September 1978-September 1986
Bill Began Hosting in 1984
Barry & Enright Productions
"From Hollywood, here's the show where knowledge is King
and Lady Luck is Queen! The Joker's Wild!"
Bill's swan song after 40 years, he took over after Jack
Barry's passing in 1984.
Two contestants, one a returning champion, compete. Beginning with the
challenger, the contestants alternate spinning a giant three-window slot
machine, with each window displaying one of five categories or a joker.
On each spin, the contestant
decides which category they wish to play, and Bill reads a question. Spin
three different categories and a right answer is worth $50. Spinning two of
a kind is worth $100. Three of a kind, or a "natural triple," pays $200 for
a right answer, and whether the contestant answers correctly or not, you win
the "Natural Triple Jackpot," which has a prize added to it every day it
The "Jokers" on the wheels are wild (hence the title) and
can make any combination the contestant wants, including using a category
not appearing in that spin.
If a contestant is lucky enough to spin three jokers, a right answer in the category of
their choice nets an automatic win. Otherwise, the first contestant to
$500 or more wins the game; however, the contestants get an equal number of spins, so if
the challenger reaches that goal first, the champion gets one final spin
to tie or beat that score. Additional
rounds are played if the contestants tie at $500 or more.
The winner then plays "Face the Devil," a bonus game based purely on luck.
The three windows now display dollar amounts, but one window has a devil
in it. For every spin where only dollar amounts appear, the contestant receives
that amount of money and has the option to quit or continue spinning. If the
contestant spins three of the same dollar amount, or accumulates $1,000 or more,
s/he wins all the cash plus a prize package worth between $2,500-$4,000. If the
devil turns up on any spin, however, the contestant walks away with nothing.
And by the way, winning five consecutive
earns a new car.
During Bill's first season on the show,
the final segment of each episode was the Audience Game, which included three
contestants--two from the studio audience, and one from the home audience
(selected at random from postcards mailed to the show). Each contestant got one
spin of the wheels (with the home viewer "spinning" by pressing the star button
on their telephone), and this time around, the wheel displayed values between
$10-$100. All three contestants keep the money won, but the contestant with the
most money plays against the devil for one prize and additional cash.
"The Joker's Wild" had been an almost-miraculous comeback
for host Jack Barry, who had been blackballed from network television since
the late 50s, due to his involvement with the quiz show scandals (he was
host & producer for two of the worst offenders, "Twenty-One" and the
original "Tic Tac Dough".
"The Joker's Wild" set sail on CBS in 1972, premiering on the same day as
"The New Price is Right." Jack served as host of his creation, despite the
concerns of network executives concerned with his reputation. To the
surprise of reluctant network executives, the American public was willing to give Jack a second chance at
honesty, and "Joker" was a hit. After a three-year run, reruns
were sold at some local stations across the country and pulled in such high ratings that Jack
put the show back in production, selling the show in syndication and
building a television empire for the next seven years. On May 2, 1984, Jack
Barry died of a heart
attack while jogging, just weeks after completing the 7th season.
had already intended for the 7th season to be his final season anyway. In
his mid-sixties and having hosted his creation for over a decade, Jack was
looking to focus strictly on producing and planned on opening the season by
announcing his retirement from hosting and turning the show over to Jim
Peck, who had been a frequent guest host during his vacations over the
However, after Jack's death, many Barry & Enright staffers
began to change some of Jack's decisions that they had never agreed with.
They felt that Jim Peck wasn't a big enough name for the show to survive,
and chose Bill to become emcee because of his established reputation.
Bill, admittedly, is slowing down during his tenure on "The
Joker's Wild," and viewers who had watched the show under Jack Barry's
lightning-fast style might have been taken aback by the relaxed, leisurely
pace that Bill suddenly brought to the show. But Bill still found chances to
shine here, wisecracking and particularly taking interest in the contestant
interviews. Bill easily made "Joker" his show, and he left on a high note.