Combination Lock (found unaired pilots of John Ricci Jr. game show; 2006-2007)

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2007 Combination Lock.jpeg

The pilots' logo.

Status: Found

Date found: 20 July 2020 (Pilot #1)
10 Dec 2023 (Pilot #2)

Found by: Wink Martindale

Combination Lock was an unaired game show based on a concept created by John Ricci Jr[1] (a judge on the current iteration of The $100,000 Pyramid). It was first conceived by Ricci when he was still in high school in 1989, which eventually he made into a PC Game in 1992 and was released in the public domain[2]. In 1996, a pilot based on the PC Game was made for the UK market with Ross King as the host, but it didn't get picked up[3]. A decade passed and Ricci would try again at pitching the show to television, this time in the United States with Sony Pictures Television and distributor King World (the team behind Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy and Hollywood Squares).


The format this time would differ greatly from the PC Game. Two teams (with something in common between them) would attempt to guess combinations by answering questions with numerical answers in order to win money[4]. Each question had three items and three numbers, the object of the game was to put the numbers in order from left to right by matching them to those items. A right combination was indicated by a dollar sign and awarded money for the question, but a wrong combination will give the other team a chance to win the money by finding the right combination, with the wrong combination in the lower left-hand corner. In the first round, a correct combination awards the team $2,500 and in the second round a correct combination awards the team $5,000. In the first round, the team in control could pass the question to their opponents if they didn't know much about the question, while in the second round, they now choose for their opponents. The team that won the most money at the end of the two rounds go onto the bonus round to play for either $25,000 or "The Big Safe" with an increasing jackpot (with $5,000 being added every time it's not won).

The bonus round has the winning team choosing between a group of three items worth $25,000 and also a group of four items worth all the money in The Big Safe. If the team go for the three items worth $25,000, they keep their main game winnings regardless of the outcome, but if they choose The Big Safe, they only play for the money in The Big Safe with the risk of losing their main game winnings. To win either of these grand prizes, the winning team had to enter the correct winning combination on a touch-screen monitor within 30 seconds.


This second attempt at getting the project on television seems to have more support than the previous attempt. Marc Summers was chosen to host the first pilot which was taped on August 31, 2006. For whatever reason, a second pilot was taped sometime in early 2007 with Ty Treadway as the host. Footage from both pilots was shown in a sizzle reel to show off to stations, which featured appearances from the late Alex Trebek, then Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy producer Harry Friedman and King World CEO Roger King (who was said to have really liked the game). According to John Ricci Jr. (the creator of the Combination Lock pilots), the show along with a revival of The Joker's Wild were pitched to NBC-owned affiliates and were on track to being greenlit but King World (the pilot's distributor) didn't like the station's offer, red tape got involved and the shows were passed, but he did mention that an hour of the show was about to be sold in several markets, but when King died in December 2007, the show was completely dead[5].


The PC Game and UK pilot can easily be found today[6], but the King World pilots are far more obscure. The sizzle reel mainly features footage from the second pilot with snippets of the first pilot featured. On December 13, 2013, Ricci uploaded a video entitled "Combination Lock - Beginnings to Pilot" which shows the development of the pilots and includes footage from the first pilot along with footage from a July 2006 run-through. The first pilot wouldn't surface in full until July 20, 2020, when entertainment veteran Wink Martindale uploaded it to his YouTube channel[7]. Wink would upload the second pilot three years later on December 10, 2023.


Pilot #1

Pilot #2