Geoff Edwards (1974–1975, 1989–1990)
Nipsey Russell (1984)
Mike Darrow (1985–1988)
Don Pardo (1974–1975)
Wayne Howell (1975)
Johnny Gilbert (1984, 1989–1990)
Ken Ryan (1985–1988)
John Harris (1985–1988)
John Harlan (1989–1990)
NBC Daytime: 1/7/1974 – 9/26/1975
Unsold Pilot: 6/9/1984
USA (Daily): 9/30/1985 – 12/30/1988
Syndication (Daily): 9/18/1989 – 3/2/1990
Bob Stewart Productions (1974–1975)
Global Television Network/Bob Stewart Cable/USA Network (1985–1988)
Bob Stewart-Sande Stewart Productions
Reeves Entertainment Group (1989–1990)
Palladium Entertainment/Syndicast (1989–1990)

Jackpot was the program where 16 contestants asked and answered riddles to win thousands of dollars in cash and prizes.


Sixteen contestants competed for an entire week, with one designated King of the Hill (Queen of the Hill for female contestants), who stood at a circular podium at stage-left. The other fifteen contestants, numbered 1 through 15, were seated in three-tiered bleachers. Each had a special wallet containing a riddle and a varying cash amount or the Jackpot Riddle. The King/Queen of the Hill selected a number and the contestant with that number asked a riddle to this player. If answered correctly, the King/Queen of the Hill continued picking numbers; if answered incorrectly, the two contestants switched places, with the contestant who stumped him/her becoming the new King/Queen Of The Hill.

The value of the riddle increased the value of the Jackpot. If the King/Queen of the Hill selected the contestant holding the Jackpot Riddle (one per game) he/she can go for it or play on a continue to build the pot. When going for the Jackpot, if the King/Queen of the Hill answered it correctly, these two contestants split the Jackpot.

If the last three digits of the Jackpot amount matched a pre-selected target number, the King/Queen of the Hill may have a chance to win a "Super Jackpot" by correctly solving a Super Jackpot Riddle, which the host asked. Either the King/Queen of the Hill or the bleacher contestant who asked the question that brought the Jackpot amount to the target number could respond. If either of them answered correctly, both split the Super Jackpot.

The largest Super Jackpot won in the format's network or syndicated history was $38,750, split between two players on an episode of the NBC version aired in 1975. However, in an interview with Geoff Edwards on BlogTalkRadio, there was a rumor that someone actually managed to win $50,000—no proof of it has been given.

Special riddlesEdit

  • Double Dollars (Syndicated version) – As the name implied, a correct answer to one of these riddles doubled the amount in the Jackpot at that time.
  • Instant Target Match (Syndicated version) – If this riddle was answered correctly, the Jackpot would be automatically increased to match the Target amount, thus giving the King/Queen of the Hill a chance to answer the Super Jackpot Riddle.
  • Bonus Prize (All three versions) – A correct answer won the King or Queen of the Hill a prize.
  • Return Trip (USA and Syndicated versions) – Correctly answering this riddle resulted in both players (riddler and King/Queen of the Hill) being allowed to compete in an extra week of shows.

All weeks were self-contained, meaning that a game in progress on Friday could not continue into the following Monday. When time ran out in the middle of a game on Friday shows, the Jackpot riddle must be played immediately (referred to by Geoff as an "Automatic Jackpot").

NBC version (1974–1975)Edit

  • In this version the King of the Hill was called the "Expert".
  • The riddles ranged in value from $5 to $200 (in multiples of $5).
  • The target number could go no higher than $995. A number from 5 to 50 (in increments of 5) was chosen at random and was multiplied with the target number to make the Super Jackpot (e.g.: $500 X 30 = $15,000); if the target number hit $995 and the multiplier read "50", the Super Jackpot was automatically set at $50,000; Bob Stewart Productions simply threw in the extra $250. Edwards would occasionally read a disclaimer (due to long-standing game show federal laws) which explained that change in the rules.
  • The Super Jackpot could be played for in one of two ways:
    1. In the earliest episodes, if a player won a Jackpot whose last three digits matched the target number, the players (whoever asked the Jackpot riddle and whoever answered it) split the Super Jackpot; in later episodes, the player had to answer an additional riddle posed by the host, and if it was answered correctly, the two players split the Super Jackpot. Note that in the NBC version, only the "Expert" could try to answer the Super Jackpot riddle.
    2. Choosing the player that had the Super Jackpot Wildcard and correctly answering the Super Jackpot riddle as posed by Edwards.

