Twenty One (Jayverse)

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Twenty-One is an American game show originally hosted by Jack Barry that aired on NBC from 1956 to 1958. Produced by Jack Barry-Dan Enright Productions, two contestants competed against each other in separate isolation booths, answering general-knowledge questions to earn 21 total points. The program became notorious when it was found to be rigged as part of the 1950s quiz show scandals, which nearly caused the demise of the entire genre in the wake of United States Senate investigations. The 1994 movie Quiz Show is based on these events. A new version of the show aired on syndication in 1982 with Jim Lange as host and ran for two seasons on syndication.

However, NBC revived it in 2000 with host Maury Povich; it lasted for five months. In 2020, UBC Television Studios announced plans to create a new version of the series for syndication with host Justina Valentine; it will air starting in January 2021.


Two contestants, typically a returning champion and a challenger, entered separate isolation booths and donned pairs of headphones. The arrangement of the booths and the studio lighting prevented the contestants from seeing or hearing each other or the audience. At any given moment during the game, one booth would be "open", meaning that the occupant could hear the host in the headphones and could speak using the booth's microphone. The other booth would be "closed", with its microphone disabled and the headphones playing music to prevent the contestant from hearing the game. After each question, sounds of laughter and applause were played through the headphones of the contestant in the closed booth in order to prevent the contestant from learning the outcome of the opponent's turn.

The game was played in rounds, with Barry announcing the category for each round as it was dispensed from a machine on his podium; there were over 100 possible categories. The challenger played first in each round, with his or her booth open and the champion's closed, and selected the point value (1 to 11) that they wanted to attempt. Higher-value questions were more difficult, and questions often had several parts. If the challenger answered correctly, the points were added to his or her score; a miss subtracted the points, but the score could never go below zero. The challenger's booth was then closed and the champion's opened so that the champion could take a turn. Barry would not tell either contestant about the other's score or performance.

The goal was to earn a total of 21 points. If the challenger reached this score first, his or her booth was left open to hear the champion's turn, but the challenger would be cautioned not to speak or give away any information. Barry would not tell the champion that the challenger had already reached 21 unless the champion asked for a question that would tie the score if answered correctly. If the champion failed to match that score, the challenger won. The champion won by reaching 21 first on his or her own turn. If a round ended in a 21–21 tie, the scores were erased and a new game was played. Contestants were given extra time to think on any question that would bring them up to 21.

After two rounds, both booths were opened and the contestants were given a chance to stop the game. If either asked to do so, the contestant in the lead would be declared the winner. The game was automatically stopped after five rounds.

The winner of the game received $500 for each point of the margin of victory (e.g., a 21–15 win paid $3,000). Whenever a game ended in a tie, the stakes were raised by $500 per point and a new game was played. If the champion won, he or she could choose to leave the show with the winnings earned up to that point or to play again, basing the decision on a small amount of information about the next challenger. However, if the challenger won, his or her winnings for that game were paid out of the defeated champion's total. Contestants stayed on the show until they either chose to leave or were defeated.

1982 Version

Barry & Enright had the idea of reviving 21 for the syndication market (as they did with The Joker's Wild and Tic Tac Dough) with Jim Lange (who just finished his two-year hosting duties on another Barry & Enright game show called Bullseye) serving as host (it would be the third game show where Lange did not wear glasses). The show ran for 2 Seasons from September 20, 1982 to June 8, 1984. (with reruns airing until September 14, 1984)

In this version each category had nine questions instead of eleven, so they ranged in value from 1 to 9 points (later changed to 10 in season 2); still, the higher the point value, the more difficult the question. The 8 and 9 point (9 and 10 points in season 2) questions received additional thinking time (like the "Center Box" Question on Tic Tac Dough). Also, the value was doubled to $1,000 (plus that amount for every new game in case of a 21-21 tie game) times the difference between the winning and losing scores. The biggest difference was the addition of a bonus game which used the traditional "avoid the bad guy" format, but in a different way.

Bonus Game

The champion faced a board of random shuffling numbers ranging from 1 to 11, and was given a remote control to stop the shuffling. The object of the bonus game was to get to 21 or come as closer to 21 than the "computer" without going over, anything over 21 was a bust (a la blackjack). On each turn, the champion would decide to either take the number he/she would land on or give it to the "computer", after which he/she stopped the shuffling. Whatever number it landed on was added to that player's score. The computer could keep building its score until it hit 17 or more, but this rule did not affect the contestant. If the contestant could beat the computer in any way, he/she won a $2,000 in cash and a prize package worth between $3,000-$5,000.

