THE NEW BATTLESTARS
The following is a detail of my experiences in the studio audience of The New Battlestars from April, 1983.
The story starts on my birthday - January 28, 1983. I was still living at home at the time, and my parents suprised the whole family with the announcement of a trip to California we would all be taking together during the school "Spring Break". I was excited as I always wanted to go to California. I wrote away to CBS and NBC for tickets to game shows during our stay. I was hoping to see Tattletales, but later found out it wasn't taping during the time we were there. Although it wasn't my first choice, I'm very happy I saw what we ended up seeing!
We flew to San Francisco on March 26, 1983 and worked our way down the coast during the next week. We arrived in the Los Angeles area around April 2nd, 1983 - which was also Easter weekend. We toured Universal Studios on the Sunday and NBC on Monday, April 4. At the end of the NBC tour, I went to the ticket window to find out what was taping that night. I had two choices as far as game shows were concerned - Wheel of Fortune and The New Battlestars. I immediately went for Battlestars.
I was excited to be seeing it - I enjoyed watching the original 1981-82 run whenever I wasn't in school, but we didn't have a VCR until Christmas 1982 so I couldn't save any episodes of it. It was actually a complete surprise the show was back. I had picked up a TVGuide in San Franciso when we got there and saw that Hit Man and Just Men were canceled as of April 1st, and that they would be replaced by Dream House and Battlestarsstarting the next Monday. Battlestars was scheduled to air at 11 a.m. - which was 12 noon for us in the Eastern Time Zone, and the two NBC affiliates in our area carried local news, so our TVGuide didn't list the return of the show.
After going back to the hotel for a couple of hours, we headed back to "beautiful downtown Burbank" and the NBC 4 studios - also home to KNBC, the Los Angeles NBC affiliate. We arrived in line about 3:30 p.m. and were among the first (it was my doing - hurrying my family up so we'd be guaranteed seats!). After about a half-hour, we were escorted into the studio. The crew was working with the set - turning the lights on and off - testing effects, etc. It looked pretty when it was all lit up!
After everyone was seated, the announcer Charlie Tuna came in and "warmed up" the audience. I was familiar with the name - at that time he also announced - among other things America's Top 10 which I watched every week. Charlie asked where people were from, told a few jokes, talked about the show and took audience questions. I asked several during the course of the question period: the first was "when will the show air?". I was surprised by his answer: they were scheduled to air the following week, starting April 11, 1983. This was the second week of the show and they were scheduled to tape three shows with the first audience. I always thought they taped further in advance than that. I also asked about the set. I wondered if that was the same set they used for the original, and both Charlie and one of the cameramen said "it's a new set - it's the New Battlestars so its new everything!" The funniest moment of the audience question period came when somebody else asked about the set - "is that the same set that was used for Hollywood Squares?" Charlie responded "yes...we just bent it a little!" He even said if anyone would like to be a contestant to talk to the contestant co-ordinator after the show. I'd have loved to have been one, but unfortunatly we weren't staying in the area long enough!
The question period took some time bacause they were having some sort of technical difficulties. Finally they were ready, and Charlie introduced the celebrities that would on the show: Robert Mandan, Richard Simmons, Helen Reddy and Ted Shackleford were four, and I ... can't remember the other two - hey, it's been over 25 years so my memory's faded a bit. But I do remember there was one other man and one other woman. I probably have a note of them somewhere! When the celebrities were being introduced I wasn't surprised at several of them - I already had the TVGuide for the next week and some of the celebrities were listed. However, TVGuide only listed four of the six, and one that was listed was not on the show. I guess since TVGuide printed in advance of the taping of the show they used the celebrities that were originally scheduled to be at the taping. Lastly, Charlie introduced host Alex Trebek. I was quite familiar with Alex - he had hosted other game shows I remembered watching, including Wizard of Odds, Double Dare,and $128,000 Question just to name three. As Alex was being miked, he mentioned that the "readout" on the board didn't look quite right. I noticed that too, but that was one of the changes between the original and new version of the show. The object on the original was to turn the lighted-numbers ON around each celebrity to "capture" them. In this version, you had to turn the lights OFF!
Everyone got into place and they started taping the first show. We saw on monitors what was going out on air because parts of the set were blocked a little because of the cameras - but we could see almost everything. I regonized the opening and the music - which were identical to the original series. When Alex was introduced, he walked through the back of the set which then closed together. I was surprised to see it was actually two men pushing it back together instead of an expensive machine doing it! He welcomed the celebrities and introduced the contestants. The game play was slightly altered as well - instead of pushing the button to stop the flashing numbers, once a contestant got a question right, they could just call out the numbers and "capture" each celebrity. I think I preferred the original rules better!
