Show: Remembering When

Episode: 868-124 Strike It Rich

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Episode Description:

Strike It Rich was a controversial game show that aired on American radio and television from 1947 to 1958 on CBS and NBC. People in need of money (such as for medical treatment or a destitute family) appeared and told their tale of woe, then tried to win money by answering some relatively easy questions. If the contestant didn't win any money, the emcee opened the "Heart Line", which was a phone line to viewers who wished to donate to the contestant's family.

Sponsored by Luden's Cough Drops, the radio series aired on CBS from June 29, 1947 to April 30, 1950. Todd Russell was the host from 1947-1948, followed by Warren Hull. On May 1, 1950 the show moved to NBC where it aired on weekdays, sponsored by Colgate, until December 27, 1957.

The television series premiered May 7, 1951 on CBS' daytime lineup and ran until January 3, 1958. Its popularity caused CBS to air a prime time version from July 4, 1951 to January 12, 1955.

Two attempts to revive the series were made in 1973 and 1978, although neither was successful. Another quiz show in 1986 used the same name but was otherwise unrelated.

While a simple format, the show was controversial during the 11 years it aired. While some applauded Strike It Rich for helping out some less-fortunate people (as well as showcasing the sincere charity and good-will of viewers who donated through the Heart Line), others found it a sickening spectacle that exploited the less-fortunate contestants for the vicarious thrills of the viewers and the selfish gain of the sponsors.

Part of the criticism was it promised more than it could deliver. Though the show received between 3,000 and 5,000 letters per week from needy people wishing to win what would be (to them) life-changing sums of money, only a small fraction of those could be selected; although this was partly due to the limits of television production (that the series, although ambitious in its goals, could not reasonably assist every person needing help at the same time), critics stated that the show picked mostly those thought to have the most interesting tales of woe.

Despite warning by the show's producers, a number of people hoping to be contestants exhausted their money to travel to New York, only to be rejected and end up relying on charities such as the Salvation Army to help them return home. This led to complaints from charities and local government agencies similar to those that were leveled formerly at Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour:

The New York City commissioner of welfare called Strike It Rich "A disgusting spectacle and a national disgrace." Radio historian Gerald Nachman (in Raised on Radio; New York: Pantheon, 1998) said the welfare commissioner brought the show to court on charges of unlicensed fund-raising and actually won a conviction.

The supervisor of the Travelers Aid Society said that "Putting human misery on display can hardly be called right."

The general director of the Family Service Association of America said flatly, "Victims of poverty, illness, and everyday misfortune should not be made a public spectacle or seemingly to be put in the position of begging for charity."

The New York legislature looked into the controversy, but later washed itself of it – claiming it "lacked jurisdiction".

TV Guide called it "A despicable travesty on the very nature of charity."

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File Name of SD Episode: 868-124 Strike It Rich.mpg

Total SD Episode Video Runtime (hh:mm:ss): 00:31:59

File Size of SD Episode Video: 1,495,904,442 Bytes

Resolution of SD Episode Video: 720x480

Date SD Episode Video Uploaded: Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 01:05

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