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Scrabble pilot

[EDIT: No longer private, and altered to be more accurate based on new information I received.]

I was invited to go to the Scrabble pilot this past Saturday, 12/14/2002. Please realize that this is a pilot, and some things may change if the show gets picked up.

Brief summary -- It's the board game you've played all your life, and mostly like this.

Title: The Scrabble Challenge
Host: John O'Hurley
Announcer: John Moschitta (the fast talker from the Federal Express commercials many years ago)

Set -- While small, it won't appear so on TV. Very colorful -- shades of blue and pink, with some wood colors, oranges, and greens there. Very sharp! Many squares, with a huge Scrabble board in stage center. Two contestant chairs, one on each side of the stage. Host podium in the rear, facing the board. The contestant chairs are largish contraptions that will swivel between facing the host and the board. They have touch-screen monitors for the contestants. Very cool! Of course, on the floor in the center of the stage was the logo, which is the US Scrabble logo, with Scrabble tiles spelling out the word Challenge underneath.

Game play -- The contestants chose seven random tiles backstage, which they finally get to see now. The first person to ring in (hand buzzers) gets 10 seconds to create a word with their set of tiles and place it on the board. The letters are placed by the contestant dragging the letters in their rack to the board. Now, remember this is all being done electronically through touch-screen monitors. The opposing contestant can challenge the word for legality. We never saw this happen, but I've heard that if the challenge is successful, the tiles come off the board, disappear into the ether (and NOT back to contestant -- there's a penalty!), and the challenger gets the next question to himself. The regular Scrabble bonus squares (double/triple word/letter bonues) still take effect, and the points are tallied just like the board game. The contestant gets $25 for each point scored, and gains control of the game.

There are seven categories that the person in control gets to choose from. Two are worth 1 tile, three are worth 2 tiles, and two are worth 3 tiles. The more tiles the question is worth, the harder the question. The person in control chooses a category, and a question is read. Whoever rings in first and gets the question correct gets the tiles. the letters on the tiles come from answer. For example, if the answer is "George Burns", the tiles the contestant might win are R, U, and S. (1) If the contestant already had seven tiles, they can exchange any of their tiles for the ones that were won. Once a player has seven tiles, they can go back to the board to play Scrabble. The chair swivels back and the player has only ten seconds to come up with a word to place on the board. Play continues in this nature until the time for the round is over. Go to commercial.

Fade in. Chat with contestants. Round two is played the same as round one, but all points are now worth $50. Fade out. Fade in to round three, where point values are again doubled, to $100 a point. At any time during these first three rounds a contestant uses all seven tiles successfully in one word, they win a prize. In the example we saw, the prize was a trip to Hawaii worth about $3,000. Fade to commercial.

For the bonus round, a randomizer selects one of the four corners of the board. The goal of the winning contestant is to get to the chosen corner by creating words with the Scrabble tiles. The contestant has 45 seconds to do this, and the tiles are replaced with new letters after they are successfully used. If the contestant gets to the selected corner, their money perviously won is doubled. If the contestant is able to use all seven tiles in one word in this round, the contestant wins a brand new car. The example given was worth some $18,000 (Ford Focus).

A little small talk, and this game is ov-ah!

Personal comments and obversations: Nice to see that a show planned for GSN will have some decent payouts, both in cash and in possible bonus prizes. If this gets picked up, I'd be curious to go back to see how this package works when things are working smoother, as well as to see if any money and prize amounts get altered. All in all, a very good showing, totally different from Woolery's "Scrabble," and true to the board game.

(1) -- geoRge bUrnS


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 14th, 2002 10:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks... this is really, really interesting. This show could be extremely taxing on the budget. A single word has the possibility of a few thousand dollars, plus a trip to Hawaii... woah.
Dec. 15th, 2002 08:51 pm (UTC)
I'm rather surpised by the dollar values being offered. I guess the thought is that getting to the board will take a bit if you use a "big word", which will temper the budget a bit. I'm thinking that there will be a total of 5-6 words split between the two contestants on the average show. *shrug* Hopefully, we will see.

Of course, as soon as the Scrabble experts come out of the woodwork, then all bets are off.
Dec. 15th, 2002 08:10 am (UTC)
I was wondering whether there was any connection between new US Scrabble and the recent new UK Scrabble from Challenge ? and the graphics/game software does sound similar.

What size board was the game played on, especially the bonus game? UK Scrabble is played on a cut-down 11x11 board. And, as you can see from this picture, it sucks. :-)

Never actually seen UK Scrabble. It always sounded pretty good to me, but those who've seen it didn't actually like it so much.
Dec. 15th, 2002 11:29 am (UTC)
Hmm... nice picture. Something was definitely on this contestant's mind :^)

Oh, yeah, I can get to the lower-left corner in two steps and less than 13 seconds. Fear me!
Dec. 15th, 2002 09:00 pm (UTC)
From what I heard, the software is the same in the core, though the presentation is different. I believe the video board is true to the real board game, in both color and dimension. For the bonus round, it is literaly one quadrent of the board. But the US game show is different UK game show from what the staffers were saying.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )