Let's Make a Deal

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Whatever is behind this Curtain is yours. I'll buy it back from you for $400."
"I gotta deal for you!"
Monty Hall, suddenly turning around to his next contestant.

Monty Hall was the producer and host ("TV's Big Dealer") of this long-running trading Game Show, which is best known for the zany costumes worn by audience members. Many of them also carried hand-lettered signs.

The show originally ran on NBC daytime and primetime from 1963-68 before Channel Hopping to ABC, where it lasted until 1976. Syndicated runs aired from 1971-77, 1980-81 (taped in Canada), and 1984-86 (as The All-New Let's Make A Deal). The show went back to NBC from 1990-91 with Bob Hilton hosting, but after miserable ratings, Hall unsuccessfully came back. Another revival in 2003, again on NBC with Billy Bush at the helm, lasted three episodes; this version is deprecated by most of the fandom, and a 2006 one-off for Gameshow Marathon (hosted by Ricki Lake) didn't help matters. The current incarnation, begun in late 2009, replaced Guiding Light on CBS. This version is an hour long and hosted by Wayne Brady; while nobody can take the place of TV's Big Dealer, the Brady version has been pretty well-received. Hall even returned as a guest for a week and gave his blessing.

Everyone in the Studio Audience brought something to trade for a prize. In the most basic deals, Hall chose one or two people at random and showed them a prize, with assistance from model Carol Merrill and announcer Jay Stewart. The contestant(s) then had to decide whether to take the known prize or go for a different prize, which was hidden. The hidden prize could be something good, like a new car or a room full of furniture, or it could be a Zonk. While most deals were a (sometimes elaborate) variant of this, some deals involved pricing various household goods, usually with a car on the line. Even then, Monty would stop the game before revealing whether the final choice was correct and offer the contestant a hidden prize to stop the game there.

At the end of the show, contestants who won the prizes with the highest cash value could trade away their winnings to play for the Big Deal of the Day, a prize package behind one of three numbered doors, generally worth around $9,000. The two other doors contained prize packages that, while containing less than the Big Deal, were generally worth more than what the contestants traded away. During the end credits, Hall went through the audience again, offering money for random items that the audience members might have brought.

This show is the basis for a probability puzzle known as the "Monty Hall Problem", and the style of role-playing campaign derisively known as the "Monty Haul dungeon" (sic).

