Time Machine (game show)

Last updated
Time Machine
Created byBill Barr
Directed byJames Marcione
Presented by John Davidson
Narrated by Charlie Tuna
Theme music composerMarc Ellis
Ray Ellis
Country of originUSA
No. of episodes80
Executive producerRobert Noah
ProducerCaryn Lucas
Production locations NBC Studios
Burbank, California
Running time30 minutes
Production company Reg Grundy Productions
Original network NBC
Original releaseJanuary 7 (1985-01-07) 
April 26, 1985 (1985-04-26)

Time Machine is an American game show where contestants compete to answer trivia questions about popular culture and recent history to win prizes. The show aired on NBC from January 7 through April 26, 1985, and was hosted by John Davidson. [1] Charlie Tuna was the announcer, with Rich Jeffries as his substitute. Reg Grundy Productions produced the series, and upon its premiere Time Machine was one of three Grundy series airing on NBC ( Sale of the Century , which followed Time Machine on NBC's daytime schedule, and Scrabble were the other two).


Most of the questions used focused on nostalgia, popular culture, and recent history, and more specifically what year a particular event occurred.

Format #1

Three contestants, one usually a returning champion, competed in mini-games, similar to pricing games from The Price Is Right , to win prizes. The prizes won went into a contestant's "Prize Bank". Each contestant played one game, with the champion playing the third game.

Mini Games (Format #1)

Time Capsule

After the mini-games were played the three contestants faced off in the final round, the Time Capsule. Davidson gave the players a list of four events that all happened in the same year, and then a clip from a popular song from that year was played. The contestants then attempted to guess the year, and the contestant with the closest guess became the champion, won all of their banked prizes, and advanced to the bonus round. The other two players left with parting gifts. If two or more contestants were equally close, John would read a question related to the Time Capsule year to the tied players; the first one to buzz in with the right answer won.

Format #2

On February 11 (just over a month after the series began), the format was completely overhauled with many mini-games undergoing rule changes to fit the new format and others retired. The champion no longer played the mini games, with the two challengers playing for the right to meet him/her in the final round.

Three mini-games were played. The first two mini-games were worth one point, the last one was worth two, and both challengers got to keep whatever they managed to win in the mini-games. The one with the most points after three games won the game and advanced to the Challenge Round. If there was a tie after three games, a tiebreaker question was read; the first one to buzz in with the right answer won the game.

Mini Games (Format #2)

Six mini-games were used in this new format. Unlike the old format, the same two lineups were used for every episode, alternating each day.

Lineup #1

  • "Game 1: As Time Goes By": The format was the same as described above, but instead of trying to guess the year that each picture was taken, a higher/lower format was used. One player gave a guess of which year each photo was taken, and the other had to decide if the actual year was earlier or later. The actual year was then revealed, and if the second player guessed correctly he/she earned a spin on the Money Clock. Otherwise the first player received the spin. The Money Clock now displayed monetary values of $100, $300, and $1,000 (the smallest space among the three) as well as one that awarded nothing. As before, the contestants watched the pointer spin before turning away and hitting the plunger to stop it. Both contestants kept any money won during the round, with the one that made the most money winning the game and a point.
  • "Game 2: Tube Game": The Tube Game was revised for the new format. Now, Davidson asked questions about television series airing on the three major networks in a certain year. The object was to be the first to reach five points, with the winner receiving a prize.
  • "Game 3: Jukebox Game": Debuting after the change in format, the Jukebox Game was a music-centric quiz. Four jukeboxes were shown, each emblazoned with a different year from a certain decade. A song is played, and two possible artists are given. Buzzing in with the right artist won the right to match the song with the year it was released. If they got a match, they got a point. If they missed, their opponent got one chance to pick the right one and steal the point. The jukebox with the right answer was eliminated from play regardless. If all the jukeboxes were eliminated, then the contestants just had to identify the song's artist to get the point, without having to match the song to a year. First to three points won the game and a prize.

Lineup #2

  • "Game 1: On The Button" An event was given, and one player guessed what year the event happened in. Getting it exactly right won a point for that player. If they guessed wrong, Davidson would say whether the event happened before or after that year, and the other contestant had a chance to guess. This continued until one player got three points, winning the game and a prize. This game used the same set as "Sweet Sixteen".
  • "Game 2: 3 In A Row" Just like before, each square of a tic-tac-toe board had a different year from the same decade. Three spaces in a row were marked with stars; these made up the "Magic 3 In A Row". One player was given two events. The contestant picked an event from the two choices, and the year it happened in lit up. A new event takes the selected one's place, and the other contestant picked one. Picking a space in the Magic 3 In A Row won $100, which the contestant kept win or lose. The contestant who lit up the third space in the Magic 3 In A Row won the game and a prize.
  • "Game 3: Main Event" As before, a base year was given along with five categories. The game begins with a pot of $200. The contestants alternate picking categories, each one having one question with two possible answers. Each correct answer adds $200 to the pot. After all the categories were played, clues to a “Main Event” were revealed one at a time. The first person to buzz in and correctly guess the Main Event won the game and the pot.

Challenge Round

The Challenge Round was played in the same way as the Time Capsule round from the previous format, except with two players and a different name.

The winner from the first half of the show and the returning champion competed to see which one of them would be advancing to the bonus round. As before, the closest one to the actual year, high or low, won the championship.

Bonus Round

Three different bonus games were used during the show's run.

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  1. Hyatt, Wesley (1997). The Encyclopedia of Daytime Television. Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 433. ISBN   978-0823083152 . Retrieved 22 March 2020.