Winning Streak

Last Update: June 19, 2001 -- two links added to the Read More About It section.

Airing: 10:30-11 a.m. Thursday and Friday, January 2 and 3, NBC.

Personnel: Bill Cullen, host; Don Pardo, announcer. A Bob Stewart Production. Taped in New York City.

Description: Obviously short-lived word game.

Game Play: Two players competed, and appears there were several adjustments in format. In one version, they faced a board of sixteen letters with a category attached at the bottom. Contestants then formed a word of two to ten letters using the letters on the board. They won letters answers questions posed by Cullen. The answer to a question posed by Cullen would start with the letter the contestant chose of the 16 letters on the board. The first contestant to ring in with the correct answer could keep the letter for the word they had in mind or refuse it; if the first contestant answered incorrectly, this option went to their opponent. The first player to form a word in the given category moved on to the end game.

Later, contestants picked a letter and won the points attached to it by ringing in before their opponent with the answer to a question posed by Cullen that began with the chosen letter. One player was declared the winner when they passed a certain point total. That contestant then faced the previous champion and played a similar game, except they tried to spell out a word with the letters they had selected. (Doesn’t make sense to me, either.)

End Game: Again, it looks like there were two formats. At one point, the winner of the opening game played the previous champion, who had won money during a previous bonus round, but couldn’t collect it until they beat the new winner. They did this by forming words using letters chosen at random. The bonus money (preselected at random by the newer player) doubled as each letter was selected, until one player couldn’t come up with a word using all the letters selected, which meant the victory went to the other player. The round was played at first by the newer player, who could quit when they felt they couldn’t form another word and would then go head-to-head with the existing champion for the money the newer player had just accumulated. If anyone has any doubts at this point why this show only lasted six months, write to me and I’ll sum up the rules of Password for you in about three sentences.

Background: Winning Streak replaced the long-running Jeopardy! at 10:30 a.m. on July 1, 1974. Jeopardy!, which had been battling CBS’s The $10,000 Pyramid and Gambit since its switch from 12 noon, was shifted again to 1:30 p.m., replacing Three on a Match, which, like Winning Streak, was hosted by Bill Cullen and produced by Bob Stewart. Cullen was the favorite host of packager Stewart – he had hosted The Price Is Right, a Stewart creation, in the ‘50s and ‘60s and also ran Stewart’s Eye Guess as well as Three on a Match. It’s possible Cullen had a contract with NBC, I suppose.

Winning Streak, based on seeing one episode, seemed a complicated and basically uninteresting game to watch, and was running against Gambit. NBC bounced it just after the New Year, replacing it with Wheel of Fortune. Only two episodes aired in 1975 (NBC pre-empted its daytime lineup New Year’s Day for the Tournament of Roses parade and bowl games), but that allows the show to squeeze onto this web site.

Karen’s Take: "It’s like Scrabble without the fun!"

Winning Style: Lin Bolen, president of NBC daytime, certainly had a thing about making sure her hosts appeared hip. Cullen is pictured in The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows with long hair (well, long for him, compared to his crew cuts of the ‘60s) and an open collar. (He kept his bifocals, though!) Small wonder this was Bill’s last NBC game until 1980’s Chain Reaction, by which time Bolen was long gone from the network.

Memories From the Set: "In July of 1974, I was 19 years old and working part-time in New York City at the now-defunct Gimbel’s Department Store. One day while on a lunch break, I was taking a walk through Rockefeller Center. As I neared the entrance to NBC studios, I was approached by a man who was asking passersby if they would like to try out for a new game show. It sounded exciting, so I agreed and was given a ticket and an address for an office building around the corner which I later was told were the offices of Bob Stewart Productions. After riding the elevator up, I walked into a crowded hallway where dozens of people were standing around filling out forms by propping them up against walls. In due time I was given my set of forms and after completing them was ushered into an office with about six other contestant hopefuls to sit down in front of the contestant coordinator, a man in his mid-twenties who spoke with a southern drawl. He basically wanted to chat with us all and tell us how the new game show Winning Streak is played. He also wanted to see what our individual reactions might be if each of us were told we had just won $10,000 (yes, he wanted us to rant and rave and jump up and down right there in front of him!). He told us that Bill Cullen was the host of the show and that only a few tapings had taken place so far. I remember that one young guy was sitting there wearing eyeglasses with no glass in the frames! He behaved somewhat like an actor might on an audition: extra-animated and kind of wacky. Anyway, I was chosen as one of the future contestants and asked to report to NBC studios in Rockefeller Center a few weeks later. The game was a word game, so in the meantime, I practiced trying to come up with words which contained all of the letters either my friends would recite to me or that I might come across in random groupings. Automobile license plates served well for this purpose. I would look at a plate and use the two or three letters on it as the clue and then try to come up with a word that contained all of the letters.

