage. The first two to finish move on to the final stunt.
    • Monty Hall's version also had stunts where the teams directly competed against each other, but they did use the clock, so that if neither team finished, the team that had made the most progress would win the stunt.