There were three other changes made when the Super Jackpot rule changed:

  1. Originally, the player who answered the most riddles in the week won a car; this was later dropped, and instead a car was given to anyone who answered all 15 riddles in the same game.
  2. After a week-long experiment in February 1974 (when it was called The Valentine Riddle), most games had a Double Bonus riddle which, if answered correctly, won the two players involved a trip, usually to somewhere in Mexico or the Caribbean.
  3. The randomness of the target number changed; each number from 5 to 50 had an equal chance, except that 15 and 20 were twice as likely as the others.

This version was produced at the NBC Studios in New York City. Don Pardo served as announcer during this period.

Visually, the NBC version of the show became most noteworthy for the casual style of dress worn by both contestants and host Edwards, who frequently wore leisure suits, turtleneck sweaters, and open-collared shirts. Edwards' clothing choices represented a radical departure from the typical attire of male television hosts, who almost always wore business suits previously.

Jackpot broke several stylistic conventions that had marked the genre since its inception in the early 1950s. Contestants on this show were more likely than not to embrace each other (in the center of the stage, regardless of gender) after winning, instead of the customary handshake on other shows. NBC and executive producer Stewart apparently also encouraged studio audience members to scream and applaud in a louder-than-normal fashion. Touches like these helped market the program to a demographic of younger women and teenagers.

The show marked Don Pardo's final appearance as a regular game show announcer. He had done games since the pioneering Winner Take All in 1952, which was also the first game hosted by Bill Cullen. Some months after Jackpot was cancelled, he would emerge on the weekly comedy-variety series Saturday Night Live, until his retirement in 2010 (although he still pre-recorded material for the latter show at his Phoenix, Arizona home until his death). He would not appear on another game show until the fall of 1988, when he announced on Wheel of Fortune for two weeks' worth of episodes taped at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

The instrumental theme music for NBC's Jackpot was "Jet Set", composed by former Manfred Mann member Mike Vickers. The piece was later used as the opening theme for This Week in Baseball.


For the last 13 weeks, the format was altered, with these changes:

  1. The Target number was dropped, and the Super Jackpot was established at random; it could be worth anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 (in $50 increments).
  2. Riddles were dropped in favor of straight general-knowledge questions.
  3. When the Jackpot question was found, the Expert could either try to answer it or go for the Super Jackpot by answering all remaining questions in the game, including the Jackpot question. If the player missed the Super Jackpot question, the Jackpot was wiped out, so it was hard to build a Jackpot. If, however, the Jackpot question was the last one found, the Super Jackpot was discarded.

Geoff Edwards, who worked closely with Stewart, once said that he and Stewart sat outside the NBC Rockefeller Studios dismayed following the format change, both believing that the series was at this point on its final legs.

NBC staff announcer Wayne Howell often filled in for announcer Don Pardo.

Canadian/USA Network version (1985–1988)Edit

  • The riddles and the Target number returned, but there was no multiplier; the Super Jackpot was created at random. The target number (as in the original) was notified by the last three digits of the current Jackpot total. The contestant whose riddle caused the target number to be hit, asked his/her own riddle instead of the host. Super Jackpots ranged from $4,000 to $9,950 (in $50 increments); the highest was $8,200.
  • The Jackpot started at $100.
  • Riddles were valued anywhere from $50 to $300 (again in $5 increments).
  • If the Jackpot riddle was found and attempted, the King of the Hill and the person with the Jackpot riddle had to trade places regardless if the riddle was answered correctly or incorrectly. This rule would carry over into the syndicated version.
  • If the Jackpot riddle was not found until the last player, an extra $1,000 was added to the Jackpot.
  • In the second season, there was a "$10,000 Riddler Contest" in which the player who answered the most riddles correctly over a period of ten weeks won a bonus of $10,000. The winner of this bonus was Bob Hultquist of Belleville, Ontario.
  • In the final season of the Darrow version, there was a special riddle called "The $50,000 Riddle". These riddles were considerably harder than the ones usually asked, and all players who correctly answered them split $50,000 at the end of the week. In that season, on one of the show's weeks, only one person won the $50,000 all by themselves at the end of the week.
  • Starting in Season 2 (and just like the original), any player who ran the board (answered all fifteen riddles without a miss) won a new car.