The first game ended and the winner played the bonus game, which was also different than the original version of the series. Instead of trying to uncover parts of a celebrity picture, they now had to answer three straight questions to win a "jackpot of prizes". The audience saw the choices on the monitor but were instructed before the show started not to call out anything because it would be unfair to the contestants. We were told to laugh, applaud and have fun, but not to even whisper the answers to our neighbor.
Future contestants sat in one part of the audience near the front. They were instructed not to talk or even smile to anyone, and we were instructed not to talk to them either. If that happened, the contestant could be disqualified. While the bonus game was going on, the next contestant was taken from the audience by one of the contestant co-ordinators, seated on the set and miked. I was surprised at how quietly it was done - it didn't distract Alex or the contestant at all. After the bonus game, Alex and the contestant returned to their places and he introduced the next contestant and the game went on.
Later, the times up signal went off and they threw to the last commercial. During commercials they took the lights down on the set to give the stars a break from the heat caused by the lights. About 10 seconds before they came back, they brought the lights up again and Alex thanked the audience and reminded everyone to "join us tomorrow". (Tomorrow would be in 15 minutes!) The audience started applauding and we saw the "runner-up" prizes displayed on the monitors. I couldn't hear the music or the announcer because the applause was too loud, but they ran the "long credits" on the first show, and towards the end everyone in the audience stopped applauding. It was only then I really heard the theme. After they faded to black, the stars left to change clothes, and one of the crew asked the audience to keep applauding right to the end - "even if your hands hurt a bit". This disappointed me a bit - as a game show fan I was always delighted when I'd hear a bit of theme without applause - unfortunately that didn't happen too frequently!!
After about 10 minutes, the celebrities started coming back into the studio and taking their places. Alex walked into position, they brought the lights up again and started taping the second show. One real change in game play between the original version and this version was that usually only one celebrity was "captured" at a time - in the original, quite frequently you could capture up to four at a time and sometimes could win the game on one question. Once during the second show the opportunity came up to capture two - and that was what decided the game. The last number to be turned off in that game - which took over half the show - was "7". That connected to two celebrities, and they went back to it three times before someone finally answered right! During the commercial break after that game, Pat Sajak came into the studio to see what was happening. He waved to the audience and said hi to the celebrities. He struck me as being a taller man than it appeared on television.
They played the bonus game, which wasn't won, and started another game with a new contestant. Shortly after that, the times' up signal went and show two was almost over. After the commercial, Alex again said "see you tomorrow" and the credits rolled. After the monitors faded to black, everyone was told to stay in position. We waited about three minutes before anything else happened. Someone had joked about "it takes a long time to go to the bathroom". They then counted down and did the closing and credits again - we were never told what went wrong the first time!
As the second show wound down, I heard one of the stage hands say "door prizes". I thought that they were supposed to be done at the end of the third show, but because of the earlier delays they did took their meal break at the end of the second instead. I was disappointed about not being able to see another show, but when the door prizes were being done, someone from my family won! We had won a $200 carpet! We signed the forms and the carpet was delivered to us several weeks later. It was just past 6 p.m. when we walked out of the studio - it was dark by then and the next audience was waiting in line. We then headed to Anaheim, where we would be visiting DisneyLand the next day. As we drove, I looked at the lights of downtown L.A. in the distance - happy about finally seeing a show live. My mother even mentioned "I can see why they don't get nervous. It seems like you're only in front of the studio audience rather than millions of people!"
Sadly, I never saw those episodes of Battlestars on TV. We were back home by the time they aired, but as mentioned our NBC affiliates carried local news. When I picked up some more out of town TVGuides later that year, I was saddened to see that the show had been replaced by sitcom reruns - obviously not lasting very long. In fact, I would never see Battlestarsagain until I did my second game-show tape trade in December, 1996. On that tape was the last episode of the original, and first episode of the redo. Unfortunatly, there are very few episodes of the show in the trading circuit, and the two shows I saw are not in the trading curcuit at present time. I'm sure they still exist, but unless someone out there has episodes of it, or unless GSN changes their stance and finally decides to pick up more library programming, that may be all there is. If anyone out there has any I don't, please e-mail me!
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