Last Update: August 3, 2000 — links updated.
Airing: 12:30-1 p.m. Monday-Friday, January 1-June 30, ABC.
Personnel: Tom Kennedy, host; Jack Clark, announcer. A Stefan Hatos-Monty Hall Production. Taped in Los Angeles.
Description: Breathlessly fast-paced three-contestant Q&A.
Game Play: Three players competed. Kennedy read a clue leading into a question with three different parts; contestants then rang in to try to answer any one of the parts of the question. The first contestant had their choice of any part of the question they chose; the second had two choices if the first contestant was right previously or all three if the first contestant was incorrect; the third contestant, thusly, could choose from one, two, or all three parts. Correct answers were worth $5 if all three contestants answered correctly, $10 if two contestants answered correctly, or $25 if only one contestant answered correctly. The game was played in two rounds, with the round two cash values jumping to $10, $25, and $50. Later in the run, the first contestant in each round to be the only one to answer a question correctly of a given three won an additional merchandise prize.
In the Countdown Round, the player who had accumulated the most money needed three correct answers to win the game. The player in second needed four answers, and the player in third five answers. (A tie meant that both or all three players had to answer the lower amount of parts of the question.) The other significant difference was the player who rang in first could answer up to all three parts of the question; an incorrect answer resulted in a move to the next player. The first player to get down to zero won the game and moved on to the end game. All three players kept the cash accumulated during the game.
End Game: At this point, the stage split in half, revealing five new automobiles. The champion chose one of five keys and tried to determine which car it would start. Starting the car won it for the player (and they then retired from the show); if the car didn’t start, the player won $1000 and returned on the next show. That car was eliminated if that player won again, meaning the champion then had to choose from four cars to see which would start, three in the following show, and so on. The player left the show when he or she started a car, won five games (which resulted in an automatic car win), or was dethroned as champion.
Background: Split Second began March 20, 1972 on ABC, at 12:30 p.m., a time slot it retained throughout its run. Tom Kennedy, who had followed up a successful six-year run on NBC’s You Don’t Say! with an unsuccessful syndicated talk/variety show that ran in just a few markets and a year as the host of the syndicated game It’s Your Bet, signed a long-term contract with ABC and was given the hosting job. The producers were Stefan Hatos and Monty Hall, introducing their first game since NBC’s Chain Letter six years before. Second helped form a one-hour game block for ABC, with Password, which had previously aired at 12:30, moving to the noon slot. Second showed some strength from the start, forcing the similarly-formatted The Who, What, or Where Game off NBC at the end of 1973 and easily conquering NBC’s next offering in that time slot, Baffle. (It should be said that CBS was running Search for Tomorrow at 12:30, which at the time was one of the network’s strongest soaps, as well as its longest-running one.)
Split Decision: Second’s very sound format never needed any tinkering, but when Password started playing with its format and the ratings dropped, Split Second’s ratings started to suffer a bit as well. Although NBC’s offering in early 1975, Blank Check, really wasn’t competitive, ABC eventually decided to drop all three games running from 11:30 to 1 p.m. (Bob Stewart’s Blankety Blanks had joined the lineup at 11:30 in April 1975). Oddly, ABC replaced them with three different formats – reruns of The Brady Bunch at 11:30 (which Blankety Blanks itself had replaced), Showoffs at 12 noon, and a new soap, Ryan’s Hope, at 12:30. The cancellation of Second couldn’t have made anyone associated with it particularly happy, given that the show’s drop in ratings could possibly have been attributed to the weakness (and format shuffle) of Password. The era for hard quizzes appeared to have ended, with the cancellation of Who, What, or Where, Jeopardy!, The Big Showdown, and Second in the previous year and a half. Kennedy moved on to ABC’s revival of You Don’t Say! a week after Second left the air.
No Second Chances: Split Second’s second producer was Bob Synes, whose career took him from Jackie Gleason’s ill-conceived 1961 comedy game You’re in the Picture through Greg Kinnear’s College Mad House in 1989. (For more information on the exquisitely awful You’re in the Picture, check out TVParty.com – it includes streaming Real Video of the one game episode, and the second episode, which consisted entirely of Gleason apologizing for the previous one.) For Second, however, Synes became a stickler for correct answers, to the consternation of executive producer Hall. “He was so hard on the contestants,” Hall told author Jefferson Graham. “He was so hairsplitting on an answer that if a person gave the answer ‘Maria Antoinette’ instead of ‘Marie Antoinette,’ he called it wrong.” (That’s how they would do it on Jeopardy!, though…)
Second-Hand Smoke: Having five automobiles in the studio proved to be an adventure. For one show, a mechanic disconnected a spark plug to a car rather than a coil, so when the contestant tried to start the car, the automobile gave off smoke for a full minute. (Must have been a delightful experience for studio audience members.) Wisely, the show gave the car away anyway, and probably profusely apologized to GM, who supplied the cars.
A Second Look: The last episode of the ABC series featured Judd Rose as a contestant, who went on to be a successful newsman with ABC and, before his recent death, CNN. And also in that last episode, when the staff members were brought out, one of those introduced was a young Markie Post. She went on to work behind the scenes at Goodson-Todman’s Double Dare, briefly dealt the cards on the NBC version of Card Sharks, and then launched a successful acting career on The Fall Guy, Night Court, and Hearts Afire.
I Second that Emotion: Part of a late wave of game show comebacks fueled by the success of Wheel of Fortune, Split Second returned in first-run syndication in late 1986, taped in Toronto and hosted by Monty Hall himself. Hall acted as onstage judge, easing up on the contestants a bit in comparison to Bob Synes. The dollar values of correct answers doubled, but basic game play remained the same. With their end game stolen by the revival of Hollywood Squares, a new end game was devised, with three of five video screens showing the word “car” and the other two showing a merchandise prize. If the champion picked all three car screens, they won the car; if they picked a non-car screen, they could leave with that prize or return on the following show. The second Split Second only lasted a half season, but reran on The Family Channel from 1993-94 and again in 1995.
The Home Game: None was manufactured. This one might have been tough, since it was so fast and required not just buzzing in, but the host knowing the order of who buzzed in when. Yet Sale of the Century had a chip-in-a-basket format that could have been used here. I suspect Hatos-Hall simply didn’t push it.
Reruns: I don’t know if the original ABC episodes still exist – they seem to have destroyed most other games of that era, but since Let’s Make a Deal episodes from the period still exist, why not this Hatos-Hall produced game as well? And of course the Hall-hosted episodes are still around.
Revivals: No one seems to be talking about it – Monty Hall’s focus is currently on another run of Let’s Make a Deal.
Curt Alliaume, Executive Producer: This show screams for a revival. It’s easily adapted to a big-money format, and unlike the other recent million-dollar games, this requires fast knowledge and gutsy game playing. Easily one of the most exciting game shows ever. Multiply the front-game amounts by ten, have a cash bonus with the car (make it a luxury car) starting at $100,000 and adding $25,000 for every day it isn’t won, and start calling network executives with one of the existing shows.
My Grade: A.
Read More About It:
Chris Lambert’s Game $how Page for the rules of the game.
Chuck Donegan’s Illustrious Game Show Page contains a 1996 interview David Hammett conducted with Tom Kennedy in its entirety.
The Flea’s Split Second Page has a couple of screen grabs and an audio file of the last show open.