Twenty One 1956 Pilot
Twenty One 1956
NBC Primetime, September 12, 1956 - October 16,1958
Run time
30 Minutes
Jack Barry
Bill McCord
NBC Studio 6B, New York City, New York

Twenty-One was a game show.

Game FormatEdit

Two contestants (one a champion, the other the challenger), were both placed in isolation booths, so they cannot hear or see the other's score or progress. Plus, they couldn't see the audience due to the arrangement of the lighting in the studio.

The object of the game was to score 21 points as fast as you can, or come closer to 21 points than the opponent.

The game was played for up to five rounds. In each round, a category was given, each category has eleven questions of increasing difficulty, they ranged in value from 1 to 11 (one point being the easiest, eleven being the hardest). So any contestant can reach 21 in as few as two rounds. Each contestant in turn (starting with the challenger) with the other's booth turned off, decided how many points to play for, and then a question worth that value was asked by the host. A correct answer added the chosen point value to the player's score, but an incorrect answer subtracted the chosen point value from the player's score (the scores can never go below zero). After the first two rounds, both players' booths were turned on though they still don't know each other's score and they were now given the option to stop the game, but they must stop only if they think they're leading. That's important, because when the game is stopped voluntarily, the player with the most points at that point wins; if they didn't decide to stop the game, the game continues. On games when they didn't stop voluntarily, the first player to reach 21 points won the game. Should the challenger reach 21 first, the champion who has a score of 10 points or more was given one last chance to catch up and take the game to a 21-21 tie or save more money (which will all be explained later); the challenger's booth was left on during that time to make sure he/she can hear everything going on.

Winning contestants won $500 times the difference between the winning & losing scores should they win the first game (thus, a 21-0 win is worth $10,500). In case of a tie, new games added $500 more to the pot. Money won by the challenger was taken out of the champion's total winnings; that's why before each game, championship players always get a decision to either play that next game or retire from the show.


International VersionsEdit

Main Page: Twenty-One/International


Board GameEdit

Lowell (1957)

Quiz BookEdit

Pyramid (1958)


Charles Van DorenEdit

June 9, 1958 EpisodeEdit

Episode StatusEdit


See AlsoEdit

Twenty-One (1982 pilot)
Twenty-One (2000)


Rules for Twenty-One
Rules for Twenty-One @
A tribute to Twenty-One
All about Twenty-One