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Blackjack On Television? Not A New Concept

Jul 19, 2014

blackjack-on-tv-180714Blackjack on TV

Catch 21 might combine the game show format with blackjack but it is not the first to do so.

Some of you might have seen the current incarnation of Blackjack on television. The GSN show Catch 21 is now into its fourth season where Alfonso Ribeiro masters the ceremony and Mikki Padilla handles the cards. But the creator Merrill Heather, isn’t new to making shows about blackjack. In fact he’s almost a serial offender.

The mixture of blackjack cards and general knowledge questions combined into an exciting game show was first tried back in the 1970s, only then rather than an oblique reference to a Joseph Heller title, the show was called “Gambit” and ran for several years on CBS and then for a little while longer on NBC.

Couples control cards by answering questions

The game itself revolved around two couples who attempt winning at blackjack by controlling where the next card goes, with that control given to the couple who answered the, typically multiple choice or true/false, questions posed by the host, Wink Martindale. Closest to 21 without going bust, won. Winners of this head to head section went onto the gambit board.

This was a board with 21 numbered cards, each concealing a prize, after selecting a number the couple received a prize but also a card from the top of the deck to their hand. Knowing when to stop, and thus being able to keep the prizes was an agonizing question for some couples, because if they got 21 precisely they won a new car.

Catch 21 may have updated this tradition of blackjack on television but with versions having aired in Australia and the UK as well, back when Gambit inhabited US television screens, it’s all too apparent that one of the smart strategies in television is to repeat a winning formula. Does this mean we can expect to see Catch 21 around for a while to come? I think you can bet on it.


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