Supermarket Sweep (lost pilots of ABC game show; 1965)

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Supermarket Sweep logo.

Status: Lost

The original Supermarket Sweep was an ABC game show that was broadcast between 20th December 1965 to 14th July 1967. Like the later shows and international spin-offs it would inspire, it involved teams of contestants building up time by answering supermarket-related questions, before going on a shopping spree to earn the highest accumulated score based on the value of the goods in their trolleys. Before the show aired, numerous pilots were filmed to evaluate its potential.


In Spring 1965, Talent Associates was a struggling production company following the cancellation of Kelly and Mr. Broadway, which meant it lacked any network television programs.[1] However, founder David Susskind and partner Daniel Melnick were intrigued by a promotion a soft drinks company established, which gave contestants to opportunity to race through a supermarket while quickly adding stuff to their trolleys.[1] Thus, they hired game show producer Jerome Schnur to convert this concept into a viable television program, which ultimately became Supermarket Sweep.[1] Susskind and Melnick successfully convinced ABC's Head of Daytime Programming Ed Vane to take on the show, Vane having sought to increase ABC's daytime ratings share from just 15 percent during this time period.[1]

The Pilots

There were considerable challenges to overcome, including the fact episodes would be filmed not in a studio, but in various supermarkets across the United States.[1] This made filming the show difficult, as even five weeks before the show was to air in December 1965, Talent Associates lacked enough deals from supermarket chains to film Supermarket Sweep five times a week as companies were concerned with how the games could disrupt their stores.[1] Several pilots were filmed in the run-up towards the show's ABC airing.[1] Emily Perl Kingsley discussed how the pilots enabled the show's format to be perfected, taking advantage of the fact supermarkets were closed on Sundays back in the 1960s to enable the production crew to set up lights, bleachers, cameras and other equipment on Saturday night, and then film the following day.[1] At least one episode was filmed in Paramus, New Jersey, which actually turned Susskind away from the show, where he was quoted as saying "I don't care if we close the place down, I can't do this."[1]

The test shows were also the only instances in the original show where women were allowed to be runners.[1] Having evaluated the pilots, the producers were concerned that the typical woman who watched daytime television would be upset with how women would be portrayed on the show as "a crazed harridan scrambling through supermarket aisles."[1] Thus, when episodes were later filmed for ABC broadcast, it was made mandatory that female contestants played the price game, while the men did the shopping sprees.[1] Further, one test run ended in disaster after a runner, presumably above the age of 40, suffered a heart attack.[1] It is unknown whether they recovered from this, but following the incident, all runners were 40 or under and were required produce a note from a physician that cleared them to participate.[1]

Despite the issues, test showings showcased in movie theatres received highly positive reception, convincing ABC executives that the show had high potential.[1] This ultimately proved correct when it first aired on 20th December 1965, tripling ABC's ratings in the process.[1][2] While Susskind distanced himself from the show, Supermarket Sweep was crucial for the survival of Talent Associates.[1]


Ultimately, the majority of ABC's television archives prior to 1978 are believed to have been wiped, with its wiping policy continuing until then-President of Entertainment Fred Silverman ended this process.[3] Game shows were especially subject to wiping,[4] with the majority of Supermarket Sweep episodes also becoming lost.[5] Thus, the pilots for the show are highly unlikely to have been preserved.

See Also