Game Shows Wiki
Jim Lange
Karen Thomas (Season 2 only)
Marc Summers (first few months)
Johnny Gilbert (rest of run)
The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime '85 Pilot.jpg
Pilot: 1985
Chance 1.PNG
Syndication (Daily): 1/6/1986 – 5/22/1987 (reruns aired until 9/11/87)
Packager & Distributor

The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime (or $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime) was the short-lived, daily game show where two couples competed each day to solve word puzzles in hopes of winning $1,000,000. This plays similar to Wheel of Fortune.


Main Game[]

In each round, one member from each couple played the entire round. Their partners could cheer them on but they couldn't help out in any way.

The two active players saw a series of blank squares representing the number of letters in a mystery word/phrase/name. When Jim said "Go", letters in the puzzle appeared one at a time (the same as Scrabble's Speedword and Wheel of Fortune's Toss-Up Puzzles), and as soon as a player knew the solution, he/she had to then buzz in. Giving the right answer won money, but giving a wrong answer or running out of time gave the opposing player a chance to see the remaining letters minus the last, then had two seconds to buzz in and answer.

Each toss-up puzzle was a clue to a bigger puzzle (the puzzles were most commonly either names of celebrities, types of food, monuments, phrases and things). The player with a correct guess would come up to a giant computer housing the puzzle and picked two letters from the keyboard in front of him/her. The keyboard in question consisted of the entire alphabet and a star key (the star key represented punctuation marks and/or numbers in the puzzle). The contestant could only choose from the letters that were lit, for they were the only ones that were in the puzzle, except for just the one which did not belong, and that letter was dubbed "The Stinger". The Stinger was always shown at the start to the home viewers so that they could keep their eyes on it, but not to the contestants; any letter could be the Stinger (though letters Q, X and Z were never Stingers) but the star key was the only one that was never the Stinger. When choosing the letter, each time a letter/number/symbol appeared in the puzzle, money (which was always the value of the toss-ups) was added to the puzzle bank; if the letter chosen was the Stinger, the contestant lost a chance at solving the puzzle. If the two letters chosen were safe, the contestant had a chance to solve the puzzle and if he/she solved it, he/she won all the money in the bank for the team; otherwise, another toss-up was played.


Here's how they scored in each round:

Round Amount
1 $25
2 $50
3 $100

In the event there was time remaining after three puzzles, a fourth puzzle was played with the same amount from the third puzzle. When time ran out in the middle of a puzzle, letters in the puzzle were revealed one at a time (just like the toss-up clues) until one player answered correctly, and the bank continued to accumulate as the letters appeared.

The couple with the most money at the end of the game were the winners. If the game ended in a tie, a tiebreaker toss-up was played with the first player to buzz in with a correct answer winning the game; if a contestant buzzed in and was wrong, the game went to the opposing team.

The winning couple got to keep all the cash earned and went on to play the bonus round.

Bonus Round[]

To start, the winning couple was shown three categories, and they had to choose the one they knew about the best. After choosing a category, the winning couple entered into an isolation booth where they could hear only host Jim and not the audience, and could only see the game board screen. Once they entered, they had 60 seconds to solve six puzzles under the chosen category. Each puzzle worked the same as the clue puzzles in the main game except that the couple could now guess as many times as they wanted at any time. As soon as they yelled out the right answer, the puzzle was filled in and they moved on to the next puzzle. If they could solve all six before time expired, they won a cash bonus depending on their appearance.

The first win was worth $5,000, and the second win was worth $10,000. On the first two bonus games they could either take the appropriate bonus cash prize and leave the show or come back the next day to face a new couple (the bonus cash prize for the first two bonus rounds will be added to their main game winnings if they decide to quit). In any bonus round, if they failed to get all six right when time ran out, their reign as champions ended but they did keep all the main game cash. However, if the winning couple won three bonus games, they won $1,000,000. In the first season the million dollar prize was all cash and delivered in an annuity fashion ($40,000 a year for 25 years). In the second season 9/10 of it was cash or $900,000 ($36,000 a year for 25 years) while the remaining $100,000 was in prizes including two new Mazdas (but alternating between two pairs: the RX-7 and 323, or the 626 and Cab Plus pickup truck), 20 round-trip tickets to anywhere in the USA (on Delta Air Lines) and six complete rooms of furniture (a Bedroom, Den, Dining Room, Kitchen, Living Room and a Patio with an outdoor spa).

Nine couples became millionaires over the course of the series, and despite the cancellation & various buyouts and acquisitions in terms of the production company (Warner Bros. now owns the Lorimar-Telepictures catalogue), all payments were honored until 2011/2012.

Other Pictures[]

The logo was the same in both seasons, but the backdrops were different.

Trade Ads[]


Stations that carried this included:

