Sale of the Century: Who Am I?

Sale of the Century: Who Am I?
Nine Network
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Sale of the Century was one of the most popular and long-running game shows in Australia's television history, running from 1980 to 2001.

It was based on an American game show of the same name from the 1970s.

Legendary TV producer Reg Grundy bought the rights to the program in 1980 and released a modified version of the show in Australia that year.

In this clip, from the very first episode of the show, host Tony Barber introduces ‘The Fame Game’, explaining to the contestants that a correct answer to the next question will earn them a pick from the 'Famous Faces' board where they can either win a prize or score bonus points.

The famous faces are a mixture of local and international celebrities, many of whom are linked to programs on the Nine Network.

Contestant Grant solves the puzzle after just one clue and selects Gough Whitlam from the board. Co-host Victoria Nicolls reveals he has won – 2 pewter beer steins.

'The Fame Game', which was also commonly known as 'Who Am I?', became one of the most popular segments on Sale of the Century

Tony Barber tries to build up the significance of this round by noting (twice) that he is about to ask a 'special question’ and then calling it 'most important’. This is because the potential bonus prize money of $25 is 5 times greater than the amount given for regular correct answers. So it’s a bit of an anti-climax when Grant picks the winner so quickly, after only 2 clues, and Barber seems disappointed that he didn’t get to finish reading out the clues.

The 'Gallery of Greats’ allows cross-promotion to a generous selection of stars from local and imported shows screening on the Nine Network. Nicolls injects some personality into reading a list of names by pronouncing Bert Newton with a French accent and impersonating Jeanne Little. The fact that Tony Barber gets to follow her with an explanation of who each person is only highlights how little the co-host is allowed to contribute on her own.

While throwing to the ad break at the end of the round, Barber slips up and prematurely names Grant as carry-over champion before smoothly covering his mistake. While Sale of the Century was pre-recorded before a studio audience, a host still very much needed to be able to think on their feet to cover mistakes like this, deal with unexpected player reactions and keep the show moving and entertaining for a home audience.

Sale of the Century – Series 1 Episode 1 Synopsis

Host Tony Barber and co-host Victoria Nicolls introduce the quiz contestants on the first episode of Sale of the Century. Each player starts with $20 in the bank and competes to press the buzzer first for an opportunity to answer general knowledge questions. Each correct answer is worth $5; a wrong answer loses the player $5. The contestant with the most money at the end of three rounds wins a chance to shop for major prizes at marked-down prices.

Along the way there are various temptations to spend money and win extra prizes. ‘Famous Faces’ is an opportunity to win prizes or score a $25 dollar bonus by answering a ’Who Am I?’ question. Grant, a student teacher, bests fellow contestants Rosemary and Bob to become the first Sale of the Century champion.

Sale of the Century – Series 1 Episode 1 Curator's Notes

Although Sale Of The Century premiered on the Nine Network in 1980, its origins date back to 1970 with the rival Seven Network’s Temptation. As with the majority of successful game show formats on Australian television, Sale of the Century originated in the US.

Reg Grundy writes in his self-titled autobiography (2010) that the US Sale of the Century (1969–1974 and 1983–1986) inspired his daytime quiz Temptation (1970) and its prime-time successor, Great Temptation (1971–74). When the Nine Network decided they wanted to revise the show in 1980 with its original title, Grundy went to the US and formally negotiated Sale of the Century format rights for Australia.

Long-time host Tony Barber put the format’s appeal down to the mix of quiz and game show elements, meaning winning required a combination of skill and luck. He wrote in his autobiography, Who am I? (2001, Random House): 'You finish up with a showcase for bright people with lots of ways for the underdog to still triumph’. Barber had even attempted to buy the Australian rights to the format himself and fought for the opportunity to host by hiring a studio and making his own audition tape when not initially considered for the job. Tony Barber hosted from 1980 until 1991 with Glenn Ridge taking over until the show’s demise in 2001. Best known for Sale, Barber also hosted Family Feud (1977–79), Jeopardy (1993) and Wheel of Fortune (1996).

Delvene Delaney took part in a test episode for the series, but the series’ first female co-host was Victoria Nicolls, already known for playing Raelene in The Restless Years (1977). Barber credits her with contributing to the success of the show before she left in 1982 to pursue her acting career. Nicolls was succeeded by Delvene Delaney, Alyce Platt, Jo Bailey, Nicky Buckley and finally Karina Brown. The announcer in this episode was Ron Neate. Pete Smith took over after 10 episodes.

A week’s worth of 5 episodes were pre-recorded in one day. Various format changes were made over time such as the introduction of ‘Fast Money’ and ‘Mad Minute’ question rounds, the inclusion of a home viewer on the Fame Game board, increased prize money and the introduction of a Winner’s Board. However the basic format from the earliest days remained unchanged.

This first episode of Sale of the Century aired on 14 July 1980 on the Nine Network. It was an immediate success, achieving record ratings for a number of years. In 2000 in a bid to combat declining ratings, Nine renamed the show Sale of the New Century, reverting back to the shorter title in 2001. In May 2005, Nine re-launched the program yet again with original title Temptation, lasting on air until 2009. Sale of the Century gave away in excess of $65 million in prizes over two decades.

Notes by Tammy Burnstock

Production Company:
Grundy Television Pty Ltd