The following Game Show tropes appear in Let's Make a Deal:
  • Bonus Round: The Big Deal, though it requires a prospective dealer giving up their previous deal to play. Two people were required to play until the current run, where it has been decreased to one person.
    • In the 1975-76 season and for two weeks in 2012, the Super Deal was added after the Big Deal. The risk was that whoever won the Big Deal could trade it in for one of three doors (Hall) or envelopes (Brady). One contained a large sum of cash ($20,000 originally, $50,000 in 2012) and also returned the Big Deal to that contestant.
    • The two cothers ontained small cash prizes that changed over time: the 1970s version (in an era where the Big Deal generally hovered between $8,000-$10,000), it started out as $1,000 and $2,000 before changing to two $2,000 and finally $2,000 and an amount ranging between that and $10,000. The 2012 version (in an era where the Big Deal generally hovers between $20,000-$40,000) used the original consolations, which was clearly done to be cheap.
  • Carried by the Host: Why it's called "The Monty Hall Problem", not "The Let's Make A Deal Problem".
  • Consolation Prize: On the Wayne Brady version, Wayne may sometimes give a contestant who got a Zonk a small amount of money (usually $100) as consolation, although Wayne may make the contestant do something to earn it, such as dancing or singing. This was also present in the Hall eras, but typically not on-air (after each show, those who got a Zonk were instead offered some cash or a nice prize; several actually kept their Zonks, which Hatos-Hall had to honor).
  • Home Game: Several, including an electronic version which Hall himself promoted. There was also a 900-number game in the late 1980s that was advertised by Monty in an infomercial that featured clips of classic deals made on the show.
  • Let's Just See What Would Have Happened: In certain games, after a contestant decides to take a sure-thing buyout, the host will continue the game, often asking the contestant a question along the lines of what they would have done next had they continued — the idea being whether the contestant made a good decision to quit.
  • Losing Horns: Type B when a Zonk is revealed, from 1976 onward (except in 1990, when a stock foghorn was usually heard instead).
  • Mystery Box: Used for hidden prizes either on stage or on a tray brought to the host and contestant by the announcer. Sometimes, the mystery prize was behind a curtain or billboard.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Wendell Niles announced the first Pilot and the first season of the original run. His role was taken over by Jay Stewart, who announced from 1964-77. His successors were Chuck Chandler (1980-81), Brian Cummings (1984-85), Dean Goss (1985-86), Dean Miuccio (1990-91), Vance DeGeneres (2003), Rich Fields (2006), and Jonathan Mangum (2009-present).
      • Deal has probably asked more of its announcers than any other game in history. Not only did Niles and his successors (minus Rich) have to read the copy, but also lug TV trays with relevant props down crowded staircases and sometimes act in skits related to the prizes. Unfortunately, it also resulted in Stewart getting chronic, intractable back pain later in life...which, when coupled with the death of his daughter Jamie in 1981, led to his suicide in 1989. Mangum, because of his improv experience, often winds up in improv games with Brady by way of giving clues to contestants.
    • Game Show Host: Co-creator Monty Hall was the first and most famous, with Dennis James and Geoff Edwards subbing for him. Following in his steps were Bob Hilton, Billy Bush, and Wayne Brady. And Ricki Lake.
    • Lovely Assistant: Carol Merrill on the first version, and other models on later versions.
    • Studio Audience: Where the contestants came from, dressed as they were.
  • Retired Game Show Element: The 1984-86 version featured a "Door #4" element (yes, a Door #4 was actually featured at one point) that would pop up at random times throughout each episode and pick an audience member via a number system to make a deal with Monty (see the entry for more info). This neat little mini-game was axed from the show when the 1990 revival premiered.
  • Whammy: In certain games, a Zonk symbol acts more like this.
  • Zonk: Trope Namer, aka the booby prizes. No, not those booby prizes...
Other tropes include:
  • Affectionate Parody: Many.
    • Sanford and Son: The 1975 episode "Masquerade Party" has Fred and his cronies dressing in costumes and appearing on a Deal-type show, "Wheel and Deal". The host's name is Harry Monty (John Barbour), and trading deals are very similar to the real show.
    • The Odd Couple: Felix and Oscar learn that Deal is taping a series of shows in New York and dress as a mule to get on the show. The two win, but since Oscar knows Monty (they were college roommates), Monty takes the money back, telling the audience it will be donated to an orphanage.
    • The Simpsons: In the episode "Homer Goes to College", series villain Mr. Burns, the elderly owner of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, offers Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors a Deal-type offer bribe to escape sanctions for dire violations (most notably, employing dangerously underqualified employees; viz., Homer).
  • Ascended Extra: In January or early February 1972, Mark Goodson just happened to be watching the show on a day that Dennis James was filling in. Guess who got tapped to host the nighttime Price, even though hardly anything of the New format had been cemented?
  • Audience Participation: The host chooses contestants from the front section of the audience known as the "Trading Floor". Apparently in Brady's case, anyone in the audience is eligible, and occasionally on his version deals are made with the entire audience participating.
  • Big Red Button: Used to take the money in the "Cash or Clunkers" deal on the current version.
  • Catch Phrase: "Who wants to make a deal?", "It's a(n) (unappealing item)!"
  • Crossover: Drew Carey appeared on the Brady version to make a deal with a contestant. Amusingly, Drew came out to the 1972 rendition of the Price theme, not the 2007 arrangement.
  • A Day in the Limelight: On a 1986 episode, Dean Goss hosted two deals as part of an experiment. He later confirmed that this was because Monty wanted to retire but also keep the show going, so he was testing Goss' abilities as a host. Had it been renewed, Monty would've walked out first on the season premiere to pass the torch.
  • Everything's Worse with Bees: The Honeycomb Purse and Wallet Zonk. Uhh, yeah. Self-explanatory
  • Foreign Remake: The Latin American Trato Hecho.
  • Guest Host: Dennis James and Geoff Edwards both filled in for Monty on separate occasions, the latter on both the original series and All-New.
    • When Monty replaced Bob Hilton on the 1990s version, the mentions of "guest host" may sound like an excuse (he hosted right through to the finale) but were actually true at the time — Hall planned to begin doing on-air auditions before eventually picking one to do the show full-time. NBC had other ideas.
  • His and Hers: Some of the Zonks, especially bathtubs and junked cars. And according to Monty Hall, one of ABC's attempts to increase ratings late in that run was offering his-and-hers Cadillacs. Didn't work.
  • Just for Pun: Quite a few recent Zonks have been, including:
    • Laundered Money (giant bills hanging on a clothes line)
    • Freshly-Baked Loafers (Loafers carved out of bread)
    • A lemon car (shaped like a lemon)
    • And on the other hand, Key Lime Pie. It has a bunch of keys in it.
  • Just in Time: The biggest complaint about the Brady version's Big Deal (aside from only one person playing it) was that the doors were always revealed in numerical order, leading to fake suspense and things like "We hope the Big Deal is not behind Door #1." which are Completely Missing the Point. Thankfully, this was partially dropped — Brady always reveals the non-Big Deal unpicked Door first, then somewhat randomly opens one of the remaining Doors. It's no longer guaranteed that the Big Deal will be opened last.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Following the Big Deal, Monty would make quickie deals with the audience over the end credits, and sometimes even after.
    • This was also done on the current version, but changed when the quickie deals were almost entirely cut out of each episode (including the official credits on the CBS.com upload) in favor of the Fremantle logo animation and generic-credits-while-CBS-pimps-other-shows. The pacing was altered to dedicate the last five minutes to quickie deals, and Wayne signs off as soon as the credits begin.
  • Long Runners: The original series was in production from 1963-77.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Occasionally seen as a Zonk on the Brady version.
  • Monty Hall Problem: Trope Namer, sort of.
  • Obvious Beta: The May 25, 1963 pilot. No costumes, a Zonk in the Big Deal, and a really sexist sales pitch preceding the show.

