Game Shows Wiki
Host, Inventor, and Executive Producer
Wink Martindale
Charlie O'Donnell (Pilot)
Johnny Gilbert (Series)
Headline Chasers Pilot.png
Pilot: 1984
Syndication (Daily): 9/9/1985 – 5/23/1986 (reruns aired until 9/1986)
Merv Griffin Enterprises
Wink Martindale Enterprises
King World

Headline Chasers pitted two couples against each other in a game of solving newspaper-type word puzzles called "Altered Headlines" to win money. The headlines were make-believe, although based on real people and events. The gameplay was similar to another creation also by Merv Griffin, Wheel of Fortune


The Main Game[]

The game was played in three rounds (referred to on-air as "editions" in keeping with the newspaper theme of the show).

Edition 1[]

A newspaper page was revealed on a giant monitor. Its headline had several letters missing with a few left in there. This was classified as an Altered Headline. Then four clues were shown to the couples one by one, with more letters being revealed after each. The first couple to buzz-in earned the chance to solve the headline, and if they were correct, they won money; but if they were wrong the opposing couple had the right to decide to either see more clues and letters or solve the headline immediately. A correct answer was worth $500 (minus $100 for every clue revealed).

After the headline was solved, the couples were then asked two questions (which were connected to the headline) posed by host Martindale. Each correct answer to each question was worth $100.

Three Altered Headlines were played in this round.

After several weeks of shows, a voice (mostly Gilbert's) would tell the home viewers how many words were in each headline.

Edition 2[]

In this round, instead of headlines, the couples were now shown real-life and well-known magazines. Each one had a blacked-out face as well as anything else that referred to the mystery person's identity that the contestants had to identify on the cover. The couples were given clues in the same manner as the Altered Headlines with $500 as the starting value and $100 taken away for each clue. Also, pixelated film clips of news makers which would slowly come to focus were played with Martindale giving a one-word clue to his/her identity, and the couples trying to identify them by voice only. Unlike the magazine covers, no clues were given, as $100 was taken away every few seconds over the course of the clip. For this round only, the jackpot was frozen for the other team when the first team missed.

Two of each were played in this round.

Edition 3[]

This round was played the same way as Edition 1 except that the altered headlines were now worth up to $1,000. Four altered headlines were played in this edition.

Only this time, the countdown went this way:

Clues Values
No Clues $1,000
1 Clue $800
2 Clues $600
3 Clues $200
4 Clues $100

The couples were asked two follow up questions the same as before in the first edition, only except the questions were worth $200 each for the first three altered headlines.

After the fourth headline, one question was asked; then the couples would write down how much they wanted to wager of their current totals, with the higher wagering couple getting the question first. After the question was asked, if the couple with highest wager got it right, they won the money that they wagered, but a wrong answer deducted it; in this case, the question passed to the opposing team who would then decide to play or pass the question (same rules applied if they played).

The couple with the most money won the game. Both teams kept the cash. If the game ended in a tie, one final altered headline was played and whoever buzzed in with the right answer was the winner.

Headline Extra[]

The winning couple played a bonus round called Headline Extra for up to $5,000.

To start, the winning couple chose from one of five subjects for the final altered headline. The headline was then revealed and the couple had five seconds to study it, and after that, the couple was asked whether or not they wanted to answer. If they chose to do so and correctly solved the headline, they won $5,000. Getting the answer wrong ended the round and the couple won nothing further.

If the couple chose not to answer, they can ask for clues which took away $1,000 from the potential prize and unlike in the main game, no additional letters would be added to the headline. The couple was given seven additional seconds to study the altered headline as the clues were displayed on screen. If they solved the headline this time, they won whatever money was left over, up to $4,000.

The highest possible score was $23,600 and only possible if a couple answered every question correctly, doubled their score with the final question, then won the bonus.

Pilot Rules[]

As in the series, the game was divided into three editions.

Edition 1: Cover Stories[]

An actual magazine cover was displayed, with the face covered up. Up to five clues were read to determine the identity. Solving a cover on the first clue earned a specific amount, which decreased with each new clue. Five covers were played in this round: the first was worth $900, minus $200 for each additional clue; then $1,000 minus $200 for each additional clue; then $1,500 minus $300 for each additional clue; then two more each worth $500 minus $100 for each additional clue.

Edition 2: Voices and Headliners[]

In this edition, an occupation was given, followed by the voice of someone well known in that occupation. While the voice was playing, the person with that voice was revealed square by square. Only the audience could see the subject, with the couples' backs to the screen. The first couple to buzz-in and guess the voice correctly won $300. Five voices were heard in this round.

Edition 3: Front Page Headlines[]

This was similar to the "Altered Headlines" from the aired show, but using real headlines from real newspapers, only with certain answers being revealed. Also, there were five clues instead of four, with no additional letters revealed after each one. Each headline was worth $500 with no reduction for clues given. After each headline Wink asked both couples two $100 follow-up questions. Three headlines were played in this round.

As in the aired show, a final headline was played that required a wager; only here, there were no questions. In this case, eight sections from newspapers were shown, and each couple would select one to play with. A correct guess without any clues given won 10x their bet, reduced to 5x/4x/3x/2x/1x with each clue given. Unlike the aired show, there was no bonus round; however, the winning couple would return on the next show to face new challengers.

The theoretical maximum possible winnings for a single game in this pilot was $88,000.