Syndicated version (1989–1990)Edit

  • In this version, the value of the riddle would only be added to the Jackpot if the riddle was answered correctly.
  • If the King of the Hill "ran the table" (answered all fifteen riddles without a miss), $1,000 was added to the Jackpot.
  • Super Jackpots ranged on this version from $10,000 to $25,000 (in $500 increments).
  • Riddles ranged from $50 to $200 (in $5 increments once again).


1977: The RiddlersEdit

Main article: The Riddlers

Two years after Jackpot! ended, Bob Stewart produced two pilots involving riddles called The Riddlers with David Letterman, then still known as a stand-up comedian, as host. The basic format had five civilian contestants who shared a common occupation competed against five celebrities for an entire week. Letterman would read the first riddle of the day to the team who lost the previous game (or if it were the first show of the week, the civilians). A correct answer allowed the first player on that team to ask a riddle to the next person and then on down the line and back. If a mistake was made, control went to the other team and the process was repeated. The first team to answer nine riddles won the game, $500, and a chance for an additional $2,000.

In the Crazy Quotes end game, the winning team had to answer increasingly difficult questions (all quotes supposedly said by famous people) for $100, $200, $300, $400, and $1,000 respectively.

The celebrities for pilot #1 were Jo Anne Worley, Robert Urich, Joyce Bulifant, Michael McKean, and Debralee Scott. Both pilots were produced at the NBC Studios in Burbank, the first such project ever produced on the West Coast by Bob Stewart Productions.

Game Show Network aired Pilot #1 (taped November 4, 1977) on Thanksgiving Day 1998 and October 28, 2000.


On June 9, 1984 a pilot was produced for CBS with Nipsey Russell as host. In this version, the Jackpot started at $150, and that amount was added to the Jackpot for every correct answer to each riddle (doubled to $300 for every riddle answered if the Jackpot riddle was found, but the King of the Hill opted not to go for it immediately). There was no Super Jackpot in this version. If the King of the Hill found the Jackpot riddle last, an additional $5,000 was added to the Jackpot.

The winning players (the King of the Hill and the player who posed the Jackpot riddle) played a bonus round called "Riddle-Grams", which was played like Bob Stewart's 1977 game show Shoot for the Stars (both the show and pilot bonus would later become the 1986 short-lived Bob Stewart-produced ABC game Double Talk). The winning players had 60 seconds to solve seven word puzzles known as "riddle-grams" (ex.: "Freezing Dollars", which would be a "riddle-gram" for "Cold Cash"). Each correct answer was worth $100, and successfully solving all seven split $5,000 between the two winners ($2,500 per player). This pilot was the only attempt to add a bonus round to the show's format.

A home player format was added as well: Viewers were to send in postcards with the number of the person with the Jackpot riddle. Those who made the right pick won $500.

Although this pilot didn't sell in the States, its format was later used for a Welsh version (see below).


Press PhotosEdit



Milton Bradley made only one edition in 1974, but with two different covers: one with just the logo, while the other has a drawing of an excited female contestant on the cover. Other than that, the gameplay remains the same in both boxes and it plays very similar to the 1980s Darrow format.

Taping LocationsEdit

NBC Studios, New York City, NY (NBC Version)
CBS Television City, Hollywood, CA (CBS Pilot)
Global Television Studios, Toronto, ON (USA Version)
Glendale Studios, Glendale, CA (Syndicated Version)


Hollywood Showdown

International VersionEdit

A Welsh version of the show (entitled as Jacpot) with tweaked rules aired on S4C from 1993 until 1999 with Kevin Davies (no relation to executive producer Michael Davies) as host, then with Rhodri Ogwen Williams as host since 2012.


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1974–1975 – "Jet Set" by Mike Vickers
1984 – "Spring Rain" by Bebu Silvetti (Originally used on The Love Experts)
1985–1990 by Bob Cobert (Originally used on Shoot for the Stars)

The intro to the 70s and 1989 theme songs was later used in Pass the Buck and $50,000 a Minute.

Additional PageEdit

Jackpot/Quotes & Catchphrases


Bob Stewart



YouTube VideosEdit

Super Jackpot WinsEdit

Super Jackpot win of $38,750
Super Jackpot win of $14,500