Game Shows Wiki
Dick Clark (1981)
Pat Hayden (1989 Pilot)
Willie Aames (1990–1991)
John Harlan (1981)
Laura Cody (1990–1991)
ABC Primetime: 8/7/1981 – 9/4/1981
The Krypton Factor 1989 Pilot.jpg
Pilot: 1989
Syndication (Weekly): 9/15/1990 – Spring 1991 (reruns aired until 9/7/1991)
Alan Landsburg Productions/
MCA Television (1981)
Kushner-Locke Company (1990–1991)
Syndicated Distributor
Western International (1990–1991)

1981 SPIEL:
"In every civilization, Man has searched for the ultimate combination of intelligence and physical ability, in one super being. Tonight, you'll witness this unique search. This is the challenge of The Krypton Factor. (insert contestant's name and description 4x). These four people will face each other in the challenge of The Krypton Factor. Now, Dick Clark!"

"Today's contestants are: Heddy Farmer from San Francisco, California, Richard Price from Concord, New Hampshire, Jeff Speer from Detroit, Michigan, and Katherine Beach from Cincinnati, Ohio!"

1990-1991 SPIEL:
"From Hollywood, California, it's The Krypton Factor. Yes, America's favorite teenage tournament, The Krypton Factor. And now, here's the host and star of our show, Willie Aames!"

The Krypton Factor was a tournament-type game show based on the UK series of the same name where four contestants were being tested on their mental ability and physical skill, all while trying to score points (aka The Krypton Factor).


Four contestants were tested on their mental ability and physical skill.

Gameplay (1981)[]

Sixteen contestants competed in this five-week series, with four contestants competing in each of the first four matches. In this adaptation, a player's score was called a Krypton Factor, as was the case on the original UK version.

Phase I – Reflex Speed[]

Each player took turns playing a video game challenge where either a certain score had to be achieved within a certain time limit or the player had to stay in play for a certain amount of time. Each successful player scored five points. The games used in this round were adaptations of early Atari 2600 cartridges, such as Dodge 'Em, Outlaw, and Space Invaders; each episode featured a different game challenge.

Phase II – Mental Agility[]

In this round, each contestant wore headphones so only they could hear their questions which were posed by announcer John Harlan. Each player in-turn was given two mental agility tests, each of which required them to mentally manipulate a series of letters, numbers, or words in a specific way. The first test had five parts and was for four points, and the second test had six parts and was worth six points.

Examples of Tests[]
  • Numbers – A series of numbers was presented to each player, and in turn they had to repeat the numbers in order after applying a certain rule to each number. For instance, if the difference involved the distance between each number and 10, the correct response to "4-6-3-9-2" would be "6-4-7-1-8". Sometimes they were given a math test using the numbers given.
  • Letters – A series of letters was presented to each player, and in turn they had to give a letter based on the criteria given on each one.
  • Reverse – Players were given words and/or phrases from a category in a particular order, and the players have to give the same list in reverse order to score.

Only the home viewers could see the answers, while the audience in the studio couldn't and had to remain silent, according to Clark. The first sequence, consisting of five items, was worth four points, and the second sequence, containing six items, was worth six points. If anytime any player made a mistake, they had to sit out the rest of the round. A possible total of 10 points can be earned in this phase.

Phase III – Physical Ability[]

This round featured an obstacle course run that was pretaped in advance. Unlike the UK version, the course was designed to be fair to both men and women, so neither sex or age received a head start. The race began with a death slide into an inflatable mat, then players had to cross a pontoon bridge, crawl through tubes, drive a motor vehicle, ride a swing in order to kick down a door, and complete the course by walking in an inflatable wheel. The contestants earned points according to how they finished.

Scoring was as follows:

  • 1st Place – 20 points
  • 2nd Place – 15 points
  • 3rd Place – 10 points
  • 4th Place – 5 points

Phase IV – Observation[]

In the fourth round, the players were tested on memory. They were shown a scene from a current motion picture, and each player was asked a four-point question pertaining to visual or verbal detail with two possible answers and a six-point question requiring them to recall specific dialogue.

Then all players were shown a lineup of six similar-looking actors, one of whom had a key part in the film clip. Each player separately locked in their guess as to the correct actor, and each player who identified the correct actor earned ten points. A possible total of 20 points could be earned in this phase.

Phase V – General Knowledge[]

In the final round, the contestants were asked a series of general knowledge toss-up questions in which each correct answer would usually segue to the next question. Players did not have to wait until the question was fully read to jump in, but only the first player to do so got to answer. Each correct answer was worth two points, but each incorrect answer was worth minus two points, with the values doubling to +/-4 points midway through the round.

The player with the most points at the end of the competition won $5,000, plus an invitation to the final week to compete against the other weekly winners for $50,000.


