A gameshow all about earning big bucks, but avoiding that pesky Whammy made its debut on this day in television history.
Press Your Luck, developed by Bill Carruthers and Jan McCormack, made its debut as part of the CBS daytime lineup on September 19th, 1983.
Hosted by Peter Tomarken, the gameshow featured a trio of contestants answering trivia questions. Each correct answer gave them a certain number of spins to use in the main phase of gameplay: the big board. While on the big board, each contestant must watch a big board and stop a moving box of lights around a particular square of that big board. A square, changing by the second, could feature cash or a prize. But, it could also feature a Whammy! The hand-animated Whammies, with their trademark high voice and red skin, would eliminate all winnings from that round so far. Many contestants were known to exclaim “Big Money!” or “No Whammies!” before hitting the buzzer that stopped their spin on that board.
The show also featured Rod Roddy as the main announcer, before he became synonymous with his work on The Price is Right. One of the most notable events from the show’s run featured a contestant named Michael Larson. Larson used recordings to memorize the patterns of the Big Board and accumulate so many successful spins on the board that his episode had to be split in two with over $110,000 in winnings–easily a daytime TV record for the time. The patterns on the board would later be changed.
The original run of Press Your Luck would last through 1986. Repeats of the show have been a staple of the Game Show Network (or GSN) off and on through that cable outlet’s run. The same network launched a revised version called “Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck” in 2002.