New York - WOR
Los Angeles - KHJ
Chicago- WGN
Philadelphia - KYW
Boston - WBZ
Dallas - KDFI/KXAS
Washington, D.C. - WJLA
Baltimore - WNUV
Houston - KPRC
Atlanta - WAGA
Pittsburgh - WTAE
Miami - WPLG
Seattle - KOMO
Portland, OR - KGW
Cincinnati - WLWT
Columbus, OH - WTVN
Charlotte - WCPQ
Buffalo - WKBW
San Antonio - KENS
Harrisburg - WHP
Louisville - WAVE
Dayton - WHIO
Flint - WJRT
Shreveport - KTBS
Mobile - WKRG
Knoxville - WBIR
Jacksonville - WTLV
Wichita - KAKE
Rochester, NY - WOKR
Paducah - WPSD
Cedar Rapids - KWWL
Chattanooga - WTVC
Springfield, MO - KOLR
Johnstown - WTAJ
South Bend - WSJV
Youngstown - WFMJ
Evansville - WEHT
Jackson, MS - WAPT
Fort Wayne - WKJG
Ft. Myers - WINK
Fargo - KXJB
Madison - WISC
Santa Barbara - KEYT
Oklahoma City - KTVY
Salt Lake City - KSL
Norfolk - WTKR
Green Bay - WLUK
Roanoke - WDBJ
Spokane - KXLY
Tucson - KVOA
Rockford - WREX
Amarillo - KVII
Duluth - WDIO
Hibbing - WIRT
Beaumont - KFDM
Yakima - KAPP/KIMA
Harlingen - KVEO
Corpus Christi - KZTV
Binghamton - WBNG
Reno - KOLO
Wichita Falls - KSWO
Wausau - WAOW
La Crosse - WXOW
Eau Claire - WQOW
Traverse City - WWTV
Minot/Bismarck - KFYR
Mason City - KTTC
Topeka - KTKA
Casper - KCWY
Laredo - KVTV
Milwaukee - WITI/WTMJ
Minneapolis/St.Paul - WTCN (now KARE-TV)
St. Louis - KTVI
Cleveland - WJW
Detroit - WJBK
Grand Rapids - WZZM
West Palm Beach - WFLX
Tallahassee - WCTV
Panama City - WMBB
Des Moines - KCCI
Sacramento - KOVR
Indianapolis - WISH
Charleston, SC - WCIV
Tulsa - KOTV
Denver - KCNC
Phoenix - KPNX
Kansas City - WDAF
Tuscaloosa - WBMG
Wheeling, WV - WTRF
Albuquerque - KASA
Memphis - WREG
Lafeyette, LA - KLFY
Baton Rouge - WRBT
Honolulu - KGMB


This show started out as a failed 1970s pilot called The Letter Machine.

This was the first nationally-aired game show in the U.S. to offer $1,000,000 as its top prize, 13 years before Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and the various rip-offs that premiered afterwards. (Prior to this, only state lottery shows had seven figures for a prize. The Joker's Wild's $1,000,000 Tournament does not count, as it only represents the total purse.)

The title of this show was also used for an Australian Millionaire copycat; for that reason, the American version had to title its version as It's Your Chance of a Lifetime.

This was one of the few game shows to use touch-sensitive devices for the buzzers instead of a red button or a handheld device. Its foreign counterparts also used the same feature for the buzzers.

In the first season, when the million was won, gold Mylar confetti was released from the ceiling, much like other shows that have a seven-figure prize tend to do today, but sometimes, the giant "$1,000,000" sign would also shoot fireworks. In the second season, balloons would be released over the two Mazdas along with the confetti. Also, when the million was won, clanging bells and sirens would go off as well, which would later be used on Fun House (when the Power Prize was found), College Mad House (when all 13 tags were grabbed and the trip was won), and most notably, Supermarket Sweep (Ruprecht) when the $5,000 was won, or in later seasons, when the Manager's Special was announced.

One of the grand prize-winning couples from the second season, Judith and Bob Haut, are the parents of GSN "Master Mind" Arianna Haut, who herself, then age 5, appeared on stage along with the rest of the family following the big win.

Throughout the series, the $1,000,000, displayed on a pedestal at center stage, would always be guarded by two Wells Fargo security guards.

International Versions[]

  • A Colombian version hosted by Fernando Gonzalez Pacheco ran on Cadena Una and Cadena Dos (One and Two Chain Chain) from 1987 until 1990 as El Programa del Millon (The Million Program). Each correct answer earned 2,000 pesos, each letter in the puzzle scored 1,000, and solving the puzzle won 5,000. Each semifinal match featured three rounds and the final consisted of only a single round. In the bonus round, eight correct answers in 60 seconds won 1,000,000 pesos.
  • A British version hosted by David Hamilton ran on ITV from 1988 until 1991 as All Clued Up. Because of Independent Broadcasting Authority rules at the time, the prizes were much cheaper: in the first series (or season), the bonus round was only played for £1,000 and the option to gamble £500 to return the following week and play for another £3,000. Unlike the American show, it did not drop confetti or balloons when the £3,000 was won. During the third series (or season), the winning couple played for £2,000. When the weekly show expanded to five days a week, the winning couple played for only £500. Also, during the last two seasons, couples were only given 50 seconds (rather than a full minute) to guess the six items.
  • On Chile's Sabado Gigante, one of the games played was based off The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime, but the show used two solo contestants rather than couples. Also, the bonus round was played for a car instead of cash.
  • A Brazilian version hosted by the veteran J. Silvestre ran on Rede Manchete from 1997 until 1999 as Domingo Milionário (Millionaire Sunday). Each correct answer earned 1,000 reais, each letter in the puzzle scored 2,000, and solving the puzzle won 5,000. Each semifinal match featured three rounds and the final consisted of only a single round. In the bonus round, ten correct answers in 90 seconds won 1,000,000 reais. The participants were chosen through mini games called Gold Test, starting with six, then four and before the game, two participants who faced the winners from the previous week. The others took each one, the first eliminated a 29 Inch TV, the ones that reached a semifinal a car 0km from Chevrolet and for the winners a furnished house worth 55 thousand reais, a Mercedes Benz 0km and a trip around the world. And if they managed to beat the champions, they already earned 250,000 reais in the first week, 500,000 reais in the second week and 1,000,000 reais in gold bars in the third week.


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Hollywood Center Studios, Hollywood, CA


Score Productions


The El Encanto Group – Based on a failed 1970s pilot called The Letter Machine

Additional Page[]

The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime/Quotes & Catchphrases
The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime/Merchandise


YouTube Videos[]