The show advertised that the prize would be in gold, but the series winner was given the option of taking the $50,000 prize in gold or in cash, and chose the cash. The series' winner was Joey Helman, an attorney from Los Angeles. He and the first runner-up, Joel Lewin, a physical fitness consultant from San Leandro, California, competed on The Krypton Factor International, a special edition of the original British version airing December 30, 1981, against the 1981 UK champion, John McAllister, and first runner-up, Peter Rimmer. This special was to be filmed on the U.S. set, but instead filmed on the original Manchester set since the U.S. set had been torn down. Rimmer won the International special.

Gameplay (1990–1991)[]

When the show returned, the show stayed the same except there were four rounds and the contestants were now teenagers. Two girls and two boys competed in each episode.

The set used in this version was similar to that of the original UK version. The difference is that the scoreboards used eggcrate numbers rather than vane numbers.

Round 1 – Intelligence[]

Each player in was shown a picture pertaining to a specific category, and had ten seconds to identify the subject of the picture for ten points. Afterward, three toss-up questions were asked pertaining to the set of four pictures, and all players used the buttons on their chairs to buzz in, but only the first player to do so could answer. A correct answer was worth five points, but an incorrect answer cost a player two points. Two sets of pictures were played in this manner.

Round 2 – Observation[]

This round was played like Round 4 in the original version; for this was where players were tested on memory. The players were shown a scene from a public domain film or cartoon, and they were each asked two questions about it, which could be either visual or verbal information, in turn in reverse order. Each correct answer was worth 10 points. There was also a bonus round in which the players were directed to the Krypton Cart, which concealed an object seen or mentioned in the film. The players were given five clues to its identity, and had to jump in to answer. A correct answer was worth 10 points but each player could only jump in once during the bonus round.

Round 3 – Physical Ability[]

Like in the ABC version, this round featured an obstacle course run that was pretaped in advance. This course took place in Palos Verdes and began with a death slide, followed by a bicycle race, a rope swing, and ended with the Krypton Pavilion, which was a series of skill and agility tests. Scoring remained the same as the original version.

In most cases, only the first-place finisher was seen crossing the finish line.

Final Round - General Knowledge[]

The final round was played like the original: the contestants were asked a series of general knowledge questions, with each answer leading to the next question, except the round now lasted for two minutes (2:00) and most questions were multiple-choice. Also, the contestants played on podiums at center stage instead of with the buzzers on their chairs; plus, the front displays had room for three digit scores should any contestant have them. Each correct answer was worth five points, but each incorrect answer lost two points.

The player with the most points at the end of the game won prizes, and the eight highest scoring members of each gender advanced to the four quarterfinals at the end of the season, from which the four highest-scoring members of each gender advanced to the two semifinals. The highest scoring boy and girl from each semifinal competed in the finals, the winner of which received $20,000 in cash.

Notable Contestants[]

  • Andrew Lessman, founder of ProCaps Laboratories, was a contestant in 1981. An avid athlete, he won the Physical Ability round but finished second overall. These days, he can also be seen on Home Shopping Network.
  • Susan Sackett, executive assistant to Star Trek creator & executive producer Gene Roddenberry, played on the premiere of the 1981 version and recounted it in the book You Can Be a Game Show Contestant and Win!. The show selected her even after admitting she did not exercise regularly, and she finished last in Physical Ability. She came second overall, but like other losing contestants did not receive any consolation prizes; the reason was because the program was billed as a "prime-time competition" rather than a game show. She later appeared in the 3rd season premiere of Jeopardy!
  • Richard Heft also competed in the Dick Clark version. He was later a contestant on Sale of the Century.


  • In 2000, FOX recorded a pilot for a new version with Pat O'Brien as host, but decided against making it a series.
  • In 2015, SyFy announced that it was making a new version of The Krypton Factor; however, like the FOX version, it never became a series.

International Versions[]

  • Germany: This version under the name Krypton Faktor (notice that "Faktor" is spelled with a "K" instead of a "C") was hosted by Jorg Draeger (of Geh auf Ganze/Go the Whole Hog/German Let's Make a Deal fame) lasting for a total of 13 episodes aired on Sat.1 a brief period in 1991.
  • New Zealand: This version was hosted by Dougal Stevenson and ran on TV2 from 1987 to 1991. Prior to this, reruns of the series have been re-aired on TVNZ 6 later on.
  • United Kingdom: The original UK version ran on ITV from 1977 to 1995, originally with Gordon Burns along with Penny Smith as co-host (1995 only), then with Ben Shephard from 2009 to 2010. Prior to this, a short-lived kids spinoff of the show under the name Young Krypton hosted by Ross King aired from 1988 to 1989.


Clark era[]

Aames era[]



Based on the British show of the same name by Jeremy Fox.


ABC Television Center, Los Angeles, CA (1981)
Glendale Studios, Glendale, CA (1990–1991)

Additional Page[]

The Krypton Factor/Video Gallery


Rules for The Krypton Factor
The 1981 Krypton Factor @ Bother's Bar (1)
The 1981 Krypton Factor @ Bother's Bar (2)
The Krypton Factor: 1990 US Version @ Game Show Garbage

YouTube Videos[]

Clip of the first two phases
ABC Promos & another clip of the first two phases