|Karen Thomas (Season 2 only)|
|Mark Summers (first few months)|
Johnny Gilbert (rest of run)
The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime was the short-lived, daily game show where two couples competed each day to solve word puzzles in hopes of winning $1,000,000.
In each round, one member from each couple played the entire round. Their partners could cheer them on but they couldn't help out in any way.
The two active players saw a series of blank squares representing the number of letters in a mystery word/phrase/name. When Jim said "Go", letters in the puzzle appeared one at a time (the same as Scrabble's Speedword and Wheel of Fortune's Toss-Up Puzzles), and as soon as a player knew the solution, he/she had to then buzz in. Giving the right answer won money, but giving a wrong answer or running out of time gave the opposing player a chance to see the remaining letters minus the last, then had two seconds to buzz in and answer.
Each toss-up puzzle was a clue to a bigger puzzle. The player with a correct guess would come up to a giant computer housing the puzzle and picked two letters from the keyboard in front of him/her. The keyboard in question consisted of the entire alphabet and a star key (the star key represented punctuation marks and/or numbers in the puzzle). The contestant could only choose from the letters that were lit, for they were the only ones that were in the puzzle, except for just the one which did not belong, and that letter was dubbed "The Stinger". The Stinger was always shown at the start to the home viewers so that they could keep their eyes on it, but not to the contestants; any letter could be the Stinger (though letters Q and Z were never Stingers) but the star key was the only one that was never the Stinger. When choosing the letter, each time a letter/number/symbol appeared in the puzzle, money (which was always the value of the toss-ups) was added to the puzzle bank; if the letter chosen was the Stinger, the contestant lost a chance at solving the puzzle. If the two letters chosen were safe, the contestant had a chance to solve the puzzle and if he/she solved it, he/she won all the money in the bank for the team; otherwise, another toss-up was played.
Here's how they scored in each round:
- Round 1 – $25
- Round 2 – $50
- Round 3 – $100
In the event there was time remaining after three puzzles, a fourth puzzle was played with the same amount from the third puzzle. When time ran out in the middle of a puzzle, letters in the puzzle were revealed one at a time (just like the toss-up clues) until one player answered correctly.
The couple with the most money at the end of the game were the winners. If the game ended in a tie, a tiebreaker toss-up was played with the first player to buzz in with a correct answer winning the game; if a contestant buzzed in and was wrong, the game went to the opposing team.
The winning couple got to keep all the cash earned and went on to play the bonus round.
To start, the winning couple was shown three categories, and they had to choose the one they knew about the best. After choosing a category, the winning couple entered into an isolation booth where they could hear only host Jim and not the audience, and could only see the game board screen. Once they entered, they had 60 seconds to solve six puzzles under the chosen category. Each puzzle worked the same as the clue puzzles in the main game except that the couple could now guess as many times as they wanted at any time. As soon as they yelled out the right answer, the puzzle was filled in and they moved on to the next puzzle. If they could solve all six before time expired, they won a cash bonus depending on their appearance.
The first win was worth $5,000, and the second win was worth $10,000. On the first two bonus games they could either take the appropriate bonus cash prize and leave the show or come back the next day to face a new couple. In any bonus round, if they failed to get all six right when time ran out, their reign as champions ended but they did keep all the main game cash. However, if the winning couple won three bonus games, they won $1,000,000. In the first season the million dollar prize was all cash and delivered in an annuity fashion ($40,000 a year for 25 years). In the second season 9/10 of it was cash or $900,000 ($36,000 a year for 25 years) while the remaining $100,000 was in prizes including two new Mazdas, 40 round-trip tickets to anywhere in the USA (on Delta Air Lines); five complete rooms of furniture (a kitchen, living room, dining room, den, and bedroom); and an outdoor spa.
Nine couples became millionaires over the course of the series, and despite the cancellation & various buyouts and acquisitions in terms of the production company (Warner Bros. now owns the Lorimar-Telepicures catalogue), all payments were honored until 2011/2012.
A board game based on the show was released by Cardinal in 1986. (NOTE: host Jim Lange is on the cover of the box along with the artwork of the set)
The logo was the same in both seasons, but the backdrops were different.
This show started out as a failed 1970s pilot called The Letter Machine.
This was the first nationally-aired game show in the U.S. to offer $1,000,000 as its top prize, 13 years before Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and the various rip-offs that premiered afterwards. (Prior to this, only state lottery shows had seven figures for a prize.)
This was one of the few game shows to use touch-sensitive devices for the buzzers instead of a red button or a handheld device. Its foreign counterparts also used the same feature for the buzzers.
In the first season, when the million was won, confetti was released from the ceiling, much like other shows that have a seven-figure prize tend to do today, but sometimes, the giant "$1,000,000" sign would also shoot fireworks. In the second season, balloons would be released over the two Mazdas along with the confetti. Colombia's El Programa de Millon also released confetti and balloons (and also shot smaller fireworks) when the CO$1,000,000 prize (worth about $500 in today's money) was won.
- A Colombian version hosted by Fernando Gonzalez Pacheco ran on Cadena Una and Cadena Dos (One and Two Chain Chain) from 1987 until 1990 as El Programa del Millon (The Million Program).
- A UK version hosted by David Hamilton ran on ITV from 1988 until 1991 as All Clued Up. Because of Independent Broadcasting Authority rules at the time, the prizes were much cheaper--in the first season, the bonus round was only played for £1,000 and the option to gamble £500 to return the following week and play for another £3,000. Unlike the US show, it did not drop confetti or balloons when the £3,000 was won. During the third season, the winning couple played for £2,000. When the weekly show expanded to five days a week, the winning couple played for only £500. Also, during the last two seasons, couples were only given 50 seconds (rather than a full minute) to guess the six items.
- On Chile's Sabado Gigante, one of the games played was based off The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime, but the show used two solo contestants rather than couples. Also, the bonus round was played for a car instead of cash.
The El Encanto Group – Based on a failed 1970s pilot called The Letter Machine
- Rules of the $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime
- Chuck Donegan's $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime rules page
- Josh Rebich's $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime Rule Sheet
- Chris Lambert's $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime rules page
- Screengrabs of the $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime
- A blog about the $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime
- An interview with $1,000,000 winner, Cheryl Gilmore
- Game Show Garbage's induction of the $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime board game