This was Wink Martindale's first-ever game show he created and/or produced. He created the show by reading newspapers in his Malibu home. That's when he thought, "What a great idea for a game show." In order to host this show, however, he sadly had to leave Tic Tac Dough, his then-current and best-known hosting gig in favor of new host Jim Caldwell.

The original name for Headline Chasers was The Front Page.


Stations that aired this included:

  • New York - WABC
  • Los Angeles - KHJ
  • Chicago - WLS
  • Philadelphia - WCAU (which dropped it after five weeks on the air in favor of The $100,000 Pyramid on 10/14/1985)
  • Dallas - KXAS
  • San Francisco - KRON
  • Boston - WNEV
  • Atlanta - WXIA
  • Seattle - KOMO
  • Miami - WPLG
  • Phoenix - KTSP (now KSAZ)
  • Sacramento - KXTV
  • Baltimore - WMAR
  • San Diego - KCST
  • Raleigh - WTVD
  • Hartford - WTNH
  • Kansas City - KCTV
  • Buffalo - WKBW
  • Jacksonville - WJXT
  • Providence - WPRI
  • Wichita - KWCH
  • Des Moines - KCCI
  • Portland, ME - WGME
  • Toledo - WTOL
  • Baton Rouge - WAFB
  • Plattsburgh - WPTZ (but dropped it on 1/3/86 in favor of The New Newlywed Game on 1/6/86)
  • Milwaukee - WTMJ
  • Green Bay - WFRV
  • New Orleans - WWL
  • La Crosse - WXOW
  • Eau Claire - WQOW
  • Wausau - WAOW
  • Madison - WKOW
  • Minneapolis - WCCO
  • Davenport, IA - WOC
  • Sioux Falls - KSFY
  • Marquette - WJMN
  • Flint - WJRT
  • Detroit - WDIV
  • South Bend - WSJV
  • Cincinnati - WLWT
  • Bismarck, ND - KFYR
  • Panama City - WJHG
  • Yakima, WA - KNDO
  • Spokane - KHQ
  • Johnstown, PA - WJAC
  • Amarillo - KVII
  • Roanoke - WSLS
  • Greensboro - WXII
  • Nashville - WSMV
  • Washington, DC - WJLA
  • Portland, OR - KOIN
  • Orlando - WFTV
  • Richmond - WXEX (now WRIC)
  • Gainesville, FL - WBSP [Now WOGX]
  • Omaha - KETV
  • Lincoln - KOLN/KGIN
  • Rochester, MN - KTTC
  • Scranton, PA - WYOU
  • Syracuse - WIXT (now WSYR)
  • Utica, NY - WUTR
  • Albany, NY - WNYT
  • Birmingham - WBRC
  • Mobile, AL - WKRG
  • West Palm Beach - WPTV
  • Jackson, MS - WJTV
  • Charlotte - WBTV
  • Norfolk - WVEC
  • Rockford - WTVO
  • Charleston, SC - WCBD
  • Denver - KUSA
  • Springfield, MO - KYTV
  • Little Rock - KATV
  • Champaign - WICS
  • Tallahassee - WCTV
  • Las Vegas - KVBC (now KSNV)
  • Shreveport - KTBS
  • Springfield, MA - WGGB
  • Tucson - KGUN
  • Montgomery, AL - WAKA
  • Tulsa - KTUL
  • Oklahoma City - KWTV
  • Fort Wayne - WANE
  • Bakersfield - KGET
  • Tri-Cities - WJHL
  • Reno - KTVN
  • Lafayette, LA - KATC
  • Honolulu - KITV
  • Columbus/Tupelo, MS - WTVA
  • Salisbury, MD - WMDT
  • Charleston, WV - WCHS
  • Houston - KHOU
  • Asheville/Greenville/Spartanburg- WLOS

Fictional Newspaper Names[]

"Newspapers" featured included:

  • U.S. Report (a takeoff of USA Today)
  • The Guardian (not to be confused with Manchester, England's leading paper)
  • The Sporting Times (a takeoff of Sporting Green sections in newspapers)
  • The New York Globe (a takeoff of The New York Times)
  • The Los Angeles News (a takeoff of Los Angeles Times)
  • The Chicago Herald (a takeoff of Chicago Tribune)
  • The Philadelphia Dispatch (a takeoff of The Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • The Washington News (a takeoff of The Washington Post)
  • The Boston Tribune (a takeoff of The Boston Globe)
  • The Detroit Times-Herald (a takeoff of The Detroit Free Press)
  • The Phoenix Star (a takeoff of The Arizona Republic)
  • The Miami Globe (a takeoff of Miami Herald)
  • The Denver Globe (a takeoff of Rocky Mountain News)
  • The New Orleans Herald (a takeoff of The Times-Picayune)
  • The Omaha News (a takeoff of Omaha World-Herald)
  • The Charleston News (a takeoff of either the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia or the Post & Courier in South Carolina)
  • The Cheyenne Times (a takeoff of Wyoming Tribune-Eagle)


Trade Ads from Broadcasting Magazine[]


"Samba de la Noche" by Merv Griffin


TAV Celebrity Theater, Hollywood California

Additional Page[]

Headline Chasers/Catchphrases


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Rules for Headline Chasers
Photos from Headline Chasers
Tammy Warner's Headline Chasers Page