"I arrived on the day of the taping wearing clothes that were technically accurate for TV: no white shirts, fine-checked, or pin-striped items were allowed because of the burn out and/or moire effect they produce when shot by TV cameras. However, my choice in the final analysis wasn't so hot. In my dark brown shirt, dark brown jacket and tan tie, I looked like a fugitive from a low-budget Godfather ripoff. Anyway, what we did while waiting to enter the studio was to play the game among ourselves -- a lot! All under the watchful eyes of the contestant coordinators who you felt were constantly evaluating you.

"We were led into the studio, given a tour of the set and then placed in the first two rows of the audience. A week’s worth of shows were to be taped that day. No change of clothing was permitted unless you needed to come back after the final show of that day was taped. Supposedly, no one watching at home would notice if you seemingly wore the same clothing for days on end. I even got to lunch in the NBC commissary that was made (in)famous by Johnny Carson and others.

"I was eventually chosen to compete on stage against a nice young lady, under the watchful eye of the previous game winner standing upstage behind a little podium. I won that game and proceeded to win $1,760 in the bonus round, which I was able to immediately keep, as the previous game’s winner went bust during his attempt at the bonus round. Back into another game, I won that one too, and went to the bonus round again to this time rack up $1,200. I took my place at the upstage podium to watch another twp contestants duke it out, the emerging winner a bubbly blonde woman named Sheila wearing a quintessentially ’70s halter top pants suit. She fared well in her bonus round, winning $1,040, but had to face me in a playoff round for the combined total of our winnings: $2,240.

"I was the winner of that contest, having to give a word that contained the letters S-P-N-D-L. I said "plunders". Sheila then revealed an "E" and couldn't come up with a word within the time allotted. At this point, I had accumulated $4,000. Needless to say, I was pretty elated. Unfortunately, after winning the next game, I went bust during my bonus round and had to stand up there behind that podium awaiting the next game winner’s bonus round fate. He won it, so my reign was over. Had he gone bust by the way, I think he and I would have faced each other in the next game.

"To my surprise, those prizes shown at the end of the show don't only go to the losers, but to the winners as well. So I got in addition to my cash winnings a piece of American Tourister luggage, a Bissell carpet sweeper and a whole bunch of Tootsie Roll Midgees.

"I had great fun on the show, I won, and my appetite was whetted to try another game show as soon as the rules of NBC and Bob Stewart Productions allowed. It wasn't until three years later that I got the chance: Shoot for the Stars with host Geoff Edwards. But that is another story." – Mark Silverstein

"I spent a lot of time at 30 Rock[efeller Center] when I was a kid. When I heard that Three on a Match was about to get cancelled I watched out for its replacement. I was happy when I found out the replacement was Winning Streak. While at the taping at the first show, something unplanned happened. If you remember the original main game, you had to spell a word. Well, no one planned for the fact that one of the contestants might spell the word incorrectly.

"During the first show, that happened. I heard somebody yell "stop tape" and out rushed Bob Stewart. What they did was roll back the game to the point that the contestant added the wrong letter. Interesting!

"By the way, in the early episodes, there was no protection around the light bulbs that surrounded the pods the Bill Cullen and the contestants sat in. In later episodes, a plastic step in placed over the blubs.

"How is it no one has ever commented the original main game (less the spelling) looks like Blockbusters?" – Al Martella

The Home Game: Sadist.

Reruns: Tapes of this show have probably been destroyed by NBC. One episode continues to circulate among tape traders -- Game Show Network has run it occasionally claiming it originally aired August 9, 1974, but since Richard Nixon resigned the presidency that day, it seems more likely the tape was tossed to the side and never aired, thus avoiding destruction.

Revivals: Not unless it’s completely changed. Bob Stewart never threw away an idea, but since Sony has the rights to his shows, this is extremely unlikely to return.

Curt Alliaume, Executive Producer: How could I hope to produce this game if I can’t even explain it?

My Grade: C-.

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Winning Streak is a copyrighted title of Bob Stewart Productions. This page is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Bob Stewart Productions, Columbia/Tri-Star Television, their subsidiaries, affiliates, or successor organizations. No challenge to their ownership is implied. Photos originally appeared on eBay.