2000 Revival

Questions were still worth 1 to 11 points, but all main-game questions were multiple-choice, with no multiple-part questions. Questions worth six or fewer points had one correct answer out of three choices. Questions worth seven to ten points had one correct answer out of four choices; for ten-point questions, "none of the above" was an option. Questions worth 11 points had two correct answers out of five, and both were required. As with the original series, host Povich did not tell either contestant about the other's score or performance.

Incorrect answers no longer deducted points from a contestant's score. Instead, contestants received a strike for each incorrect response (or providing only one correct response on the 11-point questions); accumulating three strikes resulted in an automatic loss. This rule change meant that games could end without a winner, as the rounds were played to completion. If one contestant had struck out on his or her turn and the second contestant had two strikes, the contestant could also lose the game on an incorrect answer. However, a contestant did not know how an opponent had struck out unless explicitly told so by the host.

Each contestant could call for a "Second Chance" once per game, allowing an opportunity to receive help from a friend or family member before answering. An incorrect response on a Second Chance penalized the contestant with two strikes instead of one. If the challenger struck out, and the champion had either one or two strikes and had not yet used his or her Second Chance, the round was played to completion because the champion could still strike out.

Games were still played to a maximum of five rounds, and beginning with the second episode, contestants had the option to stop the game after the second round if neither contestant had reached 21. If time ran out during a game and at least two complete rounds had been played, the contestant in the lead was declared the winner and advanced to the Perfect 21 bonus round at the beginning of the next episode.

Unlike the 1950s version, if the game ended in a tie, no new game was played. Instead, the contestants would be asked one question, and the first contestant to ring in could answer. If correct, he or she won the game and went on to play the bonus round; an incorrect answer gave the opponent a chance to respond. If both contestants missed the question, a new one was asked, with play continuing until a winner was determined.


Losing challengers received $1,000 as a consolation prize. Rather than receiving a dollar value multiplied by the point difference after winning each game, champions received progressively larger amounts for each opponent defeated.

Game number Prize
January 2000 February–May 2000
1 $100,000 $25,000
2 $200,000 $50,000
3 $300,000 $100,000
4 $400,000 $250,000
5 N/A $500,000
6 $750,000
7 $1,000,000

All amounts are cumulative; in the first playout structure, winning four games would be worth $1,000,000. After winning a fourth game, the contestant started the chain again at $100,000 for defeating a fifth opponent, $200,000 for defeating a sixth, and so on. After a few early episodes, the number of matches required to win $1,000,000 increased; winning seven games would now be worth at least $2,675,000. As before, any contestant who defeated a seventh opponent started from the beginning of the chain.

When the rules changed, the returning champion had won one game and $100,000 in his appearance on the final show under the old prize structure. Instead of being "grandfathered" under the old prize structure, he played and won his second game for $250,000 (the next amount after $100,000), and played but lost his third game for $500,000.

Under both prize structures, champions remained on the show until being defeated, as in the original version. However, unlike the original show, new champions' winnings were not deducted from the totals of dethroned ones.

Contestant Selection

During the first six episodes, the audience chose the winner's next opponent. The audience would be presented with two potential challengers to face the current champion, and the audience would vote for an opponent using keypads. The person who received the higher vote played against the champion; the other person would be one of the two potential challengers to be voted upon for the next game. In the first episode, there were three potential opponents to face the champion. After the sixth episode, the process was changed to a random selection. At the beginning of the show, six potential challengers would be introduced, and would be selected randomly from that group for each new game. People who had not been selected by the end of the show were not guaranteed to return on the following show, although some did appear on the show multiple times before being selected to play.

Bonus round: Perfect 21

The champion was asked a maximum of six true/false questions in a single category, starting at one point and increasing by one per question, to a maximum value of six. After any correct answer, the champion could stop playing and receive $10,000 per point; an incorrect answer ended the round and forfeited this money. Correctly answering all six questions won the top prize of $210,000.

2021 Revival

However the despite of success of Nick Cannon hosting The Masked Singer and The Joker's Wild and Taran Killiam hosted Tic Tac Dough despite of these two working on the Job for Tempo's Wild 'n Out, Justina Valentine has signed on to host the reboot, Jim Thornton (who is currently announcing for Wheel of Fortune, The Joker's Wild and Tic Tac Dough) will be hired to announced this reboot which will debut in January 2021 which will feature a Futuristic Set.

Theme Music and Cues

Theme Music for the 1982 and 2021 Revival (performed by the Alan Parsons Project)