Game Shows Wiki
Tom Kennedy (ABC)
Jack Barry (Syndication)
Johnny Jacobs (ABC)
Ernie Anderson (ABC & Syndication)
ABC Pilot: 3/23/1976
ABC Daytime: 4/12/1976 – 7/23/1976
Syndicated (Weekly): 9/18/1976 – 2/26/1977 (reruns aired until 9/11/1977)
Barry & Enright Productions
Syndication Distributor
Colbert Television Sales

"Three of these boxes will break the (insert jackpot amount) bank (worth over $10,000 in prizes). Is this one of them? Or is it this one? Or this one? (three random boxes flash) We'll find out in a moment in this game of hide and seek as these nine celebrities: (insert celebrities) all join us in playing Break the Bank! Now, meet our host, TOM KENNEDY/JACK BARRY!!!"

This was the game of hide and seek where two contestants tried to find three Money Bags to break the Bank which could be worth thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. This was also the second show to be called Break the Bank.


Two contestants played a Hollywood Squares/Concentration-like game, while trying to break the Bank.


This is what a typical board might look like.

Two contestants, always a man and a woman, faced a game board of 20 squares (actually, trilons) numbered 1-20 with the nine stars seated around it: 5 along the top, and 4 in a column to the left, so that each box connected to two stars. Behind those numbers were nine money boxes with three money amounts in groups of three that touched each other along one side horizontally or vertically (either in a row of 3 or in an L shape), five money bags which scattered all around the board and did or did not touch each other, five blank spots which never touched other, and one wild card which could be found anywhere & used for anything.

The player in control called out a number, after which that box flipped over, and if a money box or the wild card was found, the host asked a question to the two stars connected to it. One celebrity gave a true answer (the correct answer), while the other gave a bluff (a wrong answer). The player's job was to choose the correct answer. Doing so captured the box and placed their symbol in the box, either a mustache or red lips (mustache for the man, lips for the woman); that player also kept control of the board. Choosing the wrong answer lost control to the opponent. Originally on a miss, the box would be flipped back to its normal position, but in later ABC episodes and during the entire syndicated run, the box would be given to the opponent unless it triggered a win (for a win had to be earned by the player going for it); that's when it would be flipped back. Control of the board would also be passed if the player uncovered a blank space.

NOTE: On the rare occasion that BOTH celebrities give wrong answers, a buzzer sounds and the question is thrown out and replaced with another for the same two celebrities. This did happen at least once.

If a Money Bag was uncovered, the player in control could either take it (not having to answer the question, but also forfeiting control) or turn it back and select a different box.

The first player to capture one group of three matching boxes won the game. If they were money boxes, they won the total represented by those three boxes and a special prize. Capturing three Money Bags broke the Bank for at least $5,000 cash (on the ABC version) or a prize package worth over $10,000 (in syndication).

ABC Version[]

In the Tom Kennedy version, the money boxes were worth $100 (colored yellow), $200 (in light blue), and $300 (in orange) respectively; so the cash prizes for winning a game would be $300, $600, and $900.

In the pilot, each time a money box was captured, its value was added to the player's bank which was kept if they won the game.

The winner of each game faced another player unless the defeated player did not get a chance to play (at which point that player was invited back to play in the next game). Players remained champions until they were defeated or until they exceeded $20,000 (though they could keep any winnings up to $25,000, however; any winnings beyond that were forfeited).

The bank was an increasing cash jackpot which started at $5,000 plus $500 (later $250) for every game it was not broken. The highest bank during the short run of the series was $12,000.

In this version, the games straddled episodes.

Dixie Whatley, later an Entertainment Tonight Television Magazine anchor correspondent, was an unsuccessful contestant on one edition of this version.

Syndicated Version[]

Jack Barry's version kept the $100 and $300 boxes, but replaced the $200 boxes with $500 boxes (colored red), for a possible maximum winning total of $1,500. Basic gameplay was the same as the ABC version, but with some notable differences:

  • The Bank was a prize package worth more than $10,000 (including a new car).
  • Contestants played for the entire show, and the player who won the most games won the match. Should a player break the bank, regardless of whether their opponent breaks a subsequent bank, they win automatically.
  • When time ran out in the middle of a game or at the start of a game, players alternated turns picking boxes with no questions asked until one of the players got three of the same amount/symbol.
  • There were no returning champions.
  • Each episode was self-contained.

Bonus Game (Syndicated Version only)[]

In the bonus game, eight of the celebrities held a money amount ranging from $200-$1,000 in $100 increments (although some money amounts could repeat), but one had a BUST card, which bankrupted the contestant if found. The contestant picked off celebrities one at a time. Each time they found a money amount, it was added to their score, after which the player would then decide to either quit with the money earned or continue picking. If the contestant reached $2,000 or more, the money was upped to $5,000.

End-of-Show Disclaimers[]

"Celebrities have been furnished with the questions and answers. Comedic material has been made available to some of the celebrities." - ABC version (1976)

"For the purpose of making certain that contestants hear one true and one false answer to each question, celebrities have been furnished with the required answers. Comedic material has been made available to some of the celebrities." - Syndicated version (1976-1977)


"Hustle the Bank" by Stewart Zachary Levin


ABC Television Center, Los Angeles, CA


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Broadcast History[]

The daytime version aired on ABC at 2:30pm/1:30pm Central with Tom Kennedy as host. Even though it was popular, ABC cancelled it on July 23, 1976 to extend two soap operas (General Hospital and One Life to Live) from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.

The weekly syndicated version, which had already been sold earlier that year, began on September 18, 1976, with Jack Barry as host (due to Kennedy's Name That Tune contract not letting him host). The show ended after one season, on September 11, 1977.

Both Kennedy and Barry wore sunglasses during the taping to block the bright lights on the set.


Milton Bradley released a home edition of the game in 1977. The rules and materials were based on the syndicated version, with the $100–$300–$500 cash cards and the Bonus Round. Basic gameplay had three players participate in three full games, each taking a turn as emcee and two as a contestant, with the player who won the most money being named overall champion.

Greek version[]

Despite its failure in America, the 1970s Break The Bank had two successful versions in Greece. The original version called Εσεіς זi λέזε; (What About You?), hosted by Kostas Rigopoulous, aired on EPT from 1987–1988; in 1989, the series was revived on the Mega Channel under its new name Τηλεμπλόφες (Telebluffs), and hosted by Claus Tsivilikas.


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ABC Run[]

Syndicated Run[]