Monty Hall (sitting by himself in the middle of the contestant area as the camera zooms in from a wide shot): This is television's only trading floor, where every day the individuals who control the finances of America — the women, of course — come to make deals. And what's more exciting to a woman than trading or swapping or looking for a bargain? It's suspense every second as men and women bring in their old white elephants and try to deal me out of big cash or big gifts. Well, do you have a leaky umbrella you'd like to get rid of? You know, I may pay you $500 for it. Or if you're a clever trader and know when to stop, you could drive home in a brand-new automobile. On this trading floor we'll buy, sell, or trade everything and anything from Aardvarks to Zithers. There are millions of deals to be made, and we'll make them every day on Let's Make A Deal. Watch, we'll show you how it works!

  • Opening Narration: "These people, dressed as they are, come from all over the United States to make deals. Here in the marketplace of America, Let's! Make! A Deal!"
  • Piggy Bank: In the 1984-86 run, the Big Deal had "Monty's Piggy Bank" as well as "Monty's Cookie Jar" and the "LMAD Claim Check". If any of these three was behind the doors, the prize was cash ranging from a few hundred (if shown first), $2,000-$4,000 (if shown second), and in a few rare instances was the Big Deal (if it was below $10,000).
    • The Spiritual Successor in Wayne's version was the "LMAD Vault", which was the Big Deal at least twice. Here's one instance.
    • The Facebook version has a game called "Piggy Bank" where you have a ring of piggy banks you must smash to meet a cash target. Some also have Zonks, but you're allowed three life preservers to keep playing; a fourth Zonk ends the game and leaves you without cash. There is a "Double" in a piggy bank that can double the cash in the next bank, or could give you two Zonks for the finding of one. (If you're low or out of life preservers, or running out of time, you can "cash out" and take the money you're won up to that point.)
  • Porn Stache: Both Brian Cummings and Dean Goss sported these.
  • Product Displacement: They seemed to make a big deal on the Brady version about covering up brand names, sports logos, and the like on contestants' costumes...but averted it with some of the "damaged goods" Zonks (a smashed Mitsubishi TV, a pile of defaced Eveready batteries, and a wrecked Pontiac Trans Sport minivan with the badging intact come to mind). Exactly what are they trying to say?
  • Real Song Theme Tune: The 1980-81 version used several songs by MFSB, the group best known for the Soul Train theme.
  • Rearrange the Song: The theme of the 1980-81 version started out with a re-recording of the original theme tune before going into a whole new melody, as did the 1984-86 theme. The theme to every revival since (including the current one) seem to take after the '84 theme.
  • Running Gag: In the Brady version, one of the games that pops up occasionally is a lotto-like scratch off game where the contestant can win something if he or she matches a pair of symbols; two cars gets a car, two Wayne Bradys gets a few thousand dollars, two Tiffanys gets a slightly lesser cash prize, and matching two Jonathans gets the lowest cash prize in an odd amount, like $79.95, to which Jonathan always acts offended that he is considered a low tier prize.
  • That Came Out Wrong: After seeing a female contestant dressed as a baby and holding a baby bottle, Monty offered her $100 if she would "show another nipple". He meant the rubber kind.
  • Timed Mission: One deal played in 2011 gave the contestant 15 seconds to find the key that unlocks a Plexiglas box containing the keys to a car; unlocking the box won the car. The contestant was also given $1,500 cash, and could buy extra time (at $100 a second) before the game began. There were 20 keys on the board, which was a few yards away from the box, and the contestant could try only one key at a time, but was allowed to make as many trips to the board as time allowed.
    • The show later converted the "Car Pong" game (which had been limited to a fixed number of attempts at, well, beer pong for a car) to a timed game.
  • Viewers are Morons: Possible reason why Zonk prizes are physically labeled as such in the 2009 version.
  • Viva Las Vegas: The final season of the original run (1976–77) was taped at the Las Vegas Hilton, and most of Brady's first season (2009–10) was taped